A land full of contrasts, from magnificent snow-capped mountains, dramatic fjords, vast plateaux with wild untamed tracts, to huge lakes and rich green countryside.
There is a misperception among we British that because it lies north of our little island it must be chilly all year round; summer temperatures, however, can easily reach 25 degrees or above, and the air is blessedly free from humidity. It would also be a mistake to assume that Norway is all fjords and forests – the southern coast has some excellent beaches.
1. To cross into the Arctic Circle
Nothing will make you feel more like an intrepid explorer than crossing into the Arctic Circle. You’ll have to venture into the northern reaches of Norway, but it’s worth the journey. Somewhat more forgiving than in the old days, it has a visitor centre where postcards can be bought and sent, but the mountainous landscape evokes a feeling of being at the far flung edge of civilisation.
2. To find the eye of the Moskstraumen
If you’re going to brave the north, then you mustn’t miss the maelstrom at Saltstraumen. Here you’ll find the strongest tidal current in the world with water speeds of up to 25mph, and whirlpools of up to 10m in diameter. Strangely for such a ferocious setting, the peaceful, laid back pastime of angling is popular here.
3. To walk on a glacier
Home of the largest glacier in continental Europe, this breathtaking Jostedal Glacier National Park gives an insight into the formation of the Norwegian landscape. Deep valleys, cascading waterfalls and of course the glaciers themselves provide a stunning backdrop for walking, kayaking and other outdoor activities. Guided family walks on the glacier are a rare opportunity to discover these natural wonders up close.
4. To drive the Atlantic Road
Purportedly the most spectacular drive in the world, the Atlantic Road stretches for 8.3km over small islands and skerries between the cities of Molde and Kristiansund. The open sea views are nothing short of astonishing and make for an exhilarating experience whether you cross in calm weather or wild storms.
5. To meet the Vikings
Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum is the best place to get acquainted with the hardy folk of Scandinavia’s past. Take a look at two well preserved ships as well as sledges, tools, textiles and household items. If you want to take it a step further, Karmoy’s Viking festival in June is the ideal opportunity to discover the Viking spirit. Taste Viking food, try your hand at archery, and listen to traditional music in the reconstructed settlement.
6. To lay on the beach
Although you can do this in many countries, there’s something about the beach experience in Norway that seems purer and more indulgent. One of the best stretches of coast is between Farsund and Lista – white sands, cool sea, dunes and rock pools all set against a vast blue sky. And as the days are long in Norway, you’ll really be able to make the most of every day.
7. To visit a fairytale
Alesund’s Art Nouveau architecture and ornamental buildings will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale. The city itself seems to float on the fjord and the pastel faces of the buildings, the turrets and strange sculptures awaken the imagination.
Population: 5 million
Climate: Weather can be unpredictable, although less extreme on the west coast. Some regions have 24 hours of daylight in the summer but none in the winter.
Language: Norwegian, but English is widely spoken
Telephone: The country code is 00 47
Money: Currency: Norwegian Krone. Banks: Mon-Fri 09:00-15:00
Public holidays: New Year's Day; King's Birthday 21 Feb; Holy Thursday; Good Friday; Easter Monday; May Day; Liberation Day 8 May; Constitution Day 17 May; Ascension; Whit Monday; Queen's Birthday 4 July; Saints Day 19 July; Christmas Day; Boxing Day
Motoring: Roads are generally uncrowded around Oslo and Bergen but be prepared for tunnels and hairpin bends. Certain roads are forbidden to caravans or best avoided. Vehicles must have sufficient road grip and in winter it may be necessary ti use winter tyres with or without chains. Vehicles entering Bergen on weekdays must pay a toll and other tolls are also levied on certain roads.
The Hulvågen Bridges looking towards the mainland - By Arno van den Tillaart - originally posted to Flickr as Atlanterhavsveien, Norge, CC BY-SA 2.0
Saltstraumen, Norway. Børvasstindene mountains in the background - By No machine-readable author provided. Drguttorm assumed (based on copyright claims)
Viking helmets - By Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland - Viking Arms and Armor, CC BY-SA 2.0