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10 Things to Do in Norway in Winter

By: Jessica
Last Updated: 11/06/2020

In Norway there's a saying that people are born with skis on their feet. While perhaps not all Norwegians are Olympic-level skiers, winter activities are an important part of the culture. It’s no wonder with all those snow-capped mountains, deep fjords, and twinkling night skies.

In fact, some of the most unique things to do in Norway in winter aren't related to skiing. From Norway northern lights tours to dog sledding and even staying in a hotel made of snow, there is so much to experience. 

Between October and March, you can come explore the country’s snowy wonderland for yourself. For inspiration, and to help you plan your trip, we’ve compiled a list of what to do in Norway in winter.  


1. Pretend you’re a polar explorer

Norway has an impressive track record of polar expeditions, having produced historic explorers such as Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen. Nansen was the first man to cross the interior of Greenland on (you guessed it) cross-country skis. Amundsen was first to reach the South Pole.

While you may not be feeling quite so ambitious, Norway is an excellent place to tap into that pioneering spirit. Many famous 20th-century expeditions were based in the Norwegian city of Tromsø, aptly nicknamed “The Gateway to the Arctic”. In this part of Norway you could go:

Dog sledding

Like Amundsen, you could embark on a dog sledding tour. Meet the eager team of huskies that will lead the way and sit back for a fun ride. Some tours even offer the opportunity to drive the dog sled.

Snowmobiling

Or try your hand at driving a snowmobile along the snowy trails. Whether you visit Northern Norway or Svalbard, you could participate in a thrilling guided excursion. See the Arctic landscape from a different perspective.

Snowshoeing

Maybe you simply want to walk on snow? This is an exciting way to feel the snow crunch under your feet and feel the crisp Arctic air. You’ll really enjoy your hot beverage after this fun tour.

You can also explore the Arctic comfortably indoors at attractions like Polaria and the Polar Museum (Polarmuseet).

If you're spending time in Oslo, you may also wish to visit the Fram Museum (Frammuseet). It hosts an exhibition dedicated to Amundsen's ship, the Fram, and the hardships of early polar expeditions.



2. Check the northern lights off your bucket list

Visit Norway in winter for your best chance to see the aurora borealis. In Northern Norway, which is inside the Arctic Circle, daylight hours are very limited at this time of year. You may even experience polar nights – which is when the sun doesn’t rise at all.

Thanks to the seasonal darkness, you’ll have the dark skies needed to chase the northern lights.

You should head north to the city of Tromsø as it falls right in the middle of the “Northern Lights Belt”. This region represents the optimal latitude for viewing the auroras in the Northern Hemisphere.

Another great place to look for the dancing lights is the Lofoten Islands, a stunning, mountainous Norwegian archipelago.

3. See the snowy landscapes outside your train window

If you’re planning your trip to Norway in winter, it’s an ideal time to travel by public transport. Sit back and relax as you admire the views of the snow-covered mountains, frosty fjords, and festive forests.

One of the most popular and stunning railway journeys in the country is the Norway in a Nutshell® tour. It has, in fact, been described as one of the best rail routes in the world! And it’s even more stunning under a layer of snow in winter.

This itinerary will take you from Oslo to Bergen (or vice versa) combining travel by train, bus and ferry. Climb mountains aboard the Flåm Railway and sail along Aurlandsfjord and other beautiful fjords. You’ll also ride through charming villages between Gudvangen and Bergen.

Along the way, you’ll experience the stunning views of waterfalls, snow-capped peaks, and peaceful fjords. You may even spot some local wildlife.  

If you'd rather take the wheel and stop at the sights you want along the way, come during the summer. At this time of year, the roads are more accessible for driving and you can take advantage of more daylight hours.



4. Sail the Arctic waters on a Hurtigruten cruise

Did you know you can cruise the rugged Norwegian coast even in wintertime?   

The popular Hurtigruten coastal voyages operate year-round, from the city of Bergen in the south-west to Kirkenes at the northern end of the route. It includes many beautiful ports of call in between such as North Cape (Nordkapp), the Lofoten Islands and Ålesund.

The great thing about Hurtigruten cruises is the hop-on, hop-off style of travel. Thanks to that, you can pick which section of the route you want to sail and see.

Nordic Visitor can tailor tours according to your interests. Combine all your favourite aspects to create your ideal itinerary. That could be a 1- or 2-night cruise with an overland journey such as the scenic Norway in a Nutshell® railway tour. 



5. Spend a night in the Kirkenes Snow Hotel

If you’re going to visit the Arctic, you might as well make the most of it, right? Up in Kirkenes, one of Norway’s northernmost towns, you’ll find the enchanting Snow Hotel. It is Norway’s answer to Sweden’s famous Ice Hotel.

This special accommodation is rebuilt every year in December in a different decorative theme. Each room features hand-crafted ice carvings and special lighting effects. A real winter wonderland!

Sure, it’s a brisk -4° Celsius (25°F) inside, but the thermal sleeping bag and extra warm clothing provided by the hotel will keep you snug and cosy.

Thirsty? Visit the hotel’s Ice Bar, where you can sip vodka from glasses made of ice. The hotel’s restaurant is shaped like a lavvu, which is the traditional tent of the region’s native Sami people.

The Snow Hotel also hosts a husky kennel and a reindeer park.


  • Look up these snugly packages if you’re interested in visiting or even staying in the Snow Hotel

6. Explore the west coast

During the summer and winter alike, you should travel to Norway’s rugged west coast. The main attractions are the stunning west fjords, such as Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord.

Admire them from viewpoints high above or take a cruise to see them from the water. This way you can marvel at the frosty waterfalls and mighty cliffsides.   

Here you’ll also find the beautiful city of Bergen, which is often nicknamed the “Gateway to the Fjords”. Norway’s second largest city offers an array of attractions, from the colourful wharf Bryggen to the views of Mount Fløyen.

If you’re cruising along the coast, you could visit the art nouveau city of Ålesund and the historic Trondheim on your way north.

Thanks to the Gulf Stream, the west coast is warmer than the rest of the country. This means you can expect milder weather. Prepare for wind and rain, especially if you’re going sailing.



7. Discover the markets and attractions of Oslo

Sparkling lights and dusty snow make the capital city a winter wonderland at this time of year.

From November until the end of December, the festive atmosphere is even more prominent with the many Christmas markets. The main market is Christmas in Winterland (Jul i Vinterland). Here you can buy handicrafts, sip hot drinks, and hop on board the large Ferris wheel.

There are typically other fairs around the capital, but also in many other cities and towns around Norway. Don’t miss out on a cup of hot gløgg!

Between November and March, many of the main attractions are still open in Oslo. This means you’ll be able to visit all the top sights you want to see. Among others, you could:

8. Learn about Sami culture

The Sami people are indigenous inhabitants of Northern Europe, spanning Finland, Sweden, Norway as well as Russia. They uphold traditional lifestyles including fishing, trapping, and herding, especially reindeer.

While visiting Norway in winter, you could take the opportunity to learn more about them and their culture. In Norway specifically, Sami people are located mostly in the northernmost parts.

Near Kirkenes, visit Camp Tamok to experience a Sami camp and some of their activities. You could join a thrilling dog sledding tour, feed reindeer, and even enjoy dinner in a lavvu, which is a traditional Sami tent.

This is also an excellent location for spotting the northern lights. A must experience in Norway in winter!



9. Eat some of the best seafood you’ll ever taste

It goes without saying that you’re going to be ravenous after spending all that time outdoors. Luckily for you seafood lovers, fresh fish is at its best during wintertime in Norway.

A few things you might have on your plate include local cod, halibut, salmon and trout. You won’t miss out on other seafood either with fresh prawns, langoustines, blue mussels, scallops and lobster.

If you really want to treat yourself, the Norway travel experts at Nordic Visitor wholeheartedly recommend dining on king crab. If you're staying in Kirkenes, you could even go out onto the Barents Sea with local fishermen and help catch it yourself. You won’t taste anything fresher.

Bon appétit! Or, as they say in Norway, vær så god.

Good to know: Our tours aren’t set in stone. If specific activities aren’t included in your trip, you could always add them to your itinerary. From dog sledding to shore excursion for your cruise – just ask your travel consultant.

10. Head to the great white north to visit Svalbard

The winter months are a great time to visit Norway, and specifically adventure yourself to Svalbard. A remote Norwegian archipelago located north of the mainland, here you’ll find a true winter wonderland.

A short getaway to Svalbard will allow you to take part in winter activities while visiting a corner of Europe not many get to experience. You could go snowmobiling along the frozen valleys and fjords and meet friendly huskies for a dog-sledding tour.

The islands’ rugged wilderness provides fantastic photo opportunities too. The unspoilt nature is endless, from the majestic glaciers to the snowy landscape and frozen sea.

During your trip, you may even be able to spot some local wildlife. This includes whales, seals, reindeer, as well as the elusive “King of the Arctic”, the mighty polar bear.



 

Guess what? There are way more than 10 things to experience in Norway at this time of year. With plenty of places to see and fun activities to partake in, your winter trip will be unforgettable.

Who knows, you might even have time to do a little skiing!

Our friendly travel consultants can help you tailor an itinerary to your taste, depending on what you want to do and see in Norway. Simply get in touch to start planning your ideal Norwegian adventure.

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Post by: Jessica

When not writing about Northern European tourist attractions, Jessica Bowe is busy daydreaming about her next trip or scouring Instagram for travel inspiration. Originally from Wisconsin (USA), she's lived in Iceland since 2008 and has since become fully immersed in Eurovision mania and Scandinavian coffee culture.

Find Jessica on LinkedIn.

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Getting there

We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way - check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.