This post originally appeared as a guest post on The Overseas Escape, but since I currently have to devote all my time to just getting my freaking paper done, I figured it was about time I shared this on my blog as well!
The ten months that I spent studying abroad in Norway were definitely some of the best of my life. I lost my heart to the stunning Norwegian landscape and I am convinced that Norway is one of the most beautiful countries in the world that should absolutely make its way on everyone's travel bucket list. Planning a journey to Norway can be overwhelming because there are so many interesting places that deserve a visit, but these are the ten places that I have been to so far that I have loved the most:
I might be biased since I used to live in Bergen, but I honestly believe that this town is one of the most charming cities in Europe – at least, if you get to explore it without the rain! Norway's second largest city is located at the country's west coast and often called "Gateway to the fjords" because of its close proximity to many of Norway's most beautiful natural sights. The mountains around the city offer a lot of great opportunities for hiking - my favorites are the Vidden Hike from Fløyen to Ulriken and the Lyderhorn - but those that are not as outdoorsy will enjoy exploring the iconic Bryggen buildings and taking up the cable car to the Fløyen for an amazing view over Bergen.
This wouldn’t be a post about Norway without mentioning a fjord, would it be? The Nærøyfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the narrowest fjords in the country. The towering mountains create a mystical and sometimes even gloomy atmosphere, but in the best way possible – this is exactly the type of landscape Norway is famous for! As part of the popular Norway in a Nutshell Tour, the ferries can get super crowded, but the landscape still feels etheral and incredible pristine.
If you spend a lot of time on Pinterest, you have probably pinned Trolltunga to a board before. Trolltunga is a piece of rock that is shaped like a tongue and that sticks out of the mountainside several hundred meters over the ground - talk about an adrenaline-inducing place! Seeing Trolltunga required an eight-hour hike through wild and rugged landscape that occasionally left me feeling like there was no way I was going to be able to do it. But realizing that my body was stronger than my mind gave it credit for, was one of the best parts of visiting Trolltunga.
A little word of honesty, though: In my opinion the Trolltunga hike is way too hard if your main objective of the trip is to take pictures to brag on Facebook - but if you love hiking, you are going to love the physical challenge!
Want to have a shot at seeing the Northern Lights? Head to Tromsø in Northern Norway in the winter! As the home of both the northern-most university and the northern-most brewery in the world and subject to near constant darkness in the winter and light in the summer, this surely is one of the most unique and out of the way location you can visit. Take the Cable Car up the Storsteinen, marvel at the modern architecture of the Tromsø Cathedral and go dog-sledding to make your trip amazing, even if the Northern Lights decide to stay elusive.
Granted, a ship is not really a place, but the Hurtigruten are a unique Norwegian experience nonetheless, so I just had to include it. Going on a cruise with the Hurtigruten is a great way to explore Norway’s beautiful coast: The classic route leads you from Bergen all the way to Kirkenes on the Russian border and back again and takes twelve days, but if you don’t feel like spending that much cash, you can always go for a shorter route. We took the Hurtigruten from Tromsø to Kirkenes and did a stop at the North Cape in the middle of winter and it remains the most unique travel experience of my life to this day.
The Hardangerfjord is one of the largest fjords in Norway and my personal favorite: The landscape is more mellow than the mountains around the Nærøyfjord, but still very much majestic, and the fjord is a lot less overrun by tourists which makes it all the more impressive. I fell in love with the contrast between the soft shores of the fjord that are lined with fruit trees and the imposing mountains crowned by the Folgefonna Glacier, one of the largest in Norway. The Hardangerfjord has always been a favorite with artists and it is not hard to see how the beauty of this place would inspire creativity.
Another bucket-list-worthy destination, the Preikestolen doesn’t require as strenuous a hike as Trolltunga, but still rewards you with jaw-dropping views and some serious bragging opportunities. It’s not a hidden gem by any means and you will likely end up sharing the moment with tons of after people, but everyone is there for a reason. I found the hike to Preikestolen pretty easy, but in my opinion the view was just as stunning as the one from Trolltunga - if a little bit less wild.
A national park in the heart of the country and home to the highest mountains in Scandinavia, Jotunheimen was named after the land of the Frost Giants from Nordic mythology and is probably my absolute favorite place in Norway. Out of the way of the typical tourist routes, Jotunheimen is popular with hikers and radiates a rough wildness that almost makes the fjords seem tame. The Besseggen Ridge is one of Norway’s most popular hikes and may make you doubt that you’re still in Europe – Jotunheimen is definitely the perfect place to have a profound encounter with nature.
You may want to skip this road if you're a nervous driver! The Trollstigen – this translates to Trollladder – is a national tourist route leading you up to a mountain plateau in many tiny hairpin bends. The road can be so busy with tourist coaches and camping vans that you wonder how cars manage to pass each other by without leaving scratches, but the view over the valley is outstanding.
Only a short drive away from the Trollstigen, the Geirangerfjord is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and a tiny, tiny fjord that is set deep within the Norwegian landmass. Overrun by cruise ship tourists during the day – there were two massive ocean liners and another smaller one when we arrived – Geiranger becomes very quiet and sleepy by night. You can escape the masses by hiking along the peaceful mountain side, but do be early if you want to take pictures from one of the view points along the road.
This list is obviously not exhaustive by any means - there are many other places that I love and even more places that I still want to visit one day - but hopefully this has given you a good overview of the beauty Norway has to offer. I am beyond thankful for the experiences I was able to make in this country and I do hope I have managed to convince you to travel to Norway one day!