Bergen & the Southwestern Fjords
This spectacular region will dazzle your eyeballs with truly indescribable scenery. We’ll make a go at it here, but bear in mind that all our superlatives and gushings are actually just understatements.
Hemmed by a ‘fjord’ and kilometres of woodland, Norway’s capital is an easy-going city with an eclectic architectural mix of old, new and just plain 1960s that is hard not to like. The perfect size for exploring on foot, the city boasts world-class museums, a lively nightlife and plenty of outdoor activities for the energetic.
The Western Fjords
The Far North
Norway’s southern coastline has always drawn Norwegian tourists in summer droves. It’s not difficult to see why, with coastal villages all dressed in white looking out across an island-studded sea. Many of the villages are quite beautiful, especially Grimstad, Risør, Kragerø and Flekkefjord, and can make for picturesque stepping stones en route from Oslo to Stavanger.
Surrounded by seven hills and seven fjords, Bergen is a beautiful, charming city. With the Unesco World Heritage–listed Bryggen and buzzing Vågen Harbour as its centrepiece, Bergen climbs the hillsides with hundreds of timber-clad houses, while cable cars offer stunning views from above.
The Northern Fjords
It's yet more crinkly coastline and more deeply incised fjords as you push further northwards into the region of Møre og Romsdal. Geirangerfjord, a Unesco World Heritage Site, a must on most tours and a favourite anchorage for cruise ships, staggers beneath its summer influx.
The Coast of Southern Norway
You probably didn't come to Norway for the beaches, but if you did, expect to be accompanied by masses of local tourists drawn by reasonable beaches and picturesque islands. The towns along the coast are pretty, if way overpriced in summer.
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.
Svalbard is an assault on the senses. This wondrous archipelago is the world’s most readily accessible bit of the polar north and one of the most spectacular places imaginable. Vast icebergs and floes choke the seas, and icefields and glaciers frost the lonely heights.
Troms, where the Gulf Stream peters out, mitigating the harshness of winter, boasts a couple of near-superlative places: Tromsø, the only place large enough to merit the name 'city' in northern Norway, and Senja, Norway's second-largest island, a less trodden rival to the Lofotens for spectacular scenery.
Svalbard's only town – indeed, only centre with more than a handful of inhabitants – Longyearbyen enjoys a superb backdrop including two glacier tongues, Longyearbreen and Lars Hjertabreen. The town itself is fringed by abandoned mining detritus and the waterfront is anything but beautiful, with shipping containers and industrial buildings.
Simply put, Tromsø parties. By far the largest town in northern Norway and administrative centre of Troms county, it's lively with cultural bashes, buskers, an animated street scene, a midnight-sun marathon, a respected university, the hallowed Mack Brewery – and more pubs per capita than any other Norwegian town.
Trondheim, Norway's original capital, is nowadays the country's third-largest city after Oslo and Bergen. With its wide streets and partly pedestrianised heart, it's a simply lovely city with a long history. Fuelled by a large student population, it buzzes with life. Cycles zip everywhere, it has some good cafes and restaurants, and it's rich in museums.