Located on the third largest glacier in the mainland, Folgefonna is a reminder of just how much Norwegian landscapes have been shaped by ice. Over history, it has carved out valleys, streams, rocks, and gulleys, been shaped into mountains of snow, and has melted to form rushing rivers.
In this stunning national park, you'll get to immerse yourself in every feature of Norway's glacial landscapes. Camp overlooking the Hardangerfjord or hike through green valleys surrounded by mountain peaks. If you dare, you can even walk directly across glacier ice—so long as you have crampons, ropes, and an experienced guide, of course.
Whether you’re kayaking through glacier water in summer or skiing down slopes at an on-site winter resort, Folgefonna is a true Norwegian all-rounder: it offers a little bit of everything you've dreamed of from the moment you set foot in this country.
As the biggest glacier in continental Europe, Jostedalsbreen is one of Norway's star attractions. The national park that surrounds it is made up of several other small glaciers and picturesque villages. You'll also have plenty of chances to see the big glacier itself, which cuts through two long fjords, the Sognefjord and Nordfjord.
Meltwater from the glaciers has created an ideal environment for kayaking or rafting, so take your pick. Ride along the blue glacial rivers that stream through valleys and alpine meadows. The center of the national park is only accessible by foot, meaning the landscape has remained almost completely untouched.
If you're with a knowledgeable guide—or are an experienced spelunker yourself—then plan a trek to the ice caves hidden deep within the glacier. You'll get a chance to venture inside one of the world's most stunning natural formations, catching a glimpse of their eerie, blue- colored interiors. Combine your trek with a visit to the Norwegian Glacier Museum to learn about the science behind these magnificent ice masses.
For more on Jostedalsbreen and the surrounding region, check out this article.
Whether you’re a climber who loves conquering peaks or a photographer who would rather snap pictures of them, Jotunheimen has plenty of opportunities for both. The park is located along the Hurrungane range, made up of more than 200 mountains.
The area is steeped in Norwegian mountaineering history. There's Store Skagastølstind, Norway's third highest peak, which involves a long and grueling trek to the top that's worth every step. Aspiring alpinists can also test their mettle with trips up Galdhøpiggen and Glittertind, Norway's tallest and second-tallest mountains. They're both over 8,000 feet, but involve less technical climbs.
The most accessible hike is the much-loved route over the Besseggen Ridge, which draws 60,000 trekkers each year. Catch views of Bessvatn Lake as you trek up Veslefjell mountain, or, to cover even more ground in less time, arrange a horseback ride. You'll have your pick of overnight options—you can camp out in the open, under sweeping views of the stars, or sleep in huts and cabins maintained by park staff. There are also boutique hotels and luxury tour options. By day, you'll never be far from your next adventure.
Interested in visiting Jotunheimen? This 2-week road trip along national scenic routes will take you there.
If it's Norway's diverse flora and fauna that you're after, be sure to check out Dovrefjell-Sundalsfjella, where arctic foxes, wolverines, and other native critters roam freely. You’re also likely to spot golden eagles, falcons, musk oxen, and wild reindeer. The area straddles a high plateau, which is usually covered by snow but turns dry and parched in summer. It's also rich with history, having been inhabited and cultivated since the Ice Age.
Start with Snøhetta, the park’s highest mountain, where you'll find a sleek new viewing cabin that has just been built by the Wild Reindeer Center. You can also stay at the marshes of Fokstumyra, where a bird-watching trail boasts over 150 bird species. With wildlife safaris, all-inclusive mountain lodges, ski resorts, and custom-tailored tours, you'll have an easier time than ever navigating the park. But if you prefer a DIY experience, you can also simply drive in with a tent and camp on your own.
Conveniently located right between Bergen and Oslo, Hardangervidda is Norway’s largest and most accessible park. It has an extensive network of trails with plenty of opportunities for both summer and winter activities. Depending on the season, you can try everything from hiking and camping to skiing.
Climb Mount Gausta and look out over a panorama covering a full sixth of the Norwegian mainland. Ride across the vast moorland on horseback. Or go on an elk safari, where you can get close-up photos of some of the park's best-known residents. You can also fish for trout or arctic char in the park's many rivers, lakes, and streams.
When bedtime rolls around, you can pitch a tent within view of the Hardangerfjord, or opt to stay in one of the many mountain lodges located along Route 7. Hardangervidda is relatively well-trafficked, at least compared to other parks in Norway. But you can still spend days without encountering another tourist. Even though you're not far from civilization, Norway's big cities seem light years away.
See more of the Hardangerfjord region and more on this 7-day adventure through the fjords of Norway.
No list of national parks is complete without mentioning Svalbard, Norway's stunning island chain. Nordvest-Spitsbergen, a glorious expanse of mountain peaks, glaciers, and tiny islands, looks like a miniature version of the whole archipelago. You can trek across one of Norway's most desolate yet awe-inspiring areas, keeping a lookout for bears and walruses. Discover the Troll and Jotun hot springs, the old volcanoes in Bockfjorden, bird colonies, and inland glaciers.
However, the most interesting parts of the park may not be its natural sights, but the old remnants of whaling stations and explorer's camps, which can still be visited. These mysterious locations were abandoned for the most part in the 1800s, and some even in the 1600s. While you carry out your own Nordic adventure, you can pay tribute to the intrepid curiosity that motivated these early explorers.
At more than 8,000 square miles, the Finnmarksvidda in Northern Norway is the country's largest plateau. From Alta in the west to the Varanger Peninsula in the east, you'll find wide open spaces with a surprising variety of flora, roaming herds of reindeer, and opportunities to experience four seasons of wilderness and traditional Sami culture.
Summer visitors will have 24 hours of daylight and lots of hiking options, like the 4-mile riverside trail that ends with a panorama of Alta Canyon, one of the largest canyons in Europe. In winter, you can trade in your boots and traverse the snowy plains via cross-country skis or snowmobiles. Longer excursions are also possible—the most popular is the (very) challenging Karasjok to Alta trek, a beautiful five-day route dotted with old mountain huts where hikers and skiers can overnight.
Visitors to Finnmarksvidda can also learn about indigenous culture at festivals throughout the year. Easter is the best time to visit Karasjok or Kautokeino, the two Sami towns that are otherwise not much of a draw for travelers. Expect folk concerts featuring joik and Sami rock music, lasso competitions, and reindeer racing, during which contestants on skis and sleds are pulled by reindeer around an icy course. There's even a tourist race, if you're so inclined.