Before you scroll through to the next article on sunny Mexico, bear with me a second:
I know Europe is not everyone’s idea of fun in winter, especially if they’ve been saving up the entire year to splurge on that customary, all-inclusive beach getaway.
Between the incessant London rain, the gray Parisian skies, and Italy’s plummeting temperatures, I can see how the idea of embarking on a Transatlantic trip right now could sound unappealing, but what if you don’t have to escape winter to have a cracking time on your next vacation?
Allow me to explain why winter is my favorite season to visit Norway, one of the world’s most Northerly countries – and one of the safest ones at that – and why you should give it a chance yourself:
Why Is Norway Becoming So Popular As A Winter Destination?
Norway is surging in popularity in 2024, and I can’t say I’m surprised: one of the reasons why I fell in love with it in the first place was how unspoiled and abundant the nature is.
Though it boasts a high Human Development Index and Quality of Life, much of the country is comprised of forested areas and rural hinterlands, and irrespective of where you’re headed, be it the Arctic North or the fjord lands, there is no shortage of natural wonders to be found here.
From the minute you step out of the plane and breathe in the crisp, fresh mountain air, without having cast a single glance at the nearest mahoosive peak yet, you know you’re not in terminally-industrialized Germany, nor overpolluted France anymore.
Caribbean beaches are great, but I am sure most would agree ice-skating on mirror-like frozen lakes, relaxing in saunas, skiing down winding slopes, and cozy late nights sitting by a fire, hot chockie in hand, watching the snow fall from the window can be just as alluring a prospect.
Why Fly To Norway For A Winter Wonderland When You Can Go To Aspen Instead?
You may be wondering why exactly I’m trying to convince you to fly halfway across the globe for a winter holiday when you could just go to Colorado instead: as beautiful as it may be, the Centennial State lacks Norway’s mystique, ancient culture, scenic railways and hearty ‘Scandi’ food.
Still, this is a big country we’re talking about, with a fjord-traversed coastline extending for 1,100 miles along the North Sea, and if you’re warming up to the idea of going on a little off-season Viking adventure, you may be wondering where to go for the most epic scenery.
Away from the big cities and off the beaten path, here are four incredible winter destinations in Norway (and why they should be added to your bucket list):
4 Incredible Destinations To Visit In Norway In The Colder Months
Flåm, a small village at the innermost part of the historical Aurlandsfjord, is one of Europe’s best-hidden secrets this winter, home to the four-star Fretheim Hotel, built in classic chalet style, an award-winning microbrewery, and the world-famous Flåmsbana train.
Rattling up a steep 2,841 feet ascent, with wide panoramic windows offering views of deep valleys, narrow fjords, majestic waterfalls and isolated, colorful villages with chimneys and lampposts poking out in the virgin snow, it is a $50 round-trip worth embarking on.
Sauna culture is not as prevalent in Norway as it in fellow incredible winter wonderland Finland, where it originated, but in Flåm it just happens to be one of the top attractions, with FjordSauna welcoming guests onboard floating steam rooms at the edge of the ice-covered fjord.
If you’re a fan of the Vikings, you could take a day trip out to Gudvangen to see a Norsemen village functioning as a folk park, or go for some beer tasting and fish supper at Ægir, a pub and restaurant modeled after pagan messhalls of the 10th-century.
The unofficial ski capital of Western Norway, just over an hour away from Bergen, Voss is a small settlement resting at the bottom of an elongated valley dotted with lakes, where colorful houses and a medieval stone church make for a picturesque townscape.
Popular for its gondola rides, varied selection of Haute cuisine restaurants, and surprisingly wide range of entertainment options – it has its very own skydiving center – this laid-back alpine village is not a place you’ll want to skip when paying Norway a visit in the colder months.
Additionally, it is where the highly-reputed Myrkdalen Ski Resort is located, boasting 22 ski trails, 9 ski lifts, 2 of which are express chairlifts, unique stays – think repurposed barns and homely, self-catering wooden cabins – and three distinguished restaurants for either fine or casual dining.
Prices for double rooms start at $239 this season, and if skiing isn’t your thing, Myrkdalen is still the perfect base for exploring the surrounding nature, as it is a stone’s throw away from UNESCO-listed Nærøyfjord, and mystical Gudvangen (Norwegian for ‘Valley of the Gods’).
By the way, ski season in this part of Norway can last as late as April.
A charming fishing port in Northern Norway, Bodø was recognized by the European Commission as one of the continent’s Cultural Capitals in 2024, and with over a thousand events planned to celebrate the town’s rich heritage, starting this winter, it is definitely somewhere you don’t want to miss in 2024.
Bodø is best known for its walkable, museum-packed historic center, vibrant art scene, with innovative installations and awe-inspiring street art lurking in every corner, and in recent years, it’s developed a reputation for being a foodie hotspot.
Reindeer is commonly served in restaurants, in line with Northern Europe’s staple diet, and it’s Kjelen kafé in Bodø where you’ll find the most delicious møsbrømlefse, a Norwegian flatbread stuffed with camarelized goat cheese, and other local delicacies.
Winters in Nordland can be harsh, with freezing temperatures and limited sunlight through March, but it’s typically in the darkest of nights the sky bursts into a million different shades of green and purple (yes, we’re talking about Aurora sightings).
My final entry on this list is Lofoten, a grouping of islands connected by a series of bridges and undersea tunnels further North from Bodø that feel almost otherwordly, with jagged peaks shooting up to the stars, and fishing villages sitting on rugged coasts.
Three of the most sought-after winter activities among visitors to the archipelago include horse riding, taking sea eagle safaris to Trollfjord, an area of outstanding natural beauty, and hunting down the elusive Northern Lights.
Village-hopping around the islands is also a must-do: Reine and Nusfjord are particularly beautiful, with their centuries-old fishing tradition and Instagram-ready, brightly-painted cottage houses lining quaint, snow-dusted harbors.
To top it off, Lofoten enjoys a much more mild winters compared to other destinations on the mainland: as it is surrounded by the North Sea, the climate is typically maritime, meaning you are unlikely to be caught knee-deep in snow when snowshoeing in the wild.
That’s not to say it is warm. By all means, do wear multiple layers.
Why Is Norway Surging In Popularity Despite The Harsh Winters?
According to the latest data, reservations for Norway – more specifically, freezing cold Northern Norway – have skyrocketed this winter, so much so that European airlines are launching new direct routes to secondary airports like Harstad/Narvik, Evenes, and Alta.
Alta is Norway’s remote capital for aurora sightings, and its Northern Lights Cathedral, eclectic architecture and Arctic lifestyle have been on our radar since last winter; now, new flights arriving from Frankfurt with Lufthansa have greatly improved connectivity in the area.
Similarly, an increase in arrival figures for Tromsø Airport, serving the most Northerly major settlement in mainland Norway, has led to the construction of an additional terminal.
Wintertime guest bookings between 105 travel companies all over Norway now total 350,000 so far, with Best Arctic CEO Trond Arne Kongsli claiming his company alone had ‘triple’ the amount of reservations this season compared to the 2022-2023 period.
Norwegian authorities have cited Norway’s diverse tourist offer, amazing food, and growing popularity as a cultural destination as three of the main drives behind the increase in demand, in spite of its harsh winters.
What I Think As Someone Who’s Been To Norway In Winter
Personally, I would add tourist-friendliness as a major factor contributing to Norway’s surging popularity as a year-round destination.
Having traveled solo in Norway in the dead of winter, when service availability is typically lower and many attractions are shut down, I still had a remarkable time.
Naturally, you should manage your expectations: going hiking in most trails is not possible due to the heavy snowfall and poor visibility, so you can scrap the iconic Trolltunga or leave it for the warmer months, but there is still plenty to keep you entertained on the nature front.
Norway’s ‘Right to Roam’ is a freedom enshrined in the constitution that is quite telling of this historic nation’s appreciation for the great outdoors. In Norway, everyone has the right to enjoy and make reasonable use of nature without paying to access it.
In essence, you can go roam freely across nature preserves, camp out in the open, attempt hiking, and even live off of any uncultivated land so long as you’re not carrying out commercial activities, starting dangerous fires, or polluting.
Exercising the right to roam in winter is trickier, as I wouldn’t be sleeping outside in negative temperatures myself, but as you can attest from the destinations listed above, nature in Norway is always breathtaking, and it can be particularly beautiful when it’s frozen and glistening white.
Finally, Norway is an incredibly safe country to explore – one of the safest in the world, at that.
According to the U.S. Department of State, it is one of a handful of destinations globally to enjoy a Level 1 status, meaning tourists do not have to be overly concerned about their safety when visiting.
Violent crime rates are negligible, pickpocketing is not common, unlike in other European states, and poverty levels are very, very low. Whether you’re in a major urban center like Oslo or Bergen or the vast countryside and fjordlands, you can put your worries about personal safety aside.
The biggest threat facing Norway nowadays is recurring terrorist attacks, like most Western countries, but even these do not happen on a significant scale.
Caught the travel bug? Read on about Norway, and start planning your frozen adventure here.
Top 5 Travel Insurance Plans Starting At $10 Per Week
How To Easily Earn Points For Free Travel
↓ Join Our Community ↓
The Travel Off Path Community FB group has all the latest reopening news, conversations, and Q&A’s happening daily!
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR LATEST POSTS
Enter your email address to subscribe to Travel Off Path’s latest breaking travel news, straight to your inbox.
This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.