Since Anna and Elsa built a snowman in Disney’s Frozen, Norway has been a top vacation destination for the adventurous family. Glacier hiking, animal adventures, action-packed boat rides in the fjords, and a general family-friendly culture make Norway the clear choice for our winner of Best Adventure Destination for Families.
“As a father, Norway is definitely an ideal destination for family adventurers,” says Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of Hurtigruten Group, the world’s largest cruise operator. “From our capital city of Oslo to the remote beauty of Svalbard, Norway offers a bounty of memorable year-round experiences for parents, children, and grandparents. Our iconic natural offerings like the northern lights, whale watching, jaw-dropping fjords, and mountains, make us one of the best destinations on the European continent to explore. As a company born in Norway almost 130 years ago, we embody our country’s ethos and spirit of adventure.”
Any family trip to Norway should include three things: fjords, hiking, and trains. If you’re lucky, you can also include trolls. The simplest way to all three is the Norway in a Nutshell tour, one of the most popular tourist routes in Norway. This tour from Oslo to Bergen combines travel by train and ferry, offering panoramic scenery of snow-capped peaks, waterfalls, small towns, and fjords.
Fjords in Norway
Norway’s fjords are one of the country’s main attractions. These long and narrow sea inlets snake between mountains where villages and small towns are nestled along the shore. The best way to see fjords is by cruise, which is an ideal way to travel with family.
“People will turn to cruises as a great way to explore adventure in a setting that has something for everyone in the family of all ages, such as water parks, kid-friendly comedy shows, teen clubs, and even child care for little ones when adults need their own time,” says Rue Mapp, Matador Network panel member and found and CEO of Outdoor Afro.
Trains in Norway
What could be more friendly than a playground on a train? Many Norwegian trains have them — a great perk for kids who don’t want to stare at glaciers through the window like their parents. The train options in Norway are seemingly endless, with the 453-mile long route between Trondheim and Bodø being the longest. Passengers travel on a journey through gorgeous landscapes from distinct northern coastal scenery to tiny inland towns and high mountain passes. The Dovre Line takes travelers from Oslo to Trondheim through some of Norway’s stunning national parks.
Hiking in Norway
Norway is home to 47 national parks, which are free and open to the public year-round. The Norwegian Trekking Association runs more than 500 affordable hiking outposts across Norway, which gives ample choice of affordable accommodations. Hike from cabin to cabin along the coast, the mountains, and in the forests.
Norway also has via ferratas: protected climbing routes equipped with ladders, cables, and iron bolts that are anchored in the mountainside. There are several via ferratas in Norway, both for families and more experienced climbers.
Members on Matador Network‘s panel add that Norway offers adventures for everyone, from those who want demanding mountain hikes to those who prefer gentle trails that meander through the forest. And similar to a few other countries in Europe, Norway embraces the concept of the right to roam, which means that, unless there is a no trespassing sign, you’re able to hike on private land under the assumption that the visitor will respect the land. This love of nature and the outdoors can best be articulated by friluftsliv (pronounced “free-loofts-liv”), which can be translated to open-air living, a testament to Norway’s deep connection to a life lived outdoors and in connection with nature.
Runner Up: US National Parks
“With a surge in people connecting to nature since the pandemic, our national parks remain there and ready to embrace us all with open arms,” Mapp says.
The Great American Road Trip is going nowhere. “I think the RV sensation will continue to thrive in 2022 – national parks, lakes, camping, etc will be in high demand.” says Zachary Burr Abel, panel member and blogger behind Monkey Miles. With more than 400 national park sites, there’s a “local” national park in reach for many. From the iconic Colorado Rockies to the Florida Everglades, you’ll find inspiring nature with many recreational activities to pursue.