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Norway

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  • Lofoten Islands, Norway
    Lofoten Islands, Norway
  • Geirangerfjord, Norway
    Geirangerfjord, Norway
  • Auerlandsfjord, Norway
    Auerlandsfjord, Norway
  • Lofoten Archipelago, Norway
    Lofoten Archipelago, Norway

From precipitous glaciers to steep-sided gorges and crystalline fjords, Norway’s natural beauty is impossible to overstate. The unspoilt wilderness of the Arctic north is one of the few places where the sun shines at midnight during the summer and where the magnificent Northern Lights brighten the skies during the long winter nights.

Further to the south, the picturesque cities of Oslo, Trondheim and Bergen are brim-full of buildings showing off Scandinavia’s age-old flair for design in cosmopolitan surroundings. Oslo is the present-day capital and financial centre, while the country’s second city, Bergen, is a picturesque former Hanseatic trading port and gateway to Fjordland. Stavanger is the focal point of the Norwegian oil industry and former capital, Trondheim, is a long-established centre of Christian pilgrimage, and more recently, technical research.

Though the weather can be a tad grim in Bergen, the UNESCO-listed waterfront adds a flash of colour with its wooden warehouses and shimmering harbour. Oslo’s waterfront is no less beautiful and has a brand new, ice-white Opera House that could give Sydney’s version a run for its money.

Stunning though the cities are, the real wonders of Norway are to be found outdoors. In the far north, the glacier-covered sub-polar peninsular of Svalbard is one of the few areas where polar bears can be seen in the wild, while Norway’s miles of Arctic tundra double up as a destination for skiing and spotting the Northern Lights.

Elsewhere, a ferry trip along Geirangerfjord has to rank among the world’s prettiest voyages with pine-topped cliffs giving way to icy green water, regularly topped up by the waterfalls that cascade down the fissured sides of the ravine. Indeed, you’d be hard pushed to find a part of Norway’s northern fjordland that isn’t strikingly beautiful, with snow-capped peaks and looming forests almost everywhere you look.

  • Capital:

    Oslo.

    Geography:

    Norway is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by Finland, the Russian Federation and Sweden, to the south by the Skagerrak (which separates it from Denmark) and to the west by the North Sea. The coastline is over 25,000km (15,534 miles) long, its most outstanding feature being the numerous fjords. Most of them are from 80km to 160km (50 to 100 miles) long, and are usually flanked by towering mountains. Much of northern Norway lies beyond the Arctic Circle and consequently, mostly takes the form of rugged tundras. The south is covered with pine and larch forests, and dotted with lakes, rivers and mountains.

    Government:

    Constitutional monarchy. Declared independence from Sweden in 1905.

    Head Of State:

    King Harald V since 1991.

    Head Of Government:

    Prime Minister Erna Solberg since 2013.

    Electricity:

    230 volts AC, 50Hz. European round two-pin plugs are standard.

    Timezone:
  • Currency Information:

    Norwegian Krone (NOK; symbol Kr) = 100 øre. Notes are in denominations of Kr1,000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Coins are in denominations of Kr20, 10, 5 and 1. The 50 øre coin is now out of circulation.

    Credit Cards:

    Visa, Eurocard, MasterCard, Diners Club and American Express cards are all widely accepted throughout Norway.

    ATMs:

    Mini-Banks (the Norwegian name for ATMs) are widespread although withdrawal fees vary from bank to bank.

    Travellers Cheques:

    Accepted in banks, hotels, some shops and by airlines.

    Banking Hours:

    Mon-Wed and Fri, 0815-1530 hrs (1500 hrs in summer); Thurs, 0815-1800.

    Currency Restrictions:

    The import and export of local and foreign currency is restricted to Kr25,000. Amounts above this sum must be declared.

    Currency Exchange:

    Available at banks and bureaux de change.

    Currencies: Exchange Rates:

    • 1 AUD = 5.60 NOK
    • 1 EUR = 8.66 NOK
    • 1 GBP = 11.95 NOK
    • 1 USD = 8.06 NOK

  • Overview:

    Like neighbouring Finland and Sweden, Norway experiences extreme cold in the winter, particularly in sub polar regions, and gentle heat in the summer, with temperatures hitting around 30°C in the south. Coastal areas enjoy a moderate climate thanks to the tempering effects of the Gulf Stream. Inland temperatures are harsher with hot summers and freezing winters (November to March). The lowlands of the south and the inland mountains generally experience colder winters than the coastal areas. Rainfall is sporadic throughout the year with frequent inland snowfalls during the winter. Northern parts inside the Arctic Circle have continuous daylight in midsummer and twilight all day during winter.

    Best Time To Visit:

    The best time to visit is between mid May and mid August, unless you're coming to ski, in which case the best time is December to Easter. Hikers and those in search of outdoor pursuits including wildlife watching should aim to visit in the summer months when the warmer weather makes getting out and about in the Norwegian countryside a real pleasure. Better still, the summer is low season, which means accommodation and transport deals aplenty.

    Required Clothing:

    European according to the season. Light- to medium-weights are worn in summer. Warmer clothing, gloves and hats are necessary during the winter. Waterproofing is advisable throughout the year.