Most people come to Norway for the fjords, and go you should, but the high country of central Norway is an equally extraordinary place. It’s home to what is easily the finest mountain scenery in northern Europe, unrivalled hiking, high-thrills white-water rafting and two of Norway’s most appealing towns.
Røros could just be Norway’s most charming village, a fact acknowledged by Unesco, which inscribed this centuries-old mining town of timber houses and turf-roofed cottages on its World Heritage list. Further south, Lillehammer may belong to a more modern era but after hosting the 1994 Winter Olympics it has drawn a steady stream of visitors hoping for some Olympic magic of their own in the Olympic museum, ski jump and the Olympic bobsled run; its pretty lakeside setting and Maihaugen, Norway’s best folk museum, also have strong appeal.
If stave churches capture the fairy-tale magic of Norway for you, there are two fine examples at tranquil Ringebu and Lom; the latter is also a crossroads town for some of Norway’s most scenic drives and rides, including the breathtaking Sognefjellet Road, which runs over the mountains and deep down into fjord country.
Connecting these sites are quiet back roads and challenging hiking trails that lead through some of Norway’s most rewarding national parks – Rondane, Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella, Jotunheimen and the desolately beautiful Hardangervidda, which drops suddenly within sight of the fjords. Within the parks’ boundaries you may find wild reindeer, musk ox and elk. Oppdal and, particularly, Sjoa are two important centres for white-water rafting.