Norway is known to most as the land of Vikings and fjords. While the former may live on only in stories, you can rest assured the latter is still found almost everywhere you look – contributing the Norway’s claim as perhaps the most beautiful country on earth. That’s not all it offers however, with a diverse collection of cities, unique culture, and much more. We’ll cover where to travel in Norway, when to go, how to get around, and how much you should expect to spend.
Want to learn more about Norway?
When should I go?
‘Norway’ means ‘path to the North’; so with this exclusive knowledge in mind, know that winter temperatures are likely to be very cold while also providing very little sunlight. The summer months are very pleasant without being too hot, though some of the most popular sights are likely to feature a fair few tourists. Winter is a good time to avoid the crowds, though many areas are closed or impassable. If you’re here to ski, we recommend early spring as the easiest option.
How do I get around?
Renting a car is great way to see any country where the scenery is a highlight – and Norway is no different. That being said, it can be an expensive option (Norway has some of the highest gas prices in the world – though the recent downturn has helped alleviate this somewhat). The train system is excellent and can get you around almost the entire country. Buses are slightly cheaper but also much slower and less comprehensive.
Where to travel in Norway
Norway may be most famous for its natural beauty, but that doesn’t mean the cities offer nothing of note. First and foremost is the capital, Oslo. It’s smaller than Stockholm and Copenhagen, but the country’s largest city still offers a wealth of sights both historic (museums ranging from Vikings to the WWII resistance) and cultural (including numerous musical performances) to take in. Whether you want to relax in a cafe or live it up in one of the many bars or clubs – Oslo will appeal to all-comers. Of course, the great outdoors are just a short trip away – with hiking, skiing, boating, and more all in easy reach of the city centre.
The second largest city in the country has been a thriving port for centuries. The maritime culture is proudly displayed everywhere you look – from the harbour to the bustling markets. While not overwhelmingly large, Bergen offers many of the same sights and sounds you’d expect from a major location – with tons of live music, food options, and bars within easy walking distance. The houses and buildings (especially in the older part of town) are classically Norwegian – multicoloured and exactly what you’d expect from a major fishing centre. Don’t forget to stop by the famed fish market (although you should expect a…strong smell). Finally, take a trip up the cable car in the centre of town for a picturesque view over both Bergen and the surrounding area.
Norway’s third largest city has to do something to set itself apart from its larger cousins. Luckily, an interesting history (Trondheim was the capital during the Viking era) goes a long way towards giving this northern city something special. While medieval historians will certainly find a lot to love, there’s enough here for those with more modern tastes as well. A large student population has given rise to a healthy amount of restaurants, bars, and more, giving the medium sized city a party atmosphere (perhaps the best you can find this close to the North Pole).
This city in southern Norway isn’t usually the first place that comes to mind when planning your trip. It’s not quite as picturesque as Bergen, nor as large or cosmopolitan as Oslo. That being said, the success of the oil industry in the country has paid dividends, with Stavanger the main beneficiary. Much of the town has been revitalized and you can find a variety of food and entertainment options without looking too hard. However, it’s the location that’s the biggest draw for most. While you might not associate Norway with warm, sunny beaches – that’s exactly what you’ll find around here during the right time of year.
Nordland is (unsurprisingly) a region in northern Norway. It consists of a long, skinny strip of land just south of where the country starts to loop back over the top of Sweden and Finland. The environment is rugged, with lakes, coastline, mountains, and more. There is a ton to see here, with some of the most scenic hikes to be had for willing adventures. A couple standouts are the Kystriksveien Coastal Route and the area around Vega in the south.
We can’t mention Nordland without touching on the stunning Lofoten Islands. Amazing geography melds seamlessly with centuries of maritime culture – with the ability to hike up razor sharp peaks surrounding fjords one minute and take in a working fishing village the next. This isn’t simply a scenic region; it’s a fully alive collection of communities with a working industry dominating the inhabitant’s lives. The islands can be reached by road or ferry, so you don’t have to worry about a long, arduous trip to visit one of the most picturesque places in Norway.
Jotunheimen National Park
Also known as ‘Home of the Giants’, Jotunheimen is the must-see national park in Norway. Whether it’s fishing or hiking you crave, you can rest assured there’s a lot of both here. Many lakes find a home in the valleys carved by some of Northern Europe’s highest mountains. Keep a keen eye out and you’re sure to see a greatest hits collection of sub-arctic wildlife – including reindeer, lynx, and much more. With an area of over 1100 square kilometres, it’s doubtful you’ll see it all – but that shouldn’t stop you from walking in the footsteps of giants anyways!
Many of the places we’ve mentioned (especially Lofoten) are known for fjords already. Indeed, these impressive waterways can be found across Norway if you know where to look. That being said, we figured it was important to give them their own section, as fjords often afford the best and most impressive views, hikes, and adventures in all of Scandinavia. The entire coast is littered with them, but arguably the Western Region is the standout (with Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord particularly well known). Visit one, and you’ll see why so many people plan a trip to Norway specifically to see them.
How much does it cost?
You’d be surprised at how relatively cheap flights to Norway are (or maybe not if you’ve already been there, but that’s not the point). A round trip flight between Pearson and Oslo generally starts around the $650 Canadian mark, which makes it a significantly more affordable option than many other trans-Atlantic options. Be sure to shop around, as taking advantage of good deals can drive the price down even further.
Once you arrive in Norway, you’ll find that the local prices don’t quite live up to the cheap flight. Expect to spend about $146 a day with a budget of $93 for accommodation and $33 for food. You can drive the daily expenses down to about $61 per day by being frugal while the higher end of travel will cost closer to $324 per day. Oslo is considered one of the most expensive cities in Europe, so keep that in mind if you’re planning on an extended stay in the capital. Since much of the appeal of Norway is the landscape and nature, you’ll likely have to factor in transportation costs if you want to get the most out of your trip.
Health and Safety
Like the rest of Scandinavia, Norway is considered a very safe country with the Canadian government recommending normal security precautions throughout. The crime rate is low, however petty crime does occur in tourist areas (as is to be expected). Be wary when driving during the winter months as road quality can degrade. If you plan on hiking off into the mountains and fjords (as you should), be sure you are adequately prepared, someone knows where you’re going, and you don’t overestimate your skill level.
These are just a few examples of where to travel in Norway, there’s tons more to see and do. If you think somewhere else should be on the list, let us know in the comments.
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