The capital and cultural hub of the country, Oslo is a must-see on any Norwegian itinerary. Most visitors are shocked to find how small and walkable the city is though. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to do. The standout attractions include the Viking Ship Museum, which houses the world’s best preserved Viking ships, as well as the National Gallery where Edvard Munch’s expressionist masterpiece “The Scream” still hangs.
If you happen to have pleasant weather, then a stop at the Vigeland Sculpture Park is well worth the time. The gardens here are peaceful and lush, making it as much a local picnic spots as an art fixture. For those a bit more daring, the Holmenkollen Ski Jump now lets visitors experience the full effect of ski jumping by zip lining nearly 1200 feet from top to bottom.
Bergen & Sognefjord
Appropriately dubbed the gateway to the fjords, Bergen is arguably Norway’s most historically significant city. Back in its founding days, it served as an immensely important German trading port and despite having burned down several times, the wharf maintains a distinctly German feel. Guests can literally taste history (aka salted dried cod) with a visit to the Hanseatic Museum or take in the breathtaking views during the cable car ride to the top of Mount Floyen.
Just outside the city, though, lies the impressive Sognefjord. Norway’s deepest and longest fjord, pictures don’t even come close to capturing the beauty that the crystal clear waters, striking cliffs, and varied sea life come together to create. Do not leave without taking at least a brief boat ride as nothing compares to seeing this area from the water.
Alesund & Geirangerfjord
Anyone with an interest in art or architecture will find Alesund completely mesmerizing. Though not always a common stop on your standard itinerary, this quaint city is rapidly gaining notoriety as the perfect meeting of Norwegian culture and nature. Famous for its stunning art nouveau architecture, the colorful and distinct buildings line the easily walkable downtown.
If you want the most picturesque view though, be sure to head to Fjellstua. The 418 steps are absolutely worth it! Perhaps even more appealing to most visitors is the fact that Alesund lies on Norway’s most iconic fjord, Geirangerfjord. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the fjord is dotted with wondrous waterfalls and historic mountain farms. And whether you bike, kayak, or simply hike through the area, it never fails to impress.
Tromso & Lapland
Whether you are set on seeing the Northern Lights or prefer to have a cultural Lapland experience, the Tromso region is the ideal place to make this happen. Located in the most northerly part of Norway, the region (as well as the northern portions of Finland and Sweden) is home to the indigenous Sami people. And while centuries ago, few ventured to this remote area which depended almost exclusively on reindeer and fish, nowadays visitors can experience the way of life in a more modern way.
Cozy lodges not only offer traditional Lappish food but give visitors the chance to head out on reindeer safaris or try their hand at ice fishing. And according to local legend, Lapland is said to be the original home of none other than Santa Claus. Surprisingly enough, the summer months remain equally exciting with long day light hours and a burgeoning music festival scene.
Considering it's far more northerly location, Svalbard is often either overlooked or just not possible to include on most trips. Only accessible from May through September (due to sea ice conditions), the voyage is well worth the effort as it is one of the few places on earth where you can still see polar bears in the wild. As many as 3000 bears still live in this arctic wilderness along with a variety of other wildlife including whales, reindeer, and seals. And if that is not reason enough to go, there are plenty of activities to entertain such as dog sledding, glacier treks, and snowmobile safaris. Not to mention you get 24 hours of sunlight during the summer or Northern Lights in May and September.
Of all the destinations within Norway, the Lofoten archipelago would have to be the most uniquely beautiful. Maybe this is due to the charming fishing village homes or the remote and untouched feel it maintains, but regardless its accolades rightfully lure thousands of nature lovers north to these stunning islands each year.
Due to its location above the Arctic Circle, getting here is not always simple. Be prepared to fly, drive, or boat to get to your final destination. Once you are there though, activities abound. Visitors can do everything from hiking, fishing, and skiing to ocean rafting, scuba diving, and even surfing. In fact, it is said to be the best surfing town in all of Norway. And after an exciting day, one of the many small villages is happy to host you in a cozy Rorbu, a traditional fishing cabin located right on the water’s edge.