The best things to do in Norway: from Fjords to Northern Lights

The best things to do in Norway: from Fjords to Northern Lights

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It’s the land of fjords, glaciers and the Northern Lights — and so much more! If you haven’t been to Norway yet, you’re in for a treat. We’ve put together this epic Norwegian bucket list to help you plan your trip. Get ready to explore the Far North, going beyond the Arctic Circle in search of some of the most beautiful and fascinating places on the planet. Norway is calling — are you up for the adventure?

See the Northern Lights

Here it is… the number one reason people come to Norway — and once you’ve seen the sky lit up in a blaze of stunning natural glory, you’ll soon understand why. In the far north of the country, you may be able to see the Aurora Borealis at any time, from September to March, but the best time to go to Norway for them is between November and February. Of course, this all-natural light show is never guaranteed, but the Norwegian Arctic is simply one of the best places in the world to see it.

Northern Lights chasers should head to Tromsø, the northernmost city in the world. It sits a jaw-dropping 400 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and gets more Aurora Borealis action than anywhere else in the world. Of course, that nighttime beauty comes at a price. The Tromsø Polar Night usually starts in late November and continues until mid-January. During this time, the sun never rises — and yes, we mean never. If you’re heading up to Tromsø, make sure you bring a head torch with you.

It’ll all be worth it if you actually get the chance to see the Lights, though. The Tromsø Northern Lights are famous all over the world, and once you’ve seen the sky flashing with brilliant shades of green, blue and pink, you might just find yourself falling in love with this mysterious, far-northern land.

The Northern Lights illuminating the night sky over a snowy boardwalk leading to a fjord in Norway

If you’re chasing the Northern Lights, also read The best places for Northern Lights holidays.

Learn about Norwegian culture in Oslo

Any list of things to do in Norway has to include some time in the country’s capital. With a population of just 600,000, we can’t exactly call Oslo a metropolis. Instead, it has the laid-back vibe of a town, which is one of the reasons we love it so much.

If you want to get a feel for the Norwegian way of life, then Oslo has to be the best city in Norway to visit. We love Vigelandsparken, the city’s green lung, which is home to more than 20 weird and wonderful statues, including one that depicts a small child having a tantrum. There’s also the Munch Museum, celebrating the country’s most famous artist. This is where you can see Edvard Munch’s immortal painting, The Scream, which has to be one of the most famous images in the world. Best of all is the Viking Ship Museum, which will take you back in time to the days when other Europeans quaked in fear at the thought of Norse raiders in their powerful longboats.

A sculpture at Vigelandsparken in Oslo, Norway, featuring intertwined human figures, with the park and cityscape in the background

Go polar bear spotting in Svalbard

Oslo may be a small city, but it’ll feel like Tokyo when you leave and venture north to the distant Svalbard archipelago. Well above the Arctic Circle, this is one of the most remote places in the world. So why do we think a trip here is one of the best things to do in Norway?

It’s simple: Svalbard is an amazing place to see all kinds of Arctic wildlife, including seals, humpback whales and Arctic foxes. Most impressive of all are the mighty polar bears. Take a wildlife boat safari through the islands and you might well see these majestic beasts hunting for prey or just lounging around on glaciers.

A curious polar bear standing on its hind legs, waving a paw, on the snowy landscape of Svalbard, Norway

Discover the rustic charms of Bergen

Bergen was once the capital of the country back in the 13th century. Today, it’s a sleepy, charming town with an old-world feel that earns it a spot on our list of the best tourist places in Norway. We love the rows of colourful houses right on the waterfront, which provide the perfect backdrop to your Scandi Instagram snaps. The historic harbour area, Bryggen, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with many of its beautiful buildings dating back to 1602. We recommend taking a trip to the local fish market. It may be a bit smelly, but it’s packed with interesting things to see.

To see Bergen at its best, you’ll want to head to the top of nearby Mount Fløyen. It takes about an hour to climb to the peak, but if you’re not in the mood for exercise, don’t worry. You can take the iconic Fløibanen funicular, which has the added bonus of letting you enjoy amazing views on the way up and down.

Colorful wooden houses along the waterfront in Bergen, Norway, with misty mountains in the background

Take a trip back in time to the Lofoten Islands

If we had to decide, we reckon we might just say that the Lofoten Islands are the prettiest place in Norway —and this is a stunning country! There’s just something about this northern archipelago. They’re naturally beautiful, with their rocky coastlines, jagged, stony mountains and white sand beaches. In fact, some of the beaches here are so gorgeous you might even be tempted to take a dip — but remember, the waters here are an awfully long way from the Caribbean and are suitable only for the hardiest souls.

Exploring the Lofoten Islands should be on your bucket list of things to do in Norway. This archipelago was once a Viking stronghold, so it’s packed with cool historical sights. Be sure to check out the charming fishing villages like Henningsvær, where every narrow, winding lane holds secrets for you to uncover. You’ll also want to bring your hiking boots, as some of Norway’s best trails can be found on these islands.

Aerial view of the picturesque fishing village of Henningsvær in the Lofoten Islands, Norway

Embrace wild adventure at Longyearbyen

We’re heading back to Svalbard for this one. The remote, tiny community of Longyearbyen is truly one of the best places to visit in Norway, even if it might not seem that way. We love it for its unparalleled opportunities for adventure. That means kayaking through frigid waters, surrounded by glaciers, taking a snowmobile across the permanently frozen landscape, or hiking along some of the most dramatic trails you’re ever likely to see.

If you’ve got enough time, we also recommend taking a multi-day dog sledging trip. Use Longyearbyen as your starting point and head out into the wilderness, or perhaps on to another nearby settlement, like the historic mining town of Barentsburg. You’ll have a great chance of spotting the wildlife around this area, but even if you don’t, the thrills of dog sledging are just incredible.

Feast your eyes upon the world’s most beautiful fjord

If there’s one thing Norway’s known for, it’s fjords. In fact, there are around 1,190 fjords scattered across the country. We don’t expect you to see them all on your Norwegian adventure, but if you only have enough time for one, make sure it’s Geirangerfjord.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site has regularly been voted the most stunning fjord in the world. It’s easy to see why. This lush green landscape is dotted with impressive waterfalls with evocative names like the Seven Sisters and the Bridal Veil. In the background, you’ll see snow-capped mountains with thick green forests below them. The hills are scattered with old farmhouses, adding to the area’s calm, bucolic charm.

Gasp in awe at one of the most dramatic cliffs you’ll ever see

For this entry on our list of the best things to do in Norway, you’ll need to head to Stavanger. On a map, this tiny west coast region — known as the Edge of Norway — may seem awfully small, but when you get there, you’ll find that it’s simply packed with stunning things to see.

The most beautiful sight in Stavanger is Preikestolen, also known as Pulpit Rock. Some have even called it the most breathtaking viewpoint in the world. This dramatic rocky cliff juts out over the brilliantly blue water, a strangely flat square overhanging a piece of rock. To come here and not take a photo would be criminal!

Panoramic view of the majestic Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) overlooking the blue waters of the Lysefjord in Norway

While you’re in the area, be sure to check out the old town of Gamle Stavanger. Like so many small towns in Norway, it feels like a real blast from the past. This is where you’ll find Europe’s best-preserved wooden houses, which provide another totally Instagrammable location for your pics.

Take a road trip through Trollstigen

Trollstigen literally means the Troll Ladder — and nope, we’re not talking about those annoying people on Twitter. The trolls here are the legendary creatures from Norse mythology. Some people still call this area the Land of the Trolls, but it’s not the myths that have earned it a spot on our list of things to do in Norway. Instead, it’s simply the nature.

If you’re into road trips and you’re wondering what to see in Norway, this is the place for you. You’ll find it on the road between Åndalsnes and Valldal, known as Road 63. In fact, Trollstigen is just six kilometres long, but as you drive through those six kilometres, you won’t want to blink for even a single second. It has 11 dizzying hairpin bends set on an incline of 9%.

Be sure to get out of the car when you’ve reached the top of this wild zigzagging road. There’s a scenic viewpoint up here offering great vistas, including the lovely Stigfossen waterfall.

Visitors enjoying the breathtaking view from the Trollstigen viewpoint, overlooking the winding mountain road and lush valley below

Stroll through the streets of Grünerløkka

We’re heading back to Oslo for this one. Grünerløkka is perhaps the coolest neighbourhood in the city. Once a working-class district, today, it’s known for its hip, alternative vibe. We love the unusual boutiques and vintage shops, where you may be able to snap up some bargains – well, bargains by Norway’s expensive standards, anyway!

The streets of Grünerløkka are a great place to do some people-watching. You’re likely to see wildly dressed hippies on their way to a flea market, skateboarders trying a few stunts, and even actors performing on the spot in an open-air theatre. This neighbourhood is also our choice for the best nightlife in Oslo, so if you want some cool things to do in Norway after dark, be sure to hit the pubs and clubs of Grünerløkka.

Hike the Jostedalsbreen Glacier

Now, here’s one for the truly adventurous spirits. The Jostedalsbreen Glacier is the biggest glacier in continental Europe, and it’s a magnet for travellers looking for a challenge. Going for a hike along this epic ice plateau is not for the faint of heart, but if you dare to try it, it’s an experience you’ll never forget. The most popular glacier walk is just three kilometres long, enough to give you a taste of the adventure. If you like it, you might end up putting your name down for a longer route the next day!

The glacier spreads out across the hills and valleys of the area, with fingers of ice running down ridges and almost touching lakes and rivers. Even if you don’t want to risk the hike, you can still enjoy the nearby countryside of Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, which offers dramatic views of sheer cliffs and vivid blue waters. Relax as you take a boat trip along the fjord, letting you sit back and enjoy the scenery, or embrace the active lifestyle by kayaking through the water.

Go whale watching at Andenes

The last thing on our list of the best things to do in Norway is a favourite for nature lovers. These icy, northern waters have long been a haven for the largest creatures on earth. Yes, we’re talking about whales. Norway is one of the best places in the world for a spot of whale watching, and there’s no better spot than Andenes, located at the tip of the beautiful Andøya Island. In fact, some of the companies here are so confident in their whale-spotting abilities that they’ll offer you a free second trip if you don’t see any the first time.

Start your adventure with a trip to the whale museum in Andenes, where you’ll learn all about these gentle giants. Then head out on the water on a very special safari boat. The most common whales in these waters are sperm whales, but you may also spot killer whales and pilot whales during the summer months. Visit in winter, and you’re more likely to see humpback whales and fin whales, as well as sperm whales and killers.

The tail of a whale gracefully diving into the ocean at sunset in Norway

The peak of whale season lasts from May to September, during Norway’s extremely sunny summer, but there are still some of the giants lurking in the waters, even in the dead of winter. You’ll also find a number of great birdwatching tours departing from Andenes, and you can even try snorkelling with orcas, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for any fan of marine life.

Discover the awe-inspiring beauty of Norway

Now it’s your turn to see Norway for yourself. We’re organising an eight-day tour of this rugged, stunningly beautiful country. Our trip focuses on the majestic Lofoten archipelago, where you’ll be able to see amazing scenery located north of the Arctic Circle. This is the kind of incredible adventure that rewards the boldest travellers. Have you got what it takes to join us?

WeRoad Team
Written by WeRoad Team