Norway leaves visitors astounded by its mythical tales and incomparable natural beauty. It is a country with both modern cities and vast rural landscapes balanced perfectly. Whether you want to escape civilisation entirely and explore the fjords or embrace a melting pot of nature and urban design in Oslo and its other major cities, Norway is an unforgettable cruise destination. In this guide, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about Norway, from where to see the northern lights to local cuisine and gastronomy.
Where to visit
On a cruise to Norway, you can get the best of both worlds - head to the cities, like the capital, Oslo, for a lively holiday or venture into the wilderness of the north as you descend upon the Arctic Circle.
Cascading waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, the deepest blue waters and bright green fields characterise a landscape that dates back to the Ice Age. Many cruises to Norway take you to the fjords, where you can marvel at a setting that has to be seen to be believed. Chocolate box villages are dotted along the shorelines posing for photos, while the waters are alive with whales, dolphins and seals, eagles fly high above.
Geirangerfjord may not be the biggest fjord in Norway but it is certainly the most impressive. The waterway snakes its way inland, as dramatic waterfalls, like Seven Sisters, drop from the high cliffs on either side. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005, Geirgangerfjord is not to be missed.
Oslo is at one with nature, sea and rugged mountains border the fastest-growing capital in Europe. With an admirably low carbon footprint, Oslo was named European Green Capital in 2019 as a city that focuses on sustainable food and green space. For those hoping to fit a bit of nature into their holiday, beautiful parks, waterways and islands are all within walking distance from the city centre.
A thriving food scene makes Oslo a must-visit for anyone hoping to sample some authentic Nordic dishes. Plus, the city’s array of museums, amusement parks, zoos, gardens, shopping and galleries means there will never be a dull moment.
Set 350km north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is for the adventurer in all of us. It is remote and wild but the treasures that it will share with you are more than worth the journey. Tromsø is one of the best places in the world to witness the wonder of the northern lights. The regional capital of northern Norway, you may be surprised by the culture and number of other attractions in Tromsø. It isn’t the largest city but you can head to the museums and galleries, go on a hike or indulge in the local food before you head out in search of the lights.
Where to see the northern lights
The northern lights are synonymous with Norway. Situated on the Arctic Circle, you can bear witness to some of the most amazing aurora displays. Steve Vickers is the founder of Routes North, an independent travel guide to Scandinavia, he told us, “Norway can be expensive but it’s also one of the best places on earth for seeing the northern lights. It’s safe, it’s easy to get around and large parts of the country are far enough north to give you a good chance of seeing the lights. “If the weather is good and the time of year is right, you can usually see the northern lights anywhere north of Bodø. Although rare, it’s not unheard of for the lights to be visible over Oslo.
“Part of what makes Norway such a great place to see the aurora is the sheer variety of landscapes. You can watch the green lights dance over dramatic mountaintops, mirror-smooth fjords and even blue-hued glaciers. Our advice is to leave yourself plenty of time to see the northern lights; the weather is notoriously fickle in Norway and we’d recommend staying in the right part of the country for at least a few nights to maximise your chances of a magical encounter.”
What to eat
Food in Norway is fresh, made with love and packed with some serious flavour. Residents believe Norway has been going through a quiet culinary revolution for a number of years now, resulting in a rise of really high quality local and organic food.
We chatted to Linda from Tripping Blonde, she told us, “With Norway’s long coastline and its many fjords, fish is a must-try food, whether fresh or cured. Don’t miss the grilled salmon dishes but also be sure to try the bacalao, a dried and salted cod dish. If you’re a meat lover, opt for a traditional everyday meal, kjøttkaker, which is a fried meatball with boiled potatoes and gravy with a side of mushy peas. For a sweet treat, seek out a traditional cake such as svele, grovkake or skolebolle. For something more savoury, try the heart-shaped waffles with lingonberry jam and brown cheese.”
What to pack
It doesn’t matter when you visit, Norway is always glorious. During the winter months, you’ll see thick snow but during the summer months, the fjords will glisten in the sun and vast amounts of green space will come to life.
We chatted to Linda, an experienced traveller, she told us: “Norway’s weather can change at the drop of a hat, so be sure to pack one along with a few other staples that will help you stay warm and dry. When packing, opt for practicality and comfort over style. If you can achieve all three with your essentials, which includes a wool sweater, layers for protection against wind and rain, and waterproof footwear, you’ll have no problem fitting in with the locals while staying comfortable.”
Temperatures range between -20°C in the remote northern corners in January and February to around 17 °C in the summer. Your packing list will be determined by whether you’re going on a summer or winter cruise, as well as the activities you’re likely to do while you are there.
Winter in Norway mirrors the UK but it is significantly colder. Opt for three layers; inner, middle and outer. The inner layer should be made up of long underwear or thermals made from synthetic materials while avoiding cotton which can actually cool you down. For the middle, try waterproof trousers with thermal leggings. Wool is a very good insulator - you can find woollen padded trousers in some shops. To keep yourself warm, try to have a couple of thing pieces of clothing, which will trap warm air between them. Top the middle layer off with a sweatshirt or jumper. Finally, the outer layer. This should be large enough to fit over the preceding layers but not too big that it becomes cumbersome. Try a thick jacket with a hood in case it rains or you want to keep your head warmer.
Summer in Scandinavia can be rather comfortable. Mild temperatures mean that for the most part, you can get away with a t-shirt, sweatshirt and thin jacket. At night, however, temperatures can drop, so if you are out for the day and a portion of the evening grab a hat and some gloves. It may seem surprising but sunglasses and sunscreen are necessary especially if out on the water or in snowy areas as the UV rays will reflect.