Things to see and do in Norway
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Attractions in Norway
Few sights are more hauntingly beautiful than that of the aurora borealis or Northern Lights – a natural phenomenon caused by magnetised particles emitted by the sun. You'll have to brave the winter cold of Norway's Arctic region (October to March) to see them but it's well worth it.
Made famous by Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy, Norway's most northerly landmass, Svalbard, is the only place in Europe where the polar bear can still be seen. Although glaciers cover 60% of it, Svalbard's soaring mountains and dramatic crags make it worth seeing whether you want wildlife or not.
Often overlooked in favour of the bigger municipal centres, Ålesund is home to an unparalleled collection of picturesque Art Nouveau buildings, built a century ago after its wooden edifices were razed by a fire. The city is also becoming increasingly accessible with BMI among the airlines serving it directly. (< a href="http://www.visitalesund-geiranger.com" target="_blank">www.visitalesund-geiranger.com")
Perched on top of a jutting 600m-tall (1969 ft) cliff overlooking the cerulean blue waters of Lysefjord, Pulpit Rock is worth the hike for the stunning views alone. Just outside of Stavanger, the rock can also be reached via a cruise along Lysefjord from the city centre.
Hardanger Fjord, which is located 75km (47 miles) east of Bergen, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Norway. This scenic area offers virtually every kind of natural landscape available in the country, from scenic waterways, apple and cherry orchards, and hiking trails, to mountain plateaux. The area also contains Hardangervidda, Norway's largest national park, two of Norway's largest glaciers, Folgefonna and Hardangerjøkulen, and some of Norway's most popular waterfalls, including Vøringfossen, Steinsdalsfossen and Låtefossen. There are also various museums in the area, including Hardanger folkemuseum (Hardanger Folk Museum) and Hardanger Fartøyvernsenter (Hardanger Ships Preservation Centre) treeboat museum.
Medieval wooden churches
Be sure to see one of Norway's 28 surviving wooden medieval stave churches (www.stavechurch.org), dotted around the southern half of the country. The oldest is the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Urnes Stave Church, by Sognefjord, dating from 1130 (www.sognefjord.no).
For those in search of a literary treat, Skien, the birthplace of playwright Hendrik Ibsen (www.ibsen.net), is a must visit. His childhood home provides a compelling insight into the life of this distinguished Norwegian and includes a comprehensive multimedia exhibition.
Check out Gamlebyen in Fredrikstad, Scandinavia's best preserved fortress town. Also of interest is the nearby Hvaler archipelago, a summer paradise made up of hundreds of tiny islands - and home to Norway's first marine national park, opened in 2009 (www.opplevfredrikstad.com).
This small but picturesque mountain town near the Swedish border was a copper mining and smelting settlement from the 17th century until the 1980s (www.verdensarvenroros.no). Discover the Old Town, the wooden church and the Mining Museum.
See the Saltstraumen - the world's most powerful whirlpool (www.destinasjon-saltstraumen.com). A strong tidal current located some 30km (19 miles) east of the northern city of Bodø; careful timing is required as the action only happens four times a day. A multimedia visitor centre is nearby.
Take in the stunning views at Norway's most famous waterfall, situated close to the main road between Oslo and Bergen. Another nearby waterfall, Mardalsfossen, boasts the longest drop in northern Europe clocking up almost 300m (984ft) from top to bottom. (www.fjordnorway.com).
Norway in a nutshell
Take a 'Norway in a Nutshell' tour from Bergen (www.norwaynutshell.com). You can choose to spend between one and three days on the trip, which takes in scenic rail and bus journeys as well as cruises along Norway's best fjords.
Skiing and snowboarding
Norway has thousands of kilometres of marked trails of varying difficulty for enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders, all of which take in stunningly pretty terrain. The 1994 Winter Olympics complex at Lillehammer (www.lillehammer.com) is just a couple of hours north of Oslo by road.
Experience the midnight sun at the North Cape in the far Arctic and make the most of the extra daylight by enjoying the coastline from the deck of one of the Hurtigruten ships (www.hurtigruten.co.uk), which call at 35 different ports on the voyage north.
Take a ride to the summit of one of the seven mountains surrounding the former Hanseatic port of Bergen (www.visitbergen.com), for panoramic views of the country's longest fjord - Sognefjord – to the north and the beautiful Hardangerfjord in the south.
Enjoy a beer or two at the world's most northerly brewery in Tromsø – Europe's most northerly city. Once you've had your fill of the local brew, head over to visit the picturesque university and cathedral, and revel in the scenic surroundings. (www.destinasjontromso.no).
Take a hike on Jostedalsbreen, mainland Europe's largest glacier, and centrepiece of a large national park (www.jostedal.com). A mecca for outdoor adventure lovers, the park offers plenty of adrenaline sports such as mountain kayaking as well as the more sedate Glacier Bus.
Experience traditional Norwegian folk culture, music, dance and food at one of the regular summer events at the Norske Folkemuseum (www.norskfolke.museum.no): an open-air collection of historic buildings on Bygdøy Island outside Oslo. The programme changes daily, so check the website before you go.
Saint Olav Festival
Enjoy the annual festival celebrating Christianity's arrival in Norway in 1030 at Stiklestad, a little over two hours' drive northwest from Trondheim. Centrepiece of the July event is the St Olav Drama, an open-air recreation of events (www.stiklestad.no).
Get away from it all and spend a few days in a lakeside mountain hytte, or cabin, enjoying fishing and nature walks. But beware of elk and other large wildlife (www.norgesbooking.com).
Learn about the culture of the semi-nomadic Sami people of Norway's northern Lapland at the Várjjat Sámi Musea (www.varjjat.org) at Varangerbotn in eastern Finnmark. Or stay in a Sami tepee on an organised tour of Lapland (www.sami-siida.no, Norwegian only).
Relive Norway's former capital city Trondheim's past glories at the magnificent Nidarosdomen (Nidaros Cathedral) (www.nidarosdomen.no), and visit the city's Ringve Museum (www.ringve.com), which is home to an extensive collection of historic musical instruments.
Don't miss the capital's excellent collection of museums, including the Thor Heyerdahl Kon-tiki Museum (www.kon-tiki.no), the Munch Museum (www.munch.museum.no) and the Viking Ship Museum (www.khm.uio.no).
Go royal-spotting at the Kongelige Slott (Royal Palace), which is open to visitors from late June to mid August (www.kongehuset.no), or delve into the city's military past at Åkershus Castle (www.mil.no/felles/ak), which stands within walking distance of the city centre.
Stroll around the picturesque wooden warehouses in Bergen's historic Bryggen harbourside area – a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1979. Explore the fish market nearby (www.visitbergen.com), or take a trip out to Troldhaugen, former home of composer Edvard Grieg (www.troldhaugen.com).