From incredible gorges and canyons, to pure blue coasts, mysterious castles and bridges, unusual natural formations, great wine trails, and trains with stellar views, we unearth experiences in Europe you won’t find on an ordinary tourist map.
The name conjures images of icy fjords, Viking longboats, and trolls. But these icons of Norway tell only part of the story. While the landscape is still largely dominated by a long, snowy winter, Norway’s northern climate is moderated greatly by a wealthy society placing a heavy premium on convenience, beauty, and accessibility for all. Yesteryear’s marauding Vikings are today’s well-mannered hydroelectric engineers, so the nation has the intellectual know-how to make theirs not merely a highly desirable nation in which to live but a great year-round destination for travelers. From art, culture, and history to the world’s best hiking, biking, and skiing, Norway has much to offer.
Visiting Hardanger is the only way to understand why artists have drawn inspiration from the surrounding landscapes with thundering waterfalls or colourful fruit trees in full bloom. The landscape of Hardanger is like a picture postcard or a painting in an art gallery—everywhere you look, there is yet another stunning view. Fruits have been grown here since the 14th century, and for hundreds of years artists and travelers have come here to get close to nature. Hardanger is surrounded by five large waterfalls that frame the scenery like a painted masterpiece. Each waterfall has its own distinct character, and their majestic power exert an almost hypnotic attraction that can only be fully understood when you experience them in person.
SNOW WALLS OF SOGNEFJELLET
For those who love long drives, this is a special treat. The road over Sognefjellet was an important transport artery linking the coast and inland areas. Trading led to the transport of salt and fish eastwards while butter, pitch, and leather were transported west. Travelling across the mountain in the old days was not without its perils—vagabonds robbed travelers and merchants. But now, this route offers an incredible sight in early spring when the road is open again, and is flanked by almost 10-metre high banks of snow. That’s not the only gorgeous view you see on the road.
From the verdant meadows and the lush cultural landscape of Boverdalen, you can catch a glimpse of towering mountains in the far distance, as the road slowly ascends through the valley. It makes its way up to the summit at 1,434 metres, making the road northern Europe’s highest mountain pass. Continuing down towards the Sogneord the mountain region appears untamed. Where the Hurrungane massif towers up to the heavens the mountains suddenly open up and the landscape changes once again. Towards Gaupne, the final point on this stretch, the road descends to skirt the beautiful Sognefjord whose clear waters change colour from green to blue in tune with the light and the weather. What should you do when you arrive? Relax and let your impressions sink in. Some people turn and drive the same way back, and are surprised to see how different everything is. Although everything is the same, it’s as if you see the surroundings anew.
FISHING BRIDGES AT MYRBAERHOLMEN
“The Atlantic road is physically out in the sea. I’m driving on the coastal road from Vevang towards Averoya. Stone, islets, islands and eight bridges spread over an equal number of kilometres. It’s just one of the dramatic roads in Norway. The swells come rolling in from the big sea, the waves are broken and thrown up in the air. It’s a dramatic picture, even on a day with sunshine.
When Mother Nature really shows off her strength, the waves beat over the bridges and the asphalt is torn off the road, while the cod swim along the barriers.” This is how the Norwegian photographer Baard Loeken describes the Atlantic Road in his book Hjemlandet (The Homeland). Historically, the conditions on the islets have been the very best for salting and drying of cod, and for this reason a lot of people chose to live on these windswept islands. A hundred years ago, the politicians planned to build a railway here, but the plans were abandoned in the 1930s. The idea to build a road instead was born. Construction work started in the 1980s. Twelve storms later, in 1989, the road was officially opened.
At Myrbaerholmen Bridge, there are two fishing bridges, which mean sports fishermen can haul in cod without being a hindrance to traffic. Come here for one of the most authentic Nordic experiences.
TRAINS WITH THE BEST VIEWS OF NORWAY
There’s a more spectacular way to see The Northern Lights and other Nordic delights… from Norway’s gorgeous trains.
Takes you to a fairy tale kingdom with views from different altitudes—as the train goes over mountains and valleys.
This is a way to experience all of Norway in just one hour. The line runs from the high mountain station of Myrdal down to Flam beside the Aurland4ord. The scenery changes constantly — steep mountainsides to snowcapped peaks, rivers, waterfalls and lush fjord landscape.
THE RAUMABANEN RAILWAY
You pass Dombas, Romsdalsfjord and Europe’s tallest vertical rock face: the Trollveggen wall which is 1000m high.
THE NORDLAND NIGHT TRAIN RIDE ON
Voted the most beautiful train ride in the world. At Saltfejellet you cross the arctic circle. In winter you can enjoy the Northern Lights from this train. In summer, you can marvel at the brilliant Midnight Sun.