I’ve spent a lot of time and money traveling the world, and as this blog has evolved I’ve started writing more guides to the places I’ve visited and lived to share my favorite places with you. However, I have a tendency to forget one of my absolute favorite places in the world: my own country. Nothing has ever made more patriotic than moving abroad, and nothing has made me appreciate the Norwegian nature more than exploring the mountains, lakes, and landscapes of other countries and getting a perspective on the beauty that I’ve grown up with at home. As a result, my summer vacations in Norway have increasingly become about exploring my own country, both new places and old.
This past weekend I picked up a rental car and drove over 600 kilometers around the southern parts of Norway to show off the sights to one of my friend’s from Chile. The most common phrase used on the trip was “amazing”, and that will probably be yours too if you ever decide to visit. So, if you’re planning a trip to the land of the fjords (and the Vikings), I would like to give you a short lay down of my 5 favorite destinations for gorgeous nature and Instagram opportunities in Norway.
Prekestolen + Kjeragbolten
Last summer my aunt, my cousin and I went on a two-day road trip to Rogaland to hike to Kjeragbolten, and then Prekestolen (or the Pulpit Rock as its known in English). Its one of the most stunning natural sceneries I’ve ever witnessed.
This past weekend I was set on repeating the trip, but the weather gods decided that Kjerag was all we were getting on that trip. Kjeragbolten is a 5 hour-hike (or less, depending on your fitness level) along the ledge overlooking Lysefjorden, with the destination being a rock wedged into a crevasse in the mountain with a 984-meter abyss below. In other words: Kjeragbolten is not for the faint-hearted, nor for those with fear of heights.
The Pulpit Rock, or Prekestolen, is a steep cliff overlooking Lysefjorden (on the opposite side from Kjeragbolten and slightly further south) that can boast a 604-meter drop straight into the fjord below. Last time we were there it took us a little under 3 hours (photo op and snacking included), but the ladies at the tourist information site told me the average time is around 4 hours round-trip.
My grandmother is from the northern parts of Norway, and my mom was born there. However, up until a couple of years ago, I had never visited their hometown, so my grandmother and I went on a cruise together along the coast from Kirkenes to Bergen. On day 3 of our trip, we arrived in Lofoten, and words can hardly describe what we saw. The scenery in Lofoten looks like something straight out of a fantasy movie or a romantic nationalistic painting from the late 1800s. The area is inhabited by majestic sea eagles that will swop by your boat if you’re really lucky, which we were. I wouldn’t mind living here at some point in my life.
Skjærgården / Sørlandet
The coastal archipelago that is the key element that makes up the reasons why Norwegians flock to my hometown and the surrounding areas every summer. If you get the opportunity, take a boat out on the sea on a sunny day, bring some shrimp, strawberries, and beer with you (no drinking and driving, please) and enjoy Norwegian summer at its finest. Shack up on an island somewhere and sleep under the stars (or in a tent, your choice). Wake up and take a morning swim in cold, sea salty water and dry off on the rocks. In the summer I find myself seriously reconsidering my choice to live abroad.
Setesdalen & Hardangervidda
From Kristiansand, my hometown, you can drive up into the valley of Setesdalen and experience a different side of Norwegian culture. The valley starts at the very edge of the Hardangervidda in the north, all the way down to Iveland in the south, and covers landscapes as diverse as flat countryside and beautiful mountains. Folk music, silverwork, and hiking are what I think of when someone mentions the valley, where we have an old family cabin.
If you drive through Setesdalen you’ll end up on Hardangervidda, a mountain plateau covering an area of 3,422 square kilometers. Perfect for hiking, bicycling and camping (and fishing!). The Norwegian Tourist Board has small cabins spread across the mountains that are available to the public, so if you want to do what the Norwegians are doing spend a weekend – or a week – hiking from cabin to cabin across the tundra. You won’t regret it.
On a hike across the Hardangervidda. Photo by my friend Hallvard.
Finnmark is the northern-most county in Norway, and home to the indigenous Sami people that inhabit the area reaching from Norway into the northern parts of Sweden, Finland, and Russia. On the aforementioned trip along the Norwegian coast with my grandmother, we started our trip in Finnmark with visits to Nordkapp and a Sami settlement open to visitors. Nordkapp is known as the northernmost point in mainland Norway (it’s not, but let’s stick with the fantasy anyways), and is the point where the Norwegian Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean, meets the Barents Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean.
In the summer, between mid-May and the end of July, you can experience the midnight sun here. In Norwegian, there is a term for this out-of-body experience caused by the sun never setting: døgnvill. The closest English translation would be jetlag, but it doesn’t quite cover the weirdness of going outside at 2AM and having the sun be high on the horizon as if it was still 4 in the afternoon. This should definitely be on your bucket list.
Have you ever had the chance to travel to any of these places? And what’s on your Norway bucket list?