we all know that Norway it is a beautiful land of mountains and fjords. But there are also modern and exciting surprises. We asked Harald Hansen, a longtime Norwegian travel expert, to share a sampling of the best of old and new.
Tell me about Norway’s new designated Scenic Highways.
“The Norwegian road authorities chose 18 roads that are specifically scenic, with no large buses or commercial traffic allowed, along the coast and through the mountains to southern Norway. To complement nature, they invited architects, designers and artists. Then you have all these fantastic viewpoints and unique rest stops. One even has a golden toilet.
Along the way, innovative young architects have created unique buildings. Some are right on the ocean and offer fantastic views – if you’re there alone, you can really unleash your inner self.”
In summer, what do you recommend?
“Alaska and New Zealand also have beautiful fjords, but in Norway, people live there and you can enjoy the old farms and the local food. It is a living society.
Pilgrimage tours can also be taken, along routes with wooden churches dating back to the 11th century. They’re built like reverse Viking ships.”
What about winter pleasures?
“Norway’s coast is ice-free, so you can go on winter expeditions on passenger ships like the Hurtigruten. People love dog sledding, reindeer safaris or going out with guides to hunt for the Northern Lights.
Above the Arctic Circle, you can stay in unique ice hotels, snow hotels, and beautiful lodges.”
For animal lovers, what is not to be missed?
“Along the coast we have humpback whales, white whales, killer whales and belugas. On the island of Svalbard, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, there are more polar bears than people. We are not allowed to search for polar bears because they are protected, but you will see them in the distance.
The Sami people live inland during the winter on the Finnmark Plateau, a national park. At the end of April they begin to migrate with their reindeer towards the coast. If you go to northern Norway, you can always meet reindeer.”
Give us an idea about the gastronomic scene.
“So much has happened in the last 20 years. The Oslo Opera House, opened in 2008, really put Oslo on the map, and a new museum and library opened nearby. So the whole waterfront area is now shops and bars, restaurants and art galleries.
Bryggen, Bergen’s old wharf, has become very popular thanks to new chefs opening restaurants. They catch their own food so there is a lot of seafood. We call it ‘fjord cuisine’.
And there is a town called Longyearbyen, the northernmost settlement in the world, which was actually founded by an American, where there are beautiful hotels, restaurants and one of the best wineries in Norway.”
Considering the scenic roads, I found a special tour that perfectly highlights both old and new Norway.
Drive the Fjords seven-day supercar adventure, available June 12; August 7th; and September 4, 11 and 18: It was created by Off the Map Travel to show Norway’s national tourist routes in the fjords. (For maximum splurge, a private version of the program is also available.)
You will travel through the Norwegian fjords and the Sunnmore Alps enjoying the open roads at the wheel of an electric Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo. The route is preprogrammed; you do the driving.
Highlights: A night in the art nouveau city of Alesund, with a boat ride on the fjords, and a night in a traditional Sami tent in the pine forests. You will travel along the Atlantic Highway, “the road that crosses the sea”, with its seven bridges and its network of tunnels; travel deep into the mountains to the Troll Wall, the largest rock wall in Europe; take a ferry to the Geiranger Fjord; gondola ride for views of the North Atlantic; and experience the fjords from the sky in a private helicopter.
The electric supercar reaches 283 miles on a charge and has a built-in “charge planner” that calculates the optimal route, based on its state of charge. On-site chargers for your vehicle are provided.
This unusual green ride emphasizes slow travel in a fast vehicle. The menu features the best local cuisine in the region, including seafood from local suppliers. All hotel accommodations support the sustainability of the program, from the electric car to the eco-friendly toiletries.
(Harald Hansen’s comments were edited and excerpted from Episode #9 of my award-winning travel podcast, Places I Remember with Lea Lane. To watch the full interview, go to your favorite podcast app or the link in my bio) .