I’ll be honest, before I became obsessed with Norway; I didn’t give it much thought. I bulked it together with the larger picture of Europe and Scandinavia- too cold, too expensive, and too out of my reach. I don’t like admitting I am wrong, and I like to think it’s not very often I have to, but boy oh boy was I wrong.

It is so easy to lump ideas together in broad generalizations without taking the time to further learn, explore, or find the uniqueness of some thing or place. Now a day, if something doesn’t just pop out at us and grab our attention, we often times dismiss it. I bring this up only because I, myself, am guilty of having done this, and I regret not taking the time to learn about and explore this beautiful country earlier. Below you will find some common misconceptions about Norway that hopefully intrigue you enough to explore a few more posts and really get to know one of the most pristine, visually stunning, and universally welcoming places in the whole world.

It is not possible to see all of Norway in a few days

For most of my trips in European countries I budget a few days in the capital and a couple days in 2-4 other cities, depending on the size of the country, and what interest points there are to see. For most travelers this is already considered an extensive exploration of a country, where most people visit at port of calls on a cruise ship, or just to the major capitals: Paris, London, Prague. If you apply this same theory to Norway, you would be doing yourself a disservice. Norway is more than one place, more than just it’s capital, Norway is BIG.

Norway, if compared to other places, would span the distance from New York to Miami. It is larger than mainland Germany and three times longer than California, with one of the longest coastlines in the world, out measuring the coastline of the US, at 25,000 kilometers.

Basically, Norway is large and travel times can be long, but the journey is always stunning beautiful. Budget enough time to explore outside Oslo, Stavanger, and Bergen if you can. If not, read the next point and make the most of your time anywhere you are.

Fjords and nature are everywhere

The very best attraction, in my opinion, nature, is found everywhere! Yes, there are certain more well-known fjords, there are stand out popular hikes such as the pulpit rock, but, in essence, the whole country is beautiful and you do not need to travel great distances in search for it.

Fjords are everywhere. Everywhere. Really. There are around 1190 fjords in Norway. The top five fjords are listed here for you to browse at your leisure, but those rankings are subjective, and every single fjord I have seen has been stunning. Hence, if you can make to a particular fjord of your choice, wonderful, if you can’t fit it in your time frame, pick the closest one. It will not disappoint.

Norway has numerous national parks that are also well spread throughout the country. It should be noted that the national parks refer to its protection status, not a scenic ranking indicator. About 95% of Norway is publicly accessible wilderness just waiting to be enjoyed.

Ciders= $4. Perfect setting= Free

My last note on this point is that Norway is a land of lakes. Beautiful, calm, pristine lakes, to fish, sit by, or hike around. There are about 450,000 lakes in Norway. Almost half a million. I kind of assume if you just go outside, turn left or right and walk a little you’ll run into a lake. Ok, maybe it’s not that simple, but there probably is one, or five, pretty close to wherever you are.

Not as expensive as you think it is

This is probably the biggest deterrent for most people when they think of holidaying in Norway. I go into detail here, on ways to enjoy your holiday while still on a budget, and you will find other articles around the site about the cost analysis of doing Norway in a Nutshell on your own or via tour, money saving tips on travel season and airline tickets, lodging, and the such, but the short and simple of it is that Norway can be enjoy on any budget.

The most important and enjoyable things in Norway, nature, is free of charge and everywhere. Everyone enjoys the right to access wilderness, beaches, and even some state run institutions. If you are limited on time and or funds, the best option to focus on a couple select cities, or even just one, and take time to explore, really explore it. Don’t rush around the country; enjoy the journey, it’s part of the appeal, and a great way to experience Norway without breaking the bank.

Not as cold and dark as you think

Norway’s climate can vary greatly from region to region, due to its topography, but it does not have an arctic climate. The south-west (Bergen) has a temperate mild climate, similar to Britain or the Netherlands. It rains there often, but not for long durations of time. Around Oslo, in the east, temperatures can be warm in summer (20-30 degrees Celsius). The midnight sun, virtually 24 hours of sunlight is often celebrated with a host of activities in summer time, and the cooler seasons show an increase of winter activities and skiing. Do a quick check of average weather conditions for the places and time of year you plan on going, but you might be pleasantly surprised, like I was, to find out your; ten day, top down, road trip through southern Norway only incurred 2 hours of rain throughout its entire duration.

midnight sun norway
A summer day in Lofoten, at the stroke of midnight. Photo by weesam2010, Flickr.com

Most Norwegians speak English

This is simple enough. Norway is a highly devolved, advance country, on par or at the cutting edge of much industrial, medical, and technological advancement. The country maintains its cultural heritage through farmland and nature, but do not be fooled, Norwegians are a highly educated contributing country in society and are well able to converse with you in a multitude of languages. If you do get stuck in a place where Norwegian is the only language spoken, reference this Norwegian cheat sheet of phrases, point and show them what term you’re after, and you’ll still get along just fine.

Tell us how else Norway has surprised you!