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 to Bergen and Everything in Between
This stretch of 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: The Best of Southern Norway (Bergen and Surrounds)
For many visitors to Norway, it’s all about the fjords, and they’re not wrong: fjords are natural wonders that only exist in a few hard-to-reach places in the world, but Norway has them in abundance. Set aside a week to see some of Norway’s rugged west coast, using Bergen as a base, 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 for a hike or kayak ride, taking a ride on the famed Flåm railway from Myrdal down to the village of Flåm, and savoring one last day in Bergen to catch up on all you might have missed, like the colorful waterfront or the busy fish market.
Itinerary #3: Day Hikes in Northern Norway (Lyngenfjord Region)
Want to get that feeling of great wide wilderness without living off the land for days on end, carrying backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags? There are 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 #4: Tromsø - Wild Vesterålen
The farther north you go, the more rugged the terrain gets and the fewer people you see. For most Norway explorers eager for that rare, remote experience, it doesn’t get much better than this.
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.