Introducing Southern Norway
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. The region also offers a chance to see a different kind of Norway from fjords and high plateaus – not to mention the fact that you’re more likely to meet Norwegians on holiday than just about anywhere else in the country. Kristiansand, Larvik and especially Arendal are also agreeable larger towns. Apart from everything else, the kids will never forgive you if you don’t take them to Kristiansand Dyrepark, one of Norway’s best children’s theme parks. However, unless you’re planning to be in the country for a long visit, think carefully about whether this is really the Norway you came to see, especially given the price hikes that most towns along the coast insist on in summer.
Venture inland and you’ll begin to experience increasingly dramatic landscapes but without the masses of tourists that gravitate towards the west and north in summer. The quiet valley of Setesdalen is rich in forested hillsides, traditional culture and high-energy thrills such as white-water rafting. Kongsberg promises a journey deep into the earth at its legendary silver mines, while nearby Notodden has Norway’s largest stave church. Telemark, especially at Dalen and troll-haunted Seljord, is also beautiful. But the place we love above all others in the region’s interior is Rjukan, in part for its epic historical stories, but more as the gateway to some of Norway’s most scenic high country – the Hardangervidda National Park and the spectacularly formed mountain of Gausta.