Things to do
A great introduction to Norway is the one-day Norway in a Nutshell package on a single ticket from Oslo or Bergen into the mountains, with a boat trip through the fjords. You can break the trip at several interesting cabins for walking or just admiring the view, and even hire a mountain bike for part of the journey. One of the highlights of the 'Norway in a Nutshell' package is Flåmsbana, a 20 km railway that's one of the steepest in the world. Along the way you'll see beautiful mountains, rivers, valleys, waterfalls, and other beautiful sights on your way to the town of Flåm.
- Go on top of the nearest top/mountain. Just for the walk. And for the view.
Hiking, gå på tur, is a national pastime in Norway, from easy walks in Oslo's city forest to alpine climbing in Jotunheimen or the "alps" of Troms. About 30% of Norway is covered in forest, more than 50% of Norway's total area is barren mountain (little or no vegetation), a mere 5% include farms and all sorts of built-up areas (houses, roads, towns etc). A number of areas are protected as national parks, but most the country is equally attractive and available to the public. Skiing season is generally from mid-November to late April, while bare ground hiking season is generally from mid summer to September. Note that hiking season varies greatly depending on region (and from year to year): In the high mountains there may still be deep snow until July, while in the lower areas and along the coast hiking season start early spring. Visitors should be aware that the tree line is much lower in Norway than in continental Europe and US Rockies, high alpine conditions (no vegetation, glaciers, extremely rugged surface may start even at 1000 to 1500 metres above sea level).
Proper mountain clothing is needed for hikes even in summer in the uplands. The right foot wear is the essential for a successful hike. Hiking boots with ankle support and a sturdy sole on rougher trails and in the terrain, particularly at high altitudes (above 1000 to 1500 metres) where trails often cross wide screes or blockfields.
In Norway, travellers enjoy a right to access, which means it is possible to camp freely in most places for a couple of days, as long as you're not on cultivated land and provided you are at least 150m away from houses and farm buildings. Don't leave any traces and take your rubbish away for recycling.
Den Norske Turistforening (DNT) (The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association) operates many staffed and self-service mountain cabins, marks mountain routes, offers maps and route information, guided tours, and several other services for mountain hikers in Norway.
Mountainous areas are popular among both Norwegians and tourists. Tourists can visit Galdhøpiggen (2469m), the highest mountain in Norway, or join a musk ox safari in Dovrefjell.
Google Maps can only be used for initial planning, not for navigation in the field. Try the national mapping agency's Atlas.no site, which concords with their excellent printed hiking maps. Hikers in the wilderness should bring a detailed topographical map 1:50,000 (1:75,000 can also be used) and a compass. GPS (satelite navigation) is only supplement to, not a substitute for, traditional map and compass navigation.
Both cross country and alpine skiing are popular sports in winter, and the largest areas, such as Trysil, Hafjell and Hemsedal, compete well with the Alps at lower altitudes. Telemark is also a nice area to ski in. (The birthplace of cross country ski.) Voss, Geilo and Oppdal are other major ski resorts. There is more than 200 alpine ski resorts in Norway, and countless cross-country groomed trails, some with lighting to allow exercise after in winter evenings.
Winter sport resorts typically open in early December, whereas cross-country skiing may begin in November in some uplands. Around Oslo, within reach of the metro and city buses, there is a large park ideal for cross-country skiing, as well as hills for alpine skiing. In Stryn, at Galdhøpiggen and at Folgefonna there alpine ski centres that are open in summer only (May–September), offering unique opportunities for alpine skiing in T-shirt and short pants. Back-country skiing is popular in late winter and spring, and the season lasts until late May in the high plateaus/central mountains.
Dagens Næringsliv, the leading business daily, ranked the best alpine resorts (2013 and 2016):
- Hemsedal - Norway's most complete alpine resort, can be compared to leading resorts in Austria and Canada.
- Trysil - Norway's largest winter resort, best for children, but it also has many steep pistes
- Oppdal - all-over second best
- Stranda - Norway's best offpiste skiing, heavy snowfalls (ranked #8 in 2016))
- Hafjell - best snowpark, stable cold climate, 1994 olympics (rank #3 in 2016)
- Geilo - well suited for families with diverse preferences
- Voss - ideal for day trips from Bergen
- Kvitfjell - Norway's toughest downhill slopes, 1994 Olympics
- Lyngen - best summit skiing
- Hovden - best in South Norway, 200km from Kristiansand (ranked #6 in 2016)
- Myrkdalen - in Voss district, heavy snowfall, open November-May
- Røldal - in Odda district, heavy snowfall, second best off-piste, open until early May
- Narvik - second best off-piste, open until early May
Best cross-country resorts according to Dagens Næringsliv:
- Sjusjøen - 350 km trails
- Oslo - 2600 km trails (350 km with lights) inside the big city
- Rauland - stable snow in uplands
Dagens Næringsliv in 2014 ranked the winter sport resorts that have the most complete offer (alpine skiing, cross-country skiing in groomed tracks and "summit skiing"):
- Voss - offers everything, more unstable temperatures than the interior
- Tromsø - mediocre alpine facilities, but superb mountainous hinterland
- Hemsedal - all options in a high valley, stable winter
- Sogndal - excellent summit skiing options, lots of powder snow, limited facilities
- Røldal - steep hills and heavy snowfalls, few options for beginners and families
- Geilo - perfect for cross-country skiing and for families, limited off-piste options
- Oppdal - all options in a high valley, somewhat dated facilities
- Narvik - wild mountains directly on fjord, limited offers for families and cross-country skiers
- Lillehammer - excellent cross-country and alpine near the city, no high mountains
- Trysil - great variety of alpine slopes, well suited for families
You can rent a bicycle virtually everywhere in Norway. Cycling routes exist usually near bigger cities; you can find some tours at Cycle tourism in Norway. Some roads and tunnels are forbidden for cyclists as they are life-threatening. Some city dumps may have a special section where you can pick up discarded bicycles (and other stuff) for free. The charity thrift-stores (FRETEX/ELEVATOR/NMS Gjenbruk) sometimes stock used bicycles.
There are few sandy beaches and water is mostly cold, in salt water as well as fresh water. Some fjords, parts of Oslofjord for instance, can however get pleasantly warm in late summer. The coast is mostly rocky, but some areas have stretches of gently rounded, polished slabs of rock, "svaberg", these get quickly dry and warm in sunny weather, and is a popular hangout in summer.
Norway has a bustling scene for both folk, classical and popular music, and is especially known for heavy metal music.