Beautiful view of Norway's mountains

Your Guide to Norway’s Natural Landscapes

Norway is unique in its blend of natural landscapes. From imposing mountain peaks to majestic fjords, the scenery is immense and awe-inspiring. If you are planning on visiting Norway, you will likely want to know what to expect from the terrain. Here, we will look at a few key questions about the country’s natural landscapes and how to experience them properly.

Are there forests in Norway?

Norway’s forests were very nearly lost to over-logging in the 19th century. Exporting timber to Europe as well as a tendency for wooden buildings in towns and cities meant that there was a risk of the forest disappearing completely. However, in 1919 the government set out to rejuvenate the forests by working on replanting areas that were cut down and surveying the state of woodland to work out more sustainable forestry methods.

Now, you can enjoy some lovely forests as wooded land now covers around 119,000 km2 of the mainland, triple the amount than one hundred years ago.

How many national parks are there in Norway?

Norway has 40 national parks on the mainland and a further seven on Svalbard. It has a strong connection to nature and there are strict rules regarding the care and maintenance of the national parks. For example, motorised vehicles are prohibited in their entirety for many national parks, but the exploration of these areas is encouraged in order to bring awareness to their need for preservation. 

This means that over 10% of Norway is designated within a national park, areas ideally suited to activities like hiking, kayaking, and fishing. Much of Norway’s national park landscape is mountainous, however, there are four parks that are classified as ‘marine’, which means most of the preserved areas are underwater.

View of a fjord

How much of Norway is mountainous?

Around two-thirds of Norway’s surface area is mountainous. This is due to its glacial history and thousands of years of erosion. Carving their way through the land, the fjords became deeper as the ice melted which helped to create the peaks that make up much of the country. The mountains have influenced Norwegian culture, with locals enjoying hiking as a form of exercise and stress relief. 

There is a strong infrastructure in terms of nature and hiking, so the mountain lodges are well-staffed and trails are clearly sign-posted. We’ve put together a guide to hiking in Norway which will give you a great deal of information regarding the best way to traverse and enjoy the mountains.

 

What is the terrain like in Norway?

Norway is rugged and wild, with dramatic mountain peaks and deep glacial fjords. The defining feature of Norway is its mountains, which cover much of the landscape. These are broken up by green and fertile valleys, a jagged coastline, and Norway’s other iconic natural feature – the vast and deep fjords. There is also an arctic tundra to the far north. 

It is a country that is uniquely varied in terms of its terrain, and the culture of Norway is and always will be influenced by these stunning natural features. 

What are Norway’s scenic routes?

Geiranger – Trollstigen is just one scenic route of many as Norway is famous the world over for incredible drives and rail journeys. The Senja route, for example, is a narrow winding path and meanders between the mountains that takes you from Gryllefjord to Botnhamn. 

The longest of Norway’s scenic drives is Helgelandskysten in Northern Norway, which runs from Holm to Godøystraumen and encompasses six ferry trips. This entire route is 433 km which means you should set aside plenty of time if you plan on completing it all. The Helgelandskysten route gives you the chance to witness some of Norway’s most amazing natural phenomena, from Saltstraumen, the world’s largest tidal maelstrom, and Svartisen which is the country’s second-largest glacier. 

There are 18 scenic routes to choose from, all offering something different in terms of natural or cultural sights. The full list is:

  • Varanger
  • Havøysund
  • Senja
  • Andøya
  • Lofoten
  • Helgelandskysten
  • Atlanterhavsvegen
  • Geiranger – Trollstigen
  • Gamle Strynefjellsvegen
  • Rondane
  • Sognefjellet
  • Valdresflye
  • Gaularfjellet
  • Aurlandsfjellet
  • Hardanger
  • Hardangervidda
  • Ryfylke
  • Jæren
norway scenic route

How long is Trollstigen?

Carving its way through the mountains of Fjord Norway is Trollstigen, a snaking road that connects the town of Andalsnes with the village of Valldal. It is Norway’s most visited road due to the serpentine hairpin bends that make up the 55km stretch. Each bend on the Trollstigen is named after the person who oversaw the building of that particular section of the road and the road itself is historically a very important transport passage between Valldal and Andalsnes.

You can also explore the Trollstigen by foot, as the old mountain path has been recently revitalised for hikers. Reaching a height of 852m above sea level, you will be able to marvel at the surrounding landscape as you walk.

 

Is Norway dark for 6 months?

The short answer is ‘no’. While Norway’s high latitude means the winter nights are long, it is only in the northern part of the country that sits above the Arctic Circle where the sun doesn’t rise at all from mid-November until the end of January. This period is known as ‘polar night’. It is not totally dark on mainland Norway even during this period, with several hours a day illuminated by low blue light. However, further north in Longyearbyen in the Svalbard archipelago, it is dark 24/7.

Conversely, during summer, these same locations experience the phenomenon known as the ‘midnight sun’ where the sun does not set below the horizon within a 24 hour period. This occurs from mid-May to the end of July, extending from late April to late August in Svalbard.

There are quite a few countries that experience the midnight sun, including Alaska, Russia, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland.

 

Tempted to visit Norway? Learn more about our range of holidays or call our Travel Specialists on 01737 214 250 to discuss your perfect trip.