Possessing a coast that is indented countless times by glacially carved fijords, and buffeted by an oceanic air mass that keeps its climate surprisingly warm given its subpolar location, Norway is a nation that must be seen by anyone that is moved spiritually by natural beauty.
Let not the spectre of a $10 USD draft beer or a $20 casual lunch scare you away, as some the best things in life cost money (besides, cooking for yourself in a hostel can be fun!), so start saving: the life-changing vistas, people and history found in the home of Vikings awaits your arrival.
Currency: Norwegian Kroner
Languages: Norwegian, Saami
What To Do
If you arrive in Norway by air, you’ll most likely be starting your adventure in Oslo, so begin by taking in the Akershus Fortress once you’ve gotten settled. Built to protect the Norwegian capital in Medieval times, and used as a prison in prior centuries, this stalwart has withstood every siege levied against it over its 700 years of existence.
While much of this facility is still used by the Norwegian military, the public can tour portions of this stately structure until nine in the evening, including the mausoleums where former heads of Norwegian royalty have been buried over the centuries.
Norway is the ancestral home of one of the world’s most well known seafaring people, as this northerly land has served as the base from which many lands in the North Atlantic were explored and settled (Iceland, Greenland, and for a brief time, the island of Newfoundland in Canada) over a milennia.
The Viking Ship Museum not only protects authentic ships that have existed since their construction in the 9th century AD, but also artifacts from daily life in that era. The ships in question were burial ships, with many objects found aboard meant to aid and entertain the spirits of the departed in the afterlife.
This and many other fascinating discoveries regarding the Vikings await you here, so don’t miss this place before heading out of Oslo for points beyond.
Another city you should see before striking out into Norway’s vast hinterland is Bergen, as the historical importance of its old port area has earned this picturesque urban area a UNESCO designation. Known as Bryggen, the wooden shophouses used to store and trade goods, but today, they act as a museum for that era, as well as being home to countless stylish boutiques, restaurants and bars. Bring plenty of cash though: if you haven’t already heard, Norway is one of the most expensive countries on Earth.
Of all the attractions that draw travelers to Norway, its gasp-inducing fjords pull in the lion’s share of them. Running up the coast for more than two thousand kilometres as the crow flies (or 25,000 kilometres if you walk the shore from south to north … that’s more than halfway around the circumference of the Earth!), these natural features offer more sightseeing opportunities than you could enjoy in several lifetimes.
Oslo and Bergen are both located on fjords, but the best of the inlets in Norway’s vast wilderness include Geirangerfjord, which has some of the steepest mountain faces and most beautiful cascading waterfalls lining its shores, and Lysefjord, which can be admired from atop the world famous Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock, which juts out over thousands of feet of dead air below. Watch your step!
One of the most unique aspects of Norway is the fact that one can access its territory above the Arctic Circle (66.67 degrees north) using well maintained highways, stay in towns with modern amenities, and be outdoors in weather that mimics what one might find on the Central Coast of British Columbia throughout much of the winter.
These are the unique conditions that await those that visit Northern Norway, which is a place where tourists can enjoy the Midnight Sun in summer or the Northern Lights in winter, Scandinavian style.
While you might be expecting outpost conditions, you’ll be shocked at the variety of historical, cultural, and outdoor activities to engage in during your visit. If you have only time for one stop in the North, we recommend Tromsø.
What To Eat
Most Norwegian food is heavy and meat-based, so it shouldn’t be surprising to be foods like Kjøttkaker being served up as a snack or for lunch. These are hefty patties of ground beef and onion, seasoned with salt and pepper.
When served as part of a meal, potatoes, peas and carrots are served on the side, making it good food to eat with you have an impending hike to do on a cool day.
Fårikål is referred to by many as Norway’s national dish, and being a country with a fishing and seafaring heritage, it’s not hard to see why, as this stew made of mutton and cabbage does much to keep those exposed to the elements fuelled up, as well as toasty and warm on the inside. As with many main courses in Norway, boiled potatoes are served up with this hearty bowl of goodness … have some after a long day of skiing on the fjords if you are here during the lengthy winter season.
Dessert is also a heavily anticipated affair, here, as having a Krumkake will revel to your tastebuds. Eaten either as a cookie, or filled with whipped cream, this treat can be enjoyed year round, but it is especially revered as a treat after Christmas dinner in Norway.