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The Kingdom of Norway: The Land of the Vikings

Rebecca Underwood experiences the natural wonders and city sights of this stunning country.

By Rebecca Underwood  |  April 15, 2022
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The opportunity to catch a glimpse of the overwhelming kaleidoscope of the shimmering Northern Lights hovering over the skies during the Equinox and Solstice in March/April and September/October always causes quite a stir. The fortunate audience gathers around and gazes into the skies in awe at the splendour of a spectacular display like no other. Northern Norway provides the real stage for the show-stopping performance of aurora borealis, capturing the imagination and enthralling the spectator.

For those of us seeking tranquillity and solitude, Nyksund, a fishing village in the Vesteralen Islands is the place to escape the relentless pace of hectic lives. In the summer months, Nyksund is rather lively, attracting nature lovers, walkers, bird lovers and ardent fans of fishing and sailing. Between the autumn equinox and spring equinox, darkness embraces the deserted village. For travellers who yearn for adventure, December and January are the perfect months to set off on an exploration.

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The spectacular Northern Lights are a wonder to behold. Image Credit: Gaute Bruvik/VisitNorway.com

As visitors make their way north west, where sightings of the Northern Lights are more frequent, it is noticeable that the only light is provided by a glorious moon and a carpet of glittering stars. Although some may feel a tad uncomfortable in thermal snow suits and cumbersome boots, and perhaps be a little concerned as to the reliability of torch batteries, most will soon adapt and delight in the surroundings.

Of course, Mother Nature does not guarantee that she will perform her extravaganza, but of course the longer visitors stay, the more opportunity. For those who are patient and time is not of the essence, the reward may be an eruption of luminous green light with hues of pink and violet dancing in the twinkling sapphire skies.

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A snowmobile safari is an exhilarating way to explore the area around Alta. Image Credit: VisitNorway.com

For another exhilarating and adventurous experience, I visited Alta, the largest town in the county of Finnmark, and there I embarked on a snowmobile safari. Driving my own vehicle, I explored the stunning scenery and the vast mountain plains. The UNESCO protected rock carvings, dating back over 2,000 years, are not to be missed, and I also wandered around the museum, where fascinating examples of rock art from the World Heritage site in Hjemmeluft are displayed.

The ideal place to stay for the weary explorer has to be the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta. The interior and exterior of the property is made of snow and ice and is simply breath-taking in its beauty. As I entered the reindeer fur covered door and strolled along the corridor, I discovered a bar, chapel, and a gallery. There are 30 bedrooms, all carved from ice and reflecting the unique splendour of the surroundings.

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The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel makes for a unique stay. Image Credit: Terje Rakke/VisitNorway.com

Imagine a deep slumber in a bed covered in soft reindeer fur as you snuggle down, embraced by the comfort of your sleeping bag. Warm bathrooms are housed in a wooden building adjacent to the hotel and are connected to a sauna and an inviting hot tub area. On my way back, I stopped at the hotel bar for a tipple of ‘ice’; a glass of bright blue vodka, which by the way, is the only drink served, and it’s sure to warm the chilliest of guests.

After a hearty breakfast of hot porridge, I made my way to the Sápmi Culture Park, keen to encounter the Sami, northern Norway’s indigenous people. With a rich culture that stretches back over 11,000 years, the Sami are known for their reindeer herding and ice fishing skills and their absolute respect for nature.

In the winter months visitors can get a real insight into the Sami way of life and embark on a sleigh ride pulled along by reindeer. Gliding over the snow at a leisurely pace, passengers are welcome to snuggle down into the warmth of fur blankets as the spectacular scenery unfolds. Majestic fjords, mighty mountains and the overwhelming beauty of Norway are simply unforgettable.

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The Sami are northern Norway’s indigenous people. Image Credit: Christian Roth Christensen/VisitNorway.com

When planning your itinerary, consider visiting Oslo first, as it is always easier to travel to distant areas from the capital and, of course, you can make sure that you are well fed, watered and rested before your journey really begins.

The ideal place to stay, and centrally located on Holbergsgate, the Radisson Blue Scandinavia Hotel hits the spot. The property is within walking distance to excellent public transport links and the city’s major attractions including the Oslo fjord.

Accommodations are soundproof and options include the junior suite, measuring 42m2. Features include contemporary furnishings, a king size bed swathed in fresh, white linens and plump pillows, and a sofa bed. A comfy, fluffy bathrobe and slippers ensured my morning was relaxing and the in-room Nespresso machine provided a piping hot caffeine supply.

Facilities include a fitness centre with an indoor pool and for a spot of lunch or dinner, the hotel’s 26 North Restaurant and Social Club features a wide selection of creative dishes focusing on local Nordic ingredients.

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Oslo city centre is compact and easy to explore

Oslo city centre is compact and easy to investigate with many attractions within walking distance to each other. I visited the Nobel Peace Centre, which promotes interest in the resolution of war and conflict. Be sure to take a wander around the National Gallery, which displays Norway’s vast collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings. Paintings by Cezanne and Manet and of course Edvard Munch’s haunting masterpiece, The Scream, draw the crowds, and a stroll around the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design is the place to admire inspiring exhibits and a vast selection of literature and journals.

For those of us fascinated by the Viking Age, the Viking Ship Museum provides an intriguing glimpse into Norway’s sea faring tradition and when Viking raids on French and British coastal areas were a frequent occurrence.

After such an adventurous day you will no doubt be considering your dining options. I recommend Statholdergaarden, which is included in the Michelin Guide and offers the most deliciously succulent fresh fish dishes served in elegant surroundings. After your sumptuous feast you will then have to decide whether to take a leisurely stroll back to your hotel or head for one of the numerous cafés and bars where you can sample a cocktail or two, or if you prefer a pint of ale, try the Oslo Mikrobryggeri, a pub with its own brewery, a lively atmosphere and a great place to chat with the locals.

The Kingdom of Norway, the Land of the Vikings, beckons.

Factbox

Flights from Heathrow to Oslo take approximately two hours, to learn more about what Norway has to offer, head to visitnorway.com