The Lofoten IslandsPHOTOGRAPH BY DUNCANIMAGES, ALAMY
Ride cable cars to see the midnight sun
Experience northern Norway’s grand vistas from Storsteinen (Big Rock) on Mount Fløya. Rising 1,381 feet, the ride up Storsteinen via the Fjellheisen cable car takes roughly four to five minutes. At the top, you’ll find an observation deck with magnificent views over Tromsø and its surrounding islands. During the summer, the cable car operates until 1 a.m.The iconic Fløibanen funicular in the southwestern coastal port town of Bergen takes you 1,050 feet above sea level to Fløyen, one of seven mountains surrounding the town. It takes five to eight minutes to reach the top, and the journey itself offers spectacular views of Bergen’s port and historic architecture as you ascend. The funicular runs year-round and stays open until 11 p.m.
Take a hair-raising drive through Trollstigen
Rent a car and drive, if you dare, along the impressive Geiranger-Trollstigen National Tourist Route, a popular road that snakes for 66 miles through the landscape between Strynefjell and Romsdal. Along the way are harrowing cliff faces, steep mountain ranges, and waterfalls alongside deep fjords. Opened in 1936, Trollstigen (Troll’s Path) is surrounded by mountains with stately names like Kongen (King), Dronningen (Queen), and Bispen (Bishop) and has 11 adrenaline-inducing bends and a sharp incline of 9 percent.Along the route are six rest areas where you can stop for photo opportunities and soak in the panoramic views. The most popular stop is Flydalsjuvet, with a viewing platform facing the imposing UNESCO-protected Geirangerfjord. Continuing on the route will take you to its steepest stretch, Ørnesvingen (Eagle Bend), which rises 2,034 feet above sea level, with hairpin curves along the way. Rewards include 360-degree bird’s-eye views of Geirangerfjord and the Seven Sisters Waterfall.
Cruise through Norway’s fjords
Arguably the most popular way to experience Norway’s grandeur is by cruising its deep fjords past sheer mountain faces. Hurtigruten offers voyages that extensively cover the country’s coastline and fjords (such as Lysefjord, Hardangerfjord, and Sognefjord, with stops along the way). Lysefjord is 26 miles long and 1,384 feet deep, and its iconic Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) is a flat plateau that towers 1,982 feet over Lysefjord. The second largest fjord in Norway is the 111-mile-long Hardangerfjord. Stops along the Hardangerfjord include the municipality of Eidfjord, known for Vøringsfossen, a more than 560-foot waterfall. Nærøyfjord is 11 miles long and only 820 feet wide at its narrowest point and features hanging valleys and tapered canyons. And the grand dame and largest fjord in Norway, Sognefjord, offers the most dramatic fjord landscapes, with near vertical mountain faces rising up to 4,593 feet above sea level and dotted with tiny farming communities and waterfalls.If you’re short on time, opt for the Norway in a Nutshell tour in southern Norway, which connects travelers to Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjord, branches of Sognefjord, via a memorable ride (with spectacular views) along the historic Flåm railway.
Explore Sami culture and the Arctic wilderness around Finnmark
Prepare for 24 hours of sunlight if you make it up to Norway’s northernmost county, Finnmark. Sharing the same latitude as parts of northern Siberia and central Greenland, Finnmark also borders Russia and Finland, and between mid-May and August, the sun never sets.In Finnmark, you’ll find the North Cape sea cliff, which rises more than a thousand feet above sea level; one of the world’s northernmost towns, Hammerfest; and Finnmarksvidda mountain plateau, a vast landscape of Arctic tundra, lakes, bogs, and birch forests teeming with reindeer. Visit Seiland National Park, which is one of five national parks in the region and houses two of Scandinavia’s northernmost glaciers, Seilandsjøkelen and Nordmannsjøkelen.Finnmark is also home to the indigenous Sami people, and in the nearby county of Troms visitors can experience facets of Sami culture, including reindeer sledding and the Riddu Riđđu Festival, a folk arts, culture, and music festival that attracts over 200 performance artists every July.
Enjoy midnight concerts at the Arctic Cathedral, Tromsø
Formerly known as Tromsdalen Church, the Arctic Cathedral is an exquisite nod to minimalist Scandinavian design. Stories about architect Jan Inge Hovig's sources of inspiration abound—it's been said to mimic icebergs, indigenous Sami tents, boathouses, and the sharp peaks of nearby mountains—but no one knows for sure what he based his design on. The impressive building features 11 aluminum-coated panels on each side of its roof and a large glass mosaic and façade.Dedicated in 1965, the cathedral’s design and mosaic beautifully reflect soft light from the midnight sun, and its interiors are filled with oak pews and prism chandeliers. Its superb surround-sound acoustics are showcased by an impressive 2,940-pipe organ, and all summer long the cathedral puts on various late night concerts featuring, among other programs, traditional Norwegian folk songs performed by choirs, quartets, and orchestras.
Take a pilgrimage along St. Olav Ways
Similar to Spain’s renowned Santiago de Compostela, Norway’s St. Olavsleden (St. Olav Ways) is an ancient, 350-mile series of paths that starts in Selånger, Sweden, and ends at the 11th-century Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim. The route follows the journey of Norway’s patron saint, King Olav II Haraldsson, who stepped ashore at Selånger in 1030 and marched his army into Norway before dying in battle at Stiklestad.Rest easy, you don’t have to hike the entire route. Many travelers take a week and only complete the 85-mile stretch between Stiklestad and Trondheim. The path cuts through birch forests and past the ruins of the 12th-century Munkeby monastery and the new Cistercian monastery, Mariakloster. It then traverses a deep valley, Hållådalen, that boasts ancient rock carvings and continues past tiny farming villages and through the village of Hell—where the Stjørdalselva River merges with Trondheimsfjord—before ending up in Trondheim. If you've walked at least 62 miles of the route, get a certificate of completion at the Nidaros Cathedral, where the remains of King Olav are currently located.
Discover Viking history and explorers in Oslo
Oslo, Norway's ultramodern and hip capital city, is one of the best places to learn about the Viking age (ninth to eleventh centuries). Various artifacts excavated from graves around the country are featured in Oslo museums.The impressive Viking Ship Museum, located on the Bygdøy peninsula, houses three original ninth-century Viking ships—the Oseberg (circa A.D. 820), the Gokstad (circa A.D. 850), and the Tune (circa A.D. 900)—alongside wood carvings, metal tools, textiles, and skeletal remains. Battle gear and other artifacts can be found in the permanent Norwegian Antiquity exhibit at the Historical Museum.The Kon-Tiki Museum houses 20th-century Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s famous Kon-Tiki, a balsa-wood raft that he sailed 4,300 miles from Peru to Polynesia in 1947. It also includes the Ra II, a ship made from papyrus that he sailed from Africa to the Caribbean in 1970.At Fram Museum, follow in the footsteps of polar explorers Fridtjof Nansen, whose ship sailed across the Arctic from 1893 to 1896, and Roald Amundsen, who raced to Antarctica and the South Pole in 1911.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Go on wildlife safaris in Stø
If you’ve ever wanted to watch whales in the wild, the tiny fishing village of Stø in Vesterålen is the perfect launching spot. Various whale and seal safaris go out under the midnight sun to observe marine wildlife around Bleik Canyon. Here, deep, cold, and nutrient-rich water is pushed upward in the springtime, encouraging large blooms of plankton that attract marine life to the surface.From late May through August, Arctic Whale Tours runs various safaris guided by marine biologists to watch sperm, pilot, humpback, minke, fin, and killer whales, as well as colonies of harbor seals basking on rocks. You can also go on bird-watching trips around Anda Nature Reserve, whose bird cliffs are home to over 20,000 seabirds, including puffins, kittiwakes, and black guillemots.
Hike up a troll’s tongue in Skjeggedal
There’s no shortage of panoramic vistas to hike to in Norway, and the hanging cliff Trolltunga (Troll’s Tongue) is one of the most scenic. The cliff is 3,609 feet above sea level and juts out of the surrounding rock formations, dangling 2,297 feet over Lake Ringedalsvatnet like a ledge. Recommended only from mid-June through mid-September, the challenging round-trip hike takes about eight to ten hours to complete and requires you to be in good shape to ascend the nearly 3,000 feet. Its remoteness means you need to be prepared for sudden weather changes and pack sturdy shoes, extra clothing, navigational tools (a map and compass), and enough water and food to last you the long trek. Travelers are advised to start the hike early in the day—with no cell phone coverage along the trail, hikers venture out at their own risk. But the photos from Trolltunga are certainly worth the journey.Another thrilling option for hikers is the narrow Besseggen Ridge in Jotunheimen National Park, considered one of the world’s best hikes. The 10.5-mile hike across the rocky ridge that splits the green glacial lake Gjende and high alpine lake Bessvatnet provides one of the most remarkable views on Earth.
Island hop around the Lofoten Islands
Find idyllic Norwegian fishing communities—characterized by old red cabins on stilts called rorbu, docked fishing boats, and racks of drying stockfish (unsalted dried cod)—scattered all over the Lofoten Islands. Surrounded by dramatic craggy mountains and with views of Vestfjord that stretch to the east of the Lofoten Islands for roughly a hundred miles, the capital of Svolvær and its tranquil harbor are a great base for island-hopping via ferries.Sample local fish dishes such as cod, haddock, and ling. Home to the world’s largest known cold-water coral reef, the Røst Reef, the Lofoten Islands are perfect for deep-sea fishing. For sports fishermen, the islands host the World Championships in Arctic cod fishing every year. Beyond its panoramic beauty and fishing culture, enjoy soft adventure activities such as kayaking, hiking, and biking around its craggy mountainous peaks—a testament to Norway’s unparalleled beauty.