The Best Time to Visit Norway
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Norway is a beautiful European destination, which is well worth exploring if you want to experience some of the world’s best natural scenery. Spanning the western coast of Scandinavia, Norway extends from the green plains in the country’s far south to the mountainous northern regions, deep within the Arctic Circle. Quaint towns and bustling cities vie with untouched wilderness in this country of diverse contrasts. There is something for every kind of holiday-maker here, including amazing natural sights, rich cultural heritage, and excellent outdoor adventure activities.
The weather in Norway is colder than in other European regions, which means it is essential to plan the timing of your visit. The country can be split into two climate zones: Northern Norway and Southern Norway. The south enjoys a temperate climate with pleasant summers and cold winters. Meanwhile, the extensive northern regions remain cold, with very long and snowy winters. This is contrasted by long summer nights, which are made unique by the midnight sun.
When most people think of Norway, they picture deep fjords surrounded by snow-capped mountains, and quaint farmhouses lining the shoreline. This idyllic image is true for many places in Southern Norway, particularly in the regions to the west of the country, where the world-famous fjords cut deep into the coastline. These scenic waterways can be accessed year-round, however, spring and summer are when they are at their most beautiful. Spring brings with it an explosion of life, with tree blossoms bursting into bloom, while summer provides the perfect weather to enjoy outdoor activities. Take to the aquamarine waters by kayak and paddleboard, or hike the paths that wind through Norway’s mountainous interior.
From many fjords, it is a short distance to reach the highest mountain peaks. And mountain bikers and hikers flock to the region between June and August to make the most of the summer conditions. For some of the most spectacular mountain scenery, head to Geirangerfjord, where the views from the snowy top of Mount Dalsnibba will take your breath away. Also located along this vast fjord is the Seven Sisters waterfall, tumbling down the sheer cliffs in seven distinct streams before crashing into the water below.
Southern Norway is also known for its vibrant cities and picturesque towns. They are best visited between May and August, when the days are longer and warmer. However, there is a certain charm to the cobbled streets and cosy coffee shops of the pretty towns during the snowy winter months. The capital city of Oslo offers a wealth of fantastic experiences for visitors of all kinds. Its historic city centre, which encompasses the harbour area, houses a plethora of fascinating museums and cultural centres. Stroll through the streets admiring the historic buildings, or stop in one of the city’s many parks, such as Vigeland Park, famed for its unique sculptures. The cultural calendar is packed year-round in Oslo, so there is something to experience whatever season you visit.
For a taste of old-world charm, visit Bergen, the gateway to the fjords. This city displays both modern and traditional buildings throughout its small centre. Quintessential wooden houses line up the scenic waterfront on the old wharf – once the centre of the Hanseatic League's trading empire. Today, these wooden structures house lively bars and restaurants, perfect for drinks or an evening meal overlooking the bay. From Bergen, take the funicular up to the Fløyen peak, which offers walks aplenty and excellent views across Bergen.
Northern Norway is a special place to visit at any time of year. In this remote part of the world, each season offers something unique to astound and delight travellers. Situated within the Arctic Circle, Norway’s northern cities lie largely on the coast, while the country’s hinterland is defined by its towering peaks and deep forests. The seasons here are more pronounced than elsewhere in the country, with winter and summer bringing conditions that contrast sharply with one another.
The main draws of northern Norway lie in the natural world, which provides incredible sights in abundance. For many, this beauty is best summed up by the Northern Lights, which illuminate the skies from autumn until early spring. The lights fill the heavens with a green and blue aurora that will take your breath away. This phenomenon can never be predicted, but if you are seeking the Northern Lights, the best time to arrive is in the depths of winter, between December and February. If you are lucky, you may get a sight of the aurora while wandering the snow-covered streets. But, you can also take a dedicated trip for the experience away from the towns, where no light pollution can interfere with the spectacle.
Although winter days are short, there is plenty to fill them with if you do not mind the cold. You can take part in all kinds of snow sports, including snowshoeing, cross country skiing and snowmobiling through the rugged winter landscape.
Summer in northern Norway is unique, attracting travellers to the kind of sites that can only be viewed at these northern longitudes. During the summer months, you can experience the eerie beauty of the Midnight Sun, which brings daylight for weeks on end. This phenomenon lasts for a different length of time depending on how far north you go. For example, the sun does not set over the northern islands of Svalbard from late April through to late August. With the snow and ice retreating for a few months each year, the Norwegian summer also opens plenty of opportunities for hiking and water sports. Admire the beautiful summer scenery during a mountain walk, or wait until autumn when the foliage in Norway’s coniferous forests turns the mountainsides into a vibrant red and gold mosaic.
- Appropriate outdoor clothing, including good quality arctic gear for winter exploration
- Sturdy walking shoes, preferably waterproof
- Warm layers, even in summer, as evenings can be cold
- Your camera