Norway never fails to impress. Take this year's Winter Olympics, for example: Norway out-performed all other countries with 39 medals. Then there's that Scandinavian quality of life (biking to work, enviable home design, 25 vacation days a year) and the dreamy Norwegian landscapes that fill the Insta feeds of our most worldly friends. It's at the top of our travel bucket-list this year, and these are 10 cool things we plan on doing when we get there.
Go on a midnight sun safari in the Lofoten Archipelago
Rolf Malnes, the captain and owner of tour operator Lofoten Opplevelser, has spent his life in northern Norway's remote Lofoten Archipelago, just above the Arctic Circle. Tagging along on one of his adrenaline-infused RIB boat tours, which navigates the waters surrounding rocky islands home to sea eagles, is a bucket-list experience in every way. During summer months, the trip culminates with a ride out into the open ocean to watch the midnight sun bobbing close to the horizon.
Road trip along the Atlantic Road
There are road trips, and then there are road trips in Norway, where the roads themselves are works of engineering art and the fjord and mountain views are sublime. Among the country's most spectacular scenic routes is the Atlantic Road—a toll-free National Tourist Route that stretches between the village of Bud and Kristiansund and was named the “Norwegian Construction of the Century.” The road connects the mainland to a string of jewel-like islands and islets via eight modern bridges, with classic Viking scenery at every bend.
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Sail to the Traena Festival
You’ll feel as bold as a viking during a coastal sailing adventure with Seil Norge to reach the spectacular Traena islands, off the coast of northern Norway. Here, one of the world’s most remote summer music festivals plays out every July. During the Traena Festival, musicians perform within caves with perfect acoustics on an archipelago of islands said to be the historical starting point for viking raids. Festival goers set up camp within sight of the Norwegian Sea; summer's midnight sun, of course, shines down on it all nearly 24 hours a day.
Stay in a seacabin on Manshausen Island
The Norwegian tourist craze for sleeping in rorbuers—atmospheric old fishermen’s cabins with fjord views—has been well documented. Kick the experience up a few style notches on Manshausen Island, a quick boat ride off Norway's northern coast, where you can stay in futuristic-looking sea cabins perched along a rocky jetty. Cabin interiors are studies in Scandinavian minimalism, with floor-to-ceiling windows that let in views of the surrounding coastline and (in winter) the northern lights. During the summer, crabbing, hiking, and swimming are just a few of the pleasurable local pastimes.
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Tackle the Kjeragbolten Hike
The Kjeragbolten Hike, not far from Stavanger in southern Norway, draws adrenaline junkies to spectacular Lysefjord for a singular—and totally Norwegian—experience. Here, some 3,500 feet above sea level, a boulder lodged between two mountains (the only thing separating hikers from a straight drop down into the fjord) beckons daredevils to step out for the ultimate Instagram moment. Not willing to risk it? No worries: the roughly seven-hour round-trip hike is full of other scenic moments. The area is famous among base jumpers, too, so you might even see someone taking the plunge.
Snorkeling with orcas
Norway is the only country in the world where you can legally enter the water to snorkel with orcas. Every winter, from November to early February, these iconic whales cruise along Norway's northern coast near Tromsø and the village of Andenes to the south to feast on migratory herring. Operators like Lofoten Opplevelser can get you suited up in a dry suit, out on a RIB boat, and into the water with feeding orcas for an underwater view like no other. Keep your eyes peeled for humpbacks and fin whales, as well, who often show up for the feast.
Go reindeer sledding under the Northern Lights
As soon as early autumn reaches northernmost Norway, the Northern Lights start becoming visible in the darkened night skies. For something even more extraordinary, plan your visit during the dead of winter, when snow blankets the plains around Tromsø. During a Tromsø Arctic Reindeer Experience, you'll head out into the frozen wonderland in a reindeer-drawn sled to try and spot the aurora.
Dine at Galt
Nordic cuisine is often in the world’s culinary spotlight thanks to universally fresh and unusual ingredients and a refined, minimalist presentation. Just five months after opening in Oslo’s Frogner district, Galt became the latest of the city’s tastemakers to be awarded a Michelin star. Here, traditional Nordic foods get a gourmet spin (Galt means “crazy” in Norwegian), with local cheese, berries, and seafood all starring on the rustic-inspired, six-course set menu.
Stay at The Thief
The island of Tjuvholmen, where thieves and drunks once lurked, is downtown Oslo’s next jet-set destination thanks to the five-star Thief Hotel. This stylish sleep strikes the perfect Nordic balance between contemporary and cozy, with stunning original artwork, designer furniture, and warm touches like wool throw blankets from Røros atop plush beds that look out onto Oslofjord. But don't get too comfortable: Tjuvholmen's patchwork of canals lined with modernistic apartments, restaurants, and galleries is worth a tour—the most impressive of which is the Astrup Fearnley Museet.
Sleep and sauna near a glacier at Nordenskiöld Lodge in Svalbard
Norway is known for its windswept landscapes shaped by water and wind, but Svalbard—an Arctic archipelago near the top of the planet with more polar bears than people—is as wild as it gets. Head out on summertime expeditions with Basecamp Explorer Spitsbergen to Nordenskiöld Lodge, a remote hut at the edge of a glacier with the same name. After a day spent scoping crevasses and scouting for polar bears, warm up in the sauna and—if you're game for it—take the obligatory Norwegian plunge into the freezing cold sea at the hut’s doorstep.