THERE ARE SO MANY PLACES across our planet that are beautiful. Every place has its own sort of beauty if you look hard enough — some stark and rugged, some gentle and calming.

But with Norway, there’s no interpretation needed. There’s no “looking hard enough.” You just open your eyes and let it soak in. The fjords along the west coast, the brilliant auroras during winter, the glacial islands in the Arctic, the mountains and cliffs rising from water to sky — it’s a combination found nowhere else, and it’s surely in the running for nature at its finest. Here are 20+ photos that prove it.

1

Bryggen

On the eastern side of the Vågen harbor in Bergen are these red, yellow, and white houses, collectively referred to as Bryggen. They're technically "Hanseatic commercial buildings," and they're not just wonderfully Norwegian-looking—they're a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area dates back roughly a thousand years, and the Hanseatic League was established around 300 years later. Though the buildings aren't nearly that old, their foundations and structures are unparalleled examples of this style of architecture (and some still have 15th-century cellars). Many are now shops, boutiques, and restaurants, so visitors can explore inside as well as out.
Photo: Sonia Arrepia Photography for Visit Norway

2

Biking Geirangerfjord

The Geirangerfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, too. Here you'll find some of the steepest mountains in western Norway and several waterfalls, including Seven Sisters Falls. You can take a ferry between the small towns of Geiranger and Hellesylt, or you could bike or hike along it to get those birdseye views.
Photo: Sveinung Myrlid for Visit Norway

3

Troll's Tongue, Norway

The rock ledge of Trolltunga (Troll's Tongue) puts you 2,300 feet above the lake of Ringedalsvatnet and gives you an incredible view over Fjord Norway. Get there on a summer hike from the city of Odda.
Photo: Scott Sporleder

4

Sami with reindeer, Finnmark

Head to Finnmark, mainland Norway's northernmost county, and you'll enter a different world. Nine out of ten people in this area are of Sami origin, and their indigenous culture is still very much alive. Fly into Alta Airport, make the 2.5-hour drive to Karasjok, and in no time you'll be hopping on a dogsled, cavorting with reindeer, and seeing Sami culture up close.
Photo: Terje Rakke for Visit Norway

5

A view for the birds

If you don't feel like hiking the fjords, you can always explore them by hot air balloon.
Photo: Andrés Nieto Porras

6

Kayaking the Hardangerfjord

Sure, you've gone kayaking before, but have you gone kayaking between lush cliffs, snow-covered mountains, lighthouses, and filled up your water bottle from waterfalls? Kayaking the Hardangerfjord takes the sport and turns it into a life experience.
Photo: Visit Norway

7

Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, Alta

About 25 minutes from Alta Airport is the Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel, the largest ice hotel in Norway and the northernmost in all the world. There's a theme change every year, and if you're wondering, yes, everything is made of ice or snow. Everything—even the ice cup you drink out of at the ice bar. If you're intrigued enough to check it out but a little wary of sleeping on an ice bed, that's understandable—they're open for day visits, too.
Photo: Terje Rakke for Nordic Life, Visit Norway

8

Hjørundfjorden

This is Hjørundfjorden, a smaller fjord off the larger Storfjorden, and its cliffs rise 5,600 feet from the water below. Nearby villages include Bjørke, Leira, and Sæbø, and there are plenty of cabins close at hand for when you're finally ready to take a break from Mother Nature at her finest.
Photo: Mattias Fredriksson for Visit Norway

9

Hjelle in Stryn

Do the outskirts of your town look like this? The view from the village of Hjelle, in the municipality of Stryn, might be as good as it gets. It's on the edge of Strynsvatnet Lake, in the Hjelledalen valley, and the entire area—replete with glaciers, valleys, waterfalls, fjords, and forests—is literally world-famous for its looks.
Photo: Visit Norway

10

Nigardsbreen glacier

Nigardsbreen is just one "arm" of the Jostedalsbreen glacier, the largest glacier in continental Europe, and just one of Norway's many icy behemoths. Taking in the view is an experience in itself, but there are plenty of activities circling around them, too, and if hiking one is on your list, time is of the essence—just like most of the world's glaciers, their clocks are ticking.
Photo: Visit Norway

11

Storting Building, Oslo

You're looking at the seat of the Norwegian National Assembly—the Storting Building on Karl Johans Gate in Oslo. It's been the home base of parliament since 1866, and is just as ornate inside as you'd expect. Guided tours (in English) are frequent in spring and fall—let us know if they tell you the secret of how they managed to become one of the happiest countries on the planet.
Photo: Claudia Regina

12

Stegastein viewpoint, Sogn og Fjordane

Jutting put 100 feet from the cliff edge and at a height of over 2,000 feet, the Stegastein viewpoint is likely the best way to take in all sides of the Aurlandfjord, a branch of the deepest fjord in the world. To get there, take the Aurland road—it's a National Tourist Road and well worth the drive (or bus trip).
Photo: Visit Norway

13

Late fall in Tromsø

Care to see what's considered the "northernmost city in the world?" That may sound chilly and unappealing, but, thanks to the Gulf Stream, Tromsø is actually warmer during winter than much of the American Midwest. And in addition to its gorgeous harbor views and unique culture, it's one of the best places in the world to view the Northern Lights and take in that famous midnight sun.
Photo: The Municipality of Tromsø

14

Geiranger

What you're looking at has been called the "best travel destination in Scandinavia" by Lonely Planet. This is the view into the Geirangerfjord, across to Seven Sisters waterfall, near the village of Geiranger. Unsurprisingly, it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Norway's most-visited spots.
Photo: Terje Rakke for Visit Norway

15

Norway's Northern Lights

Technically, the Northern Lights are always around in Norway—it's just that whole "Land of the Midnight Sun" thing during summer that throws it off. But from around September to March or April, they can be seen all across the country. That being said, your odds are better in northern Norway; if you want to see them as much as possible, look into staying in Tromsø, Bodø, or the Svalbard Islands (among other spots). And though some say the Northern Lights are currently cycling into a lull, rest assured that up here, your odds are still good.
Photo: Bjorn Jorgensen for Visit Norway

16

Heddal Stave Church

This is Norway's largest stave church, one of 23 remaining Viking-era stave churches across the country, and it dates all the way back to the 1200s. Legend has it that it was built in part by a troll named Finn, who also helped build several other impressive cathedrals across the country. This one has undergone two restorations since, but its authenticity remains (whether it was troll-built or not).
Photo: L.C. Nøttaasen

17

Sunset along the Årdalsfjord

Want a fjord all to yourself? Go on, grab one. There are enough to go around.
Photo: Andrés Nieto Porras

18

Hiking up Stetind

This isn't just any mountain—this is the National Mountain of Norway, Stetind. It's shaped like an obelisk, with smooth sides all the way down to the edges of the fjord below. It's only around 4,500 feet tall, but its particular topography makes it a task only for serious climbers. It's best to go in summer, when the weather in northern Norway is a bit better—and when there's sunshine around the clock.
Photo: RIchard Meurk

19

Skiing in Jomfrudalen

Jomfrudalen is a steep, often snow-covered valley in Nordland—if you're looking at a map, it's in the long, narrowest strip of the country between Sweden and the Atlantic. There are beautiful islands and plenty of options for hiking and skiing here, so on your trip to herd reindeer with the Sami or to watch the Northern Lights, be sure to pack your ski gear, too.
Photo: Kristin Folsland Olsen for Visit Norway

20

And away she goes

Would you prefer to explore the incredible Trollstigen (Troll's Road) from above or below? Take your pick.
Photo: Andrés Nieto Porras

21

A Hurtigruten ship leaves Raftsund

If you're looking for a good way to explore a lot of Norway in a short amount of time, a Hurtigruten voyage is the way to go. These ships run from Bergen up and across the Arctic Circle to Kirkenes, giving passengers a chance to cover 2,500 nautical miles along Norway's coast. The entire round trip takes 12 days, but you can hop on and off when and where you please, and you can even take your car on board, too. Consider it an obscenely scenic shuttle to wherever you want your next Norway adventure to be.
Photo: Roderick Eime

This post is proudly produced in partnership with Visit Norway USA
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