Norway, a Scandinavian country of heart-stopping beauty
Famous for its darkly majestic fjords, Norway is at its most magical away from its cosmopolitan cities, where you'll encounter stark, wintry landscapes exuding a unique Scandinavian grandeur. From a ragged coastline, scuffed and battered by the Norwegian Sea, Norway's slender length sweeps up into the remote reaches of the desolate Arctic tundra - where polar bears roam on the ice-clad Svalbard Islands.
A warm and colourful people inhabit the lively towns and cities of Norway, centred on the chic capital of Oslo. Known for centuries for their Viking ferocity, Norwegian's are still a hardy folk but have developed a society famous for its affluence and highly progressive culture.
Flights to Norway from London take you into Oslo Airport, Gardermoen, which is not far from the centre of the capital city, Oslo. From the harbour, where colourful buildings overlook quiet, limpid waters, you'll immediately notice the upbeat vibe of the city. Trendy cafés stand beside world-class museums, while an eclectic array of art galleries and monuments provide the background to exploring some of Oslo's vibrant markets or leafy parks.
The Folk Museum is one of Oslo's premier attractions and is an open-air jumble of age-old, timber-framed buildings. The exhibition hall includes flamboyant folk art and traditional music.
History and architecture
Norway's dramatic Norse heritage can be explored at the Viking Ship Museum. The exceptionally well-preserved Oseberg Ship is the museum's greatest artefact, a fully intact Viking longship that still retains the original artistry on its ancient prow. You'll also find fearsome weaponry displayed, along with a trademark horde of Viking treasure including finely wrought gold and beautiful jewellery.
The evocative wooden stave churches in the stunning rural heartlands are unique to Norway. The Urnes Stave Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a fine example of the flamboyant wooden architecture. Making use of Norway's abundance of pine forests, the churches hark back to the pagan halls of old and harmoniously blend into the natural landscape.
The bulk of Norway's landmass is a rugged collection of mountain ranges that give the country a spine of solid rock. Often carpeted in snow, these mountains are irresistible for adventurous visitors who cannot wait to get amid the glaciers and plunging waterfalls.
You can marvel at the wild moose and soaring eagles in Norway's protected wildernesses such as the Rondane National Park, where the howls of wolves enliven the night air. As darkness descends, while you're sailing on a remote fjord such as Sognesfjord, the black waters can become luminescent mirrors reflecting the Northern Lights dancing overhead.
Food and drink
Norway has a rich seafaring tradition which is evident in its fish-based cuisine. Smoked salmon is a popular dish, while mackerel, herring and cod also feature prominently. You can expect rich, hearty meals such as lapskaus stew which - comprising of potatoes and vegetables - positively burst with flavours. There's also reindeer on offer, while mead and Christmas beer are favoured beverages.