Norway map & highlights
Make the most of your time
“Norway is more than fjords. Add jagged peaks, glaciers, flowery meadows, island chains – plus historic towns and clapboard villages.”
Big ticket nature hogs the limelight in Norway. Vast glaciers create eerie blue ice mountain kingdoms. Archipelagos dot azure ocean, scattered with red hut hamlets. Fjords thrust into the south and west coasts, while Spitsbergen sets visitors amid stunning Arctic landscape and wildlife. But see Norway's gentler side too – backwater hamlets ringed by orchards, wide pastoral valleys, plus a host of evocative towns: 10th century Trondheim (the country's oldest), Art Nouveau Alesund, bustling Bergen and the lively Arctic city of Tromso.
Geirangerfjord is one of two Norwegian fjords to be UNESCO-highlighted, with abandoned farms clinging to lush banks on ledges set into sheer cliffs watered by plummeting cascades. The eponymous town is a popular cruise destination with a fine fjord museum – and a base to explore a stunning mountain backdrop. The local ferry to Hellesylt is more fun than any cruise ship.
Connecting the Atlantic with the hiking mecca of central Norway's Hardangervidda Plateau, this is a microcosm of classic fjord landscape. Highlights include glacier walking in Folgefonna National Park and the gorgeous waterfall-and-mountain ringed town of Eidfjord. The apple-growing village Ulvik is an idyllic base for hiking, cycling and farm-stays, scented by glorious blossom in May.
Jostedalsbreen National Park
This glacial enclave is quite distinct from the watery attractions of nearby Sognefjord. Centred on mainland Europe's largest glacier (and its multiple spurs), this wonderful southern Norway wilderness contrasts wide agricultural valleys with jagged 2000m peaks, cut by gushing streams and cascades. Former livestock trails like Oldeskardet offer great hiking.
Jotunheimen national park
Mountains and 60 glaciers dominate a wilderness mecca dubbed 'Home of the Giants', with 275 peaks above 2,000m including northern Europe's highest, Galdhopiggen. Hiking routes take in deep ravines, plunging waterfalls and glassy lakes – plus Norway's most popular route along the Besseggen Ridge. Ibsen mentioned it in Peer Gynt as having an “edge like a scythe”.
Hurtigruten's northern terminus has a fantastic winter snow hotel, year-round trips to bag giant king crab – and a rich frontier history, 15km from the Russian border. The Soviets and Nazis fought fiercely here in WW2, though today the Russians come to stage monthly markets. 100km south, the Pasvik National Park offers Norway's finest taiga, roamed by bear and wolf.
This island-flanked 650km coastal ribbon is a gorgeously quiet alternative to the crowded Arctic Highway heading for Lofoten or the far north. Bodo provides a great base for dipping in – or cycle the whole route in two weeks! Ferries are key links, taking in islands like Vega with its 1500 years of rich community history, plus the puffin paradise of Lovund.
Fishing hamlets of red and yellow clapboard dot this magically diverse northern archipelago. Startling white sands fringe Flakstadoy, while spiky Moskenesoy is an island out of Tolkien. Spread across several islands, Henningsvær is known as 'Lofoten's Venice'. Museums range from dolls to Vikings, while atmospheric galleries showcase the myriad artists inspired by Lofoten's stunning Arctic light.
Rjukan & Gausta
Rjukan is southern Norway's outdoor activities HQ in the lee of the famous Gausta mountain. A town museum chronicles its role in Hitler's plan to build nuclear weapons, close to northern Europe's oldest cable car and an extraordinary railway burrowing deep into Gausta. Hikes (allow 4 hours) to the summit promise jaw-dropping views taking in an estimated 1/6th of Norway.
The world's longest ice-free fjord (205km) and Norway's deepest (1,300m), Sognefjord cuts a deep gash in the west coast, framed by 1000m cliffs and gentler shorelines cradling gorgeous villages like Undredal (80 humans, 500 cheese-producing goats) and cherry-growing Laerdal. The 17km Naeroyfjord is a stunning UNESCO-listed spur that narrows to 250m across, home to tumbling waterfalls and end-of-the-road hamlets like Gudvangen.
Stavanger & Lysefjord
This oil-rich port mixes cosy historic vibe, cosmopolitan bustle and gourmet reputation. Arranged around a pretty harbour its cobbled old town of white wooden houses is augmented by a beautiful medieval cathedral and two dozen museums. Ferries run to the south's finest fjord, where hikers can make the two-hour climb to Norway's most famous viewpoint: Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock).
Home to the world's northernmost town, Longyearbyen, plus the Global Seed Vault, Svalbard is an Arctic wonderland. Most come during summer to glimpse polar bears, walrus, whales, Arctic fox and myriad birds, or to husky sled or snowmobile to glaciers and historic mines. In winter, months of eerie Arctic night offer prime aurora-spotting chances.
This tranquil southern enclave of 19th century canals and farms boasts Norway's largest stave church – the 13th century beauty at Heddal. The picturesque coastal town of Kragero (former home of Edvard Munch) has boats out to Jomfruland, a twitcher hotspot with over 60 resident species. Telemark also gives its name to a famous turn in Nordic skiing.
Travel times in Norway
The following times give you a rough idea of the travel times between the main attractions in Norway.
- Oslo – Tromso: 2 hrs by air
- Tromso – Kirkenes: 39 hours by Hurtigruten
- Tromso – Longyearbyen (Spitsbergen): 1 ½ hrs by air
- Oslo – Bergen: 7 hours by train
- Geiranger – Hellesylt: 1 hour by ferry (May-Sep only)