Making up one-third of Scandinavia, there’s one simple reason to visit Norway: it’s breathtakingly beautiful.
Deep blue fjords, sprawling glaciers, quaint arctic towns, long-spanning history and a plethora of magical natural phenomenons from the northern lights to the midnight sun meld together to create one extremely visually-appealing, winter paradise.
An intriguing blend of culture and nature, Norway, of course, offers much more than just beauty. Modern Norway has only been in existence for 200 years, yet these Nordic lands stretch far back to the last Ice Age. Whilst there were many settlers in between the Ice Age and modern-day, Norway is perhaps most famous for its Viking period, during which the whole of Scandinavia expanded.
Today, it is this intriguing history and the spectacular beauty of its lands of which most of Norway’s activities and must-see attractions revolve around. Home to four distinct seasons, Norway is an all-year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts, history lovers and adventurers. From chasing the northern lights and witnessing the arctic dawn at midday to snowmobiling across vast ice fields and keeping cosy under reindeer hides in a hotel made entirely of ice, Norway is a country of ‘firsts’ and bucket-list tickers.
Voted the happiest place in the world in 2017 and having retained its spot in the top 15 best places to live in the world, Norway’s sophistication and charm ooze from its vibrant cultural life. The cities are famously cosmopolitan with a particular Scandinavian flair whilst its arctic-inspired remote towns bring warmth to any Norway trip.
Not only is it one of Europe’s top active destinations, but Norway is also one of the few places on the continent where you will be in the presence of whales (humpback, sperm and orca), wild reindeer, moose, prehistoric musk oxen and the elusive Arctic fox. Of course, polar bears and walruses are paraded as the poster species of the high Arctic regions and spotting one of them will you spellbound by Norway – that is, if you aren’t already.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Norway?
Norway is a country blessed with beauty all year round. However, depending on what you’re looking for, there may be a right or wrong season of the year for you to travel to this Arctic paradise.
Spanning nine different climate types and with half of the country being above the Arctic circle, the temperatures and unique happenings vary drastically across this country. Ultimately, the best time to go to Norway depends on the activities you want to indulge in and the temperatures you find comfortable.
The high season in Norway lasts from June to August (the European summer) when the hotspots will be busy and you’ll have to book tours and accommodation in advance. Low season in Norway lasts from November to April. This is when the temperatures are at their most extreme and most attractions are closed for the winter.
Ultimately the best time to visit Norway are the shoulder seasons – May to June and September to October. During the shoulder seasons in Norway, the weather is comfortable and there aren’t too many other tourists.
For those on the hunt for the northern lights, this magical natural phenomenon is best seen at higher altitudes during the colder months, namely between September and March and peaking from December to February. If you want to see the famous midnight sun on your Norway tour, June, July and August are the ideal months. You’ll also have great hiking, cycling and cruising opportunities if you do your Norway tour during these months. Whilst winter in Norway can be bitter, the country turns into a snowy paradise where snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross country skiing are popular activities.
Experiences You Must Have and Places You Must Visit in Norway
From north to south, west to east, Norway is packed with unique local experiences and wonderful places to visit. Of course, depending on interests and travelling style, different activities will interest different people. However, if you have an appreciation for culture, history and spectacular scenery, a Norway trip won’t disappoint.
Catch the Elusive Northern Lights in Norway
Tromso is renowned as one of the best places in Norway to catch the magical show that has come to be known as the northern lights. As well as heading out each night in search of this often-playful-in-its-attendance lights show, you’ll be exploring Norway’s historic cities and towns and diving into the Norwegian culture by day on this 11-Day Northern Lights and Sami Culture trip.
Cruise Along a Fjord to the Lofoten Islands
The Hurtigruten sails along the Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkenes and back again every day, all year. One of the journeys it takes is from Bodø, home of the midnight sun and northern lights, to Svolvær, the nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers paradise in the Lofoten Islands. When much of the country is built on the coast or islands surrounding it, embarking on a cruise is one of the must-dos on any Norway trip.
Snow-Filled Fun in One of Europe’s Top Active Destinations
Norway is regarded as one of the top adventure travel destinations in Europe and when planning your trip, you’ll see why. Alongside chasing the northern lights or admiring the midnight sun, you can fill your days on snowmobile tours, king crab fishing, snowshoe tours or taking on some of the best hiking trails in Europe! You can enjoy all this and more on this 5-Day Arctic Norway and Lapland Adventure.
Take a Ride on the Breathtaking Flam Railway
One of the finest train journeys in the world, the Flamsbana which runs from Flam to Myrdal in Fjord, Norway. You will pass through wild and beautiful mountain scenery with waterfalls and steep mountainsides before reaching the fjord village of Flåm. Flåm is Norway’s only fjord village with train connection. You can embark on this breathtaking journey and many others on this 7-Day Scenic Railways and Fjords of Norway trip.
Stay in a Hotel Made Entirely of Ice
Kept at a constant temperature of minus four degrees Celcius, the Icehotel in Kirkenes boasts an ice bar and 20 dreamlike ice rooms filled with amazing sculptures carved by master ice sculptors. Set against a backdrop of forests, mountains and an Arctic fjord at its front, the Icehotel is the perfect quirky stay to add to your Norway trip, just like this 3-Day Snow Hotel in Kirkenes trip.
Witness the Midnight Sun in the Lofoten Islands
An archipelago of islands, the Lofoten Islands are known for their untamed landscapes, dramatic scenery, sheltered bays, beaches and mountain peaks. Its charming beauty is taken up a notch during certain times a year when the Lofoten Islands are shrouded in a perpetual Arctic dawn known as the midnight sun. Lofoten is also a great place to observe the northern lights. On this Norway trip, you can experience these phenomenons and more!
Discover one of Norway’s Magical UNESCO World Heritage Sites
From the charming 14th-century Hanseatic Wharf in Bryggen which has become an iconic symbol of Norway, to Northern Europe’s largest concentration of rock art made by hunter-gatherers in Alta, Norway is home to a rather impressive list of UNESCO sites. Whilst Norway is home to over 1,000 fjords, the fjords in the west are particularly special and have earned themselves a UNESCO status: Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord. As well as natural beauty, Norway’s history has also earned a fair few UNESCO sites through its stave churches now only found in Norway and its old wooden towns.
The Best Way to Travel Around Norway
Due to the sheer length and climatic diversity of Norway, getting from one destination to another isn’t always simple. However, by using a range of different transport modes to travel around Norway, you are able to experience the country in a richer, more rounded way.
Despite the lack of A-to-B links, public transport and different methods of transport are abundant in Norway. Norway has 50 airports, eight of which are international airports meaning flying in is easy. During your trip, you can opt to use a mixture of cruises, trains and car transport to get around Norway.
In a country known for its dramatic scenery, driving yourself around either in a rental car or with a private driver in Norway means you’re in control of when you stop. With stunning fjords, snow-capped peaks and quaint alpine towns, you’ll be hard-pushed not to stop for photo opportunities at every turn. A self-drive trip to Norway like this 8-Day Fjords and Mountains adventure sees you travelling from high mountains to deep fjords whilst staying in alpine and fjord villages.
On almost every Norway trip, you’ll experience part of the journey travelling by boat. Cruising from one destination to another one on of Norway’s fjords means you’ll be surrounded by spectacular scenery and serenity that would not be achievable by travelling any other way.
In Norway, there are several train journeys that should be on your bucket list. The country is home to several train journeys which claim to be one of the best scenic journeys in the world, such as Norway’s Flamsbana iconic railway from Flam to Myrdal.
The Best Regions to Stay in Norway
There is an abundance of places to stay in Norway to suit every traveller. Norwegian hotels, which are the most expensive choice, are world-renowned for their clean, high-standard appeal. Take a step down and guesthouses are another great choice for a cosy stay in Norway. For the budget and adventurous traveller, staying in hostels will deliver great value for money.
Not known by many, but almost everywhere in Norway, it is free to wild-camp. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in Norway’s spectacular nature, camping should be high on your list.
As you head further into rural Norway, you’ll notice the abundance of country cabins which dot the landscape, usually painted a bright, nordic red. You can stay in these traditional cosy homes either by renting a private one or staying with a family. The latter will enable you to truly immerse yourself into Nordic life and will be sure to be a favourite memory of a family trip in Norway.
Norway is a long, incredibly diverse country which means you’ll most likely want to move around during your trip to experience the best of the country. If you’re looking to combine travel and accommodation, you can opt for overnight cruises.
If camping is not your thing but you’re looking for something equally as quirky, Norway’s ice hotels offer a thrilling stay. Kept at a constant minus-five Celcius, these ‘ice hotels’ are a chilly yet wonderful place to spend a night. Sleeping in thermals under thick reindeer hides, you won’t get cold in these ice havens.
Where to Stay in Central Norway
Trondheim is a city known for its colourful buildings, vibrant music festivals and gastronomy. Base yourself here if you’re looking for a charming pedestrian centre, stunning architecture and nature on your doorstep.
Found on the west coast of Norway and on the entrance to many of the country’s fjords, Bergen is the country’s second-largest city and one of the most colourful cities in Europe. It’s art scene, jaw-dropping nature and quaint, Bryggen wharf make this city reminiscent of a Nordic fairytale.
Where to Stay in Northern Norway
The most northerly part of Europe, the remoteness of Svalbard means it is a feat to get here but its incredible glacial viewing, unique northern lights adventures and wildlife certainly make it worth the journey.
If you’re looking for the best place to observe the northern lights in Norway, Tromso is where you’ll want to base yourself. A city with an urban vibe contrasted by its wooded, historic centre, Tromso boasts a vibrant cultural scene, spectacular light shows and fjords on its doorstep.
Above the Arctic circle in deep, northern Norway, the Lofoten Islands should be at the top of your list. A cluster of islands surrounded by clear fjord waters and home to great nordic beaches, colourful fishing towns and spots to observe the northern lights, Lofoten is a great place to combine several of Norway’s main features.
Where to Stay in Southern Norway
For the hikers, Stavanger offers some of the best hiking opportunities in the world including the famous Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), Aurlandsdalen, Skala, and Romsdalseggen. With an old town characterised by 18th and 19th-century buildings, Stavanger offers the perfect mix of nature and history.
The capital of Norway, the metropolitan city of Oslo is the perfect base to begin your Norway trip. With a food scene to rival that of the rest of Europe’s capitals, scenic cruises and a boatload of history to dive into, Oslo is where you should begin.
Norway’s National Delicacies and Where to Eat and Drink Them
Surrounded by rich waters and home to several islands, Norway’s well-placed location brings about a variety of distinctive delicacies.
Serving up some of the best salmon in the world, salmon is a staple food in the Norwegians diet. Due to the colder climate, the fish grow for a longer period of time, allowing their flavour to fully develop. You’ll find salmon on the menu almost everywhere you go in Norway but one special way to have it is smoked, known as Røkt Laks. This salmon is dry-cured in salt, dill and sugar for 24 hours, producing a delicious dish which is something you should not miss on your Norway trip.
Not only do Norwegians enjoy salmon and other fish dishes like fish dish is tørrfisk (an unsalted and cold-air dried fish), meat also makes up a large majority of their popular dishes. Kjøttboller or kjøttkaker is Norway’s version of Swedish meatballs flavoured with ginger and nutmeg, served with a creamy sauce or a hearty gravy.
Much of Norway’s cuisine has a heavy emphasis on warmth and hearty meals that enable the locals to survive the long and harsh winters with bellies full of goodness. In Norway, a tasty bowl of stew or fårikål as it’s also known, is a favourite of many. Most commonly found in the west of the country, the dish consists of cabbage, mutton and seasoning cooked for hours in a big pot.
If you were starting to think “hey, where are all the desserts?”, don’t worry, your sweet tooth can also be satisfied whilst on your Norway trip. Krumkake is a dessert consisting of paper-thin rolls of pancake which are filled with whipped cream or any other yummy filling. You’ll find this delicious dessert in most Norwegian bakeries.
Finding local delicacies can often be difficult if you don’t know where to look, or where to find the best ones. Choosing to design your trip with one of our Local Designers means that you’ll be taken to the spots where only the locals go and once there, you won’t sit looking puzzled at the menu, you’ll drooling over local delicacies picked for you.
The Cost of a Trip to Norway
It’s no secret that Norway is one of the most expensive destinations to travel in Europe. Whilst everything Norway produces from hotels to food is of a high standard, travelling in this country can be difficult for even the most budget-wise traveller.
Many factors can affect the price of a trip to Norway, these include:
- The length of your trip
- The season (month) you choose to travel to Norway
- The class of hotel you choose
- The number of locations you visit in Norway
- The number of guided day tours and activities you choose to do
- How much you spend on meals, shopping, etc.
Norway, unlike other European destinations, has less of an ‘eating out’ culture. Which is why choosing to stay with a local family or in a guesthouse can be beneficial as you will enjoy local meals with the host family or cook your own, which of course, reduces costs if you’re looking for a budget trip to Norway.
Norway is a country packed with once-in-a-lifetime experiences and unique destinations so it is guaranteed to be one of the most memorable trips of your lifetime. To get the most out of your trip, it is highly recommended that you design your trip with a Local Designer in Norway who can tailor your trip to your budget, specific interests and travel style. As well as creating a trip at the price point you desire, you’ll also remove the hassle of planning and booking your trip but instead end up with a trip packed with cultural activities and unique, local experiences.
The cost of a custom-built Norway tour typically starts at around $1,944 per person for an eight-day trip. For example, this 8-Day Fjords & Glaciers of Norway trip includes:
- Three-star hotels with breakfast
- Eight activities & tours
- Bus and ferry transport
Choosing to upgrade to a higher class of hotel, having a guide or a private driver and more activities included means a higher budget. Alternatively, choosing to stay with local families or camp as well as driving your own rental car would make it more of a budget trip to Norway.
Of course, everyone’s interests and travelling styles are different. That’s why designing your Norway trip with a Local Designer enables you to experience everything you wish to at a price point that suits you.
Festivals and Special Events in Norway
Festivals of food, art, music, film and more, Norway is a country where there’s always a reason to celebrate. Its diverse culture and rich history have resulted in an abundance of special events and festivals which can be easily tied into your Norway trip.
Øya Festival, Oslo
Did someone say Norwegian Coachella?
Every August, Øya Festival brings together around 60,000 people in the heart of Norway’s capital, Toyen Park. From international stars to up-and-coming local artists, the vibe at Øya Festival is focused on youth, fun and sustainability. Sing your heart out and eat delicious vegan food; you won’t want to miss this festival.
Not only is Tromso known as one of the best places in Norway to see the northern lights, but it’s also home to a whole festival dedicated to this magical natural phenomenon. Nordlysfestivalen (northern lights festival) has taken place for the last 30 years in Tromso as the end of January each year. From jazz to symphonic orchestras, this festival will not only enchant you with its music but its chosen location: inside a cathedral.
Riddu Riđđu, Northern Norway
The indigenous people of Norway, Sami, host an international indigenous festival every July that aims to celebrate their culture and expand the awareness around cultures like theirs. From music and films to workshops, literature readings and other performances, to learn more about the Sami culture in Norway, Riddu Riđđu is the festival to come to.
One of Norway’s biggest food festivals, Gladmat takes place every July. During this time, 250,000 foodies and chefs from all over the world come together to discover and appreciate the quality ingredients and fine cuisine that Norway produces.
If we were to continue listing Norway’s festivals and special events, the list would be never-ending. There is something for everyone, from international film festivals to the world beard championships and many more. Choosing to tie in a festival or a special event like these into your Norway trip, will add a healthy dose of culture and local insight to your trip.
So, are you ready to design a trip to Norway?
Whatever may have caught your eye in this guide, you’ll be sure there’s a reason for everyone to visit Norway in their lifetime. Why not make it a truly magical trip by designing your adventure with a Local Designer in Norway who can tailor the trip to your interests, budget and travel style? Browse our range of customisable trips or design your own trip from scratch to one of our 55-plus destinations with one of our 220-plus Local Designers.