When you think of Norway your mind might conjure images of trendy cities and cosy bars; places where you can readily sip a mulled wine by a snug fireplace.
But stay inside and you’ll also miss out on Norway’s magical landscapes: jagged coastlines, glaciers and snow-dusted mountains seemingly carved straight out of Norse mythology. There’s plenty here to keep adventurists busy in both summer and winter, whether it’s chasing fjords and waterfalls in the warmer months or watching the show-stopping Northern Lights in the deep dark of winter. So strap on your boots and come join us – these are the best outdoor activities to try in Norway.
1. Chase the Northern Lights
The spellbinding cosmic ballet known as the Northern Lights has been the inspiration behind countless Norwegian myths and, judging by the steady stream of visitors, we’re still just as enthralled by this phenomenon today as our ancestors were. The soft interplay of shimmering green, pink and violet hues is created by the sun’s UV rays mingling with the Earth’s atmosphere. Sadly the Aurora is expected to become less frequent over the next 10 years as the sun enters a less active solar cycle, but this isn’t true for Norway. Norway will still be a prime aurora-viewing location, especially in places further north like Lillehammer, Svalbard and Tromso. Make sure to visit between September and late March, when there is less daylight and a greater chance of spotting the lights.
Where to make it happen: Svalbard, Bodo and Senja.
2. Experience world-class mushing on a dog-sled trip
There’s nothing quite like the rush of a dog sled pulling you through the white Norwegian wilderness; the crunch of a dozen dogs pounding through the snow and the wind whipping at your jacket at high speed. While dog sledding today is a novelty experience, it used to be a common mode of transport for many Norwegians. A dog sledding expedition is a great way to relive this age-old practice first hand, plus there’s all the added benefits of meeting and feeding your hard working huskies (so prepare for some serious puppy love). If you can’t make it during winter, dog sledding runs year round and you can choose to either take part in a one-day trip or commandeer your own pack as part of a multi-day expedition.
Where to make it happen: Tromso, Svalbard, Finnmark and Hovden.
3. Try ice fishing on frozen lakes
Norway’s abundance of fjords and lakes means the locals have never had to look far to find fresh seafood, but what happens when everything freezes in winter? Enter ice fishing. This Scandinavian tradition involves walking out onto the lake, cutting a large circular hole into the ice using a manual drill, and plonking your line in. Like regular fishing, the experience is largely meditative. It’s all about sitting next to your hole, waggling your line to keep the fish interested, and bonding with others over a hot cup of glogg (mulled wine). Salmon, trout, char and halibut are just some of the species you can expect to catch in Norway.
Where to make it happen: Oslo, Norwegian Fjords, Trondelag and Gjovik.
4. Fall in love with the west fjords
There’s no doubt Norway’s fjords are stunning to look at, but they’re more than just a pretty pin-up for Scandinavia. They’re a leafy playground for summer visitors looking to explore on foot, bike or kayak (or you could just kick back with a lazy fishing line if that floats your boat too). Glittering Naeroyfjord is one of the country’s stand outs. It takes its name from the Norse god of the sea, Njord, and is formed by the glacial erosion of the surrounding bedrock. The encircling mountain peaks rise up to 1,400 metres and you’ll find spectacular waterfalls crashing over cliffs into the fjord below. Make sure your camera is charged before visiting (and maybe pack an extra memory card while you’re at it).
Make it happen: Naeroyfjord is located in the Norwegian Fjords.
5. Track reindeer and polar bears in Svalbard
Only accessible by plane, Svalbard is one of the few vestiges of real wilderness left to explore. The frozen archipelago is home to bright blue glaciers, dramatic snow peaks and some of Norway’s most iconic wildlife. Originally founded as a mining centre for Norway, today nearly two thirds of Svalbard is a protected nature reserve filled with reindeer, Arctic foxes, walruses, and its most popular residents: polar bears. The fact Svalbard has more polar bears than people means it has earned the nickname as the ‘realm of the polar bear’. While wildlife is a big drawcard to Svalbard, adventurers will find plenty of hiking and kayaking to enjoy, as well as glaciers to climb and explore.
Make it happen: Due to the sometimes challenging Arctic conditions, the best way to explore Svalbard is on a tour. You can check out Intrepid Travel’s Svalbard tours here.
Got an itch for the great outdoors? Get a taste of Norway on one of our small-group adventures.