1 Dec 2016
Vikings,Trolls, Jarlsberg cheese, figure skater Sonja Henie, the fjords, Northern lights, Thor Bjørklund’s invention – the cheese slicer, Lillehammer, Hurtigruten, Peer Gynt and Oslo’s Gustav Vigeland Park. This is Norge, or in English – most properly the Kingdom of Norway. Norway is a once-in-a-lifetime destination and the essence of its appeal is remarkably simple: it is simply one of the most beautiful countries on earth.
When envisioning Norway, most people think of the captivating majesty of the fjords. Then, there are the seafaring Vikings who departed the shores of Norway centuries ago to conquer distant lands. Up top, there’s the wilderness of the Arctic Circle and the midnight sun. Norway is all these things. A visit here will leave visitors with natural phenomena and wildlife found nowhere else on Earth.
The fjords are easily Norway’s biggest attraction. There are over 3,000 fjords in Norway. Head north into the Arctic Circle, and it’s possible to take part in the exhilarating activity of dog-sledding. During the summer the midnight sun that never sets. In the winter, visitors flock to glimpse the amazing Northern Lights. Venture to the sub-polar Svalbard peninsula and it’s possible to view polar bears and puffins.
The 20km chug along Geirangerfjord, a Unesco World Heritage Site, must rank as the world’s loveliest ferry journey. Then there are the Lofoten Islands, laid out in summer greens and yellows, their razor-sharp peaks set against a clear cobalt-blue sky. And the Hurtigruten coastal service between Bergen – one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and Kirkenes, which dips in to coastal fjords and crosses the Arctic Circle. Seductive diversions include hiking the Jotunheimen, king crabbing safaris, travelling along the Kystriksveien (coastal route) and riding the beautiful Oslo-Bergen Railway. And then for thrill seekers, there’s Preikestolen. This lookout has few peers. Perched atop an almost perfectly sheer cliff that juts out more than 600m above the waters of gorgeous Lysefjord, Pulpit Rock is one of Norway’s signature images and most eye-catching areas. It’s the sort of place that will make your eyes water as traveller’s dangle far more than seems advisable over the precipice, even as you find yourself drawn inexorably towards the edge! The hike to reach it takes two hours and involves a full-day trip from Stavanger.
Oslo - sitting at the head of the Oslofjord, Norway’s bijoux capital since 1814 is home to world-class museums, galleries rivalling anywhere else on the European art trail, green space and a thriving car and bar culture. Fringed with forests, hills and lakes, Oslo is a city where it’s possible to hike in the forest, swim in the fjord, dine at a world-class Michelin-starred restaurant and go to a concert – all on the same day. Oslo is home to the Norwegian government and the Royal Family. The country’s largest cultural institutions, which include the Norwegian Opera & Ballet, the National Theatre and the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, present first-rate art exhibitions and opera, ballet and theatre performances. Further attractions include the waterside Norwegian Maritime Museum and the Viking Ship Museum, with Viking ships from the 9th century. The Holmenkollbakken is a ski-jumping hill with panoramic views of the fjord. It also has a ski museum.
Must-see – Gustav Vigeland Park. The park is the world's largest sculpture park made by a single artist, and is one of Norway's most popular tourist attractions. The park is open to visitors all year round. The unique sculpture park is Gustav Vigeland's lifework with more than 200 sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron. Vigeland was also in charge of the design and architectural layout of the park. The Vigeland Park was mainly completed between 1939 and 1949. Most of the sculptures are placed in five units along an 850-metre-long axis: The Main gate, the Bridge with the Children's playground, the Fountain, the Monolith plateau and the Wheel of Life.
The WOW factor – Fly down the zip line at Holmenkollen from the top of the jump tower to the bottom of the hill - it's 361 metres of adrenaline, with an elevation drop of nearly 108 metres! Kollensvevet follows the same route as the ski jumpers, and you will get an unforgettable view of Oslo as you sail down from the city's famous landmark. Kollensvevet is open in the spring, summer and autumn. The ticket includes entry to the Ski Museum. For the more faint-hearted there is a ski simulator ride! Holmenkollen has previously hosted the 1952 Winter Olympics as well as numerous Nordic wold ski championship events.
Must try – brunost or in English - brown cheese. Brown cheese has a lot in common with Marmite. Both are eaten at breakfast, lunch or tea. Both are made using a by-product of another process. Both sound utterly disgusting. You either love it or hate it. Both foods have spawned mad fan groups. Brunost is made by boiling a mixture of milk, cream and whey carefully for several hours so that the water evaporates. The heat turns the milk sugars into caramel, which gives the cheese its characteristic brown colour and sweetness.
Best time to visit – The Nordic spring and summer. The sun starts to shine in Norway from around end April through mid-October. Optimum time is between June and September.
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