Travel north this year to the Arctic Circle and beyond. Experience the world-famous Norwegian fjords, snow-covered mountains and glaciers.
Take this bit of advice from me: “Don’t die before you visit Norway.”
World’s Nature Capital, that is how I describe Oslo. The city lies around the innermost part of the Oslofjord, surrounded by forested hills, which gives Oslo qualities that you normally don’t expect to find in a global capital. In Oslo, you can combine big-city cultural experiences with outdoors activities in the forest, by the fjord or along the Aker River.
The Oslo fjord is Norway’s most popular recreation area. Each island in the innermost part of the fjord has its own identity and distinguishing history. The islands, including Hovedøya, Lindøya, Nakholmen, Bleikøya, Gressholmen and Langøyene, can easily be reached by boat from Vippetangen.
Not too far from Oslo, I began my journey down south to Fredriksten Fortress. Some of the most dramatic events in Norwegian military history took place at the fortress. One Swedish king, Charles XII, was killed there in 1718. I spent a few pleasurable hours rambling around the fortress, and realised it was very near the border with Sweden. I was tempted to nip into Sweden and have a look around, but I had plans to head north and explore more of Norway’s natural beauties. Sweden would have to wait.
When you go to Norway, you can’t miss the fjords. Norwegian fjords are nature’s own works of art, formed when the glaciers retreated and seawater flooded the U-shaped valleys. This formed water canals that penetrate from the coast and far into the mountain wilderness where the plains end. Unesco has included the fjords of Norway, exemplified by Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, on its World Heritage List. Nærøyfjord is at one point 250 metres across, while mountains tower up to 1,800 metres above its tranquil waters. Geirangerfjord is known for its beauty and magnificent waterfalls, the best-known being the Seven Sisters. The tallest waterfalls are in Geirangerfjord and the Sognefjord, known as the world’s second-longest fjord.
Theoretically, you should be able to see the northern lights all over Norway. However, the best places are above the Arctic Circle, in northern Norway, including Narvik, Lofoten Islands, Alta and Finnmark – home of the Sami people, the natives of Norway.
In the rest of Europe, almost all the stave churches have long since disappeared. In Norway you can still find 28 of these unique buildings. During the Middle Ages, when immense cathedrals were being built in stone in other places in Europe, a similar technique was developed in Norway for building in wood. Norway’s oldest wooden church is Urnes Stave Church in Luster, not far from Sognefjord. Built in 1150, it was once a private church for a powerful family. Its builders were aware of international trends in architecture, and transferred these trends from stone to wood. The interior of the church is exceptionally richly decorated with motifs from real life, such as elk and doves, as well as imaginary centaurs and dragons. These types of decorations have become known as the Urnes style.
Where can I find information about Norway?
You can find lots of great information about the country and tourist attractions at the tourism authority’s official website: www.visitnorway.com
Text by Antonius Martono | Photos courtesy of Innovation Norway