Occasionally, a picturesque town interrupts all the natural glory, while lonely hamlets are hidden at the base of lofty mountains or in the sheltered inlets.
Rich, unpolluted grass for grazing means succulent lamb, elk and reindeerApart from travelling around in a state of awe gazing at the mountains, fjords, glaciers, islands, waterfalls, huge rock walls, historic churches and cute villages, what else is there to do in Norway?
Those with a penchant for being outdoors, especially in the long daylight hours of the Norwegian summer, will suffer from child-in-a-sweetshop syndrome. This is prime hiking territory, with well-marked routes everywhere taking you to astonishing viewpoints, high alpine pastures and lofty waterfalls, or along sparkling rivers and the edge of fjords. Often, by jumping on a local bus, you can avoid the toughest stretch and concentrate on the views and nature as you amble back down.
Even in the time-frame afforded by a port call on the Hurtigruten route, there will often be a chance for a scenic walk.
Fascinating wildlife: keep your eyes peeled for puffins and other seabirds
Kayaking is popular around the coastal islets and in the fjords, with plenty of local operators. Sea fishing (including the fjords) is free and you may catch a fat cod. Bird watching is another great diversion, while anyone who has ever taken a photo will love the clear air, the colours and the amazing views. There are mountain farms to visit, excellent aquariums and Viking heritage to explore.
So now we know that Norway is a giant outdoor playground, bursting with natural wonders, but what about history and culture? In this respect, 2014 is a good time to visit because it’s 200 years since Norway’s constitution was signed and various events will be staged around the country, especially on May 17, with many aimed at young people.
Bergen, called the gateway to the fjords and the start and finish point for Hurtigruten ships, is a joy. Squashed between the sea and the mountains, even a couple of days will be rewarded with the wonderful Bryggen Hanseatic wharf, the Edvard Grieg Museum, the 13th-century Rosenkrantz Tower, the atmospheric Fish Market, the Bergen Aquarium and the chance to ride up the signature Fløybanen for incredible views.
Further north, Ålesund is another fine maritime city; a terrible fire 110 years ago allowed it to be rebuilt as an art nouveau masterpiece; its striking buildings can be viewed from street level, from a kayak paddling around the harbour and waterways, or from the top of adjacent Aksla mountain.
Breathtaking: take to the water in a kayak for a calm paddle with superb views
Nordfjord, one of Norway’s major arteries, penetrates inland from here and culminates in the astonishing Geirangerfjord, lined with waterfalls and listed by Unesco as a scenic wonder.
If you’re spending a little time around the fjords, perhaps before or after a Hurtigruten voyage, it’s well worth investigating Fjord Tours, which offers a selection of outstanding tours of one or more days using Norway’s boats, buses and trains. These are an excellent and good-value way of seeing many great sights.
For a stopover in Bergen, invest in a Bergen Card for discounts on museums, transport and more.
Anyone who has ever taken a photo will love the clear air, the colours and the amazing viewsMoving a little north, Trondheim is an unsung gem, another with old merchants’ buildings hugging the river, an open-air folk museum, charming shops,hotels and cafés and the mighty Nidaros Cathedral,, Norway’s National Sanctuary.
Even the far north of Norway is only three hours from the UK by direct flight. At the very roof of Europe, this is the Land of the Midnight Sun (or the Land of the Northern Lights if you come in winter).
Northern Norway is defined by distinctive peaks, numerous islands and skerries and fishing villages, along with whales of various species and the admirable white-tailed eagle.
Tromsø is a lively city in a magnificent setting that is another potenial start and finish point for a Hurtigruten voyage. From here, a wide range of excursions can be organised, from fishing trips to a visit to a settlement of the indigenous, reindeer-herding Sami people.
As for the scenery – search the internet for pictures of the Lofoten Islands and you’ll understand why words are not enough.
From coast to countryside, Norway boasts a good array of cafés and restaurants serving healthy and tasty cuisine with the accent on regional produce.
Given so much coastline, it is little surprise that fish takes pride of place. Cod, haddock, halibut and prawns are harvested from the clean sea waters, while salmon are caught in the rivers. Rich, unpolluted grass for grazing means succulent lamb, elk and reindeer – and do look out for the local berries.
Easy to reach, easy to get around, easy to fall in love with Norway is Europe’s great natural treasure
• For more information and ideas on Norway, go to the official websitevisitnorway.com
Via The Telegraph