The second happiest country in the world (according to United Nation’s 2013 World Happiness Report), seems to be having a moment. The Scandinavian country’s reputation for pristine, untouched landscapes are drawing discerning travellers from all over the globe and the popularity of the Disney movie Frozen are motivating fans to visit the country that inspired the animated movie setting (apparently bookings have increased around 40%). From our team’s various visits, this our collective choice for the most beautiful places to visit in Norway…
The Fjords – the protected lakes region
This is what Norway is becoming most famous for. The UNESCO listed Fjords are now appearing on many traveller’s bucket list and with good reason – they are one of the most naturally beautiful and dramatic landscapes in Europe and are one of the top attractions in the Scandinavian country. The glacial valleys are eerily silent, and are surrounded by high mountains and waterfalls that give the area an other-worldly beauty. Sognefjord is the longest, deepest and most celebrated of the country’s waterways closely followed by Hardangerfjord. Also include a visit to the Jostedalsbreen glacier (the largest ice sheet in Europe), Nordfjord, and Geirangerfjord, perhaps the most scenically impressive of all the fjords.
Ålesund – a picturesque port town
Scattered over a row of islands on the western coast of Norway, Ålesund is a thriving fishing town that – following a huge fire in 1904 – was rebuilt in a beautifully colourful Art Nouveau style. It’s easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Noway and boasting a vibrant culture, excellent shopping opportunities, and views over the area from Mount Aksla. Soak up the town’s unique atmosphere before heading out on a guided tour of the fjords. Don’t miss the breathtaking Geirangerfjord, for gorgeous photo opportunities.
Trolltunga – the Instagrammable moment
Trolltunga is definitely one of the picturesque places to discover in Norway. It’s an insanely gorgeous location and one of the most spectacular scenic cliffs in Norway – but it’s only for the brave. Otherwise known as the ‘troll’s tongue’ it was formed during the ice age when a glacial water froze a hunk of this mountain and caused it to break off, leaving a thin protruding ledge which hovers about 2,300 feet above the lake below. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s only a mere four-hour trek for a photo opportunity of a lifetime!
Bergen – the pretty town which inspired Frozen
The rainy but beautiful city of Bergen was apparently the inspiration for the fictional in the hit Disney animation, Frozen. The picturesque city is one of the prettiest and best cities to visit in Norway and is peppered with medieval buildings, Norwegian churches and colourful timber houses. It’s a laid-back place with a selection of good museums, quirky independent stores and al fresco cafes but its biggest draw is its status as being the gateway to the famous fjords.
Lofoten Islands – the famously beautiful collection of islands
This scenic, unspoilt archipelago is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets but one of the one important natural gems to explore in Norway. Though the collection of islands lie within Arctic Circle, they are blessed with warmer temperatures due to the Gulf Stream. It’s a beautifully traditional place where life is simple and tourism is kept to a minimum. This is where whale watching and spectacular walks and scenery await! To crank the romance factor up a gear stay in one of the cosy fisherman’s cabins, surrounded by still blue waters and unspoilt mountain landscapes that have to be seen to be believed.
Oslo – Norway’s cosmopolitan capital
Even Norway’s capital is beautiful and it’s an increasingly popular place to visit in this country. Yes it’s expensive and yes it hasn’t got a long list of world-famous attractions, but Oslo is clean, laid back and surrounded by a beautiful fjord and acres of lush woodland. The architecture is an eclectic mix of old and new and the underrated city boasts some world-class museums, including the National Gallery which houses Edvard Munch’s famous painting of ‘The Scream.’
Skudeneshavn – historic town filled with white buildings
Norway’s best-preserved sailing ship town, is located on the southernmost tip of the traditional island of Karmøy in Norway. A thriving port since the 19th century, today it’s post-card pretty place to explore in Norway with bags of scenic charm. Head for the lovely old town which is filled with wooden houses, twisting narrow roads (with almost no traffic) and boat moorings, with cafes, shops and galleries along the way. Expect to see more than 200 white wooden buildings which have been lovingly restored and maintained by their owners.
Fredrikstad – one of the prettiest fortress towns in Norway
There are three fortress towns in Norway but this one claims to be one of the best preserved old towns in Scandinavia and one of the prettiest to visit. The Old Town has a mix of traditional stores and antique shops all framed within the extraordinary fortress walls. Just outside the fortress, you’ll find a picture postcard village with cobbled streets and a cathedral which contains stained-glass work by Emanuel Vigeland and a steeple which also doubles as a lighthouse.
Jotunheimen National Park – one of the country’s premier hiking regions
Boasting the largest concentration of mountains higher than 2,000 metres in Northern Europe, the centrally located Jotunheimen National Park is one of the most popular national parks to travel to in Norway. Encompassing several mountain ranges – including Norway’s 29 highest peaks – the part attracts hikers, cross-country and alpine skiers, cyclists and climbers from all over Europe. As well as unique flora and fauna, expect to catch a glimpse of the wildlife that call the park home; including reindeer, fox, marten, mink, wolverines and lynx and even the rare golden eagle.
Svalbard – a beautiful frozen archipelago
Fans of untouched landscapes will love Svalbard, an archipelago located between the Norwegian Sea, the Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea and the Greenland Sea. It’s an extreme and mysterious place filled with wild craggy mountains and pristine glaciers and is actually one of the northernmost permanently inhabited spots on the planet (but less than 3,000 people live there). Svalbard is an excellent destination in Norway for wild spotting and an abundance of animals including polar bears, reindeer, walruses and polar foxes wander the wild, lonely lands.
Reine – incredibly picturesque fishing village
The fishing village of Reine is nestled securely at the mouth of Reinefjord in the west of Lofoten but this naturally beautiful Norwegian place deserves a mention of its own. Within this mountainous village, you can find your pleasures on the open sea with local fishermen looking to find the catch of their lives out on the oceans. There’s also extremely accessible kayaking for any interested persons. Reine is the ultimate place to find a piece of yourself out on the outskirts, hiking through the mountains to find the absolute perfect place to sit and take in the aurora that sits in one of the clearest skies you’ll come across anywhere in the world.
Mjelle beach, Bodø – a beautiful gemstone beach
Whenever you walk through a seaside town, you almost expect that air of seawater and seaweed. An odd but pleasant scent that is most welcome as you travel out towards the stunning Mjelle beach. This beach has been called a paradise in Norway for photographers, simply because of its natural, almost magical, scenery. The beach itself is only a half an hour drive from Bodø, and the locals will be happy to tell you some fascinating tales about the Red Beach, which is said to be infused with gemstone particles.
Rondane National Park – the oldest national park in Norway
If you’re more of an adventurer looking for the next mountain to take you to incredible heights and views, look no further than Rondane National Park. This tranquil mountain range is the perfect place all year round – from hiking in the summer to skiing in the winter, and everything in between. Rondane is the oldest National Park in Norway and it has several areas that are rich in plant life that only adds to its beauty.
Trondheim – the first capital of Norway
It may not seem like Trondheim is a large city compared to those you may have seen elsewhere in the world, but in Norway, it’s actually the third largest available and was once the capital of Norway. There are several historical and great landmarks that any tourist should try to see when they visit, including the medieval Nidaros Cathedral and the robust Kristiansten Fortress, both of which have tours available through various organisations. Another notable landmark within Trondheim is the Old Town Bridge, with its red portal structures, which was built in 1681 and overlooks the river.
Flam – one of the prettiest villages in the fjords
The impossibly pretty village of Flam located in the fjords, Southwestern Norway – one of the best regions to explore in Norway. Home to museums that truly showcase and highlight the history of this city, as a visitor, you’ll be able to go on an explorative journey with the Flam Railway, which will show you the city in a way that walking through it just can’t. Flam Railway runs through one of the wildest landscapes in the whole of Norway and has been called the best train journey in the world to take. Once you’re finished, you may want to take a quick trip over to the Flam Railway Museum or even head a little way over to Stegastein, the viewing platform over Aurlandsfjord, which stretches 30 metres across the land.
Stavanger – attractive city known for its colorful houses
A city located in southwest Norway which is an attractive area to pay a visit to in Norway. Home to the striking 10th century Stavanger Cathedral and colourful houses. The Stavanger region is also awash with breath-taking surroundings and long, white beaches that add even more mystifying touches to the area. For the hikers among you, the popular Preikestolen offers a mountainous hike up a cliff that is 604 metres in height and has a solidly flat top – giving you some of the best panoramic views around.
Nigardsbreen glacier – a large blue ice glacier
Glaciers are natural wonders that are often viewed from afar, but glacier guiding is quite popular at Nigardsbreen, where experienced guides are happy to take you and your children on safe walks among the blue ice. One of the best natural attractions in Noway to discover, it’s an experience like no other for anyone over the age of five, where you can gaze into the ice at close range and get lost in the spectacular reality of one of the most accessible branches of the Josteldalsbreen glacier. Imagine walking along a structure of ice that encompasses an entire area and is so beautifully formed that it looks like blue crystal glass even on a dim day; that is what this experience offers.
Femundsmarka National Park – is one of the largest unspoilt wildernesses in Scandinavia
Femundsmarka National Park is one of the largest areas of continuous and unspoilt wilderness. When you’re looking for a relaxing day of walking, you’re looking at the perfect spot. There are miles of land waiting for any enthusiastic explore to happen upon, and the park even offers several great canoeing and fishing locations. The Norwegian Trekking Association has called it one of the best three hiking areas in Norway, and, looking at the views among the trees, we’d have to agree. It could be very possible to walk for hours and never come across another person during your travels, perfect for anyone looking to get back to nature in beautiful Norway and discover a little something about themselves.
Solund, Sogn og Fjordane – a beautiful traditional region
Solund is a most interesting place to explore in Norway. Because of the 1700 islands, islets, and skerries (give or take) to the west of Norway, boats have taken to island hopping between them. Solund, itself, is a destination that has become popular for boating, fishing, and kayaking. The endless islands offer great wind and wave protection when the weather isn’t great, but on sunnier days, you may find yourself travelling out the short distance to the open sea. Of course, there are many activities on land, including marked hiking trails and cycling routes that are surrounded by natural beauty. Summer in Solund also boasts guided tours that can take you to Utvær.
Henningsvær – the Venice of the North
Henningsvær is located among several small islands off the coast of Austvågøya. It’s a notable fishing location, but the main attraction in this beautiful corner of Norway is definitely the incredible views that you can see from anywhere in the village. Henningsvær has been called “the Venice of the North”, likening the small village to the magnificent area of Italy that everyone knows and praises. Why? Because Henningsvær is home to a world-colliding mix of traditional and modern architecture that seems to clutch the very ocean in its grasp. The entrance to the village, a narrow waterside road at the base of the mountain, is without a doubt the best way to start your journey here.
How to get there
There are many international flight and ferry connections to Norway, and also an extensive rail network links Norway to the other Scandinavian countries and the rest of Europe. There are several ways of getting around Norway when you arrive including trains, buses, ferries, cruises (especially popular on the Fjords) and car rental. Also look here for discounts on flights to Oslo through Easyjet and Ryanair.