The picturesque ruggedness of Norway is just part of the appeal of what may arguably be one of the most beautiful countries on the planet. Nature is magnified with awe-inspiring Northern Light displays set against a backdrop comprised of magnificent mountains, fjords, islands, and coastline. Here are 10 reasons to visit Norway in 2019.
The Northern Lights
The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is an otherworldly light show created when charged particles from the sun collide with gaseous particles within the Earth’s atmosphere. These auroral displays can be seen above the magnetic poles of both the northern and southern hemispheres. Variations in color are dependent on the type of gas particles that are colliding and the altitude at which these collisions are taking place. There are numerous locations around Norway to experience the show, including Tromsø, Lofoten Islands, Svalbard, and Kirkenes. Mid-September to late March offers the best chance of experiencing these ethereal, dancing lights.
This may arguably be the most beautiful region in all of Norway. Small villages are scattered among the islands which are nestled above the Arctic Circle in the Norwegian Sea. As a result of the region’s diverse landscape, here you can hike, ski, kayak, fish, and surf (the area sports one of the world’s northernmost surf destinations). The area is also ideal for viewing the Northern Lights and, due to its northerly proximity, travelers can experience the midnight sun from late May until mid-July. The region is a goldmine for history buffs as the largest Viking longhouse (over 270 feet long) ever discovered has been reconstructed as a living museum.
Whether you are seeking a physical, spiritual, or cultural journey, a trek along one of the seven approved routes to Nidaros (Trondheim Cathedral) may provide a unique opportunity to experience a Norway that is more than a thousand years in the making. Legend has it that the cathedral was built on the site of the burial location of the first king of Norway, Olav Haraldsson, who was killed in battle in 1030. Since 1032, pilgrims have followed the network of trails, known as St. Olav Ways, to honor the slain Viking (and Christian) king leading to the northernmost Gothic cathedral in Europe.
The country’s third-largest city is everything you would expect from this intimate Norwegian city. When King Olav Haraldsson was killed in battle, the slain Viking king’s body was transported to present-day Trondheim where he was buried near a spring. While work began in 1070, most of the oldest sections of this impressive Gothic cathedral date back to the mid-12th century. In addition to Nidaros Cathedral, the city is home to numerous other historic buildings. The historic wharves along the River Nidelva date back to the 18th century and are a reminder of the city’s importance as a merchant port. The coastal city is a food lovers paradise where locally brewed beers are paired with dishes prepared to specifically accompany a particular brew.
Located in the Arctic Ocean between Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard is actually a series of islands with a total population of around 3,000 (over 50 percent of those living in the Longyearbyen, the region’s largest settlement). Svalbard means “cold coasts,” though the archipelago has a relatively mild climate compared with other areas at the same latitude. While old mining towns along with evidence of the era still dot the landscape, about two-thirds of the area is now protected and is still a vital arctic wilderness for unique wildlife like an abundance of polar bears.
Fjords literally canvas the Norwegian landscape, but Geirangerfjord may be the most famous as well as the most spectacular. A succession of ice ages systematically carved out these deep fjords while shaping the mountains that flank them. This is an adventurer’s paradise with an abundance of activities, including hiking, kayaking, rafting, fishing, and cycling. Waterfalls cascade across the region and some of the most dramatic and famous of them include the Seven Sisters, Bridal Veil, and the Suitor. Getting to the region can be as much an adventure as the destination when you navigate the engineering marvel that is the Trollstigen mountain road.
Located 217 miles above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is nicknamed the ‘Gateway to the Arctic’ due to its importance to trapping in the region in the early 1900s as well as being the launching point for Arctic expeditions. Tromsø is also the largest city in Northern Norway and may be one of the most accessible locations in the country to view the famed northern lights. While the region offers outdoor enthusiasts an array of activities including dog sledding, sea kayaking, whale watching, and hiking, the city his also a cultural gem. The Arctic Cathedral is an iconic landmark that is visible from many places around Tromsø. Additionally, there are an array of museums and the city sports the world’s northernmost botanical garden. The city also hosts the Tromsø International Film Festival and the Northern Lights Festival.
Due to well preserved wooden buildings, this unique town and once vital mining region are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1644, Røros has retained much of its original character and is one of the oldest towns of wooden buildings in Europe. The town is a living museum and visitors to the area can explore the historic town while visiting local artisans featuring handmade items from the region. The area is also known for its locally produced foods. The climate ensures that items grow slowly thus creating a distinctive flavor.
No trip to Norway is complete without a visit to this capital city. Located between the Oslofjord and the Marka Forest, this metropolitan hub may be the jewel in the crown of Scandinavia. The city center is compact and easily navigable by foot, bicycle, or the public transportation system while providing an array of world-class museums, restaurants, and shopping opportunities. In addition to the iconic Opera House which is nestled along the waterfront, the city is home to other cultural institutions like the National Museum and the Munch Museum. Also, Oslo was recently named the European Green Capital for its dedication to conserving natural resources while working to improve its waterway network.
The Norwegian Coast
While there are several companies that offer cruises up (and down) the scenic coast, Hurtigruten has been doing it for more than a century. Founded in 1893, the company was founded as a means of transporting goods, services, and people to the numerous coastal communities along the route between Bergen and Kirkenes. While still serving as a transport service, a Hurtigruten cruise makes the same stops along the route. Some are for just a matter of minutes while the crew unloads or loads more goods. Others are for up to four hours in length and allow for shore excursions to enjoy tours of historic cities like Trondheim, active adventures like sea kayaking and dog sledding, and midnight concerts at the Arctic Cathedral.