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14 Life-Changing Experiences You Can Only Have in Norway
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14 Life-Changing Experiences You Can Only Have in Norway

Picture of Danai Christopoulou
Updated: 21 February 2018
Here at Culture Trip, we are firm believers that travel can be life-changing. Some destinations more so than others and Norway has no shortage of options. From stunning natural phenomena and unique ways to get your adrenaline fix, to up-close-and-personal encounters with polar bears, these 14 experiences in the Land of the Vikings will change your life.

Have a Star Wars moment

When you descend upon Finse, a tiny town half-way between Oslo and Bergen, you may wonder what you’re doing in the middle of nowhere—until you spot the Stormtrooper. See, Fince was the real-life filming location for planet Hoth in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back and the owners of the Finse 1222 Hotel aren’t going to let you forget that any time soon. Every year around February, their Visit Hoth events will make you glad you stepped off that train.

Visit Hoth 2018 | Courtesy of Finse 1222
Visit Hoth 2018 | Courtesy of Finse 1222

Step into the house of the man who changed theater

If you love theater, you definitely shouldn’t miss this. Right across Oslo’s Royal Palace is the rather nondescript building where Henrik Ibsen lived, now converted into a beautiful museum. Ibsen is the most performed playwright in the world after William Shakespeare and the man considered to be “the founder of modern drama.” What’s so unique about this experience is that the apartment where he spent the last 11 years of his life and wrote his last two plays is completely restored to its original colors and decor, so you can literally step into his office and see where the magic took place. Cue goosebumps.

Henrik Ibsen's study, where the magic happened | Courtesy of Ibsenmuseet
Henrik Ibsen’s study, where the magic happened | Courtesy of Ibsenmuseet

Sail into UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Of course you know that Norwegian fjords are awesome, but did you know that some of them are so awesome they’ve been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites? Sognefjord, specifically its Nærøyfjord arm, is one of them. Prepare for breathtaking views as you sail, paddle, row, or just Instagram this magnificent sight. It’s not called The King of Fjords for nothing.

The Otternes village next to Sognefjord | Courtesy of Visit Sognefjord
The Otternes village next to Sognefjord | Courtesy of Visit Sognefjord

Stand at the edge of Europe (and the Earth)

Nordkapp, or North Cape, in Western Finnmark, is Europe’s northernmost point and is certainly impressive. There’s a plateau rising 307 meters (1000 feet) above sea level, offering a vantage point from where you can marvel at a spectacular sight: the waters of the Atlantic meeting the waters of the Arctic Ocean, no dry land and the Svalbard archipelago stretching out until the North Pole. Oh, and did we mention the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights? It’s very high.

Full Moon at Nordkapp | © hurtigrutentourlife, Courtesy of Visit Nordkapp
Full Moon at Nordkapp | © hurtigrutentourlife, Courtesy of Visit Nordkapp

Drink whisky matured under the Northern Lights

As any whisky aficionado would agree, a Scottish sing malt whisky is one of the finest things in the world. But do Scottish whiskies mature under the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights? No. Myken does however. Norway’s first single malt is made at the world’s northernmost whisky distillery, an island north of the Arctic Circle called Myken—and you can visit for tastings.

Myken Destilleri barrel | Courtesy of Myken Destilleri
Myken Destilleri barrel | Courtesy of Myken Destilleri

Hike the world’s longest staircase

Flørli is an abandoned power plant-cum hostel in a roadless hamlet in Lysefjord. There are 4444 wooden stairs climbing into the mountain that you can hike (take a break at one thousand and pat yourself on the back) and get the best possible view of the area, along with bragging rights among friends.

The stairway disappears on the mountain | Courtesy of Flørli 4444 Kafé & Hostel
The stairway disappears on the mountain | Courtesy of Flørli 4444 Kafé & Hostel

Listen to music from instruments made of ice

Ice music was invented by Terje Isungset and his team. The premise is simple: instruments made of ice, in an environment that’s as frosty as possible. There’s something special about the eerie sound of music reverberating around an ice cave. The Ice Music Festival takes place every year and the locations change, but the magic does not.

A performance from 2017’s Ice Music festival in Geilo | Courtesy of Ice Music Festival
A performance from 2017’s Ice Music Festival in Geilo | Courtesy of Ice Music Festival

Scare away polar bears

Everybody loves polar bears. They’re white and fluffy but they can be dangerous too, especially if they spot you on your own, away from the settlements in Svalbard. Apart from the unique warning signs posted all around the archipelago, you are required to carry appropriate scare devices to ward off any polar bear attacks. If that’s not life-changing, we don’t know what is.

The polar bears of Svalbard are no laughing matter | © darkroomsg/Unsplash
The polar bears of Svalbard are no laughing matter | © darkroomsg/Unsplash

Jump on a suspended rock

There are many ways to be a daredevil in Norway, but jumping on a suspended rock 1110 meters (3640 feet) high in the air, certainly takes the cake. Kjeragbolten, a boulder wedged between two rock formations on Mt Kjerag, will definitely raise your adrenaline—and your number of Instagram followers.

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Jumping on Kjeragbolten | © jerdam / Flickr

Zipline with a view of a city

Sure, ziplining is something usually associated with more rural areas, but Holmenkollen Jump Tower in Oslo begs to differ. The zipline is 361 meters (1184 feet) long and will take you on a 107-meter (350-foot) drop, while offering spectacular views of the Norwegian capital at the same time.

Ziplining at Holmenkollen | Courtesy of Holmenkollen
Ziplining at Holmenkollen | Courtesy of Holmenkollen

Test a theory about trolls

Everybody knows Trolltunga, the famously scenic cliff whose name means “troll’s tongue.” But do you know the legend behind it? According to old Norse folklore, trolls were a bit like gargoyles: if they didn’t manage to hide somewhere by the time the sun came out, they would turn to stone. So, according to the myth, that is an actual troll’s tongue you’re standing on. If you visit Trolltunga at a time with no sunlight, you may get to see if there’s any truth to that legend.

Trolltunga | © Rob Bye : Unsplash
Trolltunga | © Rob Bye/Unsplash

Climb an iced waterfall

Rjukan is a very cool place, and we mean that very literally. Thanks to the freezing temperatures, the waterfalls of the area (all 192 of them) are frozen solid—and you can climb them. Gear up and be careful.

Ice climbing in Rjukan | © subflux / Flickr
Ice climbing in Rjukan | © subflux / Flickr

Forage “Highlands gold”

Foraging mushrooms and berries is a must when you’re in Norway. However, if you’re looking for something truly unique, then go for cloudberries: you’ll recognize them from their vibrant orange color and their wine-like flavor, hence the nickname “Highlands gold.”

Stop for Santa

There are many places in Northern Europe that claim to be Santa Clause’s home town—but only one that commits to it so much. In Drobak, a town half an hour outside Oslo, it’s Christmas all year long: you can buy Christmas presents, trees and ornaments, you can write letters to Santa, and you can even bump into him on the street. That’s why there are special road signs reminding drivers to look out for him.

Watch out for Santa! | Courtesy of Tregaarden's Julehus
Watch out for Santa! | Courtesy of Tregaarden's Julehus