Bleak tundra and dramatic mountain massifs at seemingly every turn, charming villages, stave churches, fascinating wildlife and arguably Norway's best hiking and white-water rafting – with so much going for it, central Norway more than matches the fjords.
Here on the roof of Norway, trails snake their way past glaciers, waterfalls and snow-bound peaks in more than a dozen national parks. Jotunheimen National Park is one of Europe's premier hiking destinations, and is bisected by one of Norway's most beautiful drives. But Rondane, Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella and the desolately beautiful Hardangervidda are also superb. Within the parks' boundaries you may find wild reindeer, elk and musk ox. At the gateway to the parks, Unesco World Heritage–listed Røros, a centuries-old mining town of timber houses and turf-roofed cottages, and Lom, with its beautiful stave church, are two of inland Norway's most attractive villages.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Central Norway.
Built on the site of a former copper-smelting works that burnt down in 1975, this museum brings the town's mining heritage to life. Intricate working models demonstrate the water- and horse-powered smelting processes, and if you want to watch the real thing, live copper smelting demonstrations are held daily at 3pm in July and August.
A church has existed on this site since the arrival of Christianity in the 11th century. The current version, which remains the local parish church, dates from around 1220, but was restored in the 17th century when the distinctive red tower was attached. Inside, there's a statue of St Laurence dating from around 1250, as well as some crude runic inscriptions.
This national park, 17km southwest of Lom, is one of Norway's best wilderness destinations. It has a network of hiking trails leading to some 60 glaciers and to the country's loftiest peaks (the 2469m Galdhøpiggen and 2452m Glittertind). The trails pass through ravine-like valleys, deep lakes and plunging waterfalls. Huts and private lodgings sit along many of the routes. For information, contact Lom Tourist Office or the Norsk Fjellmuseum.
This arresting building of rippled timber and mirrored glass was commissioned by the Wild Reindeer Foundation as an educational centre and observation point. It offers astounding views over the valley to Mt Snøhetta. It's a gentle 1.5km walk along a gravel trail from the car park; the turn-off is signed off the E6 by Hjerkinn.
Lillehammer's stunning metal-and-glass art museum looks like a spaceship that's landed in the middle of town. It explores Norwegian visual arts from the early 19th century to the present. There are a few minor works by Edvard Munch, but it's mostly devoted to less well-known names. There's a lovely cafe serving lunch.
This 4367-sq-km national park, Norway's largest continuous protected area, protects the dramatic highlands around the 2286m-high Snøhetta. It also provides a suitably bleak habitat for Arctic foxes, reindeer, wolverines and musk oxen, which can be spotted on an organised wildlife safari. Snøhetta can be ascended by hikers from Snøheim (allow six hours).
Røros' copper industry was booming when local notables decided to finance the construction of this lovely – and large – Lutheran church in 1784, at a cost of 23,000 riksdaler (at the time, miners earned about 50 riksdaler per year). It's vast, with space for 1600 worshippers, and a fittingly grand monument to the town's mining fortunes.
Of all the beautiful mountain roads of central Norway, one stands out for its combination of scenery and storytelling: Peer Gynt Vegen. Running for 60km from Skei to Espedalen, it takes you along the trail followed by that ill-fated, fictional character created by Henrik Ibsen and offers unrivalled views of the Jotunheimen and Rondane massifs en route.
West of town (1.5km), this extensive open-air museum includes 18th- and 19th-century buildings, a folk history exhibit featuring the creepy Devil's Finger (a finger cast in pewter with various spooky legends attached to it), and the ruins of the castle. But the centrepiece is Hamar's tumbledown medieval cathedral, now protected inside a stunning glass enclosure.