Eastern Norway is famous for its mountains and ski resorts, attracting its fair share of hikers in summer, and skiers a plenty in winter. The region's vast forests and lakes are also perfect for those wanting to go back to nature, spending days (or weeks) walking, swimming or fishing. Follow in Peer Gynt's footsteps and discover this fascinating region. Cruise Lake Mjøsa on Skibladner, the world's oldest paddle steamer, or turn up the tempo and barrel down the old Olympic bobsleigh track at 100 kilometres an hour in Lillehammer. Take a drive along the beautiful Rondane National Tourist Route, or try riding a rail bicycle on the Valdresbanen. Meet musk oxen, moose and even bears. Eastern Norway has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Highlights of the region
- Jotunheimen, Norway's highest mountains
- Lillehammer Olympic arena
- Norway's largest ski resorts
- Rondane and Dovre NP
- Musk ox
- Fortress towns
- Lake Mjøsa, Norway's largest
Musk ox safari in Dovrefjell: Famed for its thick coat, and for the strong odour the males of the species emit, the musk ox is a survivor from the last Ice Age, reintroduced in Norway in the 1930s. It can weigh up to 400 kilos, and run at a top speed of 60 kilometres per hour. See this fascinating mammal in its natural habitat by joining a walking safari to Dovrefjell (June to September).
Driving one (or both) of Eastern Norway's two National Tourist Routes (Rondane and Valdresflye), for a blend of stunning nature and modern architecture.
Hiking in Jotunheimen and Rondane NP: Jotunheimen is Norway's number one hiking destination, home to the 29 highest mountains in Norway, including the highest - Galdhøpiggen (2,469 metres). Rondane National Park, meanwhile, is the oldest national park in Norway, and boasts 10 peaks above 2,000 metres.
Eastern Norway for history buffs: Check out the fortress towns of Kongsvinger, Fredrikstad and Halden; visit the Eidsvoll Building, where Norway's constitution was signed in 1814; see rock carvings dating from the Stone Age and old burial places along Oldtidsveien in Østfold; and learn about Norway's Viking heritage in Tønsberg and Sandefjord on the other side of the Oslofjord.
Skiing: Eastern Norway boasts some of the country's best ski resorts. Trysil, Norway's largest ski resort, is popular with families, while Hemsedal, arguably more versatile, is considered by many to be the best. As the site for the giant slalom and slalom events during the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, Hafjell, 15 kilometres from Lillehammer, also offers cool skiing and a great terrain park. One of Norway's oldest ski resorts, Geilo is recognised as a world-class area for kite-skiing. Sjusjøen and Rena meanwhile are two of Norway's most popular areas for cross-country skiing.
Fly fishing in Hemsedal: Hemsedal is a well-known fly-fishing destination, home to two of Norway's best trout rivers (Hemsila and Grøndøla) and crystal clear mountain lakes also teeming wild brown trout in their prime - an angler's paradise. Visitors interested in observing trout in its natural habitat can also join a snorkelling safari down the Hemsila River.
Theme and water parks: Kids can meet some of the local wildlife at the Bear Park in Flå; ride Norway's oldest and best rollercoasters at Tusenfryd, just outside Oslo; meet one of the world's largest trolls at Hunderfossen Family Park outside Lillehammer; or spend the day splashing around at Østfoldbadet in Askim or Superland in Sarpsborg.
Train travel: There is much to do for train enthusiasts in Eastern Norway. Take a ride on Krøderbanen, a heritage railway with steam locomotive and old teak carriages (another alternative is Tertitten Urskog-Hølandsbanen); ride a rail tricycle on the Valdresbanen; visit the Railway Museum in Hamar; and check out Gamlebyen's Model Railway, Scandinavia's largest, in Fredrikstad.
By the water: Swimming, sailing and sunbathing are popular pastimes around the Oslofjord come summer. The Hvaler Archipelago and Tjøme are perfect destinations for days lazing at sea or on the rocks, while on terra firma Sjøbadet in Moss and Ringshaugstranda in Tønsberg are two Blue Flag beaches. Lake Mjøsa, Norway's largest lake, is another popular destination on a hot summer day.
Speed in Lillehammer: Built for the winter games in 1994, the Lillehammer Olympic Park, located near Hunderfossen, some 15 kilometres north of Lillehammer, is the only bobsleigh and luge track in Scandinavia. This is the place to try bobsleighing, bob-rafting, skeleton (a type of sled) and bobsleighing on wheels (also known as "wheelbob") in summer.
Places to visit
- Rondane NP
- Jotunheimen NP
- Hallingdal Valley
- Gudbrandsdalen Valley
A selection of festivals and events
Ice Music Festival, where all the instruments are carved out of ice (Geilo, Jan or Feb)
Birkebeinerrennet, one of the oldest and most challenging long-distance cross-country skiing races in the world, attracts over 16,000 participants every year. The course is 54 kilometres long (Rena-Lillehammer, Mar)
Norwegian Festival of Literature, the largest of its kind in the Nordic countries, focuses on Norwegian contemporary literature and features best-selling authors from around the world (Lillehammer, May)
Rakfisk Festival, celebrates a very Norwegian culinary speciality, brine-cured fish (Fagernes, Nov)
Camping or farm holidays are the best alternatives for those seeking close contact with nature. There are plenty of both to choose from. For a stay to remember, book a night or two at Brumunddal's Tree Top Huts , a cluster of tree houses with unbeatable views of the surrounding forest – you might spot a moose or two from your viewing platform high up in the canopy, making this the perfect retreat for wildlife lovers. For something a bit more luxurious, try Refnes Gods in Moss, a period manor which once counted Edvard Munch among its regulars, or Engø Gård in Tjøme, on the other side of the Oslofjord. And if pampering is what you are after, you could do a lot worse than staying at the Quality Spa and Resort Norefjell (voted best spa resort in 2010 and 2011), Dr Homs Hotel in Geilo, or Farris Bad, Scandinavia's largest spa resort in Larvik.
How to get there
The main international airport serving the region is Oslo Airport Gardermoen, 47 kilometres north of Oslo. Sandefjord Torp Airport and Moss Airport Rygge serve the west and east (respectively) of the Oslofjord. The main artery through Eastern Norway is the E6. The railway goes from Halden and Sandefjord in the south to Bjorli and Kongsvoll in the north, and serves most towns and cities in Eastern Norway, although accessing more remote mountain areas may require use of public buses or car rental.
Visit Norway/Eastern Norway
Lillehammer Region (includes info on Gudbrandsdalen Valley)
Rondane and Dovrefjell
Fredrikstad and Hvaler
Did you know?
Lillehammer hosted the Winter Olympics in 1994. The Games were the first to be held in a different year than the Summer Olympics, and the second hosted in Norway, after the Winter Olympics held in Oslo in 1952. Over 1.2 million tickets were sold, and 180,000 seats reserved for the media and VIPs. An additional 500,000 people viewed the games for free along the courses. In 2016, Lillehammer will host the Winter Youth Olympics.
Gamlebyen in Fredrikstad is Scandinavia's best preserved fortress town, and a popular tourist destination in summer. So is nearby Fredriksten Fortress in Halden.
Many Osloites own summer houses in the Hvaler Islands, among them Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
Tourism in the Lillehammer Region accounts for 1.33 milliard NOK (170 million euros) per year.
"Winter in Rondane" (also called "Winter in the Mountains"), is one of Norway's most famous artworks of all times. Harald Sohlberg made several versions of it, both oil paintings and colour lithographs. The first one dates from 1901, but it is the one he finished in the winter 1913-1914 that is the most famous, and is exhibited in the National Gallery in Oslo.
Tønsberg is Norway's oldest town, founded in the ninth century. Today its most important landmark is Slottsfjellet, the tower standing on the hill overlooking Tønsberg. Slottsfjellet has given its name to a popular local music festival.
Norwegian chess prodigy and world champion Magnus Carlsen, currently the top rated player in the world, was born in Tønsberg on 30 November 1990.
Maihaugen in Lillehammer is one of the best open air museums in Norway, featuring some 200 buildings and giving a really good insight into what it was like to live and work in the Lillehammer Region over the past 500 years.
The moose is the largest species in the deer family, and is known as "the King of the Forest". There are around 120,000 moose in Norway (2007). Several operators offer moose safaris in Dovrefjell National Park.