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Lofoten in Norway

Best Norway Vacation Spots & Ideas

By: Camila
Last Updated: 27/03/2024

Are you dreaming of a Nordic escape? Imagine sailing through majestic fjords, taking in the sweeping views from mountain peaks, admiring shining waterfalls and walking down grand avenues. This is what awaits you at the top Norway vacation spots.

To plan your ideal getaway, we’ve compiled our favourite Norway vacation ideas, from a city break in Oslo to polar exploration in Svalbard. Read on to pick all your favourite locations and sights to visit on your next vacation.

1. Visit the grand capital, Oslo

Oslo, Norway’s largest city and capital, is a must-see destination. Located along the south coast at the northern tip of the Oslofjord, this royal city is a fantastic blend of grand shopping streets, green spaces and historic sights. You'll get a true sense of Scandinavian design and lifestyle.

While in Oslo, you could stroll along the waterfront, taste local cuisine in trendy cafés and restaurants, and discover some of the top museums in the Nordics.

Top attractions include:

Not only is it a bustling destination for a city break, but it is also an ideal starting point for a Norwegian adventure.

view of the city hall and harbour of oslo

2. Drive Norway’s thrilling roads

If you’re looking for a road trip to remember, you should consider Norway for your next vacation. This large country offers a variety of landscapes that is ideal to experience at the wheel of your own adventure.

You could follow the roads along fjords, admiring the steep hills and shining water along the way. Or why not head into the mountains to explore national parks and find off-the-beaten-path hiking trails?

To discover the cities, you could make your way from Oslo to Bergen on a fun self-drive tour. Or follow the coast from Stavanger to Trondheim to take in the charms of the sea.

Along the way, there are some iconic roads you won’t want to miss:

  • The Atlantic Ocean Road is a great day trip to explore the island of Averøya near Ålesund.
  • Trollstigen is one of the most famous winding mountain roads in Norway with plenty of hairpin bends.
  • The Eagle Road will lead you up the mountain to Ørnesvingen for magnificent views over Geirangerfjord.

3. Explore Bergen

Once a thriving trading hub of the medieval Hanseatic League, Bergen is now Norway’s second largest city. Located along the west coast between the fjords of Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord, Bergen is known as the “Gateway to the fjords”.

Even if you’re only passing through Bergen, you’ll want to spend some time exploring everything it offers.

Just like Oslo, it combines city comforts and attractions like top cultural and historical sights with a stunning natural landscape in every direction.

You may want to visit Bryggen, the 900-year-old wharf located in the old quarters of the city. You’ll soon notice the colourful wooden houses and buildings by the water. Bryggen dates back to Viking times and is now a World Heritage Site. 

If you have the time, do like the locals and head into the hills. The city is surrounded by 7 of them and they offer a variety of trails for first-time to experienced hikers.

We recommend Mount Fløyen and Mount Ulriken as they are the most accessible. And if you don’t fancy a walk uphill, you can always take the Fløibanen funicular or the Ulriken cable car to go admire the views from the top. 

4. Sail along the famous fjords

Fjords have truly become synonymous with Norway. In fact, there are over 1,000 fjords in this Scandinavian nation, so make sure to include at least one or two in your itinerary.

Some of the most iconic sights in the country are the western fjords, including Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord. They are of such outstanding beauty that these two were inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites back in 2005.

These fjords are among the deepest and longest in the world. You won’t be disappointed when you see the rock walls rise steeply toward the sky, the crystal-clear water shine in the sun and the waterfalls flow from nearby rivers and glacier lakes.

One of the best ways to see the fjords is by taking a cruise. This way you’ll set sail through the high mountains and admire the natural features from up close. Or opt for a day trip, such as a kayaking excursion for an even more personal experience.

cruise ship along fjord

5. Train through high mountains

Leave the car behind and hop on one of Norway’s many railways to enjoy the view from your carriage window.

In summer and winter alike, Norwegian trains make their way across the country’s rugged landscape. So if you want to relax and soak up all the natural scenery as you travel between destinations, the train is for you.  

One of the most famous train journeys in Norway is the Flåm railway. In fact, it is one of the world’s steepest railway lines.

You could experience it as part of the Norway in a Nutshell® tour. This will take you from Oslo to Bergen (or vice versa) passing through Geilo, Flåm, Voss and some of the western fjords. A scenic journey is awaiting you!

See the forest, lakes and fjords in the sunshine or under a layer of snow, as you snake your way up and down mountains.

6. Discover the national parks

Mainland Norway boasts 40 national parks. And in total, you’ll find around 3,000 protected areas in the country. That means you’ll have plenty to choose from when you visit.

In the national parks, you’ll find unspoilt nature that people are working hard to preserve. Come and enjoy it!

As about 85% of the parks are in the mountains, you can look forward to striking terrains of rolling hills, glaciers, ravines and sharp peaks. All the national parks are ideal for hiking, and you’ll find plenty of other outdoor activities to experience. Why not try skiing, kayaking or fishing?

Located between Ålesund and Bergen, adventure yourself into the Jostedalsbreen National Park. Here you could go on a guided glacier walk into the icy world of Nigardsbreen.

Further south, we recommend visiting the town of Geilo. It’s an excellent stop to enjoy skiing resorts and it sits at the door of two impressive national parks: Hallingskarvet and Hardangervidda.

7. Stroll through the ancient city of Stavanger

Recognised as one of the largest and oldest cities in Norway, Stavanger was established in 1125. It has expanded throughout its history from an important market town in Viking times to a thriving cultural centre today.

Go for a stroll through Gamle Stavanger (the old city centre) to step back in time to 18th-century Norway. Here you’ll find one of the largest collections of wooden buildings in Europe as well as the 12th-century cathedral. We also recommend walking through Fargegata to admire the street art.

Don't leave without learning more about the city’s maritime past at the Viking House or the Norwegian Petroleum Museum.

But one of the best reasons to visit Stavanger is for the nearby iconic hiking trail…

8. Go for a scenic hike

Are you a keen hiker? Whether you’re experienced or not, you may want to take on a hiking trail or two while you’re visiting Norway. This is the ideal way to immerse yourself fully in the natural landscape.

Norway is full of spectacular trails so all you have to do is pick the ones you want to explore. Imagine standing at the top of a rocky outcrop looking down at glistening waterfalls or fjords. Or taking on a seaside hike to admire the views of the North or Norwegian Sea into the horizon.

Some famous hikes include Pulpit Rock, located along Lysefjord, outside Stavanger. And you may have seen photos trending of Trolltunga, near Bergen. This rock formation juts high above Ringedalsvatnet lake.

There are also easier ways to enjoy the mountains – like in Bergen. Why not hop on the skylift at Loen? It will take you to the top of Mount Hoven and you could go walking along the many walking paths up there.

people jumping atop trolltunga

9. Admire the architecture in Ålesund

Discover the phoenix of Norway, Ålesund. It rose from the ashes of a 1904 fire that destroyed most of the town. It’s this reconstruction that is responsible for the Art Nouveau style that now defines Ålesund. Take a stroll through downtown to admire the colourful architecture.

Set across several islands, Ålesund stretches into the sea. For this reason, it’s an ideal location if you’d like to go on a cruise to see birdlife and marine life. The town is also an ideal stopover before or after exploring the nearby Geirangerfjord.

Today Ålesund is a cultural centre and boasts several festivals. Keep an eye out while you’re in town for the Norwegian Food Festival, the Festival of New Norwegian Literature, and more.

10. Wander through the colourful streets of Trondheim

Another city to add to your Norwegian bucket list is Trondheim. Founded in the year 997, it is a cultural hub of Norway with a rich history. This storied past makes Norway’s third largest city an ideal destination if you’re a keen historian.

Once a Viking trading post, it became an important Christian pilgrimage spot, before serving briefly as the capital of Norway. Thanks to this, you’ll have plenty to explore and discover during your time in Trondheim.

Although wars and fire have ravaged the medieval city, several ancient buildings remain, including the imposing Nidaros Cathedral. It is one of the city’s top highlights.

Another of Trondheim’s top attractions is the charming Bakklandet district. Wander along the cobbled streets, take in the colourful wooden houses and enjoy the trendy atmosphere.

And a little further to the east, you could take a steep walk up to the 17th-century Kristiansten Fortress. You’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over the city, coastline and hills.

You could also dive into the culture of Trondheim. In fact, this is where the country’s national museum of music is located. Ringve Museum houses both traditional and modern instruments and technology.

11. Travel into the Arctic to Tromsø

Voyage north to Tromsø and discover a city bustling with culture, history and direct access to the great outdoors.

Set within the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is often known as the gateway to the Arctic. This northern city is the ideal location to experience the extremes of winter and summer. 

From polar nights to the midnight sun, the days will look very different depending on when you visit. But whenever that is, you’ll enjoy the true beauty of this city, also nicknamed the “Paris of the north” .

Sample a glass of akvavit in a local tavern, visit the Arctic Cathedral and ride the Fjellheisen cable car for stunning views from the mountain ledge of Storsteinen. In the wintertime, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the northern lights dancing in the night sky.

view of tromso in winter

12. Tour the Lofoten Islands

Located south of Tromsø, within the Arctic Circle, you’ll find the Lofoten Islands. This archipelago is known for its tranquil fishing villages and harbours as well as its incredible natural beauty.

Historically, Lofoten was a Viking stronghold and it still remains a strong sea and fishing community today.

You’ll want to visit the capital, Svolvær, to have a wander and explore its art galleries and cafés. Don’t miss the "Svolvær Goat" (Svolværgeita) rock formations defining the skyline. Or go island hopping to discover more of this archipelago and its wildlife.

As it is so far north, in summer you’ll enjoy never-ending days with the midnight sun. And in winter, the darkness is ideal to catch a glimpse of the northern lights. It is a photographer's paradise.

13. Head north to experience the northern lights

Norway is an ideal location to go northern lights hunting.

What are the northern lights, you ask? You may know them as aurora borealis. They are caused by solar flares and create dancing ribbons of green and pink in the dark sky. The “Northern Lights Belt,” a zone of the Northern Hemisphere with strong solar activity, passes straight through Northern Norway.

So while you may see them in the south, we recommend heading into Northern Norway for your best chances of sightings. Look at locations such as Tromsø, Lofoten and Kirkenes for your northern lights getaway.

And make sure to visit in winter, between October and March, as the days are short and the nights are long. Extended hours of darkness mean that you’ll have a greater chance of witnessing this sensational natural light show.

14. See Kirkenes and the North Cape

Head to the top of Norway. Go on a tour of the Arctic coast or board a cruise to see the most northernly point of mainland Norway and Europe, the North Cape. It’s a fantastic location to check off your bucket list.

As you stand upon the high cliff, take in the vast views over the Barents Sea. In this spot, you’ll be closer to the North Pole than to Norway's capital, Oslo.

For a midnight sun adventure or snowy winter getaway, visit the nearby Kirkenes as well. Located close to the Russian and Finnish borders, Kirkenes is known as the capital of the Barents region.

One of the most famous attractions in Kirkenes is the Snowhotel. Similar to the ICEHOTEL in Sweden, this hotel is made entirely of snow and ice. It is built from scratch every winter for a unique experience.

From here, you could try a variety of northern pursuits, such as dog sledding, king crab fishing, snowmobiling and learning more about the native Sami people of the region.

cliff of the north cape

15. Cruise along the coast

To see and explore many of the items above, we recommend a cruise. This is one of the relaxing ways to see the country and its stunning landscape. Follow the west coast from the south into the Arctic Circle.

Sit back and enjoy the view from the ship’s deck. Between Bergen and Kirkenes, the classic route has 34 ports of call and sails past more than 100 fjords and various mountain ranges. Needless to say, you’ll have a stunning backdrop throughout your journey!

Enjoy the colourful sunrises or sunsets along the sea. In winter, you may catch sight of the northern lights, especially as you’re further away from the city light pollution.

And you don’t have to stay on the ship during your entire vacation. Explore cities like Trondheim and Tromsø, or take day excursions to dive into Norwegian culture.

The best aspect of a Havila or Hurtigruten coastal voyage is that you can decide what you want to see and do. Travel along the entire country or explore just one section, like between Bergen and Ålesund. Read this article on the top Norway cruise journeys to find out more.  

16. Explore Svalbard

For a true polar adventure, you’ll want to visit the archipelago of Svalbard. It is one of the world’s northernmost inhabited places, located halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole.

It is known for its remote communities outnumbered by polar bears and rugged terrain. With an escape to this northern settlement, you can expect a glimpse into the majestic glaciers, tranquil seas and untouched plains of the Arctic.

It will be unlike what you’ve seen before. From Longyearbyen, you can go on excursions into the vast wilderness. Maybe you’ll catch sight of the elusive polar bear or see a humpback whale bobbing in the sea.

Booking your Norway vacation

Depending on your interests, there are many ways to explore this Scandinavian nation.

You could enjoy your own adventure with a self-drive tour of Norway or a partially guided getaway in specific regions. Take advantage of the good public transport connections with an independent cruise and train itinerary. Or join a local guide on a Scandinavian or Norwegian small group tour.

Whatever you choose, why not let the travel experts at Nordic Visitor organise it all for you? With an office in Scandinavia, we know the region like the back of our hand. We can suggest the best routes and attractions for you and tailor an itinerary just to your liking.

When booking with Nordic Visitor, you get tried-and-tested accommodation, local transportation, and all activities booked for you. You’ll even get our Norway Travel Guide, a marked map and personalised itinerary so you only have to focus on enjoying your vacation.

Get in touch when you’re ready to make your Norwegian adventure a reality.

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Post by: Camila

 Camila grew up between the French Canadian and Chilean cultures, before moving to Scotland in 2012. When she’s not travelling or writing about travels, Camila loves to read, run, and puzzle. Her favourite destinations have been Reykjavík, Copenhagen, Estonia and Cape Town. 

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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.