Hardanger Music Festival
Ullensvang, May. Mention the name "Hardanger" to most Norwegians and ask them what springs to mind. Chances are they will mention "fruit trees" (the region is famed for its huge orchards), and "hardingfele", an eight-string musical instrument not unlike a violin, much used in Norwegian folk music. Experience both by visiting the Hardanger Music Festival in Ullensvang, where you can hear the famous fiddle being played and see the apple and cherry blossoms that turn the fjord pink and white every spring.
Norway National Day
Nationwide, 17 May. After being ruled by Denmark for 400 years, Norway acquired its own constitution in 1814 and joined in a loose union with Sweden, which lasted until 1905. Norway's Constitution Day is celebrated to this day with parades and festivities throughout the country. Colourful processions of children with their banners, flags and bands lead the way, while everywhere people wearing the traditional costume (bunad) cheer on. The highlight of celebrations is in the capital Oslo, where huge processions descent on Karl Johans Gate, Oslo main street, on their way to see the Royal Family wave to them from the palace balcony. Read more about Norway's National Day.
Norwegian Festival of Literature
Lillehammer, May. This is the largest literature festival in the Nordic countries, whose main focus is Norwegian contemporary literature and the interaction between literature and society. Featuring best selling authors from around the world, the festival, which takes place in Lillehammer, attracted 543 authors and artists from 20 countries, and 36,514 visitors last year. Seminars, writing courses, debates, performances, exhibitions, meeting with authors, and more. Read more about Norwegian Festival of Literature.
Karmøy, June. Bringing Viking history and culture to life, this festival in the coastal community of Karmøy, half-way between Bergen and Stavanger, is the largest of its kind in this part of Norway. Taking place in a reconstructed Viking settlement, the festival, which centres around a big market, offers archery workshops, Viking music, Viking arts and crafts, Viking food, storytelling, sports and more.
Midnight Sun Marathon
Tromsø, June. The world's northernmost marathon attracts every year runners from over 50 nations, who compete at night, but in broad daylight – courtesy of the midnight sun, which doesn't set in this part of Arctic Norway from mid-May to mid-July. The marathon itself is the main event, but there is also a half-marathon, a 10-kilometre race, a 4.2-kilometre fun-run, and a children's race, so the whole family can take part. Please note that pre-registration is necessary. Read more about the Midnight Sun Marathon.
Arts Festival of Northern Norway
Harstad, June. First held in 1965, this festival is the region's largest cultural event, reflecting the many faces of Arctic Norway, and its cultural links to the outside world, through music, theatre, dance and art exhibitions, as well as performances for children. A top Russian orchestra, modern dance from China and fiery world music all feature on this year's programme, which boasts 25 Norwegian productions and artists from 22 countries. New voices from the North, such as those of Moddi, Máddji and Tonje Unstad, will also be performing. Read more about the festival.
Voss, June-July. International extreme sports competition attracting hundreds of top national and international athletes, as well as devoted fans. Sports represented include sky-diving, rafting, kayaking, paragliding, hang-gliding, climbing, BASE and MTB Freeride. There are also concerts throughout the festival. Read more about Ekstemsportveko.
Førde International Folk Music Festival
Førde, July. This is Scandinavia's main festival for folk, world and acoustic traditional music. The programme includes concerts, but also workshops, exhibitions, children's events, dance evenings and more. Read more about the Førde Festival.
Træna, July. A unique music festival on the island of Træna, 33 nautical miles off the Helgeland Coast in Northern Norway. Visitors arrive by boat, and camp on the island on Træna, as alternative accommodation is limited. Rugged nature provides a stunning background for the music (small local bands for the main part), but the setting makes up for the lack of big names, particularly later in the evening when the midnight sun lends a magical glow to proceedings.
Jotunheimen, July. A music festival taking place high up in the mountains of Jotunheimen, Vinjerock offers activities as varied as guided hikes, climbing, fishing trips and kayaking courses beside music acts blending local talent and established names (the Dum Dum Boys and Kaizers Orchestra both performed there in 2012).
Riddu Riddu Festival
Kåfjord, July. This Sami festival in Northern Norway puts on an extensive programme featuring music, film and art from around the world, attracting some 200 artists and 3,000 visitors every year. There are many activities for children too. A platform for various indigenous and non-indigenous people to meet, Riddu Riddu celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2011.
Gudvangen, July (every other year). Vikingrock is an open-air festival celebrating Viking-inspired music. The Nærøyfjord, the world's narrowest fjord, makes a fitting backdrop for the festival. As for the music, expect a mix of genres, featuring anything from folk music to black metal. Viking dress, you may be glad to hear, is optional.
Molde International Jazz Festival
Molde, July. Established in 1961, this is Norway's largest jazz festival, and Europe's oldest, showcasing jazz from all corners of the world, and attracting some of the biggest names in the field, from Herbie Hancock to Jamie Cullum, as well as some emerging home-grown talent. 100 concerts, many of them free. Read more about the Molde Festival.
The Norwegian Mountain Festival
Åndalsnes, July. This festival in Åndalsnes in Romsdalen is the summer festival for all mountain and outdoor enthusiasts. The Norwegian Mountain Festival (Norsk Fjellfestival) aims to bring together people with a common love of mountains and nature. The varied programme includes extreme sports, climbing, hiking, family events, cultural evening, youth camp, sailing trips, courses and mountain farm days.
Peer Gynt Festival
Vinstra, July-August. Named after Ibsen's famous character, the festival, which features some 30 events in 15 different locations in and around Vinstra in the Gudbrandsdalen Valley, aims to bring Ibsen's work to a larger audience. Events include theatre, concerts, art exhibitions, literary lectures, stand up comedy (performed by both professionals and amateurs) and wilderness hikes. Much of it takes place outdoors, with the Norwegian landscape providing a suitable backdrop for Ibsen's work. Read more about the Peer Gynt Festival.
Hardangerfjord to Gaustatoppen, August. The world’s northernmost long-distance triathlon takes contestants through some of Norway's most striking scenery. Starting with a swim in the Hardangerfjord, and ending at the top of Gaustatoppen, Southern Norway’s highest mountain, 1,850 metres above sea level, Norseman is not for the faint hearted. Norseman took place for the first time in 2003, with 21 athletes at the starting line. Since then the event has gained in popularity. Because of logistics, the race is limited to only 240 competitors, about half of whom are foreigners. Women make up about 15% of contestants. Not all participants make it to the summit. Only the first 160 do so - the others have to finish on the mountain plateau.
Kristin Lavransdatter Spelet
Sel, Gudbrandsdalen Valley, August. Kristin Lavransdatter, a classic of Norwegian literature, is a set of three historical novels by acclaimed author Sigrid Undset (1882-1949), for which she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928. The trilogy, which takes place in the 14th century, is characterized by the Catholic faith Sigrid Undset converted to a few years after she wrote the trilogy. Kristin Lavransdatter spelet is the dramatization of the Kristin Lavransdatter novels, performed every summer at Jørundgard Medieval Centre is located at Sel Gudbrandsdalen.
Notodden Blues Festival
Notodden, August. First arranged in 1988, Notodden Blues Festival, the largest festival of its kind in Scandinavia, now attracts well over 20,000 visitors every year. Many big blues names have played here in the past two decades, among them Jeff Healey, Solomon Bruke, Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Gary Moore, Jack Bruce, Robin Trower, Ray Davies, Buddy Guy and John Mayall. ZZ Top headlined in 2012. Workshops and youth seminars also form part of the programme.
Norwegian Walking Festival
Nordmøre, August. The region of Nordmøre offers fantastic landscape variation over short distances, from the mountain massif of Trollheimen to the open sea and mountain scenery further out. Held in early August every year, the Norwegian Walking Festival aims to be a national and international arena for sustainable meeting between man, nature and culture. Expect a weekend full of hiking adventures for both adults and children, old hands and first timers, and with a strong focus on nature, culture and public health.
The Mountain Film Festival
Jotunheimen, September. The largest festival of its kind in Norway, the Mountain Film Festival (Fjellfilmfestivalen) at Gjendesheim shows a wide range of films, from documentaries, nature and feature films to short films, extreme sports films and television series, along with inspiring talks from adventurers and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. In 2012 the festival moved to Gjendesheim, after having been held in Turtagrø for the past 10 years. http://www.fjellfilm.no/
Lillehammer, October. A small, unpretentious music festival, which for over 30 years has been attracting local jazz musicians and fans with its small, intimate format. The festival is also a platform for young Scandinavian artists to perform in front of a wider audience. There are concerts throughout the day, and several free events. Various venues. Read more about DølaJazz.
Fagernes, November. A festival dedicated to this very Norwegian culinary speciality. Rakfisk, which literally means brine-cured fish, is trout, sometimes char, that has been salted and left to ferment in brine for two to three months. It is an acquired taste, but judging by the 500 tons consumed each year in Norway, it has its fans. Fagernes in Valdres, Eastern Norway, is the birthplace of rakfisk, and the festival draws thousands of enthusiasts every year.