If you enjoy peace, tranquillity and the feeling of exclusivity while on holiday, you might find your new favourite destination among the ones on this list.
Published: 12 July 2017 / updated: 29 August 2017
Recently, travel director Bente Holm posed a question on Facebook: What is the most underrated destination in Norway, which we have yet to fully discover, but which is well worth a visit? And why?
Recommendations streamed into the comments field. Among them were unique natural phenomena and vast wilderness areas. A place for those of you who like to fish at a quiet lake as well as travellers feeling adventurous or seeking that historical sparkle.
Here are some of the gems, and there will be more to come during the summer.
“Like Lofoten without all the tourists” is how Steigen is often referred to, and it is located between Bodø and Narvik. There are many islands and islets here, which several commenters recommend as an ideal area for kayaking. A number of the mountain peaks have elevations above 1,000 metres, and many are well suited for hiking and climbing. In recent years, the islands Manshausen and Naustholmen has been bought by a couple of Norwegian adventurers, and turned into adventure destinations.
The Nordkyn Peninsula is Europe’s northernmost section of mainland. Visitors will encounter extreme nature, distinctive bird life and fishing villages worth exploring in Kjøllefjord, Mehamn and Gamvik. The area is well suited for walking and hiking tours as well as fishing in both salt- and freshwater.
“Senja is an adventure”, was one comment. Norway’s second largest island is located midway between Lofoten and Tromsø, and it is said that the busloads of tourists visiting the neighbouring areas tend to overlook the island of Senja. The scenic National Tourist Route is situated on the outermost part of the island, which is “absolutely breathtaking”. Hamn is also a place that you should include in your travel route.
Vesterålen was recommended numerous times using words such as “varied, untouched and beautiful”. The area encompasses hundreds of small and large islands and there are many white, sandy beaches, jagged coastal mountains, and not least whales. Vesterålen is situated just north of the Arctic Circle, and those recommending it feel that it’s time for this archipelago to shine on a par with its big brother to the south, Lofoten.
Varangerhalvøya Peninsula, Norway’s largest peninsula is a “place without equal”. In fact, it is apparently totally unknown to most Norwegians. The Varangerhalvøya peninsula is the closest you come to Arctic landscape without leaving mainland Norway. It is home to truly unique plant and animal life, in addition to its rich Sami cultural heritage.
Frøya is viewed by many people as an underrated gem, including residents of Trøndelag county. The island municipality of Frøya is located on the Trøndelag Coast, which has well over 5,000 islands of varying size. “A magnificent area with old fishing villages far out to sea,” is one comment by a woman who then remarks: “What a life one must have had – and still has out there.”
The Kystriksveien Coastal Route starts in Trøndelag County and leads you northward through magnificent coastal landscapes. Driving or biking along its 650 kilometres, you get to explore the Namdal Coast and Helgeland Coast before eventually arriving in Bodø in the north. This tip came from a woman who pointed out that this route offers a splendid mix of beautiful coastal landscapes, activities, islands, and vibrant small communities.
Røros is another place worth visiting, with its old wooden houses, mountains and plateaus along with a wide assortment of local foods. “The compact, old community that is clinging to the wide-open plateau. A fascinating history and living cultural monuments everywhere,” writes the commenter. In 1644 the first copper ore was discovered in the area, and the mining town of Røros was established soon thereafter. It was to become one of Norway’s most important resources. Today, it has been inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites, and is also certified as a Sustainable Travel Destination by Innovation Norway.
West Cape is the viewpoint on Kjerringa Mountain, located on the Stad peninsula in the county of Sogn og Fjordane. At an elevation of 496 metres above sea level, Kjerringa is considered to be the westernmost mountain plateau in Norway. The panoramic view across the fjord and sea varies along with the weather conditions, which ranges from a glassy surface to severe storms and strong wind. The West Cape is described as an incredibly beautiful coastal landscape, and commenters recommend that visitors to the area try island hopping in Bremanger, hiking up to Europe's highest sea cliff, Hornelen Peak, surfing the waves at Vetvika Bay and exploring the monastery on the island of Selje.
“The world’s most beautiful and most secret place”, writes the man who recommends a visit to Lodalen Valley and Lake Lovatnet in Stryn municipality. There are a number of activities available in the valley, and the Loen Skylift aerial ropeway (cable car) opened earlier this year. The cable car takes you from the fjord up to the peak of Mount Hoven in five minutes, and while up in the air you will enjoy an awesome view of Lodalen Valley. You can read more about the numerous things to see and do here:
Eidfjord in Hardanger has much to see and do, according to the woman who recommended the place. It is the site of Europe’s largest mountain plateau, Hardangervidda, and the impressive Vøringsfossen waterfall which cascades down from the plateau toward the Måbødalen Valley below. Visitors will also find Kjeåsen and the Hardangervidda Nature Centre. You can go kayaking, biking, hike on a glacier and dine at many nice places to eat along the highway.
Halsnøy Monastery in Kvinnherad municipality was also recommended. The island is the site of the ruins of an Augustinian monastery built around the year 1300, and offers a very special experience according to the woman who recommended it. It is beautifully situated amid fjords and mountains with nice walking trails as well as a small café and art exhibit.
Hemsedal mountain village is highly underrated concerning visits in the summer season is the view of many. There are various organised activities there, but it is also a wonderful place for taking hikes on your own. One comment notes that there are no tourists in Hemsedal in the summertime, which is a shame because it is a magical place during this time of year.
The distinctive mountain landscape, shallow waters along the shoreline, well-stocked lake and exciting cultural heritage are just some of the reasons to visit Sølen mountain chain in Hedmark county. There are also mountain berries there along with an inland fishing village and excellent conditions for visitors who enjoy paddling or hiking. People are the one thing of which there is not an overabundance there.
The landscape around Norway’s largest lake, Mjøsa, is mentioned in multiple comments. Here you will find the world’s oldest paddle steamer still in timetabled service, Skibladner. The ship has been nicknamed «Mjøsa’s white swan». The hospitality of the large farms and the culinary traditions of the flat farmland areas are said to be worth experiencing and is referred to as being hidden treasures.
“A bit of idyll outermost in the Drammen Fjord,” is the comment of the woman who recommends Holmsbu in Hurum municipality. No sitting in traffic and the village has lots of friendly local residents. In addition to restaurants and cafes, you will find several art galleries. One of them is Holmsbu Art Gallery, located inside a forest.
Hadeland was mentioned by several people. Fertile, sloping landscapes with quaint small roads and experiences,” writes one of them. Hadeland Folk Museum and the medieval churches and pilgrimage route are highlights. There are also bathing beaches and places to hire canoes and paddle for days. Another commenter is more specific, and believes that Granavolden is a gem because of the Søsterkirkene (i.e. Sisters Churches), Glasslåven Arts Centre, St. Petri Church and the Granavolden Guest Inn.
Femundsmarka National Park offers visitors vast untouched wilderness areas and is not as crowded as other hiking areas. Its many rivers and lakes are ideal for fishing and canoeing, which are quite popular there.
Helvete Nature Park has some fantastic potholes, according to the man who recommended this particular area. A number of them are over 50 metres deep and 20 metres wide, which means they are Northern Europe’s largest. If you want to study them up close, you can even walk down into them. The “hollows” were formed toward the end of the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago, when water and rocks from the melting ice rotated against the mountain.
Lista was also recommended several times. It is sometimes called Norway’s version of Denmark’s “Skagen” (i.e. The Scaw) not least because of the terrain and special lighting conditions. The beaches are long and chalky white, and several of the cultural heritage monuments have an American history. You can enjoy nice views of the peninsula and ocean if you walk up the 134 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Conditions at Lista are ideal for surfing, windsurfing and kite surfing.