Winter holidays in Norway travel guide
Winter is coming, and the Norwegians can’t wait. In Norway, the ‘dark season’ is anticipated with glee. After all, the dayless days in northern Norway bring reindeer stews, the country’s preferred Olympics and gorgeous indirect light from a sub-horizon sun. And of course, no one does Christmas like the Norwegians.
The powder looks as inviting as freshly-laundered bedding: time to strap on those snow shoes or shimmy onto those cross country skis.
The question everyone asks if you say you’re going to Norway in winter is always the same: will you see the Northern Lights? Well, you’ll certainly try. Set your aurora alarm and prepare to be dragged out of your tent by this luminous late night visitor. In fact, some people come to Norway just to capture the special quality of the winter light on camera. You can also embrace the Norwegian passion for winter sports. After all, this is a country where people commute on cross country skis and channel their inner Amundsens as they float on snow shoes. You’ll quickly learn to love winter as much as your hosts do.
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Norway winter holiday map
Norway extends a long way north above Oslo. Finnmark is its northernmost mainland province. Seven degrees of latitude further up you’ll find the Svalvard archipelago, a kingdom ruled by polar bears. The further north you go, the longer the dark polar nights are, but it’s not necessarily colder. Norway’s climate is tempered by the Gulf Stream, so inland Norway can be freezing, but the coast stays mild – meaning you can enjoy the Lofoten and Vesteralen Islands, and look out for whales on boat trips, not icebergs. You don’t have to go too far north to cross country ski inland. Try Lillehammer, Golsfjellet and around Lake Mostravn.
1. Finnmark Plateau
The Finnmark Plateau is right up at the top of Norway, and covers a huge part of Finnmark province. In the winter, it wears a hard hat of packed ice and snow which is perfect for dog sledding. With the lone and level snow stretching as far as the eye can see, a journey here feels all kinds of epic.
There are some 2,500km of ski trails around Lillehammer and heaps suitable for cross country skiing around Nordseter, Sjusjoen and Rena. This makes sense once you recall that it’s a former Olympic Village (for the winter ones, held in 1994). Ski hut to hut along the Troll Trail, or try the Peer Gynt Trail, which links Espedalen and Skeikampen. Both are famous way marked routes, popular among experienced ski tourers.
3. Lofoten Islands
Kept at a civilised temperature because of the Gulf Stream, this string of beautiful arctic islands gets very quiet in winter, unless you’re a fisherman, in which case you’ll be undertaking an enormous cod harvest. Only a few intrepid photographers will make it down to Reine, where they can hone their low-light photography on some stunning subjects. You might even be able to photograph the aurora.
4. Lyngen Alps
Deep within the Arctic Circle on mainland Norway the beautiful Lyngen Alps surround Lyngenfjord, rising high and mighty above the water. Stay fjord-side in a charming little lodge, pop your felt slippers on, and wait for the Northern Lights to make an evening appearance. This is one scenic place for a light show, but you can also sled along with a horse or dog team. Jingle all the way.
There aren’t any trees on Svalbard. But who needs trees when you’ve got walruses dolloped onto ice floes, ice caves corkscrewing into glaciers, and the promise of polar nights and aurora borealis? The remote Norwegian islands are best visited at the end of winter as the sun only rises again on 16 February. Spotting wildlife is rare in winter, but dog sledding and ice caving are on the agenda for the intrepid.
It’s relatively easy to reach the little arctic city of Tromsø, making it a great gateway for those in pursuit of the aurora borealis. Factor in a mild climate and stable weather, and it’s one of the best places to keep your eyes on the skies. But Tromsø isn’t just sitting in the dark waiting for the lights to come on. It’s also home to a fascinating Polar Museum and the arctic cathedral.
More about Norway winter
The Norwegian winter is a long season, and when you consider all the winter activities you can do here, you'd be missing out if you overlooked it.
If you want to know where, when and how to watch the world’s most spectacular natural light display, right here is where your adventure begins.
Have you felt the call of the wild? You might think that commanding your own ‘wolf pack’ is a distant dream – but in the northern reaches of Norway you can learn to drive your own dog sled of Alaskan huskies.
What better way to get acquainted with a Norwegian winter than strapping on some skis and making your way across the frozen countryside.
Norwegian winter activities aren’t just for tourists. Norwegians love being outside all year round and have plenty of advice.
Norway is a natural paradise. Make sure your next trip makes the right impact, and travel a little better on your next Nordic winter break.