Norway: The Land of Dramatic Landscapes and Intriguing History
The natural spectacle of Norway is hard to exaggerate. The fame of the beautiful fjords, with their incredibly steep cliffs that cut the coasts, is totally deserved. But Norway is also a land of magnificent glaciers, which meander from the ice fields that are among the largest in Europe. The mountainous terrain of the interior resembles the walls of a natural fortress. And then there is, of course, the immaculate appeal of the Arctic. These geological formations are the framework of charismatic flora and fauna like reindeer, fjord horses, and musk oxen. Here are the top five places that take you to some of the most enchanting corners of Norway:
Tromsø is the largest city in northern Norway, and its 18th-century wooden houses add charm to the city in winters. Here you can explore museums and art galleries, relax in alpine gardens and experience two spectacular natural phenomena: the midnight sun and northern lights. Tromsø is an ideal destination for outdoor adventures throughout the year, mainly in the nearby Lyngen Alps. In winter, you can go for polar fishing, cross-country skiing, husky sledding or snowmobiling. During the relatively warm summer months, you can go horseback riding, walk along the glaciers and hike in the woods.
Located in the north of the country Lofoten Island is an archipelago with a relatively warmer microclimate despite being well above the Arctic Circle. The steep pointy mountains surround the postcard-like villages inhabited by a large number of artists and fishermen. Watch for the old red fishing cabins, docked boats, and cod kept for drying as you hop from one island to another on a ferry, car, bus or bicycle. The islands are linked by bridges, so it’s easy to get around the region. In addition to exploring the culture, you can go hiking, kayaking, mountain biking, and deep-sea fishing.
Bergen is the second largest city of Norway and acts as a gateway to the majestic fjords. From the staircase of colorful wooden buildings along the slopes of the Seven Mountains, it seems like this place is drawn straight from a fairy tale. It was one of the most prominent cities of Medieval Europe and still carries the vestiges of the Vikings. Hop from one art museum to another, ride to the top of Mount Fløyen on the Fløibanen funicular railway, and peek into Bergen’s ancient past. When adventure calls, set off for a hike or mountain biking on the surrounding mountains and when tiredness creeps in, laze on the historic Wharf and watch the fishing ferries come and go.
Protected by fjords dotted with islands and surrounded by forests and lakes, Oslo is the only European capital where you can ski a few minutes from the city. Nature, history, and modern buildings blend perfectly in Oslo. The city boasts more than a thousand years of history, although it was not until 1905 when it became the capital of an independent Norway. After renewing its maritime façade and inaugurating several museums, the Norwegian capital, with nearly a million inhabitants, is one of the most significant artistic hubs of Scandinavia. Stroll around Karl Johans Gate, the main artery that runs through the heart of the city. Here you will come across Oslo Cathedral, Central Market, the Parliament, University of Oslo, and the iconic National Theater. On the opposite end of the avenue, the Royal Palace is perched on a hill. Once the residence of the Norwegian kings, today the palace and its gardens are open to the public. Town Hall, Opera House, Aker Brygge, Grønland, and Grünerløkka are other places worth visiting.
Stavanger is known as the oil-city of Norway. Besides the oil, Stavanger is like a blank sheet of paper and not only because of its neat houses in the old town, where it seems you will blemish them if you touch them. But also because it is the outdoor studio for hundreds of artists who, for 15 years, have let their imagination fly, turning the city into a work of art that you never get tired of admiring. Walk around the old town among the well-preserved wooden houses and visit some of the city’s best museums such as Stavanger Art Museum and Norwegian Petroleum Museum. Stavanger also acts as the gateway to two of Norway’s iconic landmarks: Lysefjord and Preikestolen. Lysefjord has 4,444 wooden steps (world’s largest) that take you to an altitude of 740 meters, and Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) was named as the best viewing platform in the world by Lonely Planet.