Norway is one of those storied destinations that evokes mystery and magic by its very name. Even if you haven’t been there, you probably know enough to envision vast, otherworldly landscapes, a symphony of snow-topped peaks, fjords that curl and reach deep into the coastline, and towns full of welcoming people whose warmth and friendliness seem to belie the often wintry weather.
In this case, everything you've heard is true - and your first trip to Norway will confirm that the magnificent scenery is just as you've imagined it. The only problem? Norway is a huge country, and if you're short on time, it can be hard to choose what to do and see. With the right planning, however, you can get pretty far with only a week to spend - especially if you follow one of these itineraries.
Itinerary #1: Oslo, Aurland & Bergen
This classic itinerary through southern Norway gives you a taste of everything the country has to offer and is very accessible to visitors who may not have a lot of time but want the full picture.
First, get to know Oslo, where you can visit impressive historic buildings like the Royal Castle, City Hall, and Parliament, as well as contemporary stunners like the waterside Oslo Opera House. The Edvard Munch Museum celebrates one of the country’s most beloved artists, and the trendy Grunerløkka neighborhood offers hip shops, quaint cafes and artisanal restaurants.
You’ll spend several nights exploring the beauty of the Norwegian countryside as you journey by train to Myrdal, where you’ll hop aboard the Flåm Railway, considered one of the world’s most beautiful train rides, and definitely its steepest. You’ll be able to experience two fjords – the mighty Sognefjord (the longest and deepest in Norway) and one of its branches, the Aurlandsfjord – in all their majesty, even getting out on the water in a rowboat or kayak, and visit Turlidfossen waterfall. Your time out in the countryside will also include a hike through Aurland Valley, plus a stopover at the Stegastein lookout point, where you can gaze out over the famed Snowroad.
From there, it’s just a short boat ride to the city of Bergen, known for its colorful wooden quayside buildings and picturesque historic warehouses near the waterfront, as well as its Hanseatic history, which you can explore at a medieval fortress and a museum. Be sure to stop at the city fish market, which will give you a vibrant glimpse into local daily life.
Itinerary #2: Oslo, Bergen & the Sognefjord
Start this adventure with plenty of cool Scandinavian culture in Norway's largest city. Explore the capital's museums, modern architecture, and New Nordic cuisine on your own before you meet up with a local guide for a private tour of the city.
The middle portion of this itinerary, much like the option above, takes you by scenic train to the village Flåm on the Sognefjord, Norway's longest and deepest fjord, one of a thousand along the coast. But instead of staying in Aurland (on the Aurlandsfjord), you'll ferry to the village of Balestrand, known for its 19th-century architecture. Based here for three nights, your day-trips include a guided kayaking tour and a ferry through the Fjærlandsfjord, a branch going north off the Sognefjord towards the village of Fjærland, known for charming bookstores and a world-class glacier museum. Speaking of, keep an eye out for the largest glacier in continental Europe, called Jostedalsbreen.
From Balestrand, you'll take another ferry to get to Flåm and then connect to the ferry going to Bergen — in other words, this is a great option for those who love to be out on the water! When you arrive, your last two nights will be based in Norway's historic Hanseatic wharf city, which stays young and fun with a large student population.
Itinerary #3: Norwegian City, Mountain & Fjord Adventure
An itinerary for outdoorsy first-timers to Norway, this trip begins in Oslo and ends in Bergen (much like the two above). What sets this adventure apart is a healthy dose of the mountainous region between the two cities before you reach the fjords. In fact, you'll stay two nights in the village of Geilo where you can relax, hike, and bike to your heart's content around this gateway to two of Norway’s best national parks: Hallingskarvet and Hardangervidda. Take your camera everywhere as the area is known for steep cliffs, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, and wildlife sightings like arctic fox and reindeer.
The trip starts off with free time to explore Oslo before you meet up with a guide for a private tour of the city. Continue west by train towards Geilo, and then continue again by train towards the Sognefjord, one of Norway's most famous fjords. Visit charming villages like Flåm, Aurland, and — on one particularly fun and adventurous day — speedboat and hike to a remote goat farm in Skjerdal for lunch. Here, you'll learn the secrets behind the making of traditional goat cheese.
From Flåm, you'll catch an afternoon ferry to Bergen through the stunning Sognefjord, arriving with enough time for dinner out on the town. Spend your last full day in Norway with a local guide who will show you the best of this historic Hanseatic wharf city, surrounded by seven mountains.
Itinerary #4: Norway's Northern Lights Road Trip
If priorities veer towards snowy vistas and natural light shows, this winter itinerary drives through relatively undiscovered destinations in the north, offering a great big helping of land, sea, and sky. The adventure starts in Tromsø, Norway’s dynamic northernmost city, where you’ll have a few days to wander the city, ride the gondola, tour its museums, browse its shops, and explore the great selection of restaurants and pubs. You’ll also have an opportunity to take a three-hour walking tour with a local.
From here, rent a car and head east towards some seriously stunning scenery in the country's wild and untamed Northern coast. First, head east to Alta to visit some of the oldest rock art in existence today (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Continue driving to Karasjok and learn about the indigenous Sami people at the national museum — known for the ancient art of knife making — then keep driving to the Finnish/Russian border. While here, check out the hotel made of snow and the oldest church in Finnmark.
You'll have opportunities to relax and explore the villages by foot or take part in a range of winter activities. Excursions include snowmobiling, dogsledding, ice fishing, king crab hunting, and even a Northern Lights Chase that ends with sipping hot chocolate around a campfire.
Itinerary #5: Southern Norway's Fjord Coast
Set aside a week for this itinerary to see some of Norway’s rugged west coast and you will come away with a newfound appreciation for the power of nature.
After arriving in Bergen, you’ll have the chance to take in the views from two high points — Skredderdalen and Fløyvarden — that are local favorites few visitors know about. A half a day's journey from Bergen, the tiny, charming fishing village of Kalvåg is one of Norway’s westernmost points. The nearby Vamråk Herring Saltery and Smørholm Trading Center provide a glimpse into two industries that made the town a commercial center in the 19th century. The Artist’s Trail is also a thrill, showing the works of local artists in the natural landscape. You can choose to go kayaking, diving, or hike up majestic Hornelen with its cliff lookout over the sea.
If you’re itching to get even further away from the world, Værlandet is your ticket — a tiny island that’s big on wild scenery. You can explore the island by bike, or join a guided wildlife tour to spot an amazing array of birds, including white-tailed eagles. A network of photogenic bridges known as the Nordsjøporten (North Sea Portal) connect this string of islands, or you can go by boat.
The last couple of days you can take the long way back, stopping over at the fjord village of Balestrand and perhaps taking a ride on the famed Flåm railway from Myrdal down to the village of Flåm. Then savor one last day in Bergen to catch up on all you might have missed, like the colorful waterfront or the busy fish market.
Itinerary #6: Western Norway Fjord Road Trip
This gorgeous west coast road-trip itinerary allows you the freedom to drive at your own pace and stop as you please. And with overnights in five distinct places, this option is ideal for those who like to be on the move with a mix of small city culture and jaw-dropping rural landscapes.
The self-drive route takes you through charming villages including Undredal, Aurland, Flåm, Borgund, and Skei. It's not all about sitting in a car though — you'll have opportunities to park the wheels and travel by train, foot, bicycle, and boat. For instance, one day-trip takes you on one of the most scenic trains in the world to Myrdal so you can cycle back down to Flåm. On another day, you'll park the car in Geiranger and take a fjord cruise in the deep blue UNESCO-protected Geirangerfjord to the village of Hellesylt.
This trip also appeals to those who want to experience the culture and history of Bergen and Ålesund—two of Norway's most attractive cities, given the architecture, surrounding mountains, and coastal views. You'll get to spend a half-day exploring Bergen with a local guide, while your last few days of the trip offer the chance to explore Ålesund's stylish restaurants and bars.
Itinerary #7: Northern Norway's Lyngenfjord Trek
Want to get that feeling of great wide wilderness without living off the land for days on end, carrying backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags? With this itinerary, you'll get plenty of accessible day hikes in Norway’s unforgettable Lyngenfjord region, close enough to civilization to give you a full day of marveling at natural wonders, while still getting you back in time for a good night’s sleep in a real bed come nightfall.
Lyngseidet will be your base: a small village at this region’s center, but close to all its best sights. These include a hike in Svensby, with its views out over the shimmering Ullsfjord and the Lyngen Alps beyond, and a foot trail up to Rorneshytta, a remote cabin with commanding views over the fjord.
You’ll also visit the aptly named Aurora Spirit – the world’s northernmost distillery. Here you can see how spirits like vodka, whiskey, and aquavit are made, smell, taste and touch the rare ingredients that go into them, and even learn about Norwegian moonshine and Viking drinking customs. Skol!
Over the next three days, you’ll experience glaciers and gorges, plus ravishing ravines, all in a relatively small amount of time and space, easily covered over daylight hours. Check out the awe-inspiring Steindalsbreen glacier, including the unique flora that has sprung up where the ice has retreated to make way for fertile land over thousands of years.
The Gorsabrua gorge includes a precarious but picturesque footbridge over its deep ravine, which often attracts adventurers with a rebellious streak, including bungee jumpers. Finally, take a walk out to Lyngstuva – the farthest point of the Lyngen Peninsula – and marvel at the expanse of the Arctic Sea in front of you, as well as the even greater expanse you’ve covered in the last few days. Congratulate yourself on a trip well done!
Itinerary #8: Wild Islands in Norway's Arctic
For most Norway travelers eager to have a rare, remote experience, it doesn’t get much better than this itinerary.
You’ll arrive in the northern city of Tromsø to board the Hurtigruten, Norway’s shipping service and mail carrier that now transports intrepid travelers along the coast. Embark in Vesterålen, a stunning archipelago inhabited by whales, seals and seabird colonies, where a number of charming fishing villages offer accommodation for weary travelers, making you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
You can take bicycles around the island, hitch a ride on a fishing boat to see what you can catch, or go on one of several nearby hikes. The more well-known and wonderfully picturesque Lofoten islands are only about a 2-hour drive away. If you prefer to stay closer to home, however, you’ll be in for a culinary treat: Vesterålen is known for its fresh fish and local produce, made into traditional and avant-garde dishes by a number of quality restaurants.
Finally, you’ll take the Hurtigruten back down to Tromsø, the largest city in northern Norway and a catch-all hub for Northern Lights seekers, hikers, snow-adventurers and intrepid travelers of all stripes. In winter you can go whale-watching, dog-sledding, snow-shoeing, and snowmobiling here, while the long summers invite you to hike out into the gorgeous surrounding mountains and fjords.
What’s more, there’s a rich cultural scene here including concerts, film and music festivals, a pulsing nightlife, and terrific restaurants. So whether you’re ready to explore the wild, rugged nature above the Arctic Circle, or stay put in town, you’ll have a memorable time.