From precipitous glaciers to steep-sided gorges and crystalline fjords, Norway’s natural beauty is impossible to overstate. The unspoilt wilderness of the Arctic north is one of the few places where the sun shines at midnight during the summer and where the magnificent Northern Lights brighten the skies during the long winter nights.
Further to the south, the picturesque cities of Oslo, Trondheim and Bergen are brim-full of buildings showing off Scandinavia’s age-old flair for design in cosmopolitan surroundings. Oslo is the present-day capital and financial centre, while the country’s second city, Bergen, is a picturesque former Hanseatic trading port and gateway to Fjordland. Stavanger is the focal point of the Norwegian oil industry and former capital, Trondheim, is a long-established centre of Christian pilgrimage, and more recently, technical research.
Though the weather can be a tad grim in Bergen, the UNESCO-listed waterfront adds a flash of colour with its wooden warehouses and shimmering harbour. Oslo’s waterfront is no less beautiful and has a brand new, ice-white Opera House that could give Sydney’s version a run for its money.
Stunning though the cities are, the real wonders of Norway are to be found outdoors. In the far north, the glacier-covered sub-polar peninsular of Svalbard is one of the few areas where polar bears can be seen in the wild, while Norway’s miles of Arctic tundra double up as a destination for skiing and spotting the Northern Lights.
Elsewhere, a ferry trip along Geirangerfjord has to rank among the world’s prettiest voyages with pine-topped cliffs giving way to icy green water, regularly topped up by the waterfalls that cascade down the fissured sides of the ravine. Indeed, you’d be hard pushed to find a part of Norway’s northern fjordland that isn’t strikingly beautiful, with snow-capped peaks and looming forests almost everywhere you look.