With a combination of unspoiled natural beauty and cosmopolitan appeal, Norway has much to offer travelers in Western Europe. Its landscape is carved by fjords, lush with wildlife, and dotted with vibrant cities and serene villages. Despite the country’s northern latitude, the Gulf Stream ensures a surprisingly temperate climate, particularly in the summer months. Here are four ways to make the most of it.
Located between the Nordmarka forests and the Oslo Fjord, Norway’s capital city exemplifies the country’s mix of nature and culture. Outdoor types can hike and cycle in the woods or swim and kayak in the fjord. Art enthusiasts can explore the National Gallery (which houses one of Edvard Munch’s two oil paintings of “The Scream”), the outdoor Vigeland Sculpture Park and the gleaming new Norwegian National Opera & Ballet. Oslo also hosts a number of annual festivals, including Oslo Gay Pride (June 17-26) and the music extravaganza Øya Festival (August 10-13).
Where to stay: The Hotel Bristol in the heart of Oslo combines old-school character (it opened in 1920) and contemporary comfort (there’s free Wi-Fi throughout).
This expansive mountain plateau is home to Norway’s largest national park and a rich assortment of animals and vegetation. Hardangervidda’s remote, otherworldly beauty makes an ideal backdrop for camping and hiking. Abundant trails provide views of plunging peaks and valleys, rushing streams, calm lakes, and wildlife like reindeer and snowy owls.
Where to stay: Not in the mood for roughing it? The historic Utne Hotel has welcomed guests since 1722 and is one of the oldest continuously operated hotels in Norway.
During the summer months, the sun doesn’t set within the Arctic Circle, a phenomenon known as the midnight sun. (Its winter counterpart, polar night, is a great way to view the northern lights.) That means Lofoten, an archipelago in northern Norway known for its charming villages, basks in perpetual daylight from mid-May to August. What do to with all those extra hours? Midnight cruises, fishing trips along the coast and 24-hour golfing are popular pastimes.
Where to stay: Svinøya Rorbuer offers 30 traditional rorbu cabins; the fire-engine-red fishermen’s shanties perch just beside the water on stilts.
Skiing probably isn’t the first summer activity that comes to mind, but it’s possible at Galdhøpiggen Summer Ski Centre (named for the mountain it sits below). Thanks to its high-altitude setting on the Juvbreen Glacier, the resort has a slope suitable for snowboarding and skiing from May through October. Climbing is also available.
Where to stay: Juvasshytta, the nearest lodge, is just a five-minute walk from the slope. It features a range of room options as well as daily tours.
[Photos via Visit Norway: Oslo: Birdseyepix; Lofoten: Avani; Camping: Anders Gjengeda]