Norway's travel guru shares his 25 favourite places in Norway with us, several of them of great historical importance to Norway:
Velmunden/Fjorda is Eastern Norway's canoeing paradise – between the Randsfjord and Sperillen Lakes. Here, the youngest members of the family can play at being Indians in an almost totally unspoiled landscape of islands and lakes, with countless canoeing routes to explore. A good area for canoeing, with a varied landscape 400 metres above sea level. People who are interested in cultural history can visit old Finnish settlements, a memorial to the immigration from the east that resulted from the famine in Norway's neighbouring country of Finland 400 years ago.
Military history in the middle of the Oslofjord. A beautiful island in the middle of the narrowest section of the Oslofjord, but primarily an interesting monument to Norway's military history. It was from this fortress at dawn on 9 April 1940 that the cannons and torpedoes were fired that sank the German heavy cruiser the Blücher thus giving Norway's King Haakon VII and the Government the time they needed to flee further north, from where they were evacuated to London to continue the fight against the Nazi occupation. Read more about the Oscarsborg Fortress.
A wilderness area near the border with Sweden. A wilder and tougher wilderness experience than Velmunden. An alternative to Alaska and the Yukon. Together, Femundsmarka and Gutulia national parks on the Norwegian side of the border and Töfsingdalen on the Swedish side, and adjoining areas, form one of the most distinctive high mountain biotopes in Scandinavia. The great botanist Carl von Linné explored the area in 1734, encountering falconers on his travels.
An exotic offshoot of the Setesdalen valley
Tovdal to Åraksbø – the wooded and hilly landscape of Southern Norway at its most beautiful. Tovdal is one of the most beautiful and varied forest and low-lying mountain biotopes in Southern Norway. Canoe hire and more at Hillestad.
The walk from Dale via Rjukan waterfall, Stuvestøyl, Videstøyl, along the Juvass stream, across Skuggefjell mountain and down to Åraksbø in Setesdal, home to one of Norway's oldest buildings – Haugeburet dating from 1219 – is one of the finest inland walks in Southern Norway.
Find more about hikinig in this area.
The coast road from Mandal to Hafrsfjord
The coast road from Mandal to Hafrsfjord is part of the North Sea Cycle Route (Shetland, the Orkney islands, Scotland, England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway), and, at more than 6,000 kilometres, it is the world's longest waymarked cycle route. With its beautiful and varied coastal landscape, the 250-km-long stretch from Mandal via Lindesnes and Lista, Hauge and Egersund is the "prime cut" of the North Sea Cycle Route.
The Southern Norway archipelago
The Southern Norway archipelago from the Ryvingen Lighthouse to the Jomfruland Island is a lovely archipelagos. It consists of thousands of small and large islands and skerries, with literally tens of thousands of areas of smooth rocky shore that are so popular with sun worshippers in summer. An amazing area for sea kayaking, both for beginners and the more experienced. The landward islands are so sheltered from the ocean that canoes are also a great way of getting around.
The Telemark Canal
The Telemark Canal from Skien, the town where Henrik Ibsen was born, to Dalen, the gateway to West Telemark, is an interesting canal journey. In the space of a few hours it takes travellers by boat through a classic system of locks from one of Norway's big industrial towns, Porsgrunn/Skien (altitude 0 metres), to Dalen, innermost on lake Bandak, one of Telemark's many classic fjord lakes. From there, it is not far to places like Morgedal "the Cradle of Skiing", Nutheim art hotel in Flatdal, or the southern approach to the Hardangervidda plateau, via the Møsvatn Lake.
Rjukan with the power station and the "heavy water" museum
The dramatic and beautiful Rjukandalen Valley with its waterfalls long tamed for hydroelectric power and power stations (Frøystul, Såheim, Vemork, Mår and Mæl) represents the essence of Norway as a modern industrial nation. The Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum in beautiful Vemork power station in Rjukan shows how the power of our waterfalls was tamed, laying the foundation for the transformation of Norway from a nation of poor fishermen and farmers into a rich and prosperous industrial country in just a few generations.
The fjord valleys leading to the Trollheimen and Dovre mountains
The valleys of Todalen, Innerdalen, Sunndalen, Litjdalen, Grødalen and Eikesdalen. A cluster of valleys that extend all the way from the ocean into high mountain country (Trollheimen and Dovre). Phenomenal opportunities for walking and climbing, but also for amazing cycling and driving experiences, including the new gravel road from Eikesdalen via Aursjøen down the Litjadalen valley to the small town of Sunndalsøra.
Stadtlandet and Vågsøy (Nordfjord)
A paradise for surfers that also has Norway's oldest monastery ruins and three lighthouses you can stay in. Hoddevika has established a reputation as one of the more exotic surfing destinations in the world (against some incredibly stiff competition!). On the island of Vågsøy, there are three different lighthouses you can stay in: Hendanes, Kråkenes and Skogsnes lighthouses – all of them with spectacular panoramic views.
Ålfotbreen glacier and Nordfjord
The walk from Vingen, the biggest petroglyph field in the Nordic countries (near Norway's tallest sea cliff, Hornelen, 860 m), up through distinctive geological formations from the Devonian Age, across the Ålfotbreen glacier (Norway's westernmost glacier), via the mountain cabins at Blåbrebu and Gjegnabu and down to the Hyefjord is one of the finest walks in the world (like dozens of other walks in Norway that take you from the coast and fjords across high mountains and glaciers). Norway's wettest area – 10 times more rain than Bergen! (NB: guided-tours of the glaciers are strongly recommended!) Read more about the Nordfjord area.
Innermost in the Sognefjord
The Lustrafjord with Norway's mountaineering centre at Turtagrø and the Hurrungane mountains, and with Veitastrond and the Jostedalen valley "tucked in behind" the Jostadalsbreen glacier. The area can also boast Norway's oldest stave church, Urnes, which is located in an enchanting setting on a promontory in the Lustrafjord. The best of the Sognefjord region with countless outdoor pursuits between fjord and glacier.
On the coast north of the Sognefjord
The Solund archipelago and Værlandet. If there is one area in Norway where the term "island hopping" really means what it says, this is it. The area has phenomenal scenery, and many small communities, which means it is easy to get around using scheduled boat services. But sea kayaking is best of all! Kayaking enthusiasts from all over the world have long since discovered this island paradise at the mouth of the Sognefjord. In summer, they have competition for the wide open spaces from many other kinds of pleasure boats.
Read more about this area called Fjordkysten.
From the top of the Hardangervidda plateau down to the fjord
Hårteigen and Husedalen/the Munketrappene steps. One of the many fantastic walks that include both mountains and fjords. From Eidfjord, innermost in the Hardangerfjord, up the wild and beautiful Hjølodalen valley to the mountain cabins of Viveli, Hedlo and Hadlaskard, via Hårteigen, whose summit is the Hardangervidda plateau's great landmark and highest point, to the mountain cabins Torehytte and Stavali, and then down one of Norway's most beautiful valleys, Husedalen, which has three large, yet very different waterfalls.
Norway's best-preserved sailing ship town, Skudeneshavn
Skudeneshavn is the coastal town in Norway that has succeeded best in preserving its old white wooden houses and buildings. It grew and flourished during the great age of sail in the 19th century. Skudeneshavn's more than 200 intact wooden buildings from the 1850s are lovingly restored and maintained by their proud owners, many of whom are from Stavanger, just a ferry crossing away.
The Lysefjord with the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), the Kjeragbolten boulder and the Lysebotn hairpin bends
Together with the Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, the Lysefjord is Norway's most photographed fjord, especially because of the spectacular rock formation, the Pulpit Rock, and the impressive Kjeragbolten boulder, which is probably the world's number one destination among BASE jumpers. The most fascinating road and ferry route between Kristiansand and Stavanger goes via the hairpin bends down to the Lysefjord.
Like Santiago de Compostela, the Nidaros Cathedral was one of the world's most important pilgrimage destinations in the Middle Ages. The interior of the cathedral was stripped of many of its art treasures in connection with the Reformation, but it is by far the biggest cathedral in Europe to be located so far from Rome, and the building itself therefore occupies a special place among Europe's cathedrals.
Røros and the surrounding area
A mining community on a high-mountain plateau. The location of one of Europe's biggest copper deposits, which created great wealth, in Copenhagen in particular (where most of the copper ended up, as roofing for many monumental buildings, including the Stock Exchange with its famous dragon spire). Røros itself is probably the only mining town in the world almost exclusively built of wood.
The area bordering on Russia, with its churches (Oscar II's Chapel in Grense Jakobselv, the Protestant Church and St George's Chapel in Neiden), the Finnish-Norwegian fishing village of Bugøynes, the border road from the Bjørnevatn Lake to Øvre Pasvik National Park and the Treriksrøysa cairn where three countries meet. Interesting nature experiences in Ytre Jarfjord such as red king crab safaris.
Find suggestions for a roundtrip in Eastern Finnmark.
Gjesvær Fishing Village
A classic Finnmark fishing village with three distinctive bird cliff islands (Stappane) not far offshore, including Norway's biggest puffin colony of more then 350,000 birds. Landmarks for seafarers that predate the Viking Era. Norway's northernmost skerries comprising more than 100 islands and islets. The most northerly point mentioned in Snorre’s history of the Norse kings.
"The Alps in the ocean" – a paradise for traditional and more modern ways of enjoying the wilds of nature, from fishing, hunting and classic mountaineering to extreme skiing, diving and hang-gliding. The Lyngen Alps has one of the wildest landscapes in the world, it now has an established place on the international extreme wilderness map.
Hamn i Senja
Hamn i Senja is a picturesque fishing village with an industrial history. Electric power was introduced here as early as 1882. It was supplied by one of the world's two first hydroelectric power stations, built for the local nickel mines. This old fishing village is a great base for exploring the island of Senja, which has rightly been called "Norway in miniature".
The outermost Lofoten islands – Reine Sørvågen, Å, Værøy and Røst
A unique mixture of breathtaking scenery (moulded by thousands of years of activity by fisher-farmers) and the cosmopolitan demands of modern-day tourism. Here, you will find art galleries, as well as fresh chilli, ginger and garlic. Read more about the Lofoten Islands.
Træna and Myken Islands
Island kingdoms far out to sea. Lighthouse accommodation (Myken, with panoramic views), fish and a festival (Træna). The islands have been settled for more than 6,000 years. Rich in cultural heritage and ancient monuments. And from the modern era: the success story of salmon farming in Northern Norway started on Træna. The Træna Festival has achieved international cult status.
"The unknown fjord" on the coast of Helgeland between the famous island of Vega and the Seven Sisters mountains. One of Northern Europe's most varied natural biotopes, with traces of hunting and fishing activities dating back 9,000 years, and permanent settlements not just near the mouth of the fjord but also at Bønå, where a local sheep farmer come fisherman and his family run a wilderness centre offering a variety of outdoor pursuits.