Impossibly steep-sided Norwegian fjords of extraordinary beauty cut gashes from a jagged coastline deep into the interior. Glaciers, grand and glorious, snake down from icefields that rank among Europe’s largest. Elsewhere, the mountainous terrain of Norway’s interior resembles the ramparts of so many natural fortresses and yields to rocky coastal islands that rise improbably from the waters like apparitions. Then, of course, there’s the primeval appeal, the spare and staggering beauty of the Arctic. And wherever you find yourself in this most extraordinary country, these landscapes serve as a backdrop for some of Europe’s prettiest villages.
The counterpoint to Norway’s ever-present natural beauty is found in Norway’s vibrant cultural life. Quiet for a thousand years since the marauding days of the Vikings, Norway often seems remote to outsiders, even mysterious – remarkable given its geographical position close to the heart of Europe. Beyond Oslo and the famous fjords, the rest of the country might as well be blank on the map for many visitors. Yet it’s out of the cities and off the major roadways that you’ll experience Norway at its most magical: vast stretches of serene, postcard-perfect landscapes where it is at times possible to travel for hours without seeing a single soul.
Norwegian cities are cosmopolitan and showcase the famous Scandinavian flair for design through the ages. Bergen, Trondheim and Ålesund must surely rank among Europe’s loveliest cities, while contemporary Arctic-inspired architectural icons grace cities and remote rural settings alike. Food, too, is a cultural passion through which Norwegians push the boundaries of innovation even as they draw deeply on a heartfelt love of tradition. At the same time, a busy calendar of festivals, many of international renown, are worth planning your trip around.