Destination at a glance: Norway

Norway is the supermodel of Scandinavia, a peak- and fjord-blessed country that gives its neighbours a serious case of mountain envy. There's a reason why artists, photographers and outdoor enthusiasts rave over this country: at almost every corner, stunning wilderness lurks to overwhelm the senses.

Much of Norway lies above the Arctic Circle, home to the midnight sun's ceaseless light, the polar night's gloomy darkness, or the ghost-like, swirling northern lights. Set amid these natural phenomena is some of the world's most scenic hiking and skiing. There's a rugged frontier feel to much of the country, but this is still Scandinavia – design-driven bars and hotels are never too far away.

BEST TIME TO VISIT
May to September for sunshine, or December to February for skiing and the northern lights

TOP THINGS TO SEE
• Oslo's Vigeland Park, with its walkway lined with photogenic statues of screaming babies and entwined lovers
• Lofoten Islands – mountain-islands littered with fishing villages so postcard-perfect they look fake
• The jawdropping beauty of the Geirangerfjord, by boat or on foot
• Bryggen, the old medieval quarter of Bergen, with its long timber buildings housing museums, restaurants and shops

TOP THINGS TO DO
• Take a trip on a Hurtigruten coastal steamer, heading north from Bergen
• Steam up the windows on the spectacular, seven-hour Oslo–Bergen train route
• Spot polar bears in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, the ultimate polar-adventure destination
• Hike among the high peaks and glaciers of the sublime Jotunheimen National Park

GETTING UNDER THE SKIN
Read Gods and Myths of Northern Europe by HR Ellis Davidson; A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen; Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
Listen to the synthtastic '80s sounds of A-ha; the dark and controversial tones of black metal; the cool electro stylings of Röyksopp
Watch Max Manus (Man of War), Norway's biggest budget blockbuster, recounting the true story of a resistance fighter during WWII
Eat laks (smoked salmon); warm moltebær syltetøy (cloudberry jam) with ice cream
Drink coffee; aquavit (or akevitt; a potent liquor distilled from potato)

IN A WORD
Skal vi gå på ski? (Shall we go skiing?)

TRADEMARKS
Fjords; glaciers; playwright Henrik Ibsen; midnight sun; artist Edvard Munch; high taxes, high prices; oil tycoons; polar explorers; skiing; stave churches; trolls; Vikings

RANDOM FACT
'Ski' is a Norwegian word, and thanks to aeons-old rock carvings depicting hunters travelling on skis, Norwegians make a credible claim to having invented the sport.

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