Norway is a country of contrasts, combining modern living alongside ruggedly beautiful surroundings; a largely unspoiled country of mountains, fjords and glaciers. Its past is confidently displayed from its proud Viking heritage to its place as the ‘cradle of skiing’.However, Norway is not just about icy glaciers and winter sports as its long summer days being a particular but lesser known attraction.
Population: 4.5 million
People: Norwegian, Sami
Languages: Bokmal, Nynorsk and Northern Sami
Religion: Church of Norway 85.7%, Pentecostal 1%, Roman Catholic 1%, other Christian 2.4%, Muslim 1.8%, other 8.1%
Government: constitutional monarch
Norway is the place for lovers of winter sports. Ideal for cross-country skiing with a plethora of specially prepared trails, many of which are floodlit after dark. Snowboarding is also popular, while a host of other fun snow activities such as dog-sledding, sleigh rides, sledging and snow scooter safaris are available.
The capital city combines big city life with easy access to untouched natural surroundings with it being bounded by the fjord and forested hills. The Oslo fjord has more than forty islands, most of which are accessible by regular boat service during the summer months. The green forests, or ‘Oslomarka’, are perfect for hikes, walks or exercise, for bathing or fishing in a forest lake, while in winter, the winter sports come into their own. The Vigeland Sculpture Park with its 212 sculptures is also a must.
Recognized as the oldest winter sports destination in Norway, Lillehammer was put firmly put on the international tourist map by hosting the Winter Olympics in 1994.Aside from its Olympic facilities there are museums, galleries, excellent shopping facilities as well as a wide selection of music and theatre performance venues. At the other end of the scale are the peaceful rural landscapes, which are ideal for skiing, rambling and other sport activities.
A place of highly contrasting scenery: from glittering glaciers, valleys, huge mountains, to the Stadhavet sea pounding the coast. The area is home to both the largest glacier in mainland Europe (Jostedalsbreen glacier being 487 km sq) and Europe’s deepest lake, Hornindalsvatnet. The mountains that surround provide cascading waterfalls to cap the breathtaking scenery.
Kristiansand Cannon Museum
A historical defence museum, incorporating Second World War German coastal artillery. The museum houses one of the largest existing cannons of its type in the world with a weight of over 330 tons.
The LufotenViking museum
The islands’ history as a major Viking settlement is presented in an exciting exhibition featuring (among its many items) traditional Viking boats. A farmstead, discovered in 1982, is thought to have belonged to one of the most powerful chieftains of the Viking era and has been reconstructed to look just as it did in the 9th century. A reconstructed Viking ship is moored nearby and as able to take visitors out in good weather.
Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen National Park offers breathtaking mountain scenery with some of the highest peaks in Northern Europe as well as glaciers, sheer faced cliffs and blue watered fjords. The park consists of 1,140 sq km of relatively untouched wilderness with a network of hiking trails passing through valleys, deep lakes and plunging waterfalls.
The museum is effectively like a tour, where you can experience most of Norway in just one day. Recreated streets give a feel of what life was like hundreds of years ago, while an open-air section includes a collection of more than 150 houses taken from various regions of Norway, many dating as far back as the 13th century.
Holmenkollen Ski Museum
The world’s oldest museum specialising in skis and the history of skiing. The museum illustrates 4,000 years of skiing including rock carvings and skis from the past. Polar equipment used in the historic expeditions of famous Norwegian explorers are to be found here, alongside modern attractions such as ski simulators.
Best time to go
Norway can be visited any time of the year, depending on what you are looking for. The varying geography and climate means that activities are not limited to certain times of the year. Summer activities in the sun could be combined with skiing at certain places in the mountains. Daylight hours may confuse visitors depending on when they travel. Northern Norway is known to tourists as the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ as the sun does not set between the middle of May and end of July; conversely the sun does not rise between the middle of November and the end of January.