A small country with a population of five million, Norway offers stunning scenery, from the balmy beach towns of the south to the treeless towns in the north.
Most visitors to Norway are struck by its incredible beauty, and many parts have inspired poets, artists, photographers and dreamers alike.If you visit in the cold, snowy winters, you can enjoy skiing and snowboarding, dog sledding, horse sleigh rides and snowmobile safaris. In the summer, try some wilderness hiking or rafting, or spend some time in a cafe, at the park or on the beach. If you visit between mid-May and early August you’ll be treated to the midnight sun, a natural phenomenon where the sun doesn’t set for weeks.
Start by arriving in Oslo or Bergen
Oslo is Norway’s capital and largest city. All year round, the city offers great shopping, excellent restaurants, fascinating museums and a bustling and vibrant nightlife. Don’t miss the Oslo Opera House, The Vigeland Park and The Viking Ship Museum. HI recommends staying at Oslo Hostel Haraldsheim.
Bergen is located south west in a beautiful fjord area (for those that don’t know, a fjord is a long narrow inlet of the sea between steep cliffs). The colourful and historic city is one of Norway’s most visited and best-loved towns. Top things to do here include hiking in the mountains surrounding the city, and visiting the Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf and Fish Market. Bergen Hostel Montana is located five minute’s walk from a cable car which takes you to the tallest of the famous ‘Seven Mountains’, called Ulriken.If you’re travelling between Oslo and Bergen, make sure you go by train; the Bergen Railway is one of the most scenic train lines in the world, and is often referred to as ‘Norway in a nutshell’.
Western Norway is famous for its easily accessible fjords and mountains. Activities such as hiking, glacier walks, fishing and cycling are very popular here. A few of the best fjords to visit include The Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord; The Hardangerfjord, also called ‘the blue fjord’ and especially beautiful in early spring when the fruit blossoms; and The Geirangerfjord, which carves its way from the coast of Ålesund to the town of Geiranger.
The north is known for wildlife safaris, the midnight sun and the northern lights – a spectacular natural light display in the night sky. It is also home to Norway’s indigenous people, the Sami. Why not stay in the log cabins of the Karasjok Hostel, located in the Sami capital.
The sea here has a rich life and fishing is popular all year, plus the landscape of the mainland is as diverse as it is vast. The coast of Finnmark is stark, with mountain plateau tipping down towards the sea, whilst the coastlines of Troms and Nordland are livelier and more heavily vegetated. The easiest way to travel in Northern Norway is by plane, car or by cruise ship. The ‘Hurtigruten’, a Norwegian passenger line, is known as the most beautiful voyage in the world, sailing along the coast of Norway from Bergen to Kirkenes and calling in on 34 ports.
Interesting facts about Norway:
- Food stores and other shops are not allowed to open on Sundays, but petrol stations and kiosks selling groceries are
- You can only buy wine and liquor from special liquor outlets called Vinmonopolet
- Norwegians love frozen pizza – the Grandiosa frozen pizza is the unofficial Norwegian national dish
- Norwegians eat brown cheese called ‘brunost’, a type of sweet whey cheese
- Many Norwegians are passionate skiers and cross country skiing is considered a national sport. Some people take it a step further and buy roller skis so that they can ski even in the summer
- The world’s largest population of arctic reindeer herders can be found in Norway
- Norway has 7 sites noted on the UNESCO World Heritage List
- 17 May is Norway’s Constitution Day, and is celebrated with colourful children’s parades and festivities. People dress up in their finest clothes or ‘bunad’, Norway’s national costume
Hostelling International offers about 80 hostels in Norway, 40 of them open all year – check out our Norway page for a full list of hostels and make your booking today!