Scandinavia has long been the object of my obsession with tales of fairy folk and trolls, but when I think of Norway, my mind automatically conjures two images: Vikings and Northern Lights. But that’s not all there is. Norway makes for a perfect holiday destination. It is the land of the winter sun and ice fjords, pure natural beauty, a cool climate and warm people. It is easily one of the most beautiful countries on earth.
It is also a country of significant wealth, and given Europe’s current economic state, that is no small feat. Be prepared though, Norway is expensive for travelers. If you are a budget traveler like me, you will have to plan and budget your trip well in advance. Oslo especially was voted by Forbes as one of the most expensive cities.
All is not lost, though. The Norwegian cities are not massive sprawling metropolises, and can easily be explored on foot or through the extensive network of public transport. Oslo is an extremely pedestrian-friendly city and offers you many amazing vantage points overlooking its harbor and the surrounding nature. I think Akershus Fortress is one of the best places for scenic views of Norway’s capital and the glittering Oslo Fjord.
Another big plus point of Norway is the long list of free events and attractions. And did I mention the lush greens in spring, the colorful fall foliage or the Northern Lights in the winter? All those joys don't cost a dime.
Actually, seeing the Northern Lights has been on my bucket lists for years. Even if you need just one reason to go the Norway, this is it! Experiencing them is a jaw-dropping moment. It reminds me of a night rainbow, with clear bands of vivid green streaked across the sky with light hues of pink and violet at the edges.
The lights can best be seen mid-autumn through mid-spring during dark moon phases and when the skies are clear. I do have to warn you - when going out to see the lights, you’ll need patience (and warm clothes). You are at the complete mercy of nature and the lights appear only when conditions are right. I like having a nighttime outdoor picnic to pass the time. If you're the type for jaw-dropping experiences, also try the ice hotels.
During the summer months, on the other hand, northern Norway turns into the land of the Midnight Sun. Have you ever experienced it? Daylight lasts 24 hours above the Arctic Circle, so during nighttime, the sun bathes the entire area in splashes of fiery red, pink and yellow. If you’re visiting the northern parts of Norway in the summer, bring an eye mask to get some sleep.
If you’re a history buff, know that Norway is rich with tales of broad-shouldered Vikings, royal families and magical creatures. Actually, the Vikings are very much a part of the Norwegian history and there are various Viking museums and restructured ruins scattered throughout Norway. If you prefer some light-hearted history and traditions like me, you’ll like the stories of Norway’s gnomes during Christmas in Norway. They are considered to be both mischievous practical jokers and benevolent keepers of the family. To this day, many Norwegians still believe in gnomes and fairies.
So as a traveler, is it worth going to Norway? I can only respond with a resounding “Yes”. Getting to know Norway and learning about all its facets is a privilege. Norway has so much to offer that no matter what you’re planning to do - experiencing the natural phenomena for the first time, getting absorbed in its history, socializing with the friendly locals, or exploring the wilderness and fjords - Norway is the one country that offers anyone a once-in-a-lifetime trip.