LAUANTAI, 18. HEINÄKUUTA 2020
The essence of Norway's appeal is remarkably simple: this is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. Quiet for a thousand years since the marauding days of the Vikings, Norway often seems remote to outsiders, even mysterious – remarkable given its geographical position close to the heart of Europe. Beyond Oslo and the famous fjords, the rest of the country might as well be blank on the map for many visitors. Yet it’s out of the cities and off the major roadways that you’ll experience Norway at its most magical: vast stretches of serene, postcard-perfect landscapes where it is at times possible to travel for hours without seeing a single soul. There is nothing tame – and precious little tamed – in this wilderness where everything is on a grand scale, from the deep, blue-black fjords and rearing snowy peaks to jagged forested hills and seemingly limitless expanse of Arctic tundra. Norway stretches north in a long, slender band from the Skagerrak, the choppy channel that separates the country from Denmark, its coastline battered and buffeted by the Atlantic as it juts up towards the Arctic Sea. Behind this rough and rocky coast are spectacular mountain ranges, harsh upland plateaux, plunging river valleys, rippling glaciers, deep forests and mighty fjords of unsurmounted beauty – an exhilarating landscape begging to be explored by car, boat or bike, on skis or even husky-drawn sled. Since the country happened upon vast oil and gas reserves under the Norwegian Sea in the 1960s, Norway has managed to assemble one of the most civilized, educated and tolerant societies in the world – one that its population maintains a deep loyalty for and pride in.
Impossibly steep-sided Norwegian fjords of extraordinary beauty cut gashes from a jagged coastline deep into the interior. Glaciers, grand and glorious, snake down from ice fields that rank among Europe's largest. Elsewhere, the mountainous terrain of Norway's interior resembles the ramparts of so many natural fortresses, and yields to rocky coastal islands that rise improbably from the waters like apparitions. Then, of course, there's the primeval appeal, the spare and staggering beauty of the Arctic. And wherever you find yourself in this most extraordinary country, these landscapes serve as a backdrop for some of Europe's prettiest villages.
Enjoying nature in Norway is very much an active pursuit, and this is one of Europe's most exciting and varied adventure-tourism destinations. While some of the activities on offer are geared towards the young, energetic and fearless, most – such as world-class hiking, cycling and white-water rafting in summer, and dog-sledding, skiing and snowmobiling in winter – can be enjoyed by anyone of reasonable fitness. Whether you're here for seemingly endless summer possibilities, or for snowsports and the soul-stirring Northern Lights in winter, these activities are an exhilarating means of getting close to nature.
The counterpoint to Norway's ever-present natural beauty is found in its vibrant cultural life. Norwegian cities are cosmopolitan and showcase the famous Scandinavian flair for design through the ages. Bergen, Trondheim and Ålesund must surely rank among Europe's most photogenic cities, while contemporary Arctic-inspired architectural icons grace towns and remote rural settings alike. Food, too, is a cultural passion through which Norwegians push the boundaries of innovation even as they draw deeply on a heartfelt love of tradition. At the same time, a busy calendar of festivals, many of international renown, are worth planning your trip around.
When it comes to wildlife, Norway has few peers in Europe. Here you can watch whales – humpback, sperm and orca, depending on the season – off Andenes, Stø or Tromsø, while the interior offers up wild reindeer, prehistoric musk oxen, ponderous elk (moose) or beguiling Arctic foxes. Birdwatching, too, is a highlight, from the puffins of Bleik to the migratory seabirds of Runde and Varanger. But the real prizes inhabit Norway's high Arctic, in Svalbard, where polar bears and walruses are the poster species for a wilderness of rare, dramatic and precarious beauty.
Norway may have a clutch of attractive, cosmopolitan cities, appealing destinations in their own right, but where the country really shines is not in its urban culture, but rather in th221e low-key, amiable small-town feel that pervades throughout its settlements. This is not to say that Norway suffers from provincialism – Munch, Ibsen, Grieg and Amundsen, to name but four, were all Norwegians of international importance, to say nothing of the many millions of Norwegian descent today successfully making their way somewhere off in the greater world. But one thing is for certain: every Norwegian you will ever meet will at some point make their way back to this remarkable country, put on a pair of old hiking shoes and head off on foot for yonder mountain, reminding themselves how lucky they are to have one of the world’s most ravishing landscapes right at their back door.
WHERE TO GO IN NORWAY
Though for the most part its people live in small towns and villages, Norway’s five largest cities are the obvious – and the most popular – initial targets for a visit. They begin with urbane, vivacious Oslo, one of the world’s most prettily sited capitals, with a flourishing café scene and a clutch of outstanding museums. Beyond Oslo, in roughly descending order of interest, are Trondheim, with its superb cathedral and charming, antique centre; the beguiling port of Bergen, gateway to the western fjords; gritty, bustling Stavanger in the southwest; and northern Tromsø. All are likeable, walkable cities worthy of time in themselves, as well as being within comfortable reach of some startlingly handsome scenery. Indeed, each can serve as a starting point for further explorations or as a weekend destination in their own right. And wherever you arrive, the trains, buses and ferries of Norway’s finely tuned public transport system will take you almost anywhere you want to go, although services are curtailed in winter.
Outside of the cities, the perennial draw remains the western fjords – a must, and every bit as scenically stunning as the publicity suggests. Dip into the region from Bergen or Ålesund, both accessible by public transport from Oslo, or take more time to appreciate the subtle charms of the tiny, fjordside villages, among which Balestrand, Lofthus, Loen, Flåm, Ulvik and Mundal are especially appealing. This is great hiking country too, with a network of cairned trails and lodges (maintained by the nationwide hiking association DNT) threading along the valleys and over the hills. However, many of the country’s finest hikes are to be had further inland, within the confines of a trio of marvellous national parks: the Hardangervidda, a vast mountain plateau of lunar-like appearance; the Rondane, with its bulging mountains; and the Jotunheimen, famous for its jagged peaks. Nudging the Skagerrak, the south coast is different again. The climate is more hospitable, the landscape gentler and the coast is sprinkled with hundreds of little islands. Every summer, holidaying Norwegians sail down here to explore every nautical nook and cranny, popping into a string of pretty, pint-sized ports, the most inviting being Arendal and Mandal, the latter the proud possessor of the country’s finest sandy beach.
Hiking remains the most popular summer pastime in Norway, but there are alternatives galore, from whitewater rafting – for example at Voss – sea-kayaking at Flåm, and guided glacier walks on the Jostedalsbreen. In winter, it’s all change when the Norwegians take to cross-country skiing in their droves, shooting off across the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, for example, from Finse, though some prefer Alpine skiing and snowboarding at specialist ski resorts like Geilo and Oslo’s Holmenkollen.
Away to the north, beyond Trondheim, Norway grows increasingly wild and austere – two traits that make it perfect for off-the-beaten-track adventurers – as it humps and lumps across the Arctic Circle on the way to the modern, workaday port of Bodø. From here, ferries shuttle over to the rugged Lofoten islands, which hold some of the most ravishing scenery in the whole of Europe – tiny fishing villages of ochre- and red-painted houses tucked in between the swell of the deep blue sea and the severest of grey-green mountains. Back on the mainland, it’s a long haul north from Bodø to the iron-ore town of Narvik, and on to Tromsø, a delightful little city huddled on an island and with plenty of Arctic charm. These towns are, however, merely the froth of a vast wilderness that extends up to Nordkapp (North Cape), one of the northernmost points of mainland Europe, and the spot where the principal tourist trail peters out. Yet Norway continues east for several hundred kilometres, round to remote Kirkenes near the Russian border, while inland stretches an immense and hostile upland plateau, the Finnmarksvidda, one of the last haunts of the Sámi reindeer-herders. And finally, a short flight away, there is the wondrous chill of Svalbard, rising remote in the Arctic seas, islands of rolling glaciers and ice-glazed mountains where the snowmobile or Zodiac is more useful than a car.
BEST TIME TO GO IN NORWAY
The best time to visit Norway depends on what you want to do. Jun-Aug promise long days and the fabled midnight sun ideal for hiking, cycling or cruising – but no guarantee of heat, even if it won't be cold! May and Sep offer mild temperatures, fewer crowds and gorgeous natural colours. May is also blossom time, while Aug is berry picking season. Winter can be bitter, but dress properly and Norway is a snowy nirvana, from snow shoeing to cross country skiing. The Northern Lights sparkle from Sep on, peaking Dec-Feb. Spitsbergen peaks in midsummer.
- The start of the year is pretty cold and dark in Norway, even on the southwest coast in Bergen, and if you’re planning on visiting in January and February make sure you wrap up warm especially if you’re heading for cross country ski trails or in search of the Northern Lights.
- March is the best time to go to Norway for maximising daylight hours and snowfall in winter sports resorts and as April turns to May you’ll find an abundance of wild flowers and blossom appearing in country meadows as well as a fair amount of slushy snow underfoot.
- June, July and August are certainly the best months to go to Norway in terms of temperatures and daylight hours although prices will be at a premium as will midges and other bitey insects in and around the marshlands towards the north of the country.
- After the school holidays in mid-September and October, Norway becomes slightly more affordable as it’s caught between summer and winter with several outdoor attractions starting to shut up shop with the onset of snow and bitter winds.
- November days are cold and dark with not much going on apart from snow clouds culminating on higher grounds and the Northern Lights starting to respond to conditions. It’s really December when things start to turn pretty with snow flurries, frozen lakes and Christmas festivities lighting Norway up like the preverbal spruce.
GETTING TO NORWAY
There are direct flights to Norway from several cities around the world, and from numerous places in Europe, you also have the option of travelling by boat, train, bus, or even by car.
By plane - There are direct flights to Norway from both coasts of the continental USA and several destinations in Europe. If you are travelling from Australia or New Zealand, you’ll need to connect via an airport in Asia, the Middle East, or Europe. Oslo Airport, the main airport and hub for international traffic, has scheduled flights to and from more than 100 destinations. However, be prepared to change planes at some point, in order to reach your final destination in Norway. Other airports with international flights can be found near the cities of Bergen, Kristiansand,Sandefjord. Stavanger, Tromso and Trondheim.
All larger cities and towns have airports offering both international and domestic flights. In fact, there are more than 50 airports in Norway, making even remote places such as the Lofoten Islands, the North Cape, and the Svalbard Islands easily accessible by plane, especially if you fly with Wideroe, that has connections to 41 of them. From Oslo Airport you can reach Oslo city centre in 20 minutes with Flytoget Airport Express train. Express buses and local trains are also available.
By train - An extensive rail network links Norway to the other Scandinavian countries and the rest of Europe. There are regular train connections to Oslo from Copenhagen, Stockholm and Gothenburg. Most train journeys from the continent are overnight, and you will find sleeping compartments on all of them. A variety of discount passes are available for train travel in Europe and Norway. Not all trains offer first-class services, but second-class is of a high standard as well.
By car - You are most likely to arrive by car from Sweden, but Norway also borders with Russia and Finland. Whether you enter Norway by road from Sweden, Finland or Russia, customs checks are in place. Full passport control checks are found in the Norwegian-Russian border crossing between Borisoglebsky and Storskog.
Major roads to Norway include European route E6 which runs through Malmö, Helsingborg, and Gothenburg in Sweden, before crossing the border at Svinesund in the south-east of Norway, and E8 which runs through Turku, Vaasa and Oulu in Finland before crossing the border at Kilpisjärvi.
By bus - You can reach Norway by bus from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Russia. Bus service from Gothenburg in Sweden and Copenhagen in Denmark is almost hourly. The service from Stockholm is also far more frequent than the train. Different operators offer cheap bus tickets between the large cities in Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
GETTING AROUND NORWAY
Train - Trains reach as far north as Bodø, with an additional branch line connecting Narvik with Sweden further north. Book in advance for considerably cheaper minipris tickets.
Bus - Services along major routes are fast and efficient. Although reliable, services in more rural areas can be infrequent, sometimes with no services at all on weekends.
Boat - Ferries, many of which take cars, connect offshore islands to the mainland, while the Hurtigruten sails from Bergen to Kirkenes and back every day of the year.
Car - Roads are in good condition, but travel times can be slow thanks to winding roads, heavy summer traffic with few overtaking lanes, and ferries.
Plane - SAS and Norwegian have extensive domestic networks. Widerøe services smaller cities.
WHERE TO STAY IN NORWAY
Set within 5 minutes’ drive of Hovden Ski Centre & Water Park, Hovden Resort offers rooms and self-catering apartments with free WiFi, flat-screen TVs and sofas. Hovden Resort's rooms feature modern décor, cable TV channels and private bathrooms. All apartments include a balcony and fully equipped kitchen with dishwasher. Panoramic mountain views can be enjoyed in the bar and restaurant. The fireplace lounge is an ideal place to relax and chat with other guests. Ski storage and indoor parking places are also available. Hiking trails and cross-country ski tracks run right by Hovden Resort. The nearby River Otra provides opportunities for fishing.
Mandal Hotel has a restaurant, bar, a shared lounge and garden in Mandal. Boasting family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The hotel offers a children's playground, a 24-hour front desk, and free WiFi is available throughout the property. All guest rooms at the hotel come with a seating area, a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a private bathroom with a hairdryer and a shower. Guest rooms feature a desk. Continental and buffet breakfast options are available every morning at Mandal Hotel. The area is popular for hiking, and bike hire is available at the accommodation. Kristiansand is 42 km from Mandal Hotel. The nearest airport is Kristiansand, Kjevik Airport, 57 km from the hotel.
Kjøbmandsgaarden Hotel is located in a listed, 19th century wooden building in the charming town of Mandal. It offers comfortable rooms with free Wi-Fi access. All rooms at Hotel Kjøbmandsgaarden have a cable TV, a seating area and a private bathroom with shower. The on-site restaurant serves a buffet breakfast and traditional Norwegian cuisine from an à la carte menu. Drinks are available at the bar. Sjøsanden Beach is an 18-minute walk from the hotel. AMFI Mandal Shopping Centre is within 100 m away. Kristiansand is a 35-minute drive from the hotel.
Grand Hotel Egersund is 100 m from the waterfront in the heart of Egersund. It offers free Wi-Fi, private parking and a large terrace. All guest rooms at Grand Hotel Egersund offer a TV and an armchair to relax in. Some guest rooms have work desks and sofas. Guests can choose from a variety of international dishes and Norwegian cuisine at Grand Restaurant. Grand Hotel Egersund can arrange guided walking tours, salmon and deep sea fishing tours as well as boat tours on the MS Sjødis. The Egersund Golf Course is only a 20-minute drive away.
Located in idyllic surroundings by the harbor, Tregde Ferie is 7 minutes away from Mandal. Tregde Ferie offers modern cabins, apartments and hotel rooms with an outdoor pool and mini-golf facilities on-site. The apartments and cottages at Tregde Ferie feature bright furnishings and free WiFi. Some units feature terraces with sea-views. Each includes a seating area with a sofa and satellite TV and private bathroom with shower. Laundry and BBQ facilities are available. Bed linen are offered. The on-site summertime restaurant specialises in seafood dishes. A terrace with North Sea views can be enjoyed. A diving centre, as well as boat, kayak and bicycle rentals are offered at Tregde Ferie. Guests can visit the on-site grocery shop. Ryvingen Lighthouse is 8 km from the resort, while a sandy beach is a 10-minute drive away. Other area activities include fishing and hiking.
Located 3.5 km off the E6 motorway and 14 km from Berkåk village, Gjesteheim Havdal has simple rooms with private bathrooms, a sofa and wooden floors. Guests enjoy free use WiFi. Oppdal Ski Resort is within 25 minutes’ drive. Shared facilities include a sauna, laundry room and TV lounge. The garden has a BBQ grill. GPS boxes and fishing equipment can be rented on site. Orkla River is a 10-minute walk away. The Trollheimen Mountains are a 1-hour drive from Havdal Gjesteheim. They are popular among hikers, cross-country skiers and botanists.
This hotel is in Øystese Village, on the shore of the Hardangerfjord. It offers a restaurant and free pool and sauna access. All rooms have a flat-screen TV and some feature a balcony. Hardangerfjord Hotel’s rooms include a seating area, cable TV and a private bathroom with bath or shower. Guests can borrow ironing facilities at the reception. Guests can relax and mingle in the hotel lounges. The garden terrace offers views of Folgefonna Glacier. About 100 m from Hardangerfjord Hotel is a sandy beach. Free public parking spaces are found nearby. Bergen is 80 km away.
Situated north of the Arctic Circle, this hotel overlooks the Salten fjord. The Rognan train station is located within 5 minutes’ walk, and the E6 motorway is 2 km away. All guest rooms at Rognan Hotel feature a maritime theme and are equipped with a TV and a private bathroom with shower. Wi-Fi is available in each guest room. Some rooms have a private balcony. The restaurant and the waterfront terrace at Rognan Hotel have panoramic views of the fjord and surrounding mountains. In summer, guests can enjoy meals on the dock. The local region offers activities such as cave tours, grouse hunting, rafting and boat trips. The Arctic Circle is a 50-minute drive away.
- Birkebeineren Hotel & Apartments
Situated in Lillehammer, this property provides both guest room and apartment accommodation. It offers free WiFi and free sauna access. Hunderfossen Family Park and Hafjell are 20 minutes’ drive away. All accommodation options at Birkebeineren Hotel & Apartment include a TV and a private bathroom. The spacious apartments feature modern kitchens, a large living room and a balcony. They also have 2 bathrooms with showers. Shared facilities at Birkebeineren include a TV lounge with a fireplace. Ski storage is also on site. Guests can enjoy free private parking. Popular area activities include skiing and hiking. Guests can also enjoy the nearby museums. Lillehammer Train Station and Lillehammer’s city centre are a 15-minute walk away.
This hotel is next to Rosfjord, 3 km from central Lyngdal. It offers free Wi-Fi and free access to the sauna, hot tub and pools at Sørlandsbadet Spa & Water Park. The fresh and modern guest rooms at Rosfjord Strandhotel feature a minibar, work desk and cable TV. Some include a terrace or balcony with sea views. Strandhotel Rosfjord offers a variety of in-house dining options. A children’s playground, large garden and barbecue area are on site. A number of hiking trails are found in the surrounding area. Attractions such as Lista Beaches and Dyreparken Zoo are within a few minutes’ drive. Free private parking spaces are found next to the hotel.
- Remestøylflotti Hyttegrend
Boasting a restaurant, a garden, and barbecue facilities, Remestøylflotti Hyttegrend offers accommodation in Hovden with free WiFi and garden views. Featuring free private parking, the holiday home is in an area where guests can engage in activities such as hiking and skiing. This holiday home is fitted with 4 bedrooms, a kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a flat-screen TV, a seating area and 5 bathrooms equipped with a shower. For added convenience, the property can provide towels and bed linen for an extra charge. The holiday home offers a sauna. A children's playground and a terrace are featured at Remestøylflotti Hyttegrend.
Ballangen Camping offers pet-friendly accommodation in Ballangen. There is a seasonal restaurant and guests can have fun at the water park. Narvik is 26 km away. Free WiFi is provided throughout the property and free private parking is available on site. All units feature a seating area. Some units also have a kitchen, equipped with a dishwasher, an oven, and a microwave. Ballangen Camping also includes a seasonal outdoor pool. Guests can enjoy a drink at the on-site bar. The property also offers mini-market. You can play table tennis at the property, and the area is popular for skiing. An array of activities are offered in the area, such as horse riding, fishing and hiking. The nearest airport is Evenes Airport, 90 km away.
Arctic FjordCamp features mountain views, free WiFi and free private parking, set in Burfjord. Each unit is fitted with a terrace, a fully equipped kitchen with a microwave, a seating area with a sofa, a TV and a private bathroom with shower and a hairdryer. There is also a fridge, stovetop and a kettle. Hiking, skiing and fishing are possible within the area, and the camping offers ski-to-door access. The nearest airport is Sorkjosen Airport, 85 km from Arctic FjordCamp.
Set in Selje, Frimannsbuda has a restaurant, bar and free WiFi. Private parking can be arranged at an extra charge. At the hotel, all rooms include a wardrobe. Continental and Full English/Irish breakfast options are available every morning at Frimannsbuda. The nearest airport is Florø Airport, 73 km from the accommodation.
Situated at the Åsgårdstrand beach in eastern Norway, Grand Hotel Åsgårdstrand offers striking views of the Oslo fjord. The greater part of the hotel has a beautiful ocean view and creates an atmosphere characterised by a nautical theme. Seilet Restaurant is Grand Hotel Åsgårdstrand’s spectacular restaurant perfectly placed for guests to dine while enjoying stunning ocean views. The bar and large outdoor terrace enjoy a tranquil setting in front of the harbour that is steeped in cultural history.
Perched above the village of Etne with spectacular fjord views, these holiday cottages are just 55 km from Haugesund. Each cottage has a well-equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. The Etne Hytter featuring terraces overlooking the fjord as well as BBQ facilities. The open-plan living and dining area includes a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a sofa. A washing machine comes provided in each cottage’s bathroom. Etne Hytter also have a communal picnic area including children’s swings. In the area guests can enjoy hiking, fishing, and Røldal ski resort is just over 70 km from the site. The famous Langfossen waterfall is just 30 km from the Etne Hytter, as well as the beginning of the Folgefonna National Park which is home to 3 plateau glaciers. Stavanger and its airport can be reached in 2.5 hours by car.
Located on the south coast of Sotra Island, Panorama Hotell & Resort offers a spa & wellness centre, free WiFi and free private parking. All rooms have large windows offering sea or countryside views. All guest rooms at Panorama Hotell & Resort feature a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Some also include a seating area as well as bathrobes and slippers. Panorama's in-house restaurant serves specialties from the Hordaland region. In summer, meals can be taken out onto the terrace. Guests can enjoy an after-dinner drink in the lounge bar. The spa centre includes an outdoor hot tub, sun lounge chairs and sauna. The waters around Sotra provide ideal opportunities for fishing. Staff is happy to arrange eagle safaris, guided hiking trips and other activities. Bergen city centre is 36 km away.
OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN NORWAY
Most Norwegians have a deep and abiding love of the great outdoors. They enjoy many kinds of sports – from dog-sledging and downhill skiing in winter, through to mountaineering, angling and whitewater rafting in the summer – but the two most popular activities are hiking and cross-country skiing.
Norway boasts some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the world, its soaring peaks accentuated by icy glaciers, rocky spires and deep green fjords. Great chunks of this wild terrain have been incorporated into a string of national parks, 41 in total with 34 on the mainland and seven in Svalbard. These parks, especially the more accessible, are magnets for hikers in search of everything from easy rambles to full-scale expeditions along clearly marked trails, served by an excellent network of mountain cabins, which provide the most congenial of accommodation (see Mountain huts).
The short hiking season, loosely defined by the opening and closing of the mountain lodges, runs from early July (mid-June in some areas) through to late September. This coincides with mild weather – daytime mountain temperatures of between 20°C and 25°C – ideal for hiking. And, of course, it’s daylight for most of the time – beyond the Arctic Circle, all the time – so you’re unlikely to be searching for a mountain lodge after dark.
Norway has a strong claim to be regarded as the home of skiing: a 4000-year-old rock carving found in northern Norway is the oldest-known illustration of a person on skis; the first recorded ski competition was held in Norway in 1767; and Norwegians were the first to introduce skis to North America. Furthermore, one of the oldest cross-country ski races in the world, the 55km Birkebeinerrennet, is held annually in late March, attracting several thousand skiers to participate in the dash between Rena and Lillehammer. The race follows the route taken by Norwegian mountain-men in 1206 when they rescued the two-year-old Prince Håkon. The rescuers wore birch-bark leggings known as Birkebeiners, hence the name of the race.
Cross-country skiing is a major facet of winter life in Norway. Approximately half the population are active in the sport, and many Norwegians still use skis to get to work or school. Wherever you are in wintertime Norway, you’re never far from a cross-country ski route and at major ski resorts sets of parallel ski tracks called loipe are cut in the snow by machine with the cross-country skier in mind: they provide good gliding conditions and help keep the skis parallel; some loipe are floodlit. Cross-country skis can be waxed or waxless. Waxless skis have a rough tread in the middle called “fishscales”, which grips adequately at temperatures around zero. Waxed skis work better at low temperatures and on new snow. Grip wax is rubbed onto the middle third of the ski’s length, but a sticky substance called klister is used instead in icy conditions. All skis benefit from hard glide wax applied to the front and back thirds of the base.
- Downhill skiing and snowboarding
Downhill skiing and snowboarding conditions in Norway are usually excellent from mid-November through to late April, though daylight hours are at a premium around the winter solstice. Otherwise, Norway scores well in comparison with the better-known skiing regions of southern Europe: temperatures tend to be a good bit colder and the country has, in general terms at least, a more consistent snowfall; Norway’s resorts tend to be less crowded, have smaller class sizes, shorter lift queues, and are at a lower altitude. Three main centres for downhill skiing are Voss, Lillehammer and Geilo.
In the Telemark region of southern Norway a technique has been developed to enable skiers to descend steep slopes on free-heel touring skis. This technique, known as Telemarking, provides a stable and effective turning platform in powder snow. Essentially the skier traverses a slope in an upright position, but goes down on a right knee to execute a right turn and vice versa.
Summer skiing on Norway’s mountains and glaciers – both alpine and cross-country – is very popular. Lots of places offer this, but one of the largest and most convenient spots is the Folgefonn Sommar Skisenter not far from Bergen, which has ski rental, a ski school, a café and a ski lift to the slopes.
Norway’s myriad rivers and lakes offer some of Europe’s finest freshwater fishing. Common species include trout, char, pike and perch, not to mention the salmon that once brought English aristocrats here by the buggy load. In the south of the country, the fishing is at its best from June to September, in July and August in the north. Seawater fishing is more the preserve of professionals, but (amateur) sea angling off the Lofoten Islands is a popular pastime. Sea- and freshwater fishing are both tightly controlled. The first does not require a national licence, but is subject to national and local restrictions regarding the size of the fish you can land and so forth. The second, freshwater fishing, needs both a local licence, which costs anything from 50kr to 400kr per day, and a national licence if you’re after salmon, sea trout and char – while, that is, these fish are in fresh water. National licences are available at any post office and online for 235kr and local licences (fiskekort) are sold at sports shops, a few tourist offices, some hotels and many campsites. If you take your own fishing tackle, you must have it disinfected before use.
Norway has literally dozens of top-notch whitewater rafting runs. Two of the best places are Voss and Sjoa. For a full list of tour operators offering rafting trips, consult the Norges Padleforbund (the Norwegian Canoe Association) website (www.podling.no), but one place to aim for is Flåm, which is home to the sea-kayaking specialists, Njord Flåm.
PLACES TO VISIT & THINGS TO DO IN NORWAY
The Geirangerfjord is one of the region’s smallest fjords, but also one of its most breathtaking. A convoluted branch of the Storfjord, it cuts deep inland and is marked by impressive waterfalls, with a village at either end of its snake-like profile – Hellesylt in the west and Geiranger in the east. Of the two, Geiranger has the smarter hotels as well as the tourist crowds, Hellesylt is tiny and not very interesting, but it is but a troll’s throw from the magnificent Norangsdal valley.
Any approach to GEIRANGER is spectacular. Arriving by ferry reveals the village tucked away in a hollow at the eastern end of the fjord, while approaching from the north by road involves thundering along a fearsome set of switchbacks on the Ørnevegen (Highway 63) for a first view of the village and the fjord glinting in the distance. Similarly, the road in from Highway 15 to the south squeezes through the mountains before squirming down the zigzags to arrive in Geiranger from behind, passing two celebrated vantage points, Flydalsjuvet and Dalsnibba, on the way.
There can be little argument that Geiranger boasts one of the most magnificent settings in western Norway and the village itself negotiates the steepest of hillsides, its scattering of houses built on a series of narrow shelves. The only fly in the ointment is the excessive number of tourists at the peak of the season, though, to be fair, the congestion is limited to the centre of the village, and it’s easy enough to slip away to appreciate the true character of the fjord, hemmed in by sheer rock walls interspersed with hairline waterfalls, with tiny-looking ferries and cruise ships bobbing about on its blue-green waters.
Tiny, inconsequential HELLESYLT is now little more than a stopoff on tourist itineraries, with most visitors staying just long enough to catch the car ferry down the fjord to Geiranger or scuttle off along Highway 60. For daytime entertainment, there is a tiny beach and bathing jetty (bådehus) beyond the mini-marina near the ferry quay, the prelude to some very cold swimming, or you can watch the waterfall crashing down the cliffs a few metres from the dock. Otherwise, the place seems more than a little down-at-the-mouth: the main dampener has been Mount Åknes, a great chunk of which is eroding away from the rest of the mountain, threatening to collapse into the Storfjord and create a tsunami which will hit Hellesylt in six minutes; experts are monitoring the mountain closely, but of course no one knows if or when it will go, but it’s a very real danger – as evidenced at Tafjord.