The area south-east of Oslo is known as the Østfold (‘Øst’ means ‘East’). The whole coastal area down the eastern side of the Oslo fjord is beautiful and the landscape inland is more soft and green than much of the starker, mountainous nature we’re used to seeing from Norway. Both the coastal and inner regions of Østfold are worth exploring – the town of Fredrikstad is an urban highlight. If you’re on a road trip of the Scandinavian countries, Østfold is on the route from Oslo to the Swedish border, from where you can get on a motorway that’ll take you along the Swedish coast past Gothenburg all the way down to Malmö and Copenhagen.
Stavanger is often outshone by its neighbour Bergen to the north. Stavanger is the fourth-largest city in Norway and the headquarters of Norway’s lucrative oil industry, which can be explored at the Norwegian Petroleum Museum. Stavanger combines older Norwegian traditions such as colourful wooden houses with a modern Norwegian lifestyle. It has its own airport, so is easy to get to, and is a great point from which to explore the region’s beautiful natural sites which include the famous Trolltunga cliff.
Located within Romsdal og Møre county on Norway’s beautiful west coast, Ålesund has had the fortune to find itself surrounded by nature which is pretty spectacular even by Norwegian standards. Ålesund – as well as the rest of the county – is gorgeous all year round. Most of the buildings were constructed just after the turn of the 20th century, and the city’s architecture is one of the most complete expressions of Art Nouveau (or more accurately, the Germanic version Jugendstil) you’ll find anywhere.
Granted, the south of Norway covers quite a large area, but it’s one which tends to be overlooked by international tourists. Rather like Østfold, the nature here tends to be a little less dramatic and more green and arable, though it is by no means boring. The southern coast (in the Sørlandet region) is known as the Norwegian Riviera and features some of the country’s best and warmest beaches. Also, they have a penis-shaped rock in Southern Norway.
Unlike many other popular destinations in Norway, Oppland county is not on the coast, though it is not too far from coastal cities like Ålesund and Molde. In fact, it is one of only two entirely landlocked counties in Norway. Oppland could be a contender for Norway’s prettiest and most dramatic nature: It includes much of Jotunheimen and Rondane National Parks (among others) and also has some of Norway’s greatest and most challenging skiing routes.
One of Bergen’s most visited tourist attractions is the viewing post on top of Fløyen Mountain. Did you know that Bergen has at least six other mountains in its immediate vicinity? In fact, Bergen is sometimes known as ‘the city of the seven mountains’. The highest of these is Ulriken, which will rival Fløyen’s vistas of the city, and others include Damsgårdsfjellet and Løvstakken. The last three are somewhat disputed (there are actually more than seven mountains around Bergen). While you’re unlikely to find casual tourists up here, many of these are popular with locals. They’re great for hiking and you’ll find good skiing routes on many of them too.
If we move northwards quite dramatically from Bergen and up the coast, you’ll get to the Lofoten islands. Although they’re firmly within northern Norway and much closer to the north pole than Iceland, for example, they’re actually surprisingly mild thanks to the magic of the Gulf Stream. In fact, the average winter temperature here is only -1°C (34°F). They’re also absolutely gorgeous and home to several old and quaint fishing villages and everyone who can ought to go ASAP.
Most people who plan on visiting Oslo will read about the Holmenkollen mountain and ski slope. On the same metro line you’ll also find Vettakollen, another peak along the mountain range surrounding Oslo. Though it lacks the very impressive ski slope, Vettakollen is a very popular hiking destination for local Oslowegians and its views of Oslo and the Oslo Fjord are possibly even better than those you’ll find at Holmenkollen.
Harstad, northern Norway, is smaller and less well-known than its big brother Tromsø, but it is a great place from which to observe both the Northern Lights and the midnight sun. In fact, the Harstad municipality (Harstad is both a town and a municipality) features the little Nupen mountain, which has been deemed the most romantic spot from which to take in the midnight sun in Norway.
Longyearbyen is the largest and only town on Svalbard, the huge Norwegian island midway between the north of mainland Norway and the North Pole. What the little town lacks in metropolitanism it more than makes up for in mountains, starry skies and polar bears; Svalbard is the only part of Norway with wild polar bears, which with 3,000 specimen actually outnumber the human population.
Trondheim tends to be overlooked somewhat by international visitors, but it has a long history as one of the most important cities in Norway. It was the capital during the Viking period and is the third-largest city in the country today. It has a lively cultural scene, partially thanks to its many students, and makes for a great and natural stop on road trips up Norway’s coast or as a starting point for a trip through middle Norway. Needless to say, it is surrounded by beautiful mountains and a picturesque fjord.
Featured image by Markus Tacker.