Photographer: Bjarne Riesto/Visitnorway.com
Photographer: Bjarne Riesto/Visitnorway.com

Why You Need to Go to Norway’s Fjords and Islands in 20 Photos

Norway in summer promises continuous sunlight and endless adventures: kayaking, climbing, even running a marathon at midnight is almost expected. Sleeping, not so much. The further north you go, the longer the midnight sun is visible through July and even into August in some parts. Transit through Oslo for cool culture before exploring the west coast’s breathtaking fjords and islands.
Trollstigen Viewpoint
Trollstigen Viewpoint

The Geiranger–Trollstigen Tourist Route has attracted travelers to the drama of Fjord Norway since it was built in 1936. This 65-mile feat of engineering is also a way to test your nerve and driving skills, with 11 narrow hairpin bends and a 9 percent steep incline at Trollstigen; not surprisingly, it closes in winter. There are six viewpoints to stop at along the route, where you can gaze in awe at the surroundings, as well as contemplate new architecture at Stigrøra, Gudbrandsjuvet, Ørnesvingen, and Flydalsjuvet.

Photographer: Øyvind Heen/VisitNorway.com
Mountain Biking in Fjørå
Mountain Biking in Fjørå

Traditionally used by local farmers, the steep trails around Sunnmøre fjords near the village of Fjørå also happen to offer the kind of challenge mountain bikers travel the world seeking.

Photographer: Mattias Fredriksson/VisitNorway.com
Saltsraumen Whirlpools, Bodø
Saltsraumen Whirlpools, Bodø

One of the world’s strongest tidal currents, which powers through a narrow channel connecting the outer Saltfjorden to the large Skjerstadfjorden between the islands of Straumøya and Knaplundsøya, is the science behind the beautiful Saltstaumen whirlpools. Up to 13 billion cubic feet of seawater forces its way through the channel every six hours, with speeds reaching 22 knots. It’s a good location to fish, spot sea eagles, and take an exhilarating ride on a RIB-Safari that gets up close to the maelstrom.

Photographer: Thomas Kleine (thomaskleine.com)
Midsummer’s Eve
Midsummer’s Eve

Locals watch a bonfire at Omastrand, Hardanger on midsummer’s eve. On June 23, people gather around bonfires throughout Norway to celebrate midsummer (also called St. Hans Aften or Jonsokkveld, both refer to St. John the Baptist’s birthday). The fires are a surviving pagan custom to ward off evil spirits, but most Norwegians just consider it a good excuse for a party. If you’re on the west coast or an island, head to a beach. In Bergen and Ålesund celebrations involve huge wood towers being set aflame.

Photographer: Olav Hjertaker/Flickr (flickr.com/photos/adversphoto) via Bloomberg
Kayaking, The Aurlandsfjorden
Kayaking, The Aurlandsfjorden

If there’s an ideal way to appreciate the majesty of the fjords at your own pace, it’s by gliding through deep, crystal-clear waters in a kayak. Many visitors combine kayaking in Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord in western Norway with treks through the surrounding mountains. The calm interior waters of the fjords are ideal for beginners, while more experienced kayakers head to Reine as a paddling-off point to explore the Lofoten Islands.

Photographer: Øyvind Heen/VisitNorway.com
Midnight Sun
Midnight Sun

The further north you go in summer, the longer the sun stays above the horizon. At Nordkapp (North Cape), the sun shines for over 1,800 hours without setting. That's about 75 days! Either close your blackout curtains and attempt to sleep or embrace this natural phenomenon—go to a music festival, try night fishing, or even climb a 1,867-foot pinnacle (see below). The locals make the most of it because in winter the opposite is true: perpetual night, but with the benefit of the spectacular Northern Lights.

Photographer: Dagny Margrete/Nordnorge.com
Midnight Sun
Midnight Sun

A climber makes the most of the late summer light with a nighttime climb of Svolvaergeita, in the Lofoten Islands.

Photographer: Henrik Johansson/Flickr
Vulkana Bath Boat
Vulkana Bath Boat

The Vulkana is a former 1950s fishing boat that’s been transformed into a spa, restaurant, and three-cabin adventure vessel by Rintala Eggertsson Architects. On deck, there’s a hot tub and a 23-foot-high diving tower, should you fancy a quick dip (although even in summer, the water is bracing). Below deck is a wood-clad spa, steamy hammam, a lounge with fireplace, and a dry sauna with picture windows just above the waves. The Vulkana offers various outings, from an Arctic Cruise to a one-night trip in the waters around Tromsø in Norway's far north, where it is moored—all with the added attraction of disembarking squeaky clean. vulkana.no

 

Photographer: Yngve Olsen Sæbbe
Borgund Stave Church
Borgund Stave Church

Norway's churches run the gamut from cutting-edge architecture, such as the Cathedral of the Northern Lights in Alta, to the dark and mysterious looking Medieval stave churches, built around large wooden posts or “staves.” One of the country’s best examples can be found in the village of Borgund in Fjordane. Built in 1180, it’s now a museum, so you can explore without annoying a congregation. The building has six levels of gabled roofs and exquisite woodcarving, and the fact that it’s still standing is testament to the original craftsmen, who honed their skills building ships and longhouses.

Photographer: Øyvind Heen/VisitNorway.com
Kjeragbolten

Wedged in a mountain crevasse 3,228 feet above the ground in Lysefjord, the Kjera boulder is a popular spot for hikers to stop for a photograph (for obvious reasons). It’s also become a popular launch for base jumpers. In summer, expect a line of people waiting for a photo op to prove their derring-do.

Photographer: Per Eide/VisitNorway.com
Kjeragbolten
Brudesløret Waterfall, Geirangerfjorden
Brudesløret Waterfall, Geirangerfjorden

Chances are, if you’re going to do a fjord ferry cruise, it’ll involve the star attraction, Geiranger Fjord, with sheer mountainsides and thundering waterfalls: De syv søstrene (the Seven Sisters), Friaren (the Suitor), and Brudesløret (the Bridal Veil). The story goes that the Seven Sisters dance playfully down the mountainside, while the Suitor flirts shamelessly on the other side of the fjord. Upscale cruise line Hurtigruten (hurtigruten.com) is the way to go.

Photographer: Øyvind Heen/VisitNorway.com
Maaemo Restaurant, Oslo
Maaemo Restaurant, Oslo

Maaemo (Finnish for “Mother Earth”) was included in the 2015 World’s Best Restaurants list and is the only restaurant in Norway to have two Michelin stars, awarded only 15 months after it opened. It focuses on biodynamic and wild produce, which head chef and co-owner Esben Holmboe Bang serves with a hefty helping of innovation. Seen here, a dish of lumpfish roe, potatoes, milk skin, and horseradish, complemented with a dill and whey sauce spooned tableside. The creativity on the plate extends to the small dining room, where the art is replaced regularly to reflect the changing seasons, and even into the kitchen, where dark Norwegian landscapes by photographer Danny Larsen help inspire the team. maaemo.no 

Photographer: Tuukka Koski/Maaemo
Stockfish
Stockfish

Admittedly, it doesn’t look that appetizing, but the unsalted, dried cod known as stockfish is a calcium- and vitamin-rich healthy snack in Norway; it’s also used for traditional Lutefisk served with a creamy sauce. Visit Lofoten, considered the best producer, from February to May and you’ll see huge wooden hangers covered in cod or other white fish. After drying in the wind amid consistent temperatures just above freezing, the fish is matured indoors for a further few months. Considering it’s been prepared this way since at least 875 AD, you might want to give this authentic taste of Norway a try—much easier now that it’s appearing more often on modern Norwegian menus.

Photographer: Axel Fassio/Getty Images
Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock)
Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock)

Pulpit Rock in Ryfylke is a flat mountain plateau formed by a melting glacier 10,000 years ago. It’s a great perch, nearly 1,100 feet over Lysefjord. Come midsummer, don’t expect to have it all to yourself.

Photographer: Svein-Magne Tunli/Wikimedia Commons
Fuglen Coffee Shop & Bar, Oslo
Fuglen Coffee Shop & Bar, Oslo

Fuglen is a midcentury coffee shop that transforms into a cocktail bar at night. First opened on the ground floor of a Brutalist building in 1963, two Mad Men-style rooms have been added that showcase vintage Scandinavian design—the pieces are all for sale and hard to resist (careful of those cocktails). An outpost has now opened in Tokyo, where Norway’s lighter coffee bean roasts are proving popular. fuglen.com/en

Source: Fuglen via Bloomberg
Fisherman’s Shack, Reine
Fisherman’s Shack, Reine

Reine, on the island of Moskenesøya in the Lofoten archipelago, is a tranquil, picturesque, and perfect place to experience life in a traditional Norwegian fishing village. You can rent one of the red grass-roofed cottages, or “Rorbu” (“ror” means fishing boat, “bu” a small dwelling), which sit on stilts around the harbor. The rusty hue is achieved with paint mixed with cod liver oil. 

Photographer: CH/VisitNorway.com
Norwegian National Ballet and Opera
Norwegian National Ballet and Opera

Even if highbrow arts aren’t your thing, the Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, Norway’s largest music and performing arts institution, is inclusive in terms of architecture. The award-winning design by Snøhetta includes soaring windows from ground level and a low-slung approach that blends into the surroundings, with an open rooftop and gentle ramps providing social areas that continue into the open public lobby and cafés. operaen.no/en

Photographer: Erik Berg/Den Norske Opera & Ballet
Lofoten Hike
Lofoten Hike

Attractions on the Lofoten islands include hiking Reinebringen for panoramic views, the white sandy beaches of Horseid and Bunes, sea kayaking, and trying your hand at fishing. Visit the village of Å, just to the west of Reine, where the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum charts life in Lofoten over the past 200 years.

Photographer: CH/VisitNorway.com
Ekebergparken, Oslo
Ekebergparken, Oslo

Visitors to the sculpture park at Ekeberg appreciate Louise Bourgeois’s The Couple from an alternative angle. The 25-hectare park overlooking Oslo opened at the end of 2013, the brainchild of Norwegian art collector Christian Ringnes. Not only is it free—much appreciated in this expensive city—it’s also open 24 hours a day, so you can appreciate its works—including pieces by James Turrell, Tony Cragg, and Marina Abramovic, as well as 20th century masters such as Auguste Rodin—any time you please. ekebergparken.com/en

Photographer: Ivar Kvaal/Ekebergparken
The Thief Hotel, Oslo
The Thief Hotel, Oslo

Tjuvholmen in Oslo used to be a pretty sketchy place before the so-named Thief Hotel—along with the Renzo Piano-designed Astrup Fearnley Museum and a host of fancy restaurants—turned it into one of the coolest, most cultured neighborhoods in town. This 118-room contemporary property overlooking Oslofjord is filled with contemporary art and design and has a fashionable clientele to match. Last year it opened a new spa, reached by an underground walkway, with a candle-lit swimming pool and Finnish heat therapies. thethief.com/en

Source: The Thief Hotel via Bloomberg