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Norway Travel Guide

With its fantastic fjords and majestic mountains, the Kingdom of Norway is the ultimate destination for nature lovers. Known for its endless summer days and dancing auroras in the winter, this Scandinavian country offers year-round options for sightseeing. If you’re thinking about taking a vacation to this Scandinavian paradise, this article will help you plan out your trip so you can be prepared to explore Norway and all that it has to offer. From the capital all the way up to the Arctic circle and beyond, this Norway travel guide will give you all the best insider tips for your trip to Norway.

Whether you want to stroll through Norway’s major cities like Oslo, Bergen, or Trondheim or escape to a remote village in Northern Norway nestled along the rugged coastline with fewer tourists, this is the ultimate Norway travel guide to ensure you are fully equipped to enjoy this beautiful and unique Scandinavian country.

Best Things to Do in Norway

1. Explore the Fjords

Did you know that there are more than 1,000 fjords in Norway? Western Norway, or Fjord Norway, is where you’ll find some of the most popular fjords, and they’re easy to get to from Oslo. You could spend a lifetime exploring all of the beautiful Norwegian fjords, but just in case you don’t have that kind of time, there are a few that stand out from the pack. The first is Geirangerfjord, one of the most stunning fjords in the entire world.

Be sure to check out the famous Seven Sisters and Bridal Veil waterfalls while you’re there. The second must-see Fjord in Norway is Nærøyfjord, and both this fjord and Geirangerfjord are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This one you can actually buddy up with its nearby neighbor, Songnefjord for an epic day of sightseeing. Nicknamed the “King of the Fjords,” Songefjord is the longest and deepest fjord in Norway, and will quickly leave you breathless with its beautiful blue water and dramatic mountains.

There are plenty of ferry rides and cruise ships that will take you on an aquatic adventure through these phenomenal landscapes, telling you all about the history of these deep fjords and how they are so closely intertwined with Norwegian history, especially the Vikings. During the winter, you can take advantage of all the ski resorts in Fjord Norway, and hit the slopes to enjoy alpine skiing like never before–straight into the fjords! The skiing season starts as early as November, but the high season for ski touring is spring, and can run all the way until the middle of May.

If you miss ski season, you may be inspired to go kayaking through the fjords, giving you an entirely new perspective of this otherworldly landscape. There are plenty of boat rental companies and tours that will take you on a guided paddle tour through Fjord Norway’s beautiful blue fjords, and you can even find fjord kayak rentals as far north as Tromsø. These tours are offered year-round and offer a chance to experience these iconic landscapes at a much slower pace.

Gondolas and cable cars are yet another option for getting a different perspective of Fjord Norway. You can take a cable car ride like the Loen Skylift which will bring you to what feels like the top of the world with panoramic views of the fjords, lakes, and surrounding mountains. This impressive cable car takes you up 1,100 meters in just five minutes, making it one of the steepest gondola rides in the world. At the top, there’s a restaurant to fuel up and then a few hiking trails to traverse the area on foot before taking the cable car back down. If you’re visiting Bergen, check out the Ulriksbanen, a gondola that will take you to Ulriken, the tallest of the seven summits that surround Bergen.

The Fløibanen funicular is another popular ariel lift in Bergen, and this one takes you 320 meters above sea level, giving you that classic Bergen view you’re looking for. No matter what mode of transportation you take (or a combination of any of them) the bottom line is that there are endless ways to view the fjords, and every one of them will leave you speechless.

2. Hiking Trails

Norway boasts more than 20,000 kilometers (12,427 miles) of hiking trails, and there’s no better way to see the countryside than on foot! And since Norway has such a diverse landscape, you can pretty much cherry-pick the view! So what’s it going to be: enchanting forests, cascading waterfalls, evergreen valleys, or rolling hills? Or maybe you want to challenge yourself with a glacier hike or even a steep mountain hike to a summit with a spectacular view, or an epic cross-country skiing adventure. With Norway’s Right to Roam Law, you can turn your hike into an epic backpacking trip and pitch a tent when you’ve reached your stopping point for the day, as long as you’re on public lands. When you’re wild camping, make sure you are at least 150 meters away from the nearest inhabited house, and be sure to leave no trace! Let’s make sure that Norway’s beautiful landscape continues to be enjoyed for many generations to come.

The hike to Preikestolen, also known as Pulpit Rock, is one of Norway’s most iconic landmarks. This 2.5-mile hiking trail takes you 400 meters up, giving you a spectacular view over the Lysefjord once you reach the top, and though it can be a steep trek, it’s worth every step. Movie buffs may even recognize the site from the Mission Impossible Fallout film, starring Tom Cruise. Be sure to bring some tasty Norwegian snacks and a few bottles of water along to stay hydrated. There are a few stations peppered along the trail where you can stop and take a break, and of course, admire the view. You cannot camp here, so be sure to give yourself enough time to hike back down!

Another bucket-list hike in Norway is the nearby Kjeragbolten hike which also overlooks the Lysefjord. This seven-mile hike is much more strenuous than the hike to Pulpit Rock, and it’s not recommended for novice hikers. If you’ve got the experience, though, it’s worth the trek. You may have seen an image from this famous hike without knowing it! The famous glacial boulder caught in a mountain crevasse is an awe-inspiring shot, if you’re brave enough to pose for it. Keep in mind that there’s a 3,200-foot drop below, so make sure you’ve got some good, sturdy hiking boots with a good grip.

3. Scenic Train Rides

Norway has a very extensive train network, and in our opinion, it’s one of the best ways to see the countryside. The Flåm Railway from Flåm to Myrdal is one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions, and for good reason! This scenic train ride gives you a front-row seat to snow-capped mountains, fjords, waterfalls, rural farmland, and so much more. Every time you think it just couldn’t possibly get any more beautiful, it does. Norway is sneaky like that.

Not only is this considered one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, but it’s also one of the world’s steepest railway tracks. The legendary Norway in a Nutshell tour will take you on this famous rail on its way to some of the most popular attractions in Norway. This famous tour can be started from multiple cities including Oslo and Bergen, making it very convenient to slip into your schedule.

With Oslo as your starting point, you can take the train just about anywhere. You can explore Fjord Norway or take it all the way up to the Arctic Circle and spend some time in towns like Bodø and Narvik. Narvik is the last stop on the Norway train line, and this picturesque town is a popular hiking and biking destination, as well as a favorite ski area during the winter. No matter where you want to go, chances are you can get there by train.

4. Lofoten Islands

Up above the Arctic Circle, even more natural beauty is waiting for you at the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway. Explore the fishing villages of Svolvær and Leknes and take in the rich culture and Norwegian folklore of this once Viking-dominated area. This impressive archipelago is a hiker’s paradise, too, so be sure to get some time in on the trails! This is a part of Norway that experiences both the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights, so there’s always something exciting to look at no matter what time of year you visit.

Many people travel to Lofoten from Bodø on Norway’s mainland, which offers a daily ferry service that takes about 4-5 hours. From Oslo, you can reach Bodø via train or by renting a car. It takes about 16 hours to reach Bodø from Oslo by car, so strap in for an epic road trip! Don’t worry, it’s an absolutely stunning drive with plenty of opportunities to stop off along the way and check out different sights including national parks. If you do plan on self-driving, we’d recommend stopping in Trondheim for the night to break up the drive time.

5. Explore the Arctic

About half of Norway is located above the Arctic Circle, and it’s filled with natural beauty, charming towns, and fascinating history. Northern Norway offers a chance to explore even more majestic fjords, go whale watching, skiing, and more. It’s also where you can learn more about the Sami culture, an indigenous people that live in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, with the majority living in Norway.

During the winter, you can take a guided tour to learn about the Sami culture, experience Sami festivals, and visit with reindeer, a central part of the Sami culture. As the Gateway to the Arctic, Tromsø is a perfect city to visit for anyone looking to explore the Arctic. There are plenty of things to do in Tromsø, including whale watching, fjord tours, and cultural Sami experiences.

6. Visit the Svalbard Islands

Speaking of the Arctic, you may be inspired to visit the Svalbard Islands, a Norwegian archipelago close to the North Pole. Separate from mainland Norway, Svalbard is one of the world’s northernmost inhabited areas, and it’s full of outdoor activities. Explore an ice cave, go dog sledding, join a snowmobile safari, or take a glacier tour before switching things up and enjoying local delicacies like Svalbard grouse or reindeer.

With a population that hovers under 3,000 Svalbard actually is home to more polar bears than people, if you can believe it. This is why it’s important that you book a tour guide if you plan to leave the main settlements. While the polar bears do tend to stick to “their side,” it’s always a possibility that they could wander into town. It’s the only place in Norway where you can see wild polar bears, although keep in mind that there are no guided tours to see them. Another fun fact about Svalbard is that it’s home to the Global Seed Vault, a futuristic-looking building that contains seeds from every single country in the world. You know…in case we ever need them.

7. Attend a Festival

Norway is home to countless festivals, concerts, and events, and what better way to immerse yourself in the culture than attending one of these uniquely Norwegian experiences? Music lovers of all genres will appreciate Norway’s wide range of music festivals, covering everything from jazz to black metal. Did you know that Norway is the birthplace of black metal? Oslo’s Inferno festival takes place every Easter and is one of the most popular festivals in Norway.

For outdoor adventurers and thrill-seekers, Ekstremsportveko is the largest extreme sports festival in the world and draws thousands of visitors to western Norway every summer. With over 900 festivals in Norway, you’re sure to find one that piques your interest. While most festivals are held during the summer months, there are several that fully embrace the winter like the International Film Festival held in Tromsø every January, or Polarjazz, the world’s northernmost jazz festival in Longyearbyen at Svalbard.

Where to stay in Norway

Norway has plenty of major hotels, cabins, and resorts that will become your new home away from home. Whether you’re looking for a top-floor view from a major hotel chain or a rustic cabin with a glass ceiling so you can hunt for the Northern Lights, there are plenty of lodging options for you to choose from. We know picking your hotel can be the hardest part of planning your vacation, so we’ve got some of our top picks to give you a jump start. These hotels and cabins cover all of the most popular areas, including the major cities in southern Norway all the way up to the Arctic towns of Narvik and Tromsø.

How to Get Around in Norway

Norway is a surprisingly long and narrow country. To give you a better idea, Norway stretches for about 1,100 miles from north to south, which is about the same distance as New York to Miami. The time of year you visit Norway will ultimately decide how you get around. Renting a car and going on an incredible road trip gives you the freedom to stop anywhere you’d like and change your itinerary as you want, but that may not be possible in the winter, especially if you don’t have winter driving experience. Norway’s public transportation offers many busses making it easy to get around without your own vehicle. While you may give up some freedom by opting for public transportation, you get the luxury of not having to worry about directions, maps, and speed limits and you can just relax and admire the scenery.

You can get nearly anywhere in Norway by taking the train (although remember that the train service ends in Narvik, so from there you’ll need to continue north via busses, planes, ferries, or car rental). Norway has some of the most scenic train rides in the world, and we can’t recommend them enough! Experience Norway’s countryside at a slower pace while you get to sit back and enjoy the view. If you prefer to take to the water, a Norwegian cruise is a wonderful method of transportation and the views from your bed will leave you speechless. Check out our previous article offering some insider tips on how to pack for a Norwegian cruise.

Of course, you can always take to the skies and fly from one destination to another. Flying is certainly the quickest option when visiting Norway and trying to see as much of the country as possible, and generally, these flights are pretty reasonably priced. The main airlines are SAS, Norwegian, Flyr, and Widerøe, and with more than 50 domestic airports peppered around Norway, you should have no problem finding an airport close to your destination. Many of the fights are less than three hours, with most of them clocking in under 90 minutes, freeing up ample time for you to explore Norway.

Travel Tips Norway

Since Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world, one of the best travel hacks we can give you is to plan your trip as early as you can. Buy your plane tickets, train tickets, and book your lodging as early as you can so you can get the best price and save money. Even though it is a very expensive country, with a little bit of planning, you can make Norway work with your budget. Norway is also one of the safest countries to visit, with crime rates falling well below average when you compare them to other European countries, which is perfect for the solo traveler.

Exploring a new country can be intimidating, especially when the destination is such a stark contrast from what you’re used to! Norway has a very unique climate and culture, and these Norway travel tips should make you more comfortable and answer any questions you might have.

Dress for all types of weather

The Norwegians have a saying: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Norway’s weather can change at a moment’s notice, and you could see sunshine, rain, and snow within the same hour, so you’ll want to be prepared. You’ll want to pack a rain jacket or a waterproof coat for starters, and layering is key. With so many outdoor activities, you could easily work up a sweat as you navigate all of the hiking trails and skiing areas, and layering gives you the luxury of adding or subtracting items easily. This method comes in handy as you explore the larger cities, too! As you pop in and out of the many museums, restaurants, and historic landmarks in Norway, you can layer up or down accordingly.

Book early

Yes, Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world, but don’t let that scare you. The prices are steep, but the sooner you can book your itinerary, the cheaper it will be. Flights, train tickets, cruises, tours, and rental car prices will all escalate the longer you wait, so booking these months in advance will not only help you save money, but you’ll have peace of mind and one less thing to worry about! 4-6 months out is the sweet spot, especially for cruises and trains. You may even want to use some of that money saved to purchase some travel insurance, which is always a good idea. You never know when the weather will change your plans for you, and having travel insurance puts all your worries aside so you can focus on enjoying your vacation.

The season you visit Norway can drastically affect your itinerary

Nearly half of Norway is in Arctic territory, and when you’re that far north, things can get weird, especially if you’re used to life in the lower latitudes like most of us are. Arctic destinations like Narvik, Tromsø, and Svalbard all experience both the Midnight Sun and Polar Night, where they can see 24 hours of daylight during the summer and endless nights during the winter. While the latter may seem like a hard pass, remember…Northern Lights! Tromsø, in particular, is known to be one of the best places in the world to see them, and you’ll need darkness to catch the Green Lady dancing through the sky.

If you’re the type of person who thinks that there are just not enough hours in the day, then visiting Norway during the summer is when you want to book. June, July, and August are the most popular times to visit Norway, so be prepared for the crowds if you visit during the high season. Northern Norway experiences the Midnight Sun between May and July. During this time, the sun shines bright for 24 hours a day, giving you 24-hour access to endless outdoor locations. Want to hike to the summit of a mountain at one in the morning? Go for it. Most, if not all, hotels in Northern Norway have blackout curtains, so you’ll be able to trick your brain into thinking it’s nighttime. You may want to bring a sleep mask, just in case!

If seeing the Northern Lights is on your bucket list, then you should book your trip between the end of September and late March. Keep in mind that you’ll need to make your way to Northern Norway to have the best chance of seeing them. While Aurora sightings have been seen in Oslo, the odds are extremely low and you’ll have a much higher chance the further north you go. The Gateway to the Arctic, Tromsø, Norway is known as the Northern Lights Capital of the World, and although it’s never guaranteed, when a city holds a title like that, you know the odds are going to be in your favor.

Explore the towns

Norway’s raw and natural beauty may be what draws you here, but don’t forget about the charming villages and cities! From Oslo to Tromsø, Norway is chock-full of charming cities, towns, and villages that make for delightful day trips, especially if you’re tackling one of the many scenic roads in Norway. Spend some time in a local art gallery, enjoy a fresh pastry and a coffee at a cafe, and take a moment to feel the heartbeat of each town. You can find guided tours of Bergen, Oslo, and other cities offering daily tours where you can learn about the unique histories of these towns. From fishing to trolls and Vikings to World Wars, Norway has a uniquely distinct history that will fascinate you.

Since Oslo is most likely your starting point, carve out some time during your trip to spend a day exploring this Scandinavian city. One of Europe’s fastest-growing cities, Oslo’s innovative architecture, historic landmarks, charming neighborhoods, and inspirational museums draw visitors from all over the globe. Check out Oslo’s Opera House, enjoy some authentic Norwegian cuisine at one of the many restaurants, and don’t forget about the coffee. Did you know that Norway has the second-highest per-capita coffee consumption in the world? Finland takes the gold, though Norway is very proudly rocking a very caffeinated silver medal here, and Norwegians drink coffee all day long. You’ll need to be caffeinated to see all the sights.

Even though Oslo is Norway’s largest city and is filled with endless museums and historic landmarks to check out, you’re never too far away from nature. Spanning 110 acres, Frogner Park is the largest park in the city and it’s also where you’ll find the Oslo museum and the Vigeland Sculpture Park, the largest sculpture park in the world by a single artist. The park is a local favorite and also boasts a cafe and a restaurant, and families with kids will thoroughly enjoy the playground which happens to be the largest playground in Norway.

Speaking of food, be sure to try some of the local cuisine while you’re here. Cod, king crab, reindeer, lamb, and grouse are some of the main foods Norwegians eat, and you’ll find unique dishes with these staples peppered on just about every menu across the country. Norwegians eat a very fresh, farm-to-table style, and you’ll be able to taste the difference. Be sure to try Norway’s iconic cheese, brunost, or sweet brown cheese. Made from either cow or goat milk, this caramelized whey cheese is often eaten on bread or waffles.

You might be surprised to learn that hot dogs are a big part of Norwegian culture. Most of Scandinavia is a big fan of the hot dog, actually. Norwegian hot dogs are called pølse i lompe, and they’re not served in a traditional hot dog bun like you would find in Iceland or America, they’re served in a lompe. A lompe is similar to a lefse, a potato tortilla, and a lompe is basically a smaller, thinner version of a lefse. Pile your pølse sky-high will all your favorite toppings like ketchup, mustard, and onions, and many Norwegians eat theirs topped with potato salad or shrimp salad. Give it a try!

Money and language

Norway’s currency is the Norwegian Krone, which is abbreviated as NOK. If you feel more comfortable exchanging your country’s currency for some Norwegian Krone, you can, but it’s not necessary. Just like in other European countries, you’ll be able to get around just fine using your phone or credit cards, just like you would be back home.

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