Walking and trekking
Norway is justifiably famous as an outdoor destination: here you find limitless expanses of pine and fir, long, straight roads which close to a vanishing point, depthless blue skies and glacier-scooped, snow-plastered mountains crashing into a fjord-ripped coastline. It is a not-so-microcosmic amalgam of all that's good about arctic countries across the world, from Alaska and Yukon Canada via Greenland and Siberia - with a dash of the Cairngorms for good measure. Walkers are spoilt: here there are mountains to suit all levels of ability, strung somewhat haphazardly under the country's sizeable sway. The natural draw for people looking to climb is, of course the highest mountain. Galdhoppigen forms the chunky centrepiece of 1,145km² Jotunheimen National Park. The park is a six hour drive from Oslo; in Britain it would be three hours but Norway's conservative speed limits (and prickly speed cameras) necessitate a leisurely journey. Fortunately once you’re out of Oslo, this road takes you through the very heartland of Norway and is one of the greatest drives in the world, so it would be sacrilege not to savour it. The mountain itself is weighed down by a glacier, and has several approaches. One is via a slope directly from the refuge at the mountain’s base, but a more more adventurous approach is from Spiterstulen, over the glacier from the east. A guide is a must on this crevasse-riddled route, but - amazingly - one can be hired to lead your ascent for as little as £15 (yes, fifteen pounds). Via the normal route it is a long day best started early, but within the reach of most fit hill-walkers.
Immediately opposite Galdhoppigen is a mountain many feel is finer: Glittertind (2,465m). Norway's second-highest peak (when iced up) is barely a starjump shorter than Galdhoppigen and much more technically satisfying: its summit is an angled icecap which doesn’t have the obligatory summit shelter its taller neighbour flaunts. The two peaks are such near neighbours both can be climbed in a weekend, or even a day if you're feeling adventurous. Also within Jotunheimen’s sway is the monstrous Hurrangane, a wilderness of ice and mountains forged for adventurers who want to stay high and cold. Here also is the famous Bessegen Ridge - Norway’s Sharp Edge. Forming part of a fabulous day-walk from Gjendesheim, this is a frightening ridge in terms of exposure, but is technically not too bad at all so long as you keep your nerves in check. There are many other trails ranging in length and commitment in the park, so buy a good map and think big. Norway is one of the more enlightened countries of the world and allows wild camping practically anywhere, so if multi-day backpacks are your thing, you’ll do well do put this place on your list.
If climbing is your thing, there is something up north you might like to have a go at. On the gobsmackingly spectacular Lafoten islands, just outside the port of Svolvær is a pinnacle of rock calledSvolværgeita. This is a very steep mountain topped by a horned pinnacle which involves 40m of technical climbing (about a hard VS) to gain its summit, which is where you find the real challenge: Norway’s Adam and Eve, a 1.5m jump between pinnacles which ranks as a right of passage for many Norwegian climbers, who are famously hardy individuals. Pack titanium nerves.
If you want something (slightly) more prosaic, Norway has some world-class coastline. Geirangerfjord is perhaps the finest example of a Norwegian fjord, despite it being one of the smallest. It was recently granted UNESCO world heritage status, and there are many walks of varying difficulty snaking up to vantage points where you can enjoy this remarkable place. This being Scandinavia, there is naturally a very well-organised tourist information service with maps and details of walks in the village of Geiranger.
Norway also has the ‘Pilgrim Way’, a 360km network of walks which lead from Oslo to the ancient town of Nidaros (these days known as Trondheim) which link places of significance to St Olav, Norway’s patron saint. It’s a spectacular and fascinating walk which links two coastlines via a big chunk of central Norway, and the beauty of it is you can walk as little or as much as you want depending on your desires, age or fitness. One thing to take the edge off this country is the truly astronomical price of everything: but if ever there was truth to the saying you get what you pay for, you’ll find it here.
Our thanks to Stina Smemo (SKS1) for valuable updates to this page. Talk to Stina in the Discuss This section below.
Norwegians are big skiers: the Norwegians invented it, and as soon as you see the clutches of permanently snowed plateaux inhabiting the top two-thirds of the countries vertical length it doesn’t take much imagination to see why: Norway has over 30,000km of marked cross-country ski trails. Naturally then, if you want to ski, this is the place to start. Head for Voss – to the east of Bergen – to get a start, then make for the ski area of Peer Gynt, near Lillehammer, where ski trails let nothing stand in their way and you can gleefully recieve many transcendent reasons why Norwegians love skis so very much.
Kayaking is also very popular in Norway, especially along the Telemark canal, the River Glomma and the Lake Femunden, and in the arctic inlets of the far north.
Taking a cruise up the northern coast is also an experience worth pushing for, quite apart from the fact that it is really the only practical way to get to some of the more isolated areas of Norway. The Hurtigrute boat service isn’t what you’d call a cruise, but the scenery and adventure more than makes up for its lack of romance as it makes its 35 stops up the northen extreme of Norway, deep into the Arctic circle. It’s also a good way to access the Lafoten islands mentioned in Walking and Trekking. It takes six days to sail from Bergen, passing amongst other delights, the town of Tromso, the Barents sea, and the perceptively named Nordkapp - the northernmost town in Europe – before terminating at Kirkenes. Finally, if you are in Norway during the winter – and there is something innately magical about doing that alone – try and get to Hammerfest. It’s a bustling, ember-lit revelation far up Norway’s coastline, and it is a hotbed for those who want to see the aurora borealis.
Norway is expensive: TRUE. A Mars bar costs about £1, small hotdog costs about £3, a 330ml bottle of beer £4, etc.
Everything in Norway is expensive: FALSE. You can hire a guide to climb its highest peak for £15 (see Walking and Trekking).
Must see and do
- Try and see the Northern Lights at Hammerfestwww.hammerfest-turist.no/index.php?page_id=33
- Try cross-country skiing at Lillehammerwww.lillehammerturist.no/english/winter/index.htm
- Climb the Bessegen ridge in Jotunheimen National Park.http://www.norway.com/directories/d_company.asp?id=5843
- Try Reindeer meat; (it’s a bit like beef, but richer and chewier)
Good For (World) :