Norway is not only the westernmost country in Scandinavia, but also the northernmost and easternmost, due to its long, curved shape.
Although the cost of travel is relatively high, you’ll be richly rewarded with unforgettable moments. Also encompassing the Svalbard archipelago to the far north, Norway is known best for the breathtakingly striking fjords carving into its western coastline, all the way from the North Sea, close to Scotland, up to the Arctic Ocean. Shaped by the Ice Age, these epic feats of nature attract most foreign visitors; guided tours through the network of glistening water inlets surrounded by steep mountains offer the best way of getting close to Norwegian nature. And, with a humble population of just five million, the country’s glorious, expansive landscapes are often all yours.
Northern Norway is said to be one of the finest places on earth to witness the Northern Lights, or ‘aurora borealis’: a stunning, celestial phenomenon of green, pink and violet shades of dancing light. Like the fjords, they have been made easily accessible for tourists, with many activities, tours and hotels offering unbeatable viewing experiences.
Once you’ve had your fill of geographical delights, Norway serves up a cocktail of cosmopolitan cities, a history commanded by Vikings, highly-regarded cinema and traditional wooden buildings throughout the countryside. The capital, Oslo, is home to excellent art galleries, a ski-jumping hill and vast, green spaces, with innovative architecture to be admired in the newly-developed waterfront area, the opera house and the skyscraper-clad district known locally as ‘the barcode’.
Norwegian Vikings were the most active in the northern British Isles and eastern North America, accidentally discovering Canada and Iceland in the ninth century. The ship museum in Oslo features perfectly reserved Viking vessels, including the completely whole Oseberg ship, and various beautiful artefacts. Lofotr Viking Museum on the island of Vestvagoya, off the northwest coast, lets you live like a Norse Lord for a day in a reconstructed longhouse, and was nominated for the prestigious European Museum of the Year award in 2013.
Norway is well linked to the rest of Scandinavia by ferry, with plenty of routes across the North Sea to choose from; the shortest and most frequent come from northern Denmark. For the fjords, there are numerous domestic routes along the southwest coast. Norway is also easily reachable from mainland Europe, with regular crossings from Germany.