The second happiest country in the world (according to United Nation’s 2013 World Happiness Report), seems to be having a moment. The Scandinavian country’s reputation for pristine, untouched landscapes are drawing discerning travellers from all over the globe and the popularity of the Disney movie Frozen are motivating fans to visit the country that inspired the animated movie setting (apparently bookings have increased around 40%). From our team’s various visits, this our collective choice for the most beautiful places to visit in Norway…
This is what Norway is becoming most famous for. The UNESCO listed Fjords are now appearing on many traveller’s bucket list and with good reason – they are one of the most naturally beautiful and dramatic landscapes in Europe. The glacial valleys are eerily silent, and are surrounded by high mountains and waterfalls that give the area an other-worldly beauty. Sognefjord is the longest, deepest and most celebrated of the country’s waterways closely followed by Hardangerfjord. Also include a visit to the Jostedalsbreen glacier (the largest ice sheet in Europe), Nordfjord, and Geirangerfjord, perhaps the most scenically impressive of all the fjords.
Scattered over a row of islands on the western coast of Norway, Ålesund is a thriving fishing town that – following a huge fire in 1904 – was rebuilt in a beautifully colourful Art Nouveau style. It’s a buzzing place which boasts a vibrant culture, excellent shopping opportunities, and views over the area from Mount Aksla. Soak up the town’s unique atmosphere before heading out on a guided tour of the fjords. Don’t miss the breathtaking Geirangerfjord, for gorgeous photo opportunities.
Trolltunga is easily one of the most beautiful places in Norway. It’s an insanely gorgeous location and one of the most spectacular scenic cliffs in Norway – but it’s only for the brave. Otherwise known as the ‘troll’s tongue’ it was formed during the ice age when a glacial water froze a hunk of this mountain and caused it to break off, leaving a thin protruding ledge which hovers about 2,300 feet above the lake below. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s only a mere four-hour trek for a photo opportunity of a lifetime!
The rainy but beautiful city of Bergen was apparently the inspiration for the fictional in the hit Disney animation, Frozen. The picturesque city is peppered with medieval buildings, Norwegian churches and colourful timber houses. It’s a laid back place with a selection of good museums, quirky independent stores and al fresco cafes but its biggest draw is its status as being the gateway to the famous fjords.
This scenic, unspoilt archipelago is one of Europe’s best kept secrets. Though the collection of islands lie within Arctic Circle, they are blessed with warmer temperatures due to the Gulf Stream. It’s a beautifully traditional place were life is simple and tourism is kept to a minimum. To crank the romance factor up a gear stay in one of the cosy fisherman’s cabins, surrounded by still blue waters and unspoilt mountain landscapes that have to be seen to be believed.
Even Norway’s capital is beautiful. Yes it’s expensive and yes it hasn’t got a long list of world famous attractions, but Oslo is clean, laid back and surrounded by a beautiful fjord and acres of lush woodland. The architecture is an eclectic mix of old and new and the underrated city boasts some world-class museums, including the National Gallery which houses Edvard Munch’s famous painting of ‘The Scream.’
Norway’s best-preserved sailing ship town, is located on the southernmost tip of the traditional island of Karmøy in Norway. A thriving port since the 19th century, today it’s post-card pretty place with bags of scenic charm. Head for the lovely old town which is filled with wooden houses, twisting narrow roads (with almost no traffic) and boat moorings, with cafes, shops and galleries along the way. Expect to see more than 200 white wooden buildings which have been lovingly restored and maintained by their owners.
There’s three fortress towns in Norway but this one claims to be one of the best preserved old towns in Scandinavia and one of the prettiest. The Old Town has a mix of traditional stores and antique shops all framed within the extraordinary fortress walls. Just outside the fortress you’ll find a picture postcard village with cobbled streets and a cathedral which contains stained-glass work by Emanuel Vigeland and a steeple which also doubles as a lighthouse.
Jotunheimen National Park
Boasting the largest concentration of mountains higher than 2,000 metres in Northern Europe, the centrally located Jotunheimen National Park is one of the most popular national parks in Norway. Encompassing several mountain ranges – including Norway’s 29 highest peaks – the part attracts hikers, cross-country and alpine skiers, cyclists and climbers from all over Europe. As well as unique flora and fauna, expect to catch a glimpse of the wildlife that call the park home; including reindeer, fox, marten, mink, wolverines and lynx and even the rare golden eagle.
Fans of untouched landscapes will love Svalbard, an archipelago located between the Norwegian Sea, the Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea and the Greenland Sea. It’s an extreme and mysterious place filled with wild craggy mountains and pristine glaciers and is actually one of the northernmost permanently inhabited spots on the planet (but less than 3,000 people live there). Svalbard is excellent for wild spotting and an abundance of animals including polar bears, reindeer, walruses and polar foxes wander the wild, lonely lands.
How to get there
There are many international flight and ferry connections to Norway, and also an extensive rail network links Norway to the other Scandinavian countries and the rest of Europe. There are several ways of getting around Norway when you arrive including trains, buses, ferries, cruises (especially popular on the Fjords) and car rental. Also look here for discounts on flights to Oslo through Easyjet and Ryanair.