Moon Norway


By David Nikel

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Explore magnificent fjords, museum-hop in Oslo, and bask in the glow of northern lights: Get to know your inner Viking with Moon Norway. Inside you’ll find:
  • Flexible itineraries including three days in Oslo, the best of Norway in one week, four days in Arctic Norway, and a two-week fjord road trip
  • Strategic advice for outdoor adventurers, families, history buffs, foodies, road-trippers, and more
  • Do more than sightsee: Hike to cliffs that soar over glacial lakes and take the perfect photo of Geirangerfjord’s slender waterfalls. Hop in the car and drive over islets and skerries on the Atlantic Road, wander through fishing villages along Norway’s dramatic coastline, or admire the architecture in cosmopolitan Oslo. Savor sustainable salmon at Michelin-starred restaurants, taste farm-to-table delicacies, or mingle with the locals at a neighborhood pub. See the impressive restored vessels at the Viking Ship Museum or trek to the best spots to see the mystical aurora borealis dance across the sky
  • Discover the real Norway with expert insight from Norwegian transplant David Nikel
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Helpful tools including a Norwegian phrasebook, packing suggestions, and travel tips for international visitors, families with kids, seniors and LGBTQ+ travelers
  • Detailed background on the landscape, climate, wildlife, and culture
With Moon Norway’s practical tips and local insight, you can experience the best of Norway.

Exploring more of Northern Europe? Try Moon Copenhagen & Beyond or Moon Iceland.


kayaking in Geirangerfjord

reindeer in northern Norway



Planning Your Trip



Best of Norway

Fjord Road Trip


Explore the Arctic



From the dancing aurora borealis and dramatic Lofoten islands in the north to the majesty of the western fjords and imposing mountainous terrain throughout, Norway in its natural form needs no enhancement. As you sail down a fjord between steep cliffs with sea eagles swooping above your head, you’ll feel as if little has changed since the time of the Vikings.

While many destinations build theme parks and other artificial attractions to draw in the crowds, Norway has never needed to follow those trends. But the authorities are investing heavily in new infrastructure, building new highways, tunnels, bridges, and lookout points to enhance the very best of what nature has to offer and to make Norway easier to visit than ever before.

Norway’s cities are full of international influence, and you’ll find modern architecture alongside historical landmarks. Nowhere is this contrast more evident than Oslo, where the sparkling Oslo Opera House shares the waterfront with the medieval Akershus Fortress. Strike up a conversation (Norwegians speak great English) to discover the contemporary side of Scandinavia.

Norway strikes a magical balance among history, modernity, and natural beauty. There’s no need to embellish what is astounding unadorned, a philosophy that extends down to the ingredients-first approach of New Nordic cuisine.

wooden detail of the medieval church in Heddal



1 Geirangerfjord: The pick of Norway’s many spectacular fjords, Geiranger is renowned for its steep cliffs, tall slender waterfalls, and photo opportunities galore.

2 Scenic Railways: The Bergen Line) soars over mountains while the Flåm Railway (pictured,) descends through a lush valley to a fjord’s edge, offering two of the world’s most spectacular rail trips.

3 Preikestolen Cliff: The hike to this flat cubed cliff, which overlooks the glistening Lysefjord, is one of Norway’s most popular treks.

4 Atlantic Road: This captivating eight-kilometer (five-mile) stretch of highway skips over an archipelago of islets and skerries.

5 Art Nouveau Ålesund: The perfect base for a trip to the Geirangerfjord, Ålesund was rebuilt in the fanciful art nouveau style after a devastating fire in 1904.

6 Røros: A living museum high in the mountains, this former copper-mining town remains vibrant, focusing today on sustainable local food.

7 Vigeland Sculpture Park: This park within a park features hundreds of stone, bronze, and wrought-iron sculptures, the life’s work of Gustav Vigeland.

8 The Lofoten Road Trip: This Arctic archipelago is home to diverse wildlife and picturesque fishing villages, surrounded by the most dramatic scenery that Norway has to offer.

9 Northern Lights: The chance to see the mystical aurora borealis dance across the sky draws visitors to the High North.

10 Hurtigruten Ferry: Sailing up and down the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes, the daily ferry service works dual purpose as an informal cruise through stunning scenery and a vital service for tiny coastal communities.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go

Norway’s capital has an expanding list of arts, culture, and music events. The rejuvenated waterfront features a mix of old and new architecture, including the striking Oslo Opera House. Surrounded by water and forest, Oslo offers more outdoor experiences than any other city of its size. In the summer there is awesome hiking, biking, and boating, while in the winter you are never more than 20 minutes from a cross-country skiing trail. Beyond Oslo, historic Fredrikstad and sporty Lillehammer are both worthy of a day trip.

Southern Norway

Thousands of cruise ship passengers flock to Stavanger for its street art and proximity to world-famous sights such as the Preikestolen cliff, yet the rest of southern Norway is left for locals to enjoy. While temperatures can never be guaranteed, Kristiansand is known as Norway’s summer city for good reason. The family-friendly Kristiansand Dyreparken and idyllic coastal villages make for a great alternative summer vacation, especially with children.

Bergen and the Fjords

The fjord region unfurls itself along Norway’s west coast and two of the biggest fjords, Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord, are within easy reach of Bergen. Norway’s second city, laid-back Bergen is the perfect base for a fjord safari, but take at least a couple of days to explore the city itself. Discover the city’s Hanseatic past and ride the Fløibanen Funicular railway to the top of Mount Fløyen to fully appreciate the spectacular natural setting. Heading north, art nouveau Ålesund is a great base for a trip to the world-famous Geirangerfjord and the hair-raising Trollstigen mountain pass.

Trondheim and Central Norway

Hemmed in by mountain ranges, the Atlantic coast, and the Swedish border, lush valleys cut through central Norway, providing an ever-changing landscape. Viking capital Trondheim is a popular cruise stop that has a lot to offer visitors, from the imposing Nidaros Cathedral to the interactive contemporary music museum Rockheim. The island-hopping Atlantic Road is one of the world’s most famous drives, while the former copper mining settlement Røros simply oozes historic charm. Norway’s heartland is the perfect destination for outdoor pursuits, from fishing and kayaking in the rivers to hiking in the many national parks.


The photogenic Lofoten archipelago shows Norway at its most dramatic. Surprisingly mild considering their location north of the Arctic Circle, the islands are known for their rugged mountains, sheltered bays, picturesque fishing villages, and even beaches. You could spend your entire vacation traveling across Lofoten by car or bicycle. The region is a nature lover’s dream. Moose, sea eagles, otters, and colorful puffins are commonplace.

Tromsø and the High North

The northern lights give the Norwegian Arctic a magnetic pull. Yet the High North has much more to offer in both summer and winter. Explore Sami culture, see prehistoric rock carvings at Alta, watch the midnight sun at the North Cape, or take a dogsled ride across fresh untouched snow.

Know Before You Go
When to Go

In search of the surprisingly warm Scandinavian summer, most travelers head to the Norwegian fjords June-August. High season for tourism, this is the busiest time but also with the most diverse range of accommodations. July is the Norwegian holiday month, and it can be difficult to find accommodations in rural areas during that time; however, bargains can often be scored in cities.

A vastly underrated time is the spring. February-April, there is snow on the ground but the polar nights are long gone. Days are bright if crisp, and it’s the best time for skiing. There are still possibilities for northern lights hunting, yet there are very few tourists. The spectacular Lofoten islands are at their most beautiful this time of year. The weather in May is usually pleasant, but be aware of the many public holidays, most notably Constitution Day on May 17, when services for tourists are limited.

September-November is the rainy season but also popular for northern lights hunting. The dreary months of November-January are best avoided. Although the streets are brightened by festive lights, services for travelers are limited during the Christmas and New Year period, and thick clouds often prevent a light show overhead.

Passports and Visas

Visitors entering the country are allowed to stay for up to 90 days.

Although Norway is not part of the European Union, it is a participant in the Schengen Agreement, which allows passport-free travel between member countries. If arriving from a fellow Schengen country (which includes most, but not all, EU members), you will encounter no passport checks, but the 90-day period applies to the entire Schengen Area.

For citizens of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia and residents of the vast majority of European and Latin American countries, visas are not required to enter Norway at the time of writing. Citizens of South Africa need to apply for a visa in advance.


Most travelers arrive in Norway by plane, and almost all long-haul international flights into Norway arrive in Oslo. It’s also possible to fly to regional airports, including Bergen, Trondheim, and Stavanger, from European destinations such as London, Amsterdam, and Copenhagen, where you can connect from many international carriers.

Travel to Bergen and the fjords is best done by the remarkable train journey or a rental car, depending on how much time you have. Those heading to the Arctic need an additional plane journey and a rental car to make the most of the experience.

A popular alternative for non-drivers is to explore Norway’s coastline either by rental car or by the Hurtigruten ferry, which sails almost the entire length of the country between Bergen and the Russian border. Either use the ship as a relaxing cruise with time to explore the major cities on foot, or as a ferry to move between some of Norway’s coastal highlights including Bergen, Ålesund, Trondheim, Lofoten, and Tromsø.

Best of Norway

The most efficient way to see the best of Norway is to combine the modern capital Oslo, historical trading port Bergen, and the western fjords into your itinerary—and you can see them all by rail and ferry.

Most travelers without their own transport follow the self-guided Norway in a Nutshell itineraries from Fjord Tours (see click here and click here for more information). Although these packages offer convenience and good value, they are often crowded during the high season and can feel rushed. Use the one-day pre-set itinerary as a base for your own plan, but extend the trip to take in extra sights along the way, spend more time in two of Norway’s most vibrant cities, and most importantly relax rather than rush through the fjords.

Day 1: Oslo

Spend the morning admiring the life’s work of Gustav Vigeland at the Vigeland Sculpture Park before museum hopping in the afternoon. The Bygdøy peninsula is home to the maritime-themed Viking Ship Museum, Fram Museum, and the Kon-Tiki Museum. Stay in one of the emerging budget hotel brands close to Oslo Central Station in preparation for an early start.

Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo

Day 2: A Railway Enthusiast’s Dream

Take two of the world’s best-known railroad journeys in the same day. Travel on the Bergen Line from Oslo to Myrdal before taking the remarkable Flåm Railway, which twists and turns its way from mountain plateau to fjord level through the lush Flåm valley in less than one hour. Learn how the railroad was built at the Flåm Railway Museum, before enjoying a delicious meal of local food and matching Ægir craft beer at the Viking-themed Flåmsbrygga brewpub. Stay overnight in a cabin overlooking the fjord.

Day 3: Cruise the Nærøyfjord

Enjoy a light lunch from the on-board café on the two-hour cruise from Flåm to Gudvangen, which takes you past picturesque fjordside villages and along the UNESCO-listed Nærøyfjord. Return to Flåm on the same ferry, or save time and money and return on the bus. Rent a kayak for the afternoon for a much more intimate experience with the fjords, or take a hike along the railroad. Stay a second night in Flåm.

Day 4: Bergen

Take the fast ferry to Bergen to ride the length of the epic Sognefjord, one of the world’s longest and deepest fjords. Alternatively, return to Myrdal on the Flåm Railway to travel to Bergen along the remainder of the Bergen Line. Orient yourself with a ride up the Fløibanen Funicular. Enjoy the view with a snack or meal in the hilltop restaurant, or take a hike along one of the myriad marked trails. Stay the night in Bergen and enjoy an evening stroll along the historic Bryggen wharf.


Days 5-7: Optional Extras

Extend your journey by returning to Oslo and taking the Dovre Line railway to Trondheim. Watch out for mainland Europe’s only musk oxen in the Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park. Explore the history of Norway, including an archaeological museum and the Crown Regalia at Nidaros Cathedral, before taking a stroll along the cobbled streets and sidewalk cafés of Trondheim’s Bakklandet neighborhood. Spend the night in Trondheim and return to Oslo via the morning train to Røros, which gives you four hours to enjoy lunch in a traditional setting and explore the unique former copper mining town.

Alternatively, head to the southwest of the country for more unique outdoor experiences. Stop at Kristiansand for a dip in the ocean on the city beach or a visit to Dyreparken, Norway’s best theme park. But your ultimate destination is Stavanger. Spend a day in the city exploring the charming old town and informative petroleum museum, before embarking on the day-long trip to the iconic Preikestolen cliff. The hike is worth it for the spectacular views.

Fjord Road Trip

Renting a car opens up a wealth of options to customize a fjord itinerary. Even in high season there will be times when you are all alone on the roads. Turn off the main routes and perhaps you’ll end up in a dense forest, or on top of a hill with an unspoiled view of a fjord all to yourself.

Outline a rough itinerary to be sure of good accommodation and restaurant options. Alternatively, tent up and take advantage of Norway’s excellent campsites and the freedom-to-roam laws that permit wild camping.

With two weeks and a rental car, I recommend taking in three of Norway’s most dynamic cities and several of the best-known fjords, while leaving plenty of time for your own exploration. It’s important to note this itinerary includes a couple of roads that are only accessible May-October, depending on the weather. A winter road trip requires much more advance planning and should only be considered by experienced winter drivers.

Day 1: Oslo Airport to Lillehammer
150 KM (93 MI); 2 HOURS

Maximize your time on the road by renting a car from Oslo Airport Gardermoen and avoiding the high cost of driving in Norwegian cities by heading north, away from Oslo. A stop at Eidsvoll, site of the signing of Norway’s constitution, is a must for history buffs. Spend the afternoon in Lillehammer, where the Olympic Museum and open-air museum at Maihaugen offer a terrific introduction to Norwegian society and culture. Spend the night in one of the hotels overlooking the vast Lake Mjøsa.

Day 2: Drive to Åndalsnes
259 KM (161 MI); 4 HOURS

Carve your way through the heart of Norway and along the winding roads of the Rauma valley towards Åndalsnes. The visitor center at the Troll’s Wall (Trollveggen), Europe’s tallest vertical rock face, is worthy of a stop. The town itself is unremarkable, so stay in a comfortable cabin at one of the several campsites in the immediate area, and enjoy a relaxing evening walk along the Rauma river in the shadow of the jagged mountains. Optionally, drive 2.5 hours north to the world-famous Atlantic Road, a must for driving enthusiasts.

Day 3: Geiranger via Trollstigen
95 KM (59 MI); 3 HOURS

Get to the Trollstigen mountain pass (May-Oct.) before 10am and you’ll beat the tour buses. Driving up the 11 hairpin bends is a memorable experience, as is the incredible view from the balconies that dangle over the mountain ridge. Continue on the National Tourist Route to Geiranger, allowing plenty of time for photo stops. The viewpoint at the 1,500-meter (5,000-foot) summit of Dalsnibba mountain (May-Oct., toll road) offers an outstanding bird’s-eye view of Geiranger.

Trollstigen viewing platform

Day 4: Geirangerfjord
21 KM (13 MI); 1.5 HOURS

After a quick visit to the modern Norwegian Fjord Center, pick up a packet of chocolate from Geiranger Sjokolade as a gift or to enjoy on the car ferry to Hellesylt. This one-hour cruise past the famous waterfalls and clifftop farms of the Geirangerfjord will leave a lasting impression. Dine and stay overnight in the peaceful village of Hellesylt; or a night at the spooky Hotel Union Øye is recommended for couples.

Day 5: Royal Fjord Route to Ålesund
120 KM (75 MI); 3.5 HOURS

Cross the underrated Hjørundfjord on a car ferry and follow in the footsteps of European royalty, who have traveled through this valley since the 19th century. Take a lunch in one of the many small villages along the route. Ørsta offers the most facilities and the option of an enjoyable waterside walk. Before arriving in Ålesund, take a detour through its suburbs up to the summit of Mount Aksla for one of Norway’s most spectacular urban viewpoints. An evening meal in the restaurant here is worth the cash.

Day 6: Art Nouveau Ålesund

A great choice to break up a Fjord Norway road trip is to spend the day exploring the rich art nouveau architecture of Ålesund.


On Sale
Apr 23, 2019
Page Count
400 pages
Moon Travel

David Nikel

About the Author

Originally from Northampton, England, David Nikel has lived in Norway since 2011. He moved to Oslo in pursuit of riches in the ICT industry, but was quickly inspired by the magnificent fjords, dramatic mountains and dancing northern lights to start writing. He hasn’t looked back since.

David now travels the country helping Norwegian professionals master the English language, and as a result sees more of the country than most natives do. On these travels he met his Mexican partner and they have made a third-culture home together in Trondheim, the former Viking capital of Norway, speaking a confusing mixture of English, Norwegian and Spanish.

To keep track of his adventures, David publishes two blogs about expat life and travel in Norway, and has written regular columns for the Telegraph and the Norwegian American newspapers. He also contributed destination features for the magazines of British Airways, Norwegian Air, airBaltic and Finnair.

As much as he enjoys life in Norway, he hasn’t yet fully assimilated. His attempts at cross-country skiing resemble a spider on roller-skates, much to the enjoyment of his new Norwegian friends.

Learn more about this author