Welcome to Norway, the country of midnightsun, northern lights and astonishing fjords!
Norway is a country located in the northwestern part of Europe, with a population of 5,1 million. Being a constitutional monarchy, the state power is divided between the Parliament, the King and his Council and the Supreme Court. Traditionally established in 872, Norway is one of the oldest still existing kingdoms world-wide.
Norway is a founding member of the United Nations and NATO, and a member of the European Economic Area and the Schengen Area. However, the country is not a part of European Union. The country maintains a combination of market economy and a Nordic welfare model with universal health care and comprehensive social security system.The country has the fourth-highest per capita income in the world on the World Bank and IMF lists. Norway had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the world and has also topped the Legatum Prosperity Index for the last five years. From 2010 to 2012, Norway was classified as the most democratic country by the Democracy Index, and was named the most peaceful country in the world by the Global peace index.
Around 994 A.D., two centuries of Viking raids to southern and western areas of Europe tapered off following the adoption of Christianity. Norway then expanded its overseas territory to parts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland, and is actually the last occupant of Great Britain. Competition from the Hanseatic League, and the spread of the Black Death, weakened the country after 1250. In 1397, Norway became part of the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Sweden. The Union lasted until Sweden left in 1523. The remaining union with Denmark lasted nearly three centuries. In 1814, Norwegians adopted a constitution before being forced into a personal union with Sweden. In 1905, Norway ended the union and confirmed the election of its own king. Despite its declaration of neutrality in World War II, Norway was occupied for 5 years by forces of Nazi Germany. In 1949 it abandoned neutrality, becoming a founding member of NATO. Discovery of oil in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway's economic fortunes.
The Norwegian health care system is founded on the principles of universal access, decentralisation and free choice of provider. It is mostly financed by taxation, and all residents are covered by the National Insurance Scheme. Private medical insurance is limited. While health care policy is controlled centrally, responsibility for the provision of health care is decentralised. Local authorities at municipal level organise and finance primary health care services according to local demand. The central Government has overall managerial and financial responsibility for the hospital sector.
Most hospitals in Norway are public hospitals, funded and owned by the state. A small number of hospitals are privately owned. However, most private hospitals are funded by the public. All Norwegian citizens are invited to choose their general practitioner (GP) from a list. 99% of Norwegians have chosen to do so. Outpatient doctors act as gatekeepers for specialied care.
Transport in Norway is highly influenced by Norway's low population density, narrow shape and long coastline. Norway has old shipping tradition, and this industry is important today. Road, rail and air transportation have increased significantly during the last century, and all big cities have good public transportation options. In rural areas, the public transport is less built out. Due to a narrow shape, long distances, and challenging landscape, the roads are of varying quality.
Railroads are well established in the southern part of Norway, with many opportunities especially on the eastern side of the country. In Northern Norway there are very few options. The railroad between Bergen and Oslo is one of the most scenic train lines in the world, and is a good choice of travel between the two cities. The ride crosses from the eastern Norwegian landscape around Oslo, with wheat fields, rolling hills and spruce forests, to Western Norwegian landscape in the region around Bergen, with high mountains swooping down in deep fjords. Hardangervidda, Europe’s highest mountainous plateau, is on the way, and gives you one more impressive landscape to take in.
Lonely Planet traveler named Flåm Railway in Western Norway “The world’s best train ride”. The ride takes you from the mountains at Myrdal down one of the world’s steepest railways to the traditional village of Flåm, located in a corner of the mighty Sognefjord, Norway’s longest fjord.
All the large cities and towns in Norway have airports catering for both international and domestic flights. In fact, there are more than 50 airports in Norway serviced through regular routes, making even remote places such as the Lofoten Islands, the North Cape and Spitsbergen (Svalbard) easily accessible by plane.
To pick out only a few of our countries many sights are hard! The country is as diverse as it is beautiful, and you can see all from the amazing Cathedral in Trondheim to the Sculpture Park in Oslo, the Northern Lights in Northern Norway to the impressive Fjords of Western Norway. Here is a list of some of the amazing things you can see in Norway, but if you come to visit our country, you should surely see much more!
The Vigelandsparken Sculpture Park, Oslo: This is Oslo's answer to Central Park in New York, and the park is a recreational area for the citizen of Oslo. The park is often used for barbeques and picnic, friends and families meet up here to do their Sunday walk and you get to take a look at the 212 statues of the park!
Nidarosdomen Cathedral, Trondheim: This has historically been Norway's biggest pilgrim destination and where built where Saint Olav was buried in 1030 AD. It took 230 years to finish this amazing building , and it is the national sanctuary and traditional location for the consecration of the King of Norway.
Fløibanen Funicular, Bergen: This is a funicular that takes you straight from the city center and up on one of Bergens seven surrounding mountains. Mount Fløyen is by no means the highest of the peaks, but it offers one of the best views over the city, the fjord and the islands beyond. On the top it is possible to take many scenic paths and trails, in all lengths and levels of difficulty.
Geirangerfjord, Western Norway: The UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord is breathtaking and around the fjord there are many activities and sights. The mountains are equally impressive whether seen from above or below, and the fjord just as beautiful. Watch one of the many waterfalls cascading down the mountainside, go fishing or kayaking on the fjord or bike or drive up the Trollstigen Mountain Road. In Western Norway you will find many fjords, all of them giving you an insight in the wild nature of Norway.
Vøringsfossen waterfall, Western Norway: With a direct drop of 145 meters and a total fall of 182 meters, Vøringsfossen waterfall is understandably the most famous of its kind in Norway. Although there are numerous ways to experience the waterfall and the vertical-walled valley, most people will view the falls from the upper and lower lookouts.
Holmenkollen, Oslo: Made of 100 tons of steel and soaring 60 meters above the hill it sits on, the Holmenkollen ski jump is an obvious attraction for all visitors to Oslo. It is lit by floodlights at night, and in the base of the tower you'll find the Ski Museum, where the 4000-year history of skiing is presented. Norway is also considered the birthplace of skiing. On the top of the amazing ski jump you have a stunning view over Oslo city.
The Lofoten Islands, Northern Norway: Famous for their natural beauty, the Lofoten Islands are where you can step out of the hustle and bustle of modern life and just enjoy the peace and quiet and natural scenery, while at the same time stay in comfort and eat well. Untouched yet popular, modern yet traditional, the Lofoten Islands tend to charm those that visit them and leave them wanting to go back.
The Flåmsbana railway line, Western Norway: Named "the world's best train ride" by Lonely Planet Traveller, it is no surprise to find the Flåmsbana railway line is one of the most popular attractions in Norway. This scenic railway winds its way into, out of, and along the steep valley sides on its way from Myrdal high in the mountains to the village of Flåm down by the fjord. The railway is easily accessed by taking the train between Oslo and Bergen, another train ride that will stick to your memory!
The royal palace, Oslo: Located high up on the northwest end of Karl Johans gate, the Norwegian Royal Palace, built in 1825, dominates the cityscape. Although the impressive 173-room building is not open to the public, visitors are free to wander the grounds and gardens or watch the regular changing of the guard. Just to the south of the palace sits the Norwegian Nobel Institute, where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented. The palace is the daily resident of the King Olav V and Queen Sonja of Norway.
Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock), Western Norway: This rocky formation just squarely out from the mountainside above the Lysefjord, and it's not hard to see where it got its name. Here you can enjoy a truly unique view over the Lysefjord 604 meters below, and with rocky stairs made by a team of Nepalese Sherpas, the hike to Preikestolen ("The Pulpit Rock") is not a difficult one. No wonder it's one of Norway's most popular attractions to both natives and visitors alike.
North Cape, Northern Norway: The North Cape Plateau rises 307 meters from the sea, and was previously thought to be the northernmost point of Europe. It was later discovered that a nearby peninsula has a better claim to that honor, but the North Cape has remained the attraction to visit even so. Every year, over 200 000 visitors stand on the plateau and admire the surroundings. Between 14 May and 29 July, you can also experience the midnight sun here, which perhaps explains why most visitors come during the summer.
Glaciers, Western and Northern Norway: Traces of the ice age still linger in Norway in the form of glaciers. Glaciers are persistent bodies of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight, and they can be found numerous places across Northern and Western Norway. These massive all-year ice covered areas gives you a changes to experience the winter land of Norway even in the middle of the summer.
Northern Lights, Northern Norway: A visit to Northern Norway in the winter gives you the changes to catch the amazing Stella Polaris (the northern lights). The amazing colour play that lights up the night sky, plays across the sky in a dance you will not forget.
Although Norway is in most ways very modern, it has maintained many of its traditions. Storytelling and folklore, in which trolls play a prominent role, are still common. On festive occasions folk costumes are worn and folk singing is performed—especially on Grunnlovsdagen (Constitution Day), commonly called "Syttende Mai" (May 17th). Other popular festivals include Sankthansaften (Midsummer’s Eve), Olsok (St. Olaf’s Day), and Jul (Christmas), the last of which is marked by family feasts whose fare varies from region to region but that are traditionally marked by the presence of seven kinds of cake.
The national costume, the bunad, is characterized by double-shuttle woven wool skirts or dresses for women, accompanied by jackets with scarves. Colourful accessories (e.g., purses and shoes) complete the outfit. The bunad for men generally consists of a three-piece suit that is also very colourful and heavily embroidered. Traditionally Norwegians had two bunader, one for special occasions and one for everyday wear. Today, Norwegians who own a bunad, usually wear it for special occations, be it 17 of May, Christmas or weddings.
The country’s natural landscape—its Arctic environment and vast coasts—has shaped Norway’s customs and history, as outdoor activities are central to the life of most Norwegians. In particular, the country’s cuisine reflects its environment. Fish dishes such as laks (salmon) and torsk (cod) are popular. Lutefisk, cod soaked in lye, is common during the Christmas holidays. Sour-cream porridge, pinnekjøtt (dried mutton ribs), reker (boiled shrimp), meatcakes, lefse (griddlecakes), brunost (a sweet, semihard cheese made from cow’s or goat’s milk), and reindeer, moose, elk, and other wildlife also are popular traditional delicacies. The strong liquor called aquavit (also spelled akevitt), made of fermented grain or potatoes, is also widely used.