Norway is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. No matter what time of year you visit, you're sure to have an incredible time seeing the famous fjords, quaint coastal villages, and bustling cities. The country also has a strong food, arts, and music scene that can't be missed.
There are many reasons why Norway is one of the earth's most exciting places to visit. In addition to the midnight sun and Viking culture, you're also exposed to some stunning landscapes and a surprisingly diverse group of people. Read on to learn more about the Scandinavian wonder...
It's The Best Place On Earth To See The Northern Lights
You can often spot the northern lights, a.k.a. the aurora borealis, above the Arctic Circle in places in Norway such as the Lofoten Islands. The natural phenomenon is visible between late autumn and early spring. There's no other place on earth that gives you a better chance of viewing the lights.
If that is something that's on your bucket list, then book a trip to make your dream come true. In the summer, the sun never sets, so tourists visiting Norway will experience 24 hours of daylight, which is known as the "midnight sun."
Vikings Are Part Of Its Rich History
One of the thing's Norway is most known for is its Vikings. They were excellent boat builders and quite skilled at navigation; however, they were also raiders in addition to traders, explorers, and settlers. Today, you can still see evidence of the Viking Age (AD 800-1050) in the country.
Visit the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, which has the world's two best-preserved wooden Viking longships, which date from the ninth century. Then there's the Lofotr Viking Museum in Borg in the Lofoten Islands, Karmøy Kulturopplevelser in Rogaland, and Stiklestad National Culture Centre in Nord-Trøndelag
Its Lærdal Tunnel Is The Longest One In The World
Norway's Lærdal Tunnel is over 15 miles long and connects Lærdal and Aurland in Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. It's located over 100 miles from Bergen and is the longest road tunnel on earth. It is two lanes wide and connects Oslo and Bergen without the need for a ferry. It's particularly useful in winter when mountain crossings can be dangerous.
The tunnel cost about $113 million to build. Construction started in 1995 and was completed in 2000. It was designed to prevent drivers from getting distracted, and every six kilometers there's a cave that separates sections of the road. It also includes a variety of different lighting to mix things up.
The Colonel-in-Chief Of Norway's King's Guard Is A Penguin
In 1913, Norway gave the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland its first king Penguin. Many years later in 1972, the Norwegian King's Guard adopted a penguin from the zoo. He was given the name "Nils Olav" and holds a rank in the Norwegian military. The name has been passed down two times, and the current penguin is called Nils Olav III.
On August 22, 2016, Nils Olav II was promoted to brigadier in a ceremony attended by over 50 members of the King's Guard. Other countries also have animals in the military, including the goat William "Billy" Windsor (Britain) and brown bear Wotjek (Poland).
It Owns The Earth's Most Remote Island
Norway has owned Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic Ocean since 1929. Following a dispute with the United Kingdom, it was declared a Norwegian dependency in 1930. It's considered the most remote island in the world. It's situated about 1,100 miles north of the Princess Astrid Coast of Queen Maud Land, Antarctica, and 1,600 miles south-southwest of the coast of South Africa.
The island is only 19 square miles, and 93 percent of it is covered by a glacier. The center of the island is made up of an inactive volcano. No one lives there, but Norway does keep a weather station on it.
Norwegians Invented Skiing
People have been skiing in Norway for thousands of years. An ancient rock carving at Rødøy in northern Norway depicts people skiing on Norwegian mountain ranges as far back as 4,000 years ago. The oldest ski ever, which is 2,300 years old, is preserved in Finnmark, and the words "ski" and "slalom" come from Norwegian.
The father of modern skiing is Sondre Norheim, who designed stiff bindings that allowed him to jump yet decreased the risk of falling. He created the Telemark ski, which was the predecessor to today's skis.
There's A Tiny Village Named Hell That Has Two Zip Codes
Hell, Norway, is a village near Stjørdal in Trøndelag county. It's a very small village that's only 260 acres in size with a population of about 1,600. The town is within walking distance of Trondheim's international airport and is large enough to have a train station. Hell is also known for reindeer rock carvings that are around 5,000 years old.
Hell is large enough to have a grocery store and retirement home. If you want to mail something to someone who lives there, you have to use one of two postal codes, one for physical addresses and another for post-office boxes.
Europe's Biggest Herd Of Wild Reindeer Lives In Norway
You may think that most wild reindeer live in the Arctic, but they actually inhabit Hardangervidda national park, which is Europe's biggest mountain plateau. The area is stunning with giant plateaus, deep valleys, big mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, and fjords. In winter the herd has about 25,000 reindeer, and about 7,000 of them roam Hardangervidda.
Wild reindeer used to wander around all of Norway, but eventually many of them died due to hunting. They started moving into the mountainous areas of Norway starting in the late 19th century.
It Has An Active Volcano
The Norwegian island of Jan Mayen is home to the Beerenberg stratovolcano. It is about 7,470 feet high and is the world's northernmost subaerial active volcano. It's largely covered in ice and is made of several glaciers. Beerenberg is Dutch for "Bear Mountain" and was named by Dutch whalers in the early 17th century who saw polar bears there.
It's Norway's only active volcano and is located about halfway between Norway and Greenland. No one lives anywhere near the volcano, but scientists visit it, and cruise ships frequently pass nearby.
Christmas Is A Cherished Time Of Year
Every year since World War II, the city of Oslo has been sending a tall Norwegian Spruce to London, where it's displayed in Trafalgar Square. The holiday is very special for Norwegians, who light up their homes with candles and visit their local Christmas fairs and markets and attend Christmas performances.
There are some magical places to visit in December, including the folk museum Norsk Folkemuseum on Bygdøy as well as Gingerbread Town in Bergen. Norwegians dine on roasted pork belly, lamb ribs, and lutefisk during the holidays.
Its Chocolate Inspired Famous Children's Author Roald Dahl
Novelist Roald Dahl was born in England to Norwegian immigrants. Dahl was named after the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen, and he spoke Norwegian when he was growing up. He's famous for books such as James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits, and George's Marvellous Medicine.
The Freia chocolate factory in Oslo inspired Dahl to write his most famous book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Freia was founded in 1889, and it quickly became Norway's number-one chocolate supplier. The company's flagship product is the milk chocolate candy bar Freia Melkesjokolade.
The Country Runs On Hydroelectric Power
Norway is one of the world's largest exporters of oil. However, that's not what its residents use to power their homes. Instead, the country relies on hydroelectric power plants, which power 98 percent of the country. While it's ranked ninth in the world for sourcing power from renewable sources, Norway generates more electricity than all of the eight other countries together.
Norway aims to be carbon neutral by 2030, but that only refers to domestic emissions. It does not include oil and gas exports. Norway has also encouraged alternatives to fossil fuels and has developed energy-efficient standards for building construction.
It Shares A Border Crossing With Russia
This photo shows the Norwegian border crossing station at Storskog near the town of Kirkenes in northern Norway. It's an increasingly popular route for migrants who cross Russia into Norway. The crossing is located in Sør-Varanger Municipality in Finnmark county.
In order to enter either Norway or Russia, you need to go through two border crossings (one in each country). In between the border crossing is a duty-free shop. In 2013, about 320,000 people crossed the border at this station.
Trolltunga Is A Popular Instagram Spot, But You Have To Hike A Long Way To Get There
Trolltunga, a.k.a., Troll Tongue, is a rock formation near Odda in Hordaland county, Norway. It's located 1,100 meters above sea level and is unusual in the way it juts out from the mountainside. It rises about 2,300 feet above lake Ringedalsvatnet.
Until 2010, less than 800 people hiked to the spot every year. Then tourism exploded (with the help of Instagram and other social media platforms). It's now one of the region's top attractions. In 2016, over 80,000 people visited the rock, which can only be reached through a 17-mile, round-trip hike from Skjeggedal.
The Coastline, Full Of Incredible Fjords, Is Immeasurable
It's unclear how long the coast of Norway actually is. Because it's full of incredible fjords and jagged mountain ranges, the coastline is hard to define. What we do know is that the coastline extends from the Oslofjord down to the south and in and out various other fjords before it reaches the top of the Scandinavian peninsula where it touches Russia.
Fortunately, you don't need to know the length of the coastline to enjoy it. There are numerous boats and ships that travel from Bergen to Kirkenes, so you can have a close-up view of the beautiful scenery.
Norway Has Won More Olympic Medals Than Any Other Country
When it comes to athletic prowess, Norway is fairly unbeatable. Its success at the winter Olympics is hard to deny, with citizens having won 368 medals (132 gold, 125 silver, and 111 bronze) as of 2018. The 1994 games in Lillehammer were the best, partially due to the country having the home turf advantage. Athletes won a total of 26 medals, of which 10 were gold.
Some of the country's famous athletes include cross-country skiers Marit Bjørgen and Petter Northug, snowboarder Terje Håkonsen, and alpine skier Aksel Lund Svindal.
The Russian-Influenced Kirkenes Is One Of The Country's Most Interesting Cities
Kirkenes is located nine miles from the Russian border, and it's one of the top spots to view the northern lights. Every winter the town builds the Kirkenes Snowhotel from fresh snow. The town is heavily influenced by its Russian neighbor and features many street signs in Russian.
The town's Borderland Museum chronicles the region's history, and the Russian Soldier Monument commemorates the liberation from Nazi occupation in 1944. Also, the Hurtigruten coastal ferry stops in Kirkenes before heading back to Bergen, so many international visitors explore the city during their journeys.
The Country Is One Of The Happiest, Safest & Richest Countries On Earth
While Norway was listed at number two in 2018's World Happiness Report (behind Finland), it has topped the list several times in the past. The report ranks countries in six areas: income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support, and generosity.
"The top five countries all have almost equally high values for the six factors found to support happiness, and four of these countries – Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and now Finland – have been in first place in the six World Happiness Report rankings since the first report," noted report co-editor John Helliwell.
There Are Over 450,000 Lakes In Norway
As you know by now, Norway has some incredible natural landmarks, including fjords and volcanoes. It is also home to more than 450,000 lakes. However, most of them are pretty small. Less than 400 are larger than two square miles. The biggest lakes include Mjøsa, Røssvatnet, Femund, Randsfjorden, and Tyrifjorden.
The deepest four lakes in Europe are located in Norway: Hornindalsvatnet, Salvatnet, Lake Tinn and Mjøsa. Mjøsa is Norway's largest lake, and it was used for transportation before railroads were constructed. These days it's only used for recreational boating. The cities of Hamar, Gjøvik, and Lillehammer were founded along the lake's shores.
Its Population Is Very Diverse
As of August 2018, the population of Norway was 5,312,300. Its capital and most populous city, Oslo, had a population of around 672,061 in 2017. Of those, over 190,000 were immigrants or children of immigrants. To put that in perspective, nearly 30 percent of the city's residents were not Norwegian (compared to 15 percent of the entire country).
The largest percentage of immigrants are from Pakistan followed by Sweden, Somalia, and Poland. Olso was one of Europe's fastest-growing cities for several years until 2017 when more people started leaving than arriving.