Longyearbyen, Svalbard, February. The Svalbard archipelago, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, is better known for its wild Arctic scenery and its population of polar bears, but it is also home, every year in February, to the Polar Jazz Festival, the world's northernmost music festival. "Cool place, hot music" announce the organisers on the festival's website. Indeed. Temperatures here average -16°C, and can drop to -30°C in February, the coldest month of the year. But if you can brave the cold, the music will make you feel all warm inside. Over the years many of Norway's best jazz musicians have travelled to remote Longyearbyen for the festival, and increasingly new music genres, such as blues and bluegrass, are being represented. Polar Jazz. This year: 31 January-3 February 2013.
Ice Music Festival
Geilo, January/February. Geilo is a Norwegian resort popular with winter sports enthusiasts, but it has of late been drawing attention of an altogether different kind with its Ice Music Festival, an alternative music festival where both the stage and the instruments are carved out of local ice and snow. Much is left up to nature, from the date (the festival takes place every January at the first full moon of the year) to the music itself (the quality of the ice depends on the weather conditions, so the sound varies with the temperature), making this a rather unpredictable, but no less fascinating event. This year: 24-27 January 2013.
Inferno Metal Festival
Oslo, March/April. Norwegian black metal, an extreme sub-genre of heavy metal, might not be to everybody's taste, but the genre has many loyal fans, both at home and abroad. It is, as it happens, Norway's largest music export. The main festival for Norwegian black metal is the aptly named Inferno Festival, held in Oslo every year in April, which attracts bands with names such as Mayhem, Immortal, Dark Throne, Cadaver Inc., Enslaved, etc. This year: 27-30 March 2013.
Hardanger Music Festival
Ullensvang, June. 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. This year: 15-20 May 2013.
Grieg in Bergen
Edvard Grieg is Norway's most acclaimed composer, and one of Bergen's most famous sons. A great opportunity to get better acquainted with his work is the Grieg in Bergen Festival, which is the city's largest event for classical music, and features some 40 concerts between June and August. Alternatively catch a concert at Troldhaugen, Edvard Grieg's home just outside Bergen, where Norwegian and international artists celebrate his legacy to music throughout the summer. Read more about the festival. This year: Dates yet to be announced.
Riddu Riddu Festival
Kåfjord, July. The Sami are the indigenous people of Norway, famed for their reindeer herding skills, colourful costumes and unique culture. The Riddu Riddu Sami Festival in Northern Norway is primarily a platform for various indigenous and non-indigenous people to meet, with a programme featuring music, film and art from around the world, but it is also a great way to meet Sami people on their own turf. The festival, which celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2011, was founded by the Sami associations in Kåfjord in Troms, back in 1991, and has since become one of the largest Sami festivals in Scandinavia. This year: 10-14 July 2013.
Norwegian Wood Festival
Oslo, June. What's in a name? First it was a Beatles song. Then a best-selling book (recently adapted for the big screen). And since 1992, one of Norway's top rock music festivals, held every June in Frognerbadet in western Oslo. Johnny Cash, Van Morrison, Simple Minds and Roger Waters (among many others) have all performed here over the years. Read more about the Norwegian Wood Festival. This year: 13-16 June 2013.
Gudvangen, July (every other year). The Vikings and their legacy constitute an important part of the Norwegian heritage, so it was only fair to end this list with Vikingrock, 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. This year: Dates yet to be announced.