Norway is never the first place people think of for mind-blowing excitement and ultra cool adventures. But you should think again…
For some time, I’ve realised that the young kids on the block think Norway is, well, a bit boring. It’s just one of those ‘nice’ places you go when you’re retired to experience beautiful scenery at a slow pace. Which is kind of ironic when you look at its neighbours – Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland – all of which are perceived as being cool like only the Scandinavians know how, but that can’t really be said for Norway. Not just yet….
Working for a tour operator I know what we get enquiries for and who wants to book what destinations. I’m not saying that Norway isn’t popular, because it is, but among retired people. Yeh, the astronomical prices of Norway definitely put people off, but I reckon that’s not the only reason. Even when we think of the capital city of Oslo it hardly inspires wanderlust, does it? It even rhymes with slow.
I’m not really a person to generalise but if it helps make a point then I shouldn’t stop. Anyone that has been to Denmark and especially Copenhagen will think the Danes are the most stylish people on the planet; anyone that has been to Sweden will think the Swedes are the most beautiful people on the planet; anyone that has been to Iceland will think the Icelanders are the quirkiest people on the planet; and anyone who has been to Finland will think the Finns are the craziest people on the planet. (Seriously the Finns are nuts, especially after a drink or two). So where does Norway and its inhabitants come in on the scale of cool? Well, it doesn’t. At least not at the moment it doesn’t.
But I want to help change that.
It blows all the other Scandinavian countries out of the water when it comes to beauty. I don’t just mean ‘Oh, look darling, isn’t that pretty?’ kind of beauty. I’m talking dramatic, epic, apocalyptic, a full-on Elizabeth Taylor before she draped herself in diamonds and completely lost it.
So empty your brain of all preconceptions of Norway and take a look at this list.
1. Northern Lights Cathedral
Why have a church with a cross on it when you can have a UFO for a church? (It’s supposed to look like the Northern Lights swirling, but I’m sticking with a UFO).
Trolltunga © VisitNorway
I haven’t hiked to Trollunga yet. But I need to, and when I do I’m going to go on the Via Ferrata.
3. The Igloo Hotel
Not only can you sleep on ice here, you can get hitched in the ice chapel! Quite literally the coolest thing on this list.
4. Svalbard – The lasts stop before the North Pole!
A Norwegian archipelago north of mainland Europe, words can’t express just how insanely awesome this place is, with a mere population of 2500 people and with over 60% of it covered by glacier, Svalbard is unlike any other place on earth.
5. Polar Bears
© Asgeir Helgestad/Arctic Light
About Svalbard… did I mention that polar bears outnumber people up there? Check out the boxing cub on the left. I think I’m in love.
6. And if you don’t see Polar Bears…
You can at least console yourself by having a photo with the warning sign or drinking some Polar bear beer. That’s exactly what Megan Starr did! If you want to learn more about life in Norway then you should hop on over to her awesome travel blog: www.meganstarr.com!
7. Magnus Carlsen
Admittedly when it comes to chess crushes I go goo-goo eyed for Kasparov, but this chess player became the youngster person to be ranked no.1 in the world at the age of 19! You can read about how I sometimes tie in chess with my travels here.
During the summer when the weather is still cool in the high Arctic but the snow is no longer there you can go husky-sledding on wheels too!
9. If David Bowie Were a Husky Dog…
Look into my eyes…
10. The 11 – hairpin bends of the Trollstigen Road
Trollstigen Road © VisitNorway
Narrow, steep, sharp – this road will give you the ride of your life. Part of Norway’s National Tourist Routes that aims to incorporate modern architecture as a means of experiencing Norway’s otherwise difficult to reach landscapes.
11. The Atlantic Road
Atlantic Road © Terje Rakke
If the Trollstigen road wasn’t enough to convince you that Norway has the world’s best driving roads then the Atlantic road should do the trick.
Really, how can one place be so pretty? This art nouveau town in west Norway looks like a stained glass window.
13. Lots and lots of colourful buildings
It’s not only Ålesund that’s colourful, in fact the further North you go the more colourful the buildings get to break up the cold, dark spell of the Polar season.
14. The Northern Lights
Although you can see the Northern Lights from several places usually above the Arctic Circle, Norway has a special historical authority on the subject. The first Northern Lights scientist, Kristian Birkeland built his observatory in 1899 in Alta, Northern Norway. This photo of me dropping a peace sign was taken in Alta too.
15. Skateboarding on the Oslo Opera House
Oslo Opera House © VisitNorway
Norway has some incredible architecture and the Opera House is a fine example. I’ll always remember the first time I clapped eyes on it. I was with my friend Lily and we were on a weekend in Oslo together for my 22nd Birthday. We didn’t realise how expensive the city was until we got there (we were lured in by £12 return flights with Ryanair) so instead of a birthday meal we shared a chocolate bar after pushing the boat out with a £9 sandwich. Trying to stretch out our money for as long as possible we decided to take a walk to the Opera House after a guy from our hostel recommended we go, plus it wouldn’t cost us any money. After walking through a shopping centre we were greeted with the vision of the Oslofjord and next to it the white marble and granite surface of the Opera House shone like a diamond under the sun. Where you expect most opera houses to have an air of pretension this one is nothing like that. The external architecture is geared heavily towards space and exploration, letting you walk onto the roof via wide paving slopes. Incidentally all these slopes and angles means the building is now the number.1 skating spot in the city. Suddenly my birthday became very memorable.
16. Forget sailing down fjords: fly over them!
Two minutes in will make your mouth drop to the floor. Would you dare be a human bird? If it means flying over the fjords of Norway maybe I would… after some Valium.
17. When you’re in Norway, you go to Hell
‘Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company’ ~ Mark Twain.
18. Staying in a Rorbu (fisherman’s cabin)
Adding a touch of glamour to traditional fishermen’s cabins are these renovated rorbuer in Lofoten which you can stay in. Not only are you surrounded by immense beauty but you can go fishing out of the window if your heart so desires! Now if that’s not cool then I really don’t know what is.
19. Breaking Bad 2
Walt and Jessie are cooking up in the Arctic. That’s all I can disclose right now.
20. Endless photo opportunities
Kjerag Boulder © VisitNorway
If Trolltunga wasn’t enough, you also have Pulpit Rock and Kjeragbolten to get that profile picture you want!