Norway is a wildly beautiful country of snow-capped mountains and deep glacier-carved fjords. The astounding scenery of the southwestern fjordland is the main draw card for tourists, but there are many incentives to visit this sparsely inhabited country. It offers remote wildernesses and outdoor activities, fairy-like forests, historic towns and charming fishing villages, down to earth friendly people, and the lure of the Arctic Circle with its famous Midnight Sun and surreal Northern Lights. It also boasts some of the most scenic bus trips, boat cruises and train rides in the world.
‘The Land of the Midnight Sun’, with its long summer days, is not only for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, but offers a rich cultural heritage from the Vikings, the traditional nomadic Sami people of the remote northern regions, and world-renowned artists such as Edvard Munch. Principle cities of interest are Oslo, the pretty capital; the historic trading port of Bergen, situated on the fjords and gateway to the Fjordlands; and hilly Tromsø within the Arctic Circle, the centre of the Northern Lights activity. They are pleasant, low-key cities that offer a good range of museums, historical sights and unique architecture.
Norway’s greatest impact on history was during the Viking Age, when the sleek Viking ships crossed the Atlantic, and Europe was subjected to numerous raids. Traditionally Norwegians were explorers, and their influences are evident from the Viking settlements established in Scotland, to the more recent personalities like polar explorer Roald Amundsen, and the legendary Pacific crossing of Thor Heyerdahl on his wooden raft, the Kon-Tiki (which has its own museum in Oslo).
Today Norwegians hold onto many of their cultural traditions, most notably the art of storytelling that takes place around the fireside to while away the long winter hours. Trolls figure prominently in their folklore, some friendly and helpful, while others are naughty characters that conveniently serve as a source of blame for all of life’s troubles.