Ranked as one of the best countries in the world to live in, Norway is a one of three countries that make up Scandinavia. It is bordered by Sweden, Russia and Finland, and has an extensive coastline facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea. All major cities in this country can be found along its coastline, including the capital, Oslo. Norway is renowned for its spectacular natural beauty, from the mountains, glaciers and waterfalls, to the fjords, midnight sun and the phenomenal Northern Lights. Visitors to Norway are spoilt for choice, as the country has an astonishing 44 national parks, of which 37 are on the mainland and 7 are on Svalbard (a Norwegian archipelago).
Located in the high mountain area is Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park, Norway’s largest protected area with an almost entirely intact alpine ecosystem. Along with the Rondane area, Dovrefjell is Europe’s last high mountain area where reindeer, wolverine, golden eagle, raven and small rodents still cohabitate. One of the most fascinating draws of this park is the majestic musk ox, a species that has survived the ice age and was imported to the park from east Greenland in the 1930s. This incredible animal can withstand extremely cold temperatures and can weigh up to 446 kilograms. In Dovrefjell activities include musk ox safaris, skiing, bicycle rides, and a large variety of hikes including climbing Snøhetta, the highest mountain in Dovrefjell.
Hardangervidda National Park is Norway’s largest national park, spanning east to west. The Hardanger mountain plateau (Hardangervidda) is the largest eroded plain in Europe, with its highest point being a glacier of 1,863 m. The landscape of the park is characterised by bare, treeless moorland dotted with pools and lakes, although the terrain varies from east to west. The western part contains a vast expanse of bare rock, while the east is much flatter and more vegetated. Due to the alpine climate, animals of the area are mainly arctic, and Hardangervidda contains some of the largest herds of reindeer in the world. Activities in this park include walking and hiking safaris, cycling, off-road biking, fishing and cross-country skiing.
The 29 highest mountains in Norway can be found in Jotunheimen National Park, including the very highest, Galdhøpiggen. Jotunheimen is Norway’s most popular park and boasts glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, rivers and valleys. This park offers a host of extremely scenic hikes, with one of the most notable being the path along the narrow Besseggen ridge from Memurubu lodge to Gjendesheim lodge, where hikers can look down on beautiful emerald-coloured lakes. This area is perfect for cross-country and alpine skiers, cyclists and climbers who enjoy serene, untouched nature. Other activities of the area include caving, glacier walking safaris, rafting, climbing and horse riding, to name just a few.
Nordre Isfjorden National Park lies on Spitsbergen Island in the Svalbard archipelago of Norway. The park is named after Isfjorden, one of the largest fjords in Svalbard, the northern side of which is virtually untouched, with lush vegetation and scattered wildlife. Here visitors can expect to spot the puffin, kittiwake, arctic fox, and if they are very lucky, the polar bear skulking about in search of seals. Visitors to Isfjorden can engage in cultural tours, wildlife-spotting safaris and bird watching.
Photo Credits: Kristin Folsland Olsen - Visitnorway.com, Fredrik Schenholm - Visitnorway.com, Terje Rakke / Nordic Life AS - Visitnorway.com, CH - Visitnorway.com