Country profile

About Norway

Often described as the ‘Home of Skiing’, Norway is situated in northern Europe with Sweden, Finland and Russia in the east, Denmark in the south and the North Sea to the west. The results of the Ice Age and land erosion have left the country with a very varied and stunning landscape; think snow capped mountains, lush green forests, waterfalls cascading down mountain sides (two thirds of the country is mountainous) and of course the world famous fjords - deep gorges and canyons created by powerful rivers running towards the sea. The fjords were voted ‘top unspoiled travel destination’ by National Geographic Traveller and Naeroyfjord and Geirangerfjord fjords are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Norway may straddle the Arctic Circle, but it is far from the icy wilderness you might expect at such latitude. Like the UK and Northern Europe, Norway is warmed by the Gulf Stream, and so enjoys a mild climate that belies its position level with Alaska and Siberia. Vast, sparsely populated and bursting with undisturbed natural beauty, Norway is a full of surprises, from chic ski resorts to no less than 21 national parks, teeming with wildlife.

With so much territory within the Arctic Circle, Norway is famous for both the Northern Lights and the nights when it doesn’t go dark at all. The Aurora Borealis are a spectacular and moving sight, as charged particles from the sun light up the atmosphere in an ethereal display of swirling colours. Unpredictable, yet always spectacular when they do occur, they Northern Lights are best viewed in late autumn or early spring.

Come the summertime, the sun never sets in Northern Norway, creating a surreal situation where it is always day and never night. Somehow the locals seem to take it all in their stride, but it is a truly unique and strange experience for visitors.

Norway’s fjords wrinkle the full length of the west coast with spectacular inlets and coves. Staggeringly beautiful and largely unspoilt, the fjords are best experienced from a cruise ship, giving you access to breathtaking bays where massive waterfalls cascade from sheer mountainsides into the crystal clear waters below.

Being so remote and having little strategic value, Norway has enjoyed a quiet history, and so there is little in the way of castles or forts. However, it does have an interesting military history of its own and there are plenty of museums and attractions based on the exploits of the Viking raiders who crossed the seas to Britain and Northern Europe in their famous longboats.

Norwegian cities range from the modern, cosmopolitan capital of Oslo, with its modern skyscrapers, to the frontier feel of Tromso, 200 miles beyond the Arctic Circle, with its wooden cathedral. Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim are also well worth a visit.

Located in the east, Oslo is an elegant, vibrant city with a harbour, castle and many green parks. Take a stroll around town passing Stortovet (the marketplace), the cathedral or take in a play by local playwright, Ibsen, at the National Theatre and sample some of the local dishes such as meat cakes and smoked sausage or dine in one of the top notch restaurants. One of the most enjoyable ways to see the city is to take a fjord cruise from the quay but no trip to Norway is complete without a visit to the Viking Ship Museum to see the amazing, sea-worthy Viking Long Ships.

You’ll find Norwegians to be a friendly, welcoming people who are proud of their beautiful country and its rich folk traditions. For a real taste of traditional culture, head north to the Sami people and listen to the epic Norse Sagas told by characters as colourful as their clothing.

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Quick facts

Population: 5 Million
Currency: Norwegian krone
Capital: Oslo
Languages: Norwegian
Religions: Lutheranism 78%