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Norway Travel Guide
Europe

 

 

Geiranger Fjord,  Norway

Geiranger Fjord

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Why holiday in Norway?

This country is primarily about monumental views of mountains, fjords, waterfalls and glaciers with the occasional stave church thrown in.
Outdoor experiences range from spectacular summer walks to year round skiing, though coach potatoes will also be pleasured by superbly scenic train, bus, ferry and self-drive car trips.
It's also clean and efficient, safer than just about any country barring Japan and Scandinavian siblings, and has the most careful and law-abiding drivers we've ever been held up by.

 

Traditional stave church,  Norway

A traditional Norwegian stave church

Downsides

• Like the rest of Scandinavia it's expensive, especially alcohol.
• Booze is also not that easy to find out of town centres since most Norwegians drink at home.
• Urban life is often less than wildly exciting, particularly if you have a tight budget.

 

Climate

Best weather: May-September; the Midnight Sun occurs in the far north from mid-June to mid-July.
Worst: Winter (short, dark days), unless you want to either ski or see the northern lights.

 

Length of stay:
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights: 4 days, Oslo - Bergen.
A reasonable time: 10 days.

 

Oslo harbour and Akershus Fortress,  Norway

Oslo harbour, City Hall (the nasty brick lump), and Akershus Fortress on the right

 

Main Attractions

**Oslo. Not a particularly attractive city but it's a good place to stroll and worth a day or two for the museums, Viking relics and especially the amazing sculpture park, Vigeland.

**Risor (2/3 hours south of Oslo), a very picturesque fishing village.

***Bergen. This port town, with its evocative mass of pretty wooden buildings and plentiful culture, is a popular trip from Oslo - the 7 hour train ride is a scenic masterpiece - and a natural starting point for fjordland experiences.

***Stavanger's 900 year-old town includes a striking 18thC wooden district, a medieval cathedral and a fine collection of museums.

***Fjords. You can't leave Norway without cruising the stunning fjords. Geirangerfjord and Sognefjord are the two prettiest, with the former offering a terrific waterfalls bonus while the latter is nearer to Bergen.

*** Geiranger, on the fjord shore. A tiny village surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and tourists, this is prime hiking country, but book accommodation in advance.

*** Jostedalsbreen National Park is a popular hiking destination with many well marked trails, plentiful accommodation, and natural splendour in spades, including 50 glaciers.

**Tromso. Way up north and well into the arctic circle Tromso (aka 'Gateway to the Arctic') is unusually lively and culturally rich, possibly due to the world's most northern university being situated there. This is a good base for winter skiing or summer wilderness hiking.

 

 

Transport

Buses, trains and domestic planes are highly efficient, though not frequent and costly.
This is a great country for self drive, with magnificent views and safe roads, but car hire is expensive. Bring your own wheels!

 

a reindeer on a road, Norway

A reindeer takes the high road

Activities

Driving: an excellent way to explore the land, with stupendous views and totally safe native drivers, but watch out for elk (moose) or reindeer.

Biking: surprisingly common considering the hilly nature and grand distances of the country, but bike hire is readily available just about anywhere. Car drivers are very careful and competent.

Hiking: plenty of great hikes not far from Oslo, from plateaux to glaciers. Geiranger and Jotunheimen are renowned hiking spots.

Fishing: fjord fishing has to be at the apex of ambient fishy experiences, tho' freshwater fishing is also available. Licences are necessary and readily available.

Skiing: all year round, with glacier skiing in summer time, esp. around Jotunheimen.

Boat Cruises: short or long fjord cruising is one of the must-dos here, and Sognefjord is the classic spot.

Mountain climbing: if you can handle low temperatures there's no shortage of serious, beautiful climbs along the whole length of the country, but stick to summertime!

White water rafting: from half a day to 2 days.

 

Festivals:
Easter, *Sami (Lapp) traditional celebrations in the north, esp. Karasjok, including reindeer racing.
May 17, ***Constitution Day - the country's most colourful day, with national costumes coming out of the closet.
June, *Midsummer's Eve Big parties and big, beach bonfires.

 

Genuine Viking longship, Oslo, Norway

A genuine Viking longship in the Viking Museum, Oslo

Museums/galleries:
The Viking Museum with three real ships, the Kon-Tiki Museum and the huge open-air Norwegian Folk Museum are all in Oslo and interesting.

 

Visas:
EU citizens and nationals of USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand do not need a visa for up to 3 months travel in Norway; other Scandinavians don't even require a passport.

 

Electricity:
Electric sockets are 230v and take 2 round pin plugs.

 

Language:
As usual in Scandinavia, many locals speak English though learning basic greetings is worth the trouble.

 

Bergen town, Norway

Bergen, Norway's prettiest town and main activity centre

Money:
The Krone is the local currency and you'll need a lot of them to enjoy Norway. Fast food and/or camping can keep expenses down.
Tipping is not strictly necessary in restaurants, but 5-10% for waiters and taxi drivers seems to be accepted practice.

 

Safety:
No worries at all here unless having your car savaged by an elk is a problem for you.

 

 

Food:
A great place for lovers of excellent and varied seafood or exotic meat dishes such as reindeer or elk, but oceanically deep pockets will be required.
Vegetarians will have a hard time finding anything interesting to eat.
Many travellers on a budget survive on fast food, sandwiches at Konditori (bakeries), or supermarket purchases, with opportunistic stuffing at hotel breakfast buffets.

 

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