June 30th, 2024

Up Guide to Norway

June 30th, 2024

Written by

Sondre Sommerfelt in collaboration with Up Norway

A cosmopolitan travel writer

Tailor your own journey. Come on Up!


Tailor your own journey. Come on Up!

As local experts and travel curators, we'd love to tailor your perfect holiday escape. Just answer five simple questions so we'll know where to start.

1. Why Norway?

'Norway is final proof that paradise does not have to be in the tropics'.

What’s the difference between Norway and the rest of the Nordics, you may ask? Oh, come on! The scenery is amazing! Out of this world. Seriously! Mountains, glaciers, fjords, flora, and fauna - from mainland Europe to the Arctic, if you turn 180 degrees and travel the same distance southward you will reach North Africa. That’s a long stretch of Adventure Park. Moose! Reindeers! Whales! Eagles! Puffins! Even the muskoxen, a real stayer! What else do you need to know?


Making things all the more alluring, this land enjoys the finest of Northern celestial phenomena: up north, you can enjoy the midnight sun in the summer, while Northern Lights will keep you fertile through the winter. In the south, you can unwind on those long midsummer nights, but also go nuts in its winter wonderland. The mountain ridge going South-North all through Norway, you can climb up with a rope in the summer, and slide down on skis in the winter.

The North Sea in front is filled with voluminous quantities of fish and intelligent sea mammals, guarded by graceful (and less graceful) birds. The land itself is inhabited by 5 million robust folks, a couple of million sheep and reindeers, a hundred thousand moose, plenty of lynx, a few bears, and numerous fairy tale creatures. Slightly shy all of them, but give each one a big hug when you meet them, and they will be your friends for life.


Do they speak English in Norway?

Yes, English is widely spoken in Norway. In fact, it's one of the most commonly spoken second languages in the country. Norwegians start learning English in school at a young age, and many are proficient in it by the time they reach adulthood. This proficiency extends to most of the population, making it easy for visitors who don't speak Norwegian to get by in most situations. Additionally, in larger cities and most visited areas, you'll find that many Norwegians are fluent in English and can communicate comfortably. So, if you're planning a trip to Norway and wondering if you'll be able to communicate in English, rest assured that you'll likely have no trouble.

2. Service Norwegian Style

‘Practicality first, politeness second’

You will quickly notice that Norwegians are not overly polite or correct. They do not have a word for ‘please’. Well, they do, but they do not say ‘please’ after every single thing said, and will rather use a grunt, ‘Hæ’, to say ‘excuse me’. Norwegians do, however, have a few fundamentally polite proverbs, and every one of them is cute. These include ‘takk for maten’ (thanks for the food) and the heartfelt 'takk for sist' (thanks for the last time we met). Really: how more polite can one get? These are thoroughly genuine, too. Another you will hear is voiced after you have been invited as a guest for dinner: 'Er du forsynt?' (were you provided with enough food?’) This is always a customary enquiry, even if you have consumed a whole elk, and gravy is dripping from your chin. Norwegians are certainly not impolite. They are genuine when they are polite, and they are polite when it really counts.

Norwegians have always heavily emphasised egalitarian principles, tossing in a healthy portion of common sense for good measure. They do not treat people differently based on wealth or rank, and they are as polite to men as towards women, as well as children (that goes without saying). Waiters may be there to serve you, but they’re nonetheless your equal. Of course, you could be forgiven for thinking Norwegians are rude: service levels sometimes feel as low as the fjords are deep, a wise man once said. But, if you believe you are not being properly served, try ‘pragmatic’ instead of ‘angry’, and think 'practicality’ before ‘politeness’. Life's too short for politeness when there's a door to be opened.

Voulez Vous

When it comes to Norwegian egalitarianism, first names are okay in most settings, and the use of the polite form of ‘you’ – the equivalent of the French, plural ‘Vous’ - is a definite no-no, although it does in fact exist. Even if you do not know someone well, it is totally unnecessary to use a title like Herr or Fru (Mr and Mrs). Scandinavians find this courtesy antiquated, even rude, especially since you can go very wrong indeed addressing a woman with her husband’s surname. Modern Norwegian women prefer to stick to their own family name unless both spouses take both names, which is now the trend.


Just do ‘koselig’, and you will be fine

Norwegians just do not see the point in constant gratitude for the tiniest things. As with their world famous Scandinavian design, so it is with linguistics: less is more. Too much ‘please’ can feel like begging, too much debate can feel intrusive, and we certainly don’t want any of that. So, it's not really that we are rude: Norwegian "politeness" lies more in being friendly than in decorum.

Maybe we are not into small talk because winters are long and it is freezing cold. We would rather cherish the energy that is inside, and wait for spring. There is an old Norwegian saying: ‘Can somebody light a fire in the fireplace? - after that, nothing else was said all winter’. This is what the Norwegians call ‘koselig’: snuggling up in front of the fireplace in silence to read a book... most likely one of those Nordic Noirs we love so much. In other words, it’s all about egalitarianism and practicality. And, yeah, enjoying ‘koselig’. *Most advice mentioned here does not apply when Norwegians have been drinking.


3. Luxury our way

‘Hytte til hytte’ (cabin to cabin) in the great outdoors

Taking in the natural beauty that Norway has to offer, Up Norway can offer you a smörgåsbord of truly unique hiking experiences. Up here, lavish spending is no proof of expertise, and the experienced traveller to Norway knows that splendour can be found off the beaten track and outside of peak season. That does not mean travellers up north should be parsimonious, of course. The smart traveller may spend some extra kroners on a dinner out of the ordinary, a great journey of far out fishing, sailing or skiing - or other extravagant and exotic experiences – and always consider it money well invested. That being said, a concept worth trying is ‘Hytte til hytte’ – ‘cabin to cabin’.

No less vigorous than their Viking ancestors, Norwegians retain a deep closeness for the land and great love for the outdoors

A strong hiking tradition has given rise to an extensive network of trails and footpaths, as well as spectacular hideaways built for summer backpackers and winter skiers. This concept is called simply ‘hytte til hytte’ – ‘cabin to cabin’. Run by the Norwegian Trekking Association, Norway is home to the largest and best public cabin system in the world, in some of the last stretches of true wilderness left in Europe, a way of life for locals and a novelty for visitors.


The vast route network is developed in part from older thoroughfares and local footpaths as these mountains have been tackled by the Norwegians since the first Norse woman and man followed the reindeer when the ice cap retracted ten thousand years ago. With such an old and strong tradition of hiking in this country, you could also call this gigantic trail system, in part a question of supply and demand, in response to the needs of trekkers, as ensured by their ‘public right of access’. Yes, this law of the land is important for a simple Norwegian - the right to roam if you want to.

In Norway everyone has the unrestricted right of free access in the countryside, including the national parks. So in a way, the trails serve both to guide trekkers, on foot or on skis, and to protect plant and animal life by serving as limited channels for human foot traffic in the outdoors.

All trekking routes are clearly marked at intervals short enough to see from one mark to the next, even in rain, fog or the occasional blistering storm. They are of two types: summer hiking trails and winter cross-country skiing tracks.

It is custom for all travellers to follow the traditional nine-point mountain code ‘Fjellvettreglene’ (Ask a local what they are before you go, we all know them by heart). This set of rules from 1967 was in 2014 supplemented with ‘Fjellsjekkereglene’ – another nine-point guide intended to ‘help people find love in the mountains’. If you are single, remember to wear a green beanie.

The hytter (cabins)

The rustic cabins are a pleasure to stay in and make Norway’s wide-open terrain far more accessible. Equipped with firewood, gas, food and kitchenware, they have a unique charm you will not find in a five star hotel. And unlike any glittering hotels, you can hang around the lobby in your socks and long johns. Some of the cabins are staffed, but most are self-catering. Some of them even come with a supply of provisions. Most self-service cabins have solar panels for their led lamps, but no running water. But, the cabins are usually located very close to a river from which buckets may be filled. Yes, it is like Walden, and it is time to find your inner Henry David Thoreau. Before leaving a self-service cabin, it is considered good etiquette to carry in firewood, do the dishes, clean the floor and lock the door behind you before you head into yet another day of wilderness fun.


4. Getting around - ‘Slow travel, sustainable travel’

There’s no easy way to say this: if you’re a pedantic planner, or a less than easy lover, getting around Norway can be challenging. We promise, however, that we’ll help make your trip a great experience, and more than worth the planning. Never forget, furthermore, that these are voyages as much of the imagination as they are physical trips. So even the idea of a five-hour train ride, to see the most magnificent fjords, or an extra two-hour flight to see the spectacular Northern Lights, the chances are it will not be anything you regret.

Widerøe - Scenic flights all over Norway

Widerøe’s fleet of twin-engine aircraft serves the grid of smaller airports dotted around this long stretch of impassable land. The airline is so important for transportation to sparsely inhabited areas in this country, in all kinds of weather, that there are famous songs and poems in phrases of their tiny turboprops. They’re bumpy and noisy rides, but will get you where you’re going safely and offer you a scenic experience on a clear day.

There are over 120 ferry routes in Norway, and in summertime, one can expect queues at some ports

Both locals and visitors alike just love travelling up and down the beautiful coastline in the short Nordic summer. Sit back and relax in the midnight sun, take a refreshing dip in the fjord, and buy local strawberries while you wait. Norwegian strawberries are ridiculously expensive until July, when the prices drop like a stone over the summer months. And they taste so much better than Belgian strawberries. Or Wimbledon ones. It’s the abundance of light in the long summer nights that gives them their vibrant sweet flavour.


Mountains don't have addresses

No one’s trying to be condescending here, but do you really need an address for mountains, glaciers, fjords, seas, tidal waves, the Polar Circle, the Northern Lights, or other topographical or natural phenomenon? Though it’s unbelievable what you can find via Google these days, we don’t have street to all of Norway’s earthly features. Not yet, anyway. Connect with fjords, mountains and our neverending coastline on the 'Bergen, Ålesund & Beyond - Heritage Awakened' journey. Here you will find places where time stands still, so remote as if you were the only one that existed.

The money question

Do you think prices for travelling – like everything else in this land - are steep? Well, yes. Put simply, they are. But the country is still heavily subsidised. Though it’s a massive stretch of land with very few people, an extraordinary transportation network serves every last corner of the map. It may cost less to take an Easyjet flight from London Stansted to Berlin Schönefeld, but we promise the high-speed ferry from Bodø to Lofoten Islands is a trillion times more spectacular, and its colour scheme is a great deal more palatable too. Don’t rush, breathe, travelling in Norway is all about the journey, not the destination, at least not ONLY about the destination. And think twice about the transport you are choosing, help move towards more sustainable travel, even if that means a love boat or a slow train.

Trying to understand Norwegian transportation timetables

Norwegians love their long, impenetrable, portmanteau language, as well as the awesome letters Æ-Ø-Å, which contribute to a stretchy linguistic blend of words with plenty of vowels. These include harbour, bus and airport names, with place names differentiated by just a letter or two. (Yes, it’s all in the details.) Your best bet? Ask a Norwegian: they’ll know what to search for, and probably know a better route there anyway. That said, the leading heroes of any Nordic odyssey are the staff on the country’s boats, planes and trains, as well as the harbour and airport folk, who seem to be about the only people who know what’s going on and are able to articulate it clearly.


‘Gå på tur’ or ‘Take a hike’

Easy access to nature allows the people of Norway to indulge in their favourite activities: solitary walks, or, even better, solo cross-country skiing. The wilderness lies only a few minutes in any direction from the centre of any town, even the major cities. ‘Gå på tur’ – ‘take a hike’ – is a collective obsession everywhere: not everybody actually does it, but everybody likes to give the impression they do it, and everybody at the very least talks about it, especially on Sundays after a heavy tinnitus-inducing night out and an even longer breakfast: ‘We should have gone for a hike!’

This sudden wilderness is, of course, also perfect for biking, canoeing, swimming or downhill skiing, ice skating according to the season, and there are cabins ready to serve you homemade cakes and hot chocolate. Wherever you put your tent is your home, but don’t forget your fishing rod. In the capital, Oslo, the city’s ‘Weltanschauung’ is concentrated on the surrounding forests known as Oslomarka, or just ‘Marka’, which in old Norse means to mark, as in mark a border. That’s a pretty neat description, at least when trying to get under the skin of Norwegian people – trying to comprehend ‘Norway’ – as it all starts here, in the outskirts of the city, on the border with nature.


The Norwegian fixation on ‘Gå på tur’ or ‘Take a hike’ if fortified with the omnipresence of hiking and skiing gear in every city

Nobody spends as much money on sports equipment as Norwegians. Bus and metro carriages are filled with people in heavy boots and Gore-tex outerwear with skis and poles, snowboards or toboggans, ice hockey sticks or mountain bikes (with huge puffed up wheels!) and lycra, as far as the eye can see. Everybody always seems to be either just coming back from some thrilling adventure or embarking, Amundsen-like, upon one. Oslo has to be the only capital city where ski wear is appropriate dress code for a Michelin starred restaurant. And don’t be alarmed if a man in full-body superhero spandex is picking up kids in the kindergarten – it’s just a sporty father coming back from his daily exercise in ‘Marka’. All this is perfectly normal.

5. Off season and off the beaten path

Norway is always amazing, but try to travel outside high seasons. Visiting Norway in March or springtime is fantastic - its weather can often be better than in midsummer - and Autumn, in all its colours, is simply breath-taking. Then there’s winter, with dazzling snow and, if you’re lucky... The Northern Lights.


Stay clear of the beaten track - thanks to Instagram, increasing numbers of travellers visit Norway's most spectacular, but already overcrowded, attractions, such as Trolltunga and Preikestolen.

Most Norwegians who love the outdoors life (and that’s nearly all of them) have not been to these places. It’s not that they can’t, aren’t allowed, don’t have time or money, or are too lazy: It’s that, first of all - as we’ve already stated - the journey is the destination, and it’s what you see on the way that matters. Second, Norwegians don’t like to walk in a line. (Who does, frankly?) And third, there are so many amazing areas to hike that there’s really no need to choose the same trail as everybody else. Let us know what you are after, and we will help you find your way.


6. Eating and Drinking Essentials

When it comes to food, who can resist putrid fish, smoked sheep's head or Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer? Norway serves them all.

Thanks to the Scandinavian food revolution of the last few years, traditional dishes and their ingredients are back, looking cooler and tasting fresher than ever... served on rocks, jellyfish or Norwegian Wood. Isn’t it good?

Nordic food is seasonal. The smartest way not to starve, but keep vigorous while staying up north, is to seek local food in season when it is at its maximum- flavour peak and freshest on the market. A few general guidelines: the season for vegetables, fruits, berries, beans, and mushrooms starts with a bang in August; the same goes for the North Sea crabs, and lamb.

Mmmm! You can get fresh saltwater fish all year round, but the peak months are at wintertime, or as fishermen always say – every month that doesn’t start with an ‘M’ is mackerel month, oh wait, except May. Last but not least, try Norwegian strawberries in July; they’re so tasteful, as they’ve been ripening in the long Nordic summers.


Eating: Best in Class

2024 marks a remarkable year for Norway's culinary scene, with three restaurants earning their first Michelin star. Bar Amour in Oslo, Hermetikken in Stavanger, and Iris, located in the unique floating museum Salmon Eye in Hardanger, have all achieved this prestigious accolade. This milestone brings the total number of Michelin-starred restaurants in Norway to 20, underscoring the nation's growing culinary prestige.

A standout moment came for Re-Naa in Stavanger, elevated to three Michelin stars, joining Maaemo at the pinnacle of Norwegian gastronomy. In Oslo, Kontrast received the Green Michelin Star for its sustainable operations and was promoted to two stars. Under the visionary leadership of Mikael Svensson, Kontrast has become a beacon of innovation and sustainability, with its seasonal, locally sourced ingredients and bold, creative dishes.

Cecilie Myrseth, Minister of Trade and Industry, celebrated Norway's rising status in the culinary world: "Norway is a culinary nation of star class. I hope this will encourage even more people to discover Norway as an exciting food destination.”



Surveys show that Norwegians drink the most coffee in the world (after the Finns). Our average Norwegian's favourite is boiled and infused filter coffee, but do not worry: there are espresso bars on every corner. Barista culture has flourished and many tend to be very proud of their product. It is the clean Norwegian water and the light roasting that brings all the tasty flavours out in Norwegian trademark coffee. But beware: because of extended social reforms regarding maternity leave, mothers get over a year to hang about, and their main activity is lazing elegantly in coffee shops. All-day. All week. Fathers, too, get three months, and few of them pass up the chance.


Even if we are in the middle of a Protestant heartland, with
formidable alcohol taxes yet widespread binge-drinking, there are numerous respectable bars in the main cities and towns. And although this being close to the North Pole, as part of the hipster trend the Norwegian bars and cocktail scene has flourished hand in hand with a barista culture, and bartenders tend to be very proud of their highly inventive products. When in Rome, ask for local aquavit cocktail specials.

Local brews!

Truth be told, brewers are the last anarchist punks in the world, and in Norway, most of these fat and hairy pale ale punks reside by the fjords. The regional brewing flagship lies a couple of hours to the south of Oslo, Nøgne Ø (or ‘naked island’, a term coined by Henrik Ibsen). Nøgne Ø offers the widest variety of ales. On the west coast in the narrow fjords there are plenty for fabulous braumeisters: Kinn Bryggeri on the island of Florø, and infamous Ægir at Flåm in the tiny Aurland Fjord. Further North: Inderøy Gårdsbryggeri by Trondheim. The Vikings are famous for their mjød (mead), created by fermenting honey, but they actually drank much more beer. Skall! Or skull!


Kveik; the ultimate authentic Norwegian flavor

Traditional Norwegian farmhouse ales were often brewed with the ingredients that were readily available on the farm. As a form of practicality and efficiency, farmers would store and reuse their yeast from batch to batch in a kveik ring - a small sculpture made from wood - that allowed the yeast to be preserved through drying in the open air.

Unlike most other yeast strains, Kveik is fermented at high temperatures and ferments very quickly, creating a product that is ready for consumption mere days after it is brewed. Thus, Norwegian kveik creates some of the freshest beer in the world.

Family-owned Voss Brewery carries on the traditional methods of brewing farmhouse ales and modern American style ales over open fires in copper kettles. Their beer is as connected to the landscape as the friendly folks are, with hops growing around the back porch and the annual creation of a “forage beer” made from entirely locally found ingredients.

World Class Gin

In a small neighborhood outside of Bergen, lives the spirit of Bareksten, literally and figuratively. Both are wild, dramatic, and in many ways dark and mysterious. Bareksten strives to bring Norwegian plants to life in spirit form, finding inspiration from the nordic woods, valleys, and mountains that surround this hidden gem.

The literal spirit is the gin: a London Dry style with unmistakable Norwegian identity. Norwegian potatoes, botanicals and berries are the baseline, including wild ingredients like lingonberry, blueberry, rhubarb, elderflower and rosehip. These elements, combined with pristine glacial water, are distilled in small batches using copper stills to create a gin that is, without a doubt, one of the very best in the world.

The figurative spirit is that which its owner, Stig, embodies. When he enters the room his presence is like that of a viking stepping off his ship. But quickly one will realize that he is a friendly, approachable fellow who is eager to share his spirits with you.


Hipster wines & Arctic cider

Over the last few years, natural wine has grown in popularity. In the simplest terms, this is wine is made from grapes not sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. It is needless to say that the sustainability aspect of wine production is becoming more important for the everyday (or every-weekend) wine drinker, also in Norway.

Oslo has an expanding scene of interesting wine bars for all tastes, from classical to natural wine. One of our favourites is the small and intimate Territoriet. With over 400 different wines this bar is a place for wine aficionados and wine enthusiasts alike. Another notable mention at the top of the new MUNCH museum, is Kranen, a cocktail bar with an incredible view of the Oslo cityscape.


Norway’s craft beverage scene reflects the natural world around it: from endless summer sunshine that nurtures local ingredients to pure alpine water that has been embraced by the glow of the Northern Lights. After visiting our farmhouse breweries, neighbourhood distilleries, and local taverns, you will leave wondering how much extra room you have in your suitcase for another souvenir. Let us introduce you to 'Cider from Hardanger' - the first Norwegian alcoholic beverage to obtain the Protected Designation of Origin label, a level of global recognition reserved for the finest beverages in the world.

Apples flourish in Norway’s climate where orchards have been cultivated for centuries. English monks who migrated to Norway in the 1300s shared their knowledge of fruit production with local farmers, who then crafted their abundant harvests into crisp ciders. Production boomed until 1921, when strict country wide alcohol bans led to a halt in formal cider production. For 70 years cider was kept alive by clandestine craftsmen, enjoying it in the home and with guests during special occasions.

The pendulum of prohibition swung back in the 1990s when production was once again legalized and farmers were allowed to sell cider directly from their farms. This shift has led to increased orchard to glass opportunities for farmers and cider lovers alike, creating authentic and delicious agritourism experiences in several fjord regions of Norway.

Cider from Hardanger is distinguished by a slightly acidic note balanced with fresh, aromatic apple flavor. Apples grown at the latitude of 60 ° N benefit from an ideal climate and growing season. Long, hot summer days boost sugar production in the apples, while the cool autumn nights encourage acid production to balance the sweetness.


Arctic Whisky

Myken Island in the North of Norway, 32 km from the mainland, is the definition of a micro community. The twelve residents in this fishing village make it “micro”, and the daily gathering at the grocery store for waffles and coffee are part of what makes it a community.

Myken Island is the world's first Arctic single malt whisky distillery, where the spirits are crafted from desalinated Arctic sea water and aged under the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights.

Inspired by the ocean, the wild weather and Fedje island's distinct nature, the female investors behind Feddie Ocean Distillery are set to create the world's best whisky, just a short boatride from Bergen. Because the world of spirits is dominated and run by men, founder Anne Koppang has started this ambitious project with the ambition to encourage women to step up and invest, to learn and to experience the fun of it.

Your own favourite eating & drinking experience

At Up Norway, we would love to include one or more of these local foodie experiences in your journey - or maybe even create a whole journey around them. Get in touch, and let us show you the way to Norway's best-tasting treasures and the passionate people who create them.


7. How to Dress for Success in the Norwegian Weather

If there's one single piece of information whose accuracy this guide can guarantee, it's that the weather will change

That said, Norway has the most variable weather in the world, and some of its biggest temperature differences: the country can offer everything from full- blown storms to temperate chillout zones, with temperatures varying from freezing Arctic conditions to a balmy Mediterranean calm within days (or, if you’re lucky, minutes.) On one occasion, a 45.9 degree difference between Norway’s hottest and coldest place was measured on the same day.

So yes, the Norwegian climate can be complex, but let’s focus on fundamental positives. You may not swelter in Norway in August, but summers are instead usually pleasant, with plenty of light. The North, meanwhile, enjoys the finest Northern celestial phenomena: you can enjoy the midnight sun in summer, while Northern Lights will keep you fertile through winter.


‘Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær' (There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes)

Dress for success, people, which means dress for each and every surprise that may come your way. That is why locals tend to spend their lives wearing Gore-tex and down jackets throughout the year, or at least keep one rolled up in their rucksack for safety reasons. So bring good outerwear, at least in the winter. Yes, in Norway it’s practicality first, fashion week second.

A tip for inexperienced foreigners: please do as the Scandinavians do – wear a wool layer against your skin when it is cold. Cotton or synthetic fabrics may keep you warm when you are dry, but it does not help when you get wet, humid, or sweat like a sow in a steam room. Wool does the trick. And because it is ‘all natural’, it will not transmit unpleasant body odours, so you can wear it over and over again. (Well, that is the theory!) At the very least, invest in woollen socks. Please! And nope, modern woollen sports fabrics do not itch – try the Merino wool or cashmere varieties. The wool-aficionados of course favour a silk-cashmere mix. That probably goes without saying. So, prepare to gear up before you go out on thrilling outdoor extravaganzas. Even in the summer.


8. The Art of Skiing

'Norwegians; born with skis on their feet'

Skiing for beginners:

  1. Put a soft drink and a chocolate bar in your rucksack, preferably the Fanta-like Solo and the Kit-Kat rip-off, Kvikk Lunsj. Norwegians just love milk chocolate!
  2. Do not worry, everybody falls. Even the pros.
  3. Remember, a Norwegian will always lie about the distance you will be travelling. When out skiing they will tell you the distance is shorter than it really is. Once safely back home in front of the fireplace, they will exaggerate about the same distance.
  4. The most important advice is from Frank Zappa himself: ‘Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t eat that yellow snow.’

The way to really get a Norwegian is to try to understand their obsession with cross-country skiing (langrenn)

For the unenlightened, this is the skiing technique in which the sportswoman (or man) propels themselves across snow-covered terrain using skis and poles. This is not the same as alpine skiing (slalom), where the skier takes a chair lift up a hill and then skis down again, repeatedly. Purists think that is cheating. You need to struggle hard to ascend the mountains – on slippery, properly waxed skis of course – then walk straight on into the woods for hours, before, finally, whizzing down again.

Cross-country skiing is what a Norwegian would argue is the fixie bike on snow, the Sūtra of frost – Asthanga, Norse style. A Norwegian will tell you that cross-country skiing involves the highest endurance levels of all sports, as its motions make use of every major muscle group, and that it burns the most calories.


An accepted alpine discipline for purists is the off-piste randonnée skiing, that is, in simple terms, climbing up a mountain before skiing the hillside down again. People doing this are stoic Transcendentalists. They immerse themselves in nature to gain a more objective understanding of society through personal introspection. Simple living and self-sufficiency are the idea, though simple living and luxurious Carbon ski wear are the reality.

The best places to ski down are the ‘gaddis’, vertical cracks for climbing up and then skiing down again - unless you want to bike down with spikes on your wheels or, even better, fly down in a wing suit. The Lyngen Alps in Troms - North of Norway - and the Sunmørs Alp and Romsdals Alps in the west are some of the best Randonnée spots in the world. These places you can start your adventure by the fjord, climb up steep hillsides before you do some delicate skiing or snowboarding on down again to the fjords - “Vive la pudre!” as they say in Chamonix.


Buns & chocolate

If you get the hang of it, and find a rhythm to slide on the skis smoothly, conquering the mountains, you might understand what all the fuss is about. The best thing about the whole experience is the cabins (hytter) spread evenly throughout the mountains and in close proximity to the cities, where you will be served boller (sweet buns) and kakao (hot chocolate). Also handy is the floodlighting of many tracks after dark (which is not very late in the wintertime), making skiing possible straight after working hours.

Waxing slightly philosophical, as many Norwegians do when it comes to skiing – some great skiers have indeed become philosophers – what makes it so intriguing has to do with escapism, the notion that you can just put on your skis and leave the strains of daily life. From the last metro stop in outskirts of the capital, Oslo, you can in theory follow the woodland all the way north to Lillehammer, or if you are very frisky, walk further north all the way to the North Cape Plateau above the Arctic Circle and on to the border with Russia. The mountains of the west of Norway is the starting point of the massive Taiga, the world’s largest terrestrial biome, a subarctic forest that stretches all the way through Siberia to Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast. Just the idea of this is enormous, and not only for Sir David Attenborough and his BBC crew, but also for a simple Norseman.

9. The Music Scene

Ever since Norway discovered oil in the North Sea in the late 60s, money has been funnelled evenly back into society, creating a significant middle class. Assisted by flexible work regulations, Norwegians have considerable spare time to spend on all sorts of activities, not only their beloved winter sports. Much of it is poured into culture, and Norway has become an increasingly exciting artistic hub.

One of Norway's most gratifying cultural attractions is its thriving live music scene, with every conceivable genre represented. Everybody helps out, and the enthusiasm for new and ingenious artists is uniquely refreshing.


Music is everywhere, with every conceivable genre represented, from black metal and experimental jazz to black jazz and experimental metal. And of course, many other, more accessible music genres. The Nordic countries are trailblazers on the global music scene in terms of diversity, quality, technology, commercial success and business. They are one of the largest music exporters next to the US and UK and they are early adopters of modern music technologies – among the successful startup companies from Scandinavia you find Soundcloud, Spotify and Tidal. Technologies, music innovation and good old live music acts go hand in hand in the Nordics.

There is a diverse range of festivals taking place throughout the year - located in the most exotic places - and with a cast of idiosyncratic artists and styles

In fact, according to recent surveys, there are over 5500 live gigs a year only in Oslo, meaning there is more live music here than anywhere else in the Nordic zone, something rivalled only by cities like London and New York. The biggest fiesta of them coincides with Norway’s National Day, 17 May. This is a BIG DAY and attendance, like other voluntary events in Norway, is compulsory. Dress code: patriotic, traditional (the national costume, the bunad, is seen in abun(a)dance).

Enjoy the rare experience of reverse time travel as IT operatives and oil executives dress like farmhands and milkmaids from the estates of Marie Antoinette. There is a children’s parade with school brass bands in every city or town from 09:00. Afterwards, head for any bar to party with Norwegians ecstatic about being Norwegian, or to local park to hang out, barbecue and knock back beers. In global terms the Rio carnival may be bigger, but this is still on the scale of Spain’s Feria de Abril or San Fermin.

10. Next Level Norway = Svalbard

This remote Arctic adventure is an escape from the escape

If there is anything on this planet that can be labelled ‘unique’, this is it: the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, just 1300 km (810 miles) below the North Pole. Svalbard takes the Norway experience to an advanced level: Norway 2.0.


If Norway is an escape from the grid, Svalbard is an escape from the escape.

Up here everybody has a snowmobile and a pet polar bear. OK, that’s only partly true: they all have snowmobiles (parked outside their houses like cars); polar bears are less welcome around human settlements. Which is a shame, as there are more of these huge furry beasts than people here, and they all behave like attention-seeking pets – bloodthirsty attention-seeking pets. But the polar bears are the true kings of the island, while it's the lowly humans who are the domesticated ones. So, in the main town Longyearbyen, the local kindergarten has a polar bear fence, and people carry rifles when out for trekking, on skis, going on their weekend trips to their "hytte", or out driving their beloved snowmobiles. Longyearbyen is actually a polar bear-free 'safe zone', but be aware, and do not cross the town border.

First time snowmobilers be sure to keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the rugged ‘road’!

The snowmobile has its share of dangers too, though not of the furry or bloodthirsty kind. They’re cheeky little devils that skim across the snow at blurring speeds. The best way to experience the rides – the locals would argue – is to do some singing while shooting over the Arctic tundra plateau (if you’re not familiar with the local folk music, try a Wagner aria, or anything by Queen.) Because the scenery is out of this world!

While polar bears are not particularly welcome in people's gardens, reindeers, husky dogs and the Arctic fox all get a free pass. And the surrounding wilderness outside Longyearbyen is all mountains, fjords, Arctic flora and fauna such as puffins, killer whales, their nemesis the minke whale, even the walrus. So load your rifle and go! (Or bring a guide.)

Svalbard has been a trapper’s paradise for centuries. There’s still some trapping going on in the archipelago, by adventurous folks who are genuinely dedicated to escaping the grid. But make sure you don't deliberately shoot a bear (or the more even-tempered mini-version, the Arctic fox). Global warming and people's desire for their luxurious fur have put both of them on the endangered species list. That is why you won’t find any polar bear safaris. The highest chance of seeing polar bears is on a boat trip around Svalbard and its islands.


Aspire to leave a minimal footprint – or even a positive one.

You may be struck by the absence of trees up here. That only makes the vegetation on the ground become more visible. In summer, the flowering plants, the dense moss of the great valleys and the green lush vegetation are striking. The ecosystem on Svalbard is supremely delicate, so we encourage everybody to try to ‘leave without a footprint’, which is, to be honest, nearly impossible. All human activities on the Arctic tundra – its ground soft as a baby’s bottom – are bound to leave some footprints. But at least, aspire to leave a minimal footprint – or even a positive one.

If you think it’s all rugged up here, think again. Everybody takes their shoes off inside, even in the hotel lobby or museum. One of Longyearbyen’s several top class restaurants has one of the world’s biggest and Europe’s best wine cellars (probably the same thing, when you come to think about it). And talking of cellars, Svalbard has the world's largest secure seed storage. From all across the globe, crates of seeds are sent here for safe and secure long-term storage in cold, dry rock vaults. Svalbard is a wonderful, unusual place with a cold climate, dangerous bears, big guns and warm-hearted people.

So, as a guest, as we all are in this truly unique corner of the world, remember that Svalbard is not just breathtaking landscapes and an incredible wildlife experience. It’s also a reflection of how the earth is changing. So, in that sense, it’s the world’s most up to date location.

Seasons of Light and Dark

We are frequently asked, “When is the best season to visit Svalbard?”. This is, however, virtually impossible to answer. Each season has its unique charm, and it really comes down to what you would like to experience on your journey to the Arctic. During the polar summer, the mining sun dominates the sky, and from mid-may to late September the sun won’t drop below the horizon.

During the “golden autumn” bird prepare for their long southbound flight, and the flora and fauna prepare for another long winter. It starts to get darker during this time, giving way to older landscapes filled with the most incredible autumn colours you can imagine.


The dark winter season, or the "Polar Night" as we refer to it, is the two and a half month period lasting from mid-November to late January. At this time the sun is at least 6 degrees below the horizon at all times, making the archipelago pitch dark 24 hours a day. Due to the “Polar Night” Svalbard is actually the only permanently settled place on earth where visitors can experience the Northern Light during daytime.

Spring might as well be called “sunny winter” as the landscape is still covered in ice and snow as far as the eye can see.

How about a Svalbard Expedition?

Torunn from the Up Norway Team went on an expedition with our friends in Nansen Polar Expeditions in 2022 and can guarantee an Arctic experience like no other. Being onboard an expedition ship allows you to slow down, and truly connect with the local natural landscapes, wildlife and fellow travellers. The crew onboard are impressive Arctic guides, many of them also excellent photographers. We can't think of any better way to explore these islands than from the sea.

We can book you on an expedition as a journey on its own or combined with travel in other parts of Norway. We will assist with travel planning & booking as well as flights. Who knows, you might just spot a polar bear or two...


5 Reasons to Travel Up

Genuine Experiences

Norway is a treasure trove brimming with pristine places to visit, unparalleled adventures to experience, and remarkable people to meet. We know where the gems are hidden and we’re eager to share them with you.

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Henriette Bendiksen

Master of Journeys