With the height of summer fast approaching, your holiday urge might be to head to a sunny beach in the Mediterranean. However, resist those urges and explore the eclectic sites of Norway: a country that not only has spectacular regions of natural beauty but thriving cultural centres and adventurous activities for the thrill-seekers. Here we look at five places to consider visiting in Norway this summer.
Although founded in 1125, Stavanger's popularity rose considerably in the late twentieth century with the discovery of offshore oil. The core of the old town centre still retains its characteristic charms with quaint eighteenth and nineteenth-century wooden houses. Norwegians love for all things artisanal and organic is even more passionate than that of the British, as witnessed by a visit to the delightful cafe and shop that is Ostehuset øst. Make sure you sample their exquisite, locally-produced cheeses.
By the pier, you can arrange a thrilling rib boat trip to see Lysefjorden and the world-famous Pulpit Rock. This is rumoured to be where the final scene of the latest Mission Impossible is taking place. The rock formations look like they've been carved meticulously with a knife. It is an exhilarating ride along the narrow waterways of the fjord and you are driven up close to the waterfalls, enough for you to even enjoy a private shower.
Trondheim is filled with history, yet also a modern vibrant city with a strong university presence and with the government keen on developing it into a tech hub. A fantastic way to navigate the city is via a kayaking experience along the Nidelven river in the middle of the city. You will see the beautiful tree-lined riverbanks as well as the colourful warehouses that are characteristic of the city.
A must-visit place on foot is the Nidaros Cathedral with its intricate rose window and spectacularly-detailed exterior facade. It's unsurprising that pilgrims have been flocking to this city since the eleventh century.
After all the burning of calories, I would recommend a meal at the hip Folk og Fe Bistro. It's all Scandinavian minimalism with possibly only two to three choices for each course, expect smoked fish, reindeer meat and foraged exotic berries.
As the second largest city in Norway, there are plenty of things to do here. The best way to explore the city is with a Bergen Card, which will give you free access to most museums and free transport throughout the city. To enjoy a great vantage point, take the funicular Fløibanen where you will see almost the whole of Bergen from Mt Fløyen.
Once you get into the city centre, the ideal place to check out around lunchtime is the charming fish market. It is one of the most-visited outdoor markets in Norway and has the freshest seafood offerings you will find anywhere, and a great place to savour an impromptu platter of raw oysters.
Finally, you can spend days on end visiting KODE, which is one of Scandinavia's largest museums for art, craft, design and music. During our whirlwind visit, we saw great paintings from famous artists such as Edvard Munch and Pablo Picasso.
This city is at the very northernmost part of Norway. It is a bustling, compact city packed with energy and invention with an infamous nightlife scene. It has also been an important base for many polar expeditions, hence a visit to the Polar Museum is one of the most popular activities when visiting – you can discover the many courageous polar expeditions that started out from Tromsø.
This is also an ideal place for a rib boat ride to Kvaløya (Whale Island). Discover many types of birds, seals and porpoises during your journey, and in November and December, you might come across some humpback and killer whales that enter the fjords looking for herring.
This little village might not be significant in size, but the journey through Sognefjord – Norway's longest and deepest fjord – to reach this picturesque port is one of the most awe-inspiring experiences you will ever encounter in your lifetime. Beauty was invented for a place like Skjolden.
The recommendation is to drive through the Sognefjell Mountain Road through to Lom. This heavenly route is filled with emerald lakes, icy glaciers and magical mountains. In Lom, you will find one of the very few stave churches (medieval, wooden church) remaining in Norway and the Norwegian Mountain Museum, where they are conducting many important arctic excavation works, which delve into our ancient past.
For more details on how to book a holiday in Norway, click here.