Is Norway a little piece of heaven on earth? Not by a long shot! As an expat, I feel really good here and I never get tired of contemplating its landscapes, but it’s all a matter of preference. The list of facts about Norway that I share with you in this article will most likely make you want to travel the country and live a unique experience!
What makes Norway a unique destination?
- The majesty of its landscapes: from the sumptuous fjords to the amazing Northern Lights, the beauty of the Norwegian nature and landscapes is undeniably unique.
- The “friluftsliv” or the art of living in harmony with nature: the Norwegian term “friluftsliv” is much more than an expression, it is the embodiment of a way of life in which humankind and nature make one.
- The fundamental right to access nature “Allemannsretten”: faithful to the spirit of “friluftsliv”, since 1957, Norway has instituted an official right to access nature, “Allemannsretten”. It allows everyone to camp for free anywhere in the countryside, in the forest or in the mountains, provided that a distance of at least 150 meters from the nearest house is respected.
- Easy access to sumptuous and preserved landscapes: after several road-trips in the country, I realized that when you travel in Norway, there is no need to go very far or to the most touristic areas to reach beautiful places. By exploring the area you are in and its surroundings, you will be pleasantly surprised! And this is the case almost everywhere in the country!
13 interesting facts about Norway that every travelers must know!
1. 10 of the highest waterfalls in the world are located in Norway
Among the 30 highest waterfalls in the world,10 are located in Norway.Do not hesitate to ask tourist offices specific information to access those spaces that sometimes require taking unmarked hiking paths.
2. Norway is the country with the most fjords in the world: more than a thousand!
If there is one activity you should not miss when traveling to Norway, it’s visiting the fjords. Scattered along its immense coastline, Norway’s fjords are sometimes stunning, sometimes modest, but they do not fail to delight visitors and locals alike.
How were the fjords formed? At the end of the ice age, water from the glaciers dispersed and filled the void in valleys which were often delimited by mountains and hills. These were eroded by the ice before it melted and it is partly to this phenomenon that we owe those exceptional mountainous landscapes.
Western Norway is the most fjord-rich part of the country. The Geirangerfjord and the Nærøy fjord were classified as world heritage sites by Unesco in 2005. The Hardangerfjord, Nordfjord and Sognefjord are among the most visited and popular fjords.
Some fjords such as the Oslofjord do not have spectacular mountains but are dotted with several small islands where it is pleasant to stroll during summer. Cruises, hikes and cable car are the best options for enjoying fjords breathtaking views.
3. Norway is the land of the midnight sun
The unique phenomenon of the midnight sun or “polar days” can be experienced in some parts of the country: the further north you go, the greater your chances to experience it. On the Lofoten Islands as well as in the city of Tromsø, the sun does not set from the end of May until the beginning of July. In Svalbard, this period extends from April to August. These periods are perfect opportunities to try new experiences such as night hikes or wilderness camping. In Oslo we do not have polar days, but in June, days are very long and the daylight continues to illuminate the city even after 10 pm.
4. Oslo is the most multicultural city in Norway
About 30% of Oslo’s inhabitants have an immigrant background, compared to only 15% nationwide. The largest ethnic minority in Oslo is Pakistani, followed by immigrants from Sweden, Somalia and Poland. If you are a non-white person, you probably understand why this kind of indication has its share of importance.
My experience with racism in Norway
Because I share my road trips and different excursions inside the country on social media, I am often asked if I feel safe in Norway as a black women and if I had any unpleasant experiences related to color of my skin. I also often get the following question which is: ”is there any black people in Norway?” Read my interview for Travelnoire magazine about my experience as an expat in Norway
As black people, getting as much information as possible about the experiences of people that look like us in a foreign country allows us to better prepare and avoid or limit unpleasant interactions when traveling. I have been living in Oslo for more than two years, I have also traveled a lot in the Norwegian countryside and so far, I have not had any negative experience or racist encounters.One of the reasons why I started this blog is that I wanted to participate in deconstructing the often ethnocentric image of tourism, particularly in Europe. I want to give people who look like me the opportunity to see themselves through the eyes of a young black woman exploring the world and sharing her experiences with authenticity. I believe that racism and bad experiences related to that should not stop one from exploring our wonderful planet.
5. The Galdhøpiggen mountain is the highest peak in Norway
Galdhøpiggen is the highest mountain in Norway, as well as in Scandinavia and Northern Europe with 2469 meters of altitude. The summit is usually reached by hiking from Juvasshytta, through the Styggebreen glacier or from the Spiterstulen cabin in Vidalen, for a slightly steeper hike without crossing the glacier. In spite of the altitude and the time of ascent (between 5 and 8 hours), those hikes are not very difficult. A guide is however strongly advised for crossing the glacier.
6. There is not just one Norwegian language
One particularly interesting facts about Norway is that Norwegian is the official language of the country but it has two written variants. “Bokmål” is used by the vast majority of the country and “Nynorsk” is more popular in rural areas, especially on the western fjords side. On the other hand, the “Sami” and “Kven” languages are also spoken by Norwegians who reside in some regions of the country, and there are other dialects specific to some groups.
7. Norwegians are very fluent in English
Norway ranks 5th among countries where English is the most and best spoken according to the English Proficiency Index, the world’s largest study of English language proficiency. English is the most widely taught foreign language in the country’s schools and most Norwegians are fluent, which makes things easy for expats and tourists alike.
8. The longest road tunnel in the world is in Norway
If you decide to travel from Oslo to Bergen by car or to do a roadtrip on the fjords side, there is a good chance that you will drive through the longest road tunnel in the world: the Lærdal tunnel. It’s 24.5 km long and connects Lærdal to Aurland.
The tunnel costed one billion Norwegian kroner (about 98 million euros) to build and is often cited as a model because it takes into consideration inconveniences that affect drivers while driving through a tunnel. Its lighting simulates an aurora borealis to provide a varied and soothing view for the driver while breaking the routine of the journey. In addition, the tunnel is divided into four sections separated by three large mountain caves where it is possible to stop.
9. Norway is one of the countries where long trips offer a fabulous spectacle!
Norway is one of the countries where a long trip is an activity by itself because of the country unique landscapes! The beauty of the country’s nature can be appreciated by car, bus, boat or train. Beyond the most popular and touristy places, each fishing village or small town are opportunities to admire the calm and majesty of the environment.
10. Norway has amazing culinary particularities to discover
If Norway is more famous for its majestic landscapes than its gastronomy, beyond salmon and seafood, the country has unique delicacies that are worth a try! You can find restaurants with menus similar to those of Western Europe as well as places that offer traditional Norwegian dishes and local products revisited through a modern and creative cuisine.
Here is a list of some of the country’s specialties and typical products that you will rarely find elsewhere:
- Reindeer meat: this meat is particularly present in the country and very appreciated, consumed as cold cuts or minced meat.
- Smalahove: The smalahove is a sheep’s head salted, then smoked and dried. It is then cooked and served with mashed potatoes and is traditionally eaten on Sunday before Christmas.
- Brunost: It is a cheese usually made of goat cheese and caramel which gives it a brown color and a slightly sweet taste.
- Lutefisk: this is a recipe based on dried fish, typically cod or ling, prepared following a unique process. The fish is soaked in water for several days before being macerated in potash (caustic soda) and thus becomes gelatinous, changes color and shape.
- Whale meat: its consumption is often criticized by Norwegians themselves, but whale meat remains a typical product of the country. This is partly because it has historically been used as a cheap substitute for beef.
11. Norway’s train routes are ranked among the most beautiful in Europe
One of the best ways to visit Norway is by train. The country’s rail routes are known for offering a beautiful glimpse of the incredible Scandinavian landscapes. From the comfort of your seat, you will have the opportunity to admire beautiful fjords and mountains. The route from Oslo to Bergen is often recommended for this unforgettable experience. The Flamsbana line for instance runs from the ski resort of Myrdal to the village of Flam and for forty minutes, the train travels through some of the country’s most beautiful waterfalls and mountain peaks and then stops at spectacular spots such as the Kjosfossen waterfall.
12. The Hardangervidda mountain plateau is the largest in Europe
Norway holds the record for the largest mountain plateau in Europe: the Hargander Mountain Plateau, “Hardangervidda” which covers more than 6500 square kilometers. This plateau is also the largest home of reindeers in Europe. A large part of its surface has the status of a national park and is therefore protected. It is a popular destination for tourists as well as locals and many activities can be practiced there.
13. Norwegian medieval churches have a unique architecture
When planning a trip to Norway, people tend to look for the most beautiful mountains, waterfalls and other natural wonders to admire during their stay & sometimes forget that the country is also a land of a very rich & cultural history (click here to discover the 6 most beautiful castles & fortress in Norway). The medieval Scandinavian churches called ”Stavkirke’‘ have the particularity of having been built in standing wood and not in stone as in the rest of Europe at the same period. Among the thousand churches of this type built between the 11th and 12th centuries, 28 have been preserved and are protected today.
Further information about Norway:
- Norway is a constitutional monarchy and King Harald V is the head of state.
- The Norwegian crown (NOK) is the currency used.
- Lake Mjøsa, 362 km2, is the largest lake in the country.
- Norway is not a member of the EU
I hope that those 13 interesting facts about Norway made you a little bit more curious about the country and that you will visit Norway soon! Check some of my Oslo and Norway travel guides below:
Experience the norwegian hytte: 9 cozy cabines for an epic getaway in Norway
The complete guide to hiking Mount Ulriken in Bergen
From “Brunost to Syrian cuisine: get a taste Oslo street food best spots