Winter in Norway is surprisingly varied. Although the Arctic Circle sees little to no daylight and temperatures fall well below zero, western Norway (including the fjords, Oslo, and Bergen) stays temperate in the swirl of the Gulf Stream. The winter you want to experience is thus determined largely by where you go. But, whatever you choose, it'll be unlike anything you've ever seen!
Some winter must-sees and must-dos include chasing the northern lights, whale watching in the Arctic Circle, hiking Trolltunga, and sledding or snowshoeing through the iconic winter landscapes. You can also enjoy seasonal celebrations and embrace unique experiences, like sleeping in an ice hotel or a traditional lavvo hut. In addition, the winter allows you to view wildlife like polar bears, go skiing, and take advantage of some off-season highlights.
Cruising Norway is fun in any season, but there's something special about its wintry scenery. Enjoy spotting migrating whales and the ice-and-snow-covered landscapes within the fjords!
Winter Whale Watching in Andenes
Whale watching is a special excursion in Norway, especially in the winter months near Andenes. You'll start with a visit to the Andenes Whale Museum, where you'll get up close with whale skeletons. Then head out on a cruise, sailing past the famous Andenes Lighthouse and into the popular areas between Lofoten and North Cape. Keep an eye out for the most common species, including porpoises and puffins, plus orca, humpback, fin, and pilot whales. Warm up with a hot bowl of soup as you head back toward Andenes. Read More
Discover two of Norway's most picturesque fjords with a winter cruise. You'll board a RIB and zip through the waters of Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Stop in the roadless hamlet of Styvi and the colorful village of Undredal. In the latter, you'll enjoy a hot beverage and taste local goat cheese while listening to stories about the region's history, culture, and daily life. Read More
Just because it's snowy doesn't mean you can't hike! In fact, the winter months offer a unique and often quieter experience at famous sites, like Trolltunga. Plus, it's when you can enjoy snowshoeing through the iconic landscapes.
Guided Winter Sunset Hike & Overnight to Trolltunga
Enjoy the sunset and overnight excursion atop Trolltunga, Norway's famous "Troll's Tongue" rock. You'll start with a snowshoe hike, following a challenging but scenic trail to the top of the rock, which sits at 2,300 feet (700 m) above Lake Ringedalsvatnet. After watching the sun slip into the horizon, walk back to your dome to enjoy dinner and a night of stargazing. In the morning, watch the sunrise with a cup of hot coffee and take in the incredible scenery. Read More
Capture the scenery of one of Norway's most beautiful viewpoints in the winter season. You'll enjoy a snowshoe hike through the mountains of Flam, stopping at Stegastein Viewpoint along the way. Take in the iconic fjord landscape while listening to stories from your guide. You'll learn about regional history, culture, and way of life while sipping on hot drinks and making your way through the snow on traditional Norwegian snowshoes. Read More
Sledding in Norway isn't just a fun experience; it's also an excellent way to learn more about the country's local and historical culture.
Reindeer Sledding & Night in a Lavvu
Enjoy a unique and cultural winter experience with a reindeer sleigh ride and an overnight in a traditional lavvo tent. You'll head to a Sami camp, home to a northern Norwegian indigenous group who live in the tundra above the Arctic Circle. After settling into your traditional tent, you'll enjoy a fast-paced sledding experience pulled by the local reindeer! Afterward, enjoy a traditional meal and keep an eye out for the Northern Lights. Read More
Dogsledding in Røros
Dogsledding is an iconic Norwegian activity, so it's almost a must-do when visiting the country! Before enjoying time in the charming town of Røros, you'll meet your guides to learn a few basic techniques and meet your very enthusiastic fleet of adorable Huskies. Enjoy zipping through the gorgeous snowy countryside, stopping to take photos, and eat a hot picnic lunch. Read More
Other Unique Winter Experiences
Sample Some of the World's Best Seafood
Count 'em up: Norway has around 63,000 miles of twisting coastline. (To put that into perspective, the diameter of the Earth is just under 8,000.) With all that access to water, it's long been known that Norway has some of the best seafood in the world, but what's remained a secret is that it's actually freshest in winter.
An entire trip could revolve around seafood delicacies here. Still, all you have to do is knock a few experiences off your list: Check out any of the ever-bustling fish markets in cities like Bergen, Trondheim, and Stavanger (skrei, a type of cod, is the seasonal specialty). Get your tastebuds on Tørrfisk (stockfish), the main industry in Norway for hundreds of years. Sit down to smoked salmon or trout at one of Norway's best seafood restaurants, like Restaurant Fjord in Oslo. Or truly get your hands dirty and go up north to Kirkenes to catch your own king crab or Arctic char.
Chase the Northern Lights
If you time it right, you may see the occasional ribbon of purple or green dancing in the sky as far south as Oslo, but the further north you head, the better your chances for spotting the Northern Lights. One of the most popular cities to base an aurora excursion out of is Tromsø. It's over 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the largest city in Northern Norway, and has a more temperate, coastal climate. The sky sometimes lights up green over the entire city, but you can also choose to take a snowmobiling adventure to the outskirts of the Lyngsalpene Mountains for some solitude.
Experience the "Jul" Celebration
In Norway, Christmas is "Jul," and few other places take the season so seriously—it often lasts months. After all, with less sunlight and months of snow, winter might as well be one giant holiday celebration. Locals will be busy decking out their houses, making at least seven varieties of cookies, and taking part in town events. It's a good idea to join them! Head to Røros, the town that inspired Frozen, for the Røros Christmas Market in early December. Choirs sing in the streets, the smells of sausages and smoked salmon fill the air, and sleigh rides underneath sheepskin blankets are a valid method of transport.
If you don't happen upon a market in your travels, look for a few smaller traditions. For example, grab a Christmas cookie at a bakery (goro, krumkaker, or berlinekrans), sit down to a meal of pinnekjøtt (lamb ribs) at a restaurant, or hit up a holiday concert at one of the many music halls across the country.
Stay at an Ice Hotel
The northernmost ice hotel in the world is in Alta, and it's exactly what it sounds like: a hotel entirely made of ice. Entirely. Or try Sorrisniva, only open from December to March and stays around 25°F at all times. Your bed, room, the bar—everything is ice, and as long as you're bundled up, it can be an incredibly calming experience (and one for the bucket list).
Pack plenty of wool for good measure, but the hotel will provide an extra-cozy sleeping bag to make sure you stay warm at night. In the morning, head to their sauna, and then spend the day meeting the local indigenous tribe, the Sami, hang out with reindeer, or go on an ice fishing adventure. And just in case you're wondering, yes, even ice hotels have free WiFi.
How to Create the Perfect Winter Itinerary in Norway
A winter excursion in Norway can look different for everyone. You can embrace the cold tundra by staying up north in the Arctic Circle, or you can stick to more mild temperatures in Bergen and the fjord regions. Or, combine the two! If you stick to one region, you probably need about one week to experience wintry Norway. But if you enjoy both north and south, try to put aside at least two weeks.
Read more about how to allocate your time in Norway.
Past kimkim travelers have enjoyed the following trips that include winter excursions: