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Outdoor Norway

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Outdoor Norway
Norway doesn’t need to build vast theme parks and shopping malls to pull in the crowds. Its biggest attraction is the great outdoors: national parks, mountain ranges, and of course, the fjords.
By David Nikel, AFAR Local Expert
Photo Courtesy Mattias Fredrikssen/visitnorway.com
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    World-Class Hikes
    Hiking is possible in every corner of the country, from the many national parks to the biggest cities. Even the forests of Oslo are within easy reach of the central hotels thanks to the efficient metro system, but serious hikers head to fjord country to take on some of the world’s greatest hikes. The Romsdalseggen ridge is an all-day commitment that rewards experienced hikers with 360-degree views across dramatic countryside, while the famous Preikestolen cliff can be accessed only by a two-hour hike from the nearest car park.
    Photo Courtesy Mattias Fredrikssen/visitnorway.com
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    Follow the Royal Route
    It’s so easy to miss some of Norway’s most captivating sights when sticking to the quickest route. Take driving from Ålesund to Geiranger, for example. A simple detour via the Solavågen ferry allows you to explore the rugged Sunnmøre Alps on the Royal Route, named due to the popularity of the region with European royalty in the late 19th century. Choose to explore the slender Hjørundfjord, one of Norway’s lesser known but most beautiful fjords, or cross the fjord and continue past the historic (and haunted) Hotel Union Øye to the pleasant village of Hellesylt. From here, catch the ferry along the jaw-dropping Geirangerfjord to complete your tour of Norway at its wild best.
    Photo Courtesy Mattias Fredriksson/visitnorway.com
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    Stave Churches, a Symbol of Rural Norway
    Recent research shows that up to 2,000 stave churches once stood in Norway, with many more across northern Europe. Today just a handful remain. These iconic wooden churches are no longer places of worship but museum pieces carefully restored and preserved. They tell the story of a time when Christianity and Norse mythology overlapped, evidenced by some of the original carvings. The stave churches at Borgund or Urnes are a must-see when traveling through Sognefjord, but those on a city break needn’t miss out. The Gol Stave Church from 1212 was moved to Oslo’s Norwegian Museum of Cultural History to prevent demolition, while the reconstructed Fantoft Stave Church stands proudly in a Bergen suburb.
    Photo Courtesy of Espen Mills/Taste of International Tourist Routes/visitnorway.com
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    Wild Camping
    Not only does Norway’s "freedom to roam" legislation (allemannsretten) make it possible to save money on hotel bills, it also provides an unbeatable opportunity to get up close and personal with the country’s nature. Visitors are allowed to go anywhere and wild camp as long as it is not private land and no trace is left behind. Hardangervidda National Park is a playground for Norwegians who come to walk, climb, ski, hunt, and fish. Although its popularity is increasing among international visitors, there’s plenty of room for everyone in the 1,321-square-mile park. A great starting point is Finse, remote and wild yet accessible on the main-line railroad between Oslo and Bergen.
    Photo by Sigrid Pfeifer/age fotostock
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    Taste of the Ocean
    Fish and seafood star on the menus at most Norwegian eateries, but for the absolute freshest catch you need to head to the harbor. Most coastal cities have a fish market on the harbor, including the bustling multicultural Bergen Fish Market. While locals buy the day’s catch to cook at home, visitors overcome the strong aroma to enjoy a plate of fresh shrimp or mussels on the long communal benches. The atmosphere is calmer at Stavanger’s Fisketorget, although the tables and chairs quickly fill up with the after-work crowd and whenever a cruise ship arrives.
    Photo Courtesy of C.H./visitnorway.com
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    Explore the Fjords by Car
    The northern edge of the fjord region just begs to be explored by car. The scene of countless car commercials over the years, the Atlantic Road seems to hop, skip, and jump across the small islands and skerries between the mainland and Averøy island. Popular with bird-watchers and fishing enthusiasts just as much as drivers, the road is a destination in itself, yet the journey there is equally captivating. Don’t miss Trollstigen, a mountain pass with a 10 percent incline and 11 hairpin bends. It’s best tackled early in the morning before the tour buses try to negotiate the bends.
    Photo Courtesy of visitnorway.com