Reine, Norway © Petr Smerkl, Wikipedia
Norway is a wildly beautiful country of snow-capped mountains and deep glacier-carved fjords. The astounding scenery of the southwestern Fjordlands and the mysterious Northern Lights of the Arctic are the main draw cards for tourists.
But there are many other incentives to visit this sparsely inhabited country. It offers remote wilderness and outdoor activities, fairylike forests, historic towns and charming fishing villages, friendly people, and the lure of the Arctic Circle. It also boasts some of the most scenic bus trips, boat cruises, and train rides in the world.
'The Land of the Midnight Sun', with its long summer days, is not only for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. It offers a rich cultural heritage from the Vikings, the traditional nomadic Sami people of the remote northern regions, and world-renowned artists such as Edvard Munch.
Principle cities of interest are Oslo, the pretty capital; the historic trading port of Bergen, gateway to the Fjordlands; and hilly Tromsø, within the Arctic Circle, the centre of the Northern Lights activity. They are pleasant, low-key cities that offer a good range of museums, historical sites, and unique architecture.
Norway's greatest impact on history was during the Viking Age when the sleek Viking ships crossed the Atlantic, subjecting Europe to numerous raids. Traditionally, Norwegians are explorers and their influence is evident in the world-shaping history of the Vikings. It's also seen in more recent personalities like polar explorer Roald Amundsen and the legendary Pacific crossing of Thor Heyerdahl on his wooden raft, the Kon-Tiki.
Today, Norwegians hold onto many of their cultural traditions, most notably the art of storytelling that takes place around the fireside and whiles away the long winter hours. Trolls figure prominently in their folklore, some friendly and helpful, and some decidedly naughty, conveniently serving as a source of blame for all of life's troubles.
Norway is one of the best adventure-tourism destinations in the world, with an intriguing folk culture to match its dramatic landscapes. It is an expensive country to visit but provides once-in-a-lifetime experiences that truly reward the investment.