K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Norway is one of the world’s most breathtaking countries – in fact, the entire nation could arguably be considered one big national park. It features everything from beautiful coastlines and charming fishing villages to glacial valleys and soaring mountains with cascading waterfalls, not to mention the incredible wildlife. There are also many fabulous national parks for taking in the scenery, often while enjoying outdoor adventures, including these.
The landscape of Jotunheimen National Park includes glacial terrain and more than 250 peaks that rise more than 6,200 feet in height. Its highest, Galdhopiggen and Glittertind, are just two of the park’s impressive features with a striking beauty that includes snow-capped pinnacles glistening in the sun. A reason to visit Norway alone, you’ll see turquoise lakes, small moving rivers and waterfalls that cascade down steep, barren mountainsides.
Located far north of the Norway mainland in the Svalbard archipelago, this huge national park is primarily made up of sprawling, interminable ice caps and glaciers that stretch as far the eye can see. It’s a sea of endless white, a remote wilderness with tundra, wetlands and sparsely vegetated areas, that provide some variation among the landscape too. Only very hardy animals and birds can inhabit this extreme area, yet it does house many types of birds which flock above the huge ice-covered mountains and cliffs which rise among it all.
Located on the southern shore of magnificent Hardangerfjord, Folgefonna National Park is most renowned as the home of one of Norway’s largest glaciers. It includes three vast glaciers that dominate the area and are up to 1,312 feet thick. Visitors enjoy quintessential Norway mountains which rise from the ice, creating a stunning skyline. During the summer, the wide array of color, from the verdant green grass to vibrant flora, makes it even more breathtaking. There are rivers rushing between the mountains, that tumble down toward the sea, adding to the awe of this wet and wild landscape.
Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park boasts an amazing alpine ecosystem that offers the chance to witness protected species like the original mountain reindeer and the musk ox. It’s tucked within the mountainous areas of Dovre and Sunndalsfjella, and is also home to impressive vegetation, with some plant varieties dating back to the Ice Age. The contrasts are remarkable from the dramatic alpine scenery with waterfalls in the northwest, to the rounded mountains and drier climate in the east.
Femundsmarka is made up of sprawling wilderness. Untamed and unspoiled, it provides an escape to what feels like another world, with breathtaking scenery enjoyed along spectacular trails and paths which wind their way among the lakes and marshes which dominate the park. There are sparse forests that add to the variety among the endless waterways, often so still they stunningly reflect the skies above. One of the best ways to experience it is to paddle, something that’s sure to soothe one’s soul with the tranquil ambiance, enjoyed against a backdrop of mountains while birds fly overhead.
The landscapes in Forlandet National Park are absolutely beguiling, with enchanting beauty lying along the west coast of the Svalbard archipelago. It covers vast swathes of sea as well as all of Prins Karls Forland Island. The park is dominated by ginormous glaciers and massive alpine mountains, along with sweeping stretches of beach. It’s also home to the northernmost populations of guillemots and stone seals, along with walruses who enjoy lounging on the beaches. One of the best ways to explore it is with a boat excursion around the cliffs that tower high above, providing an especially magical experience.
Not all of the national parks in Norway are in the north. There are plenty of incredibly scenic protected areas in the south like Raet National Park, a newer, mostly marine park with traces of the Ice Age. When a huge glacier melted around 12,000 years ago in the area it revealed a unique coastal landscape scattered with skerries and islets. It’s popular for boat trips, canoeing, bird watching and even swimming in the summer.
Filled with indomitable mountains, lofty peaks and sprawling plateaus, Rondane is the perfect place to lose yourself in the breathtaking scenery. There are 10 peaks in the park that soar over 6,560 feet in height, ideal for hiking enthusiasts. Interspersed between the peaks are canyons, rolling valleys, forest and scrubland. Rondeslottet is the highest mountain, barren and rocky, yet a magnificent sight to behold. There are wild reindeer that roam around the park making it even more impressive to explore.
Norway’s largest national park boasts a diverse array of scenery, attractions and activities that make it well worth a visit. One can cycle, hike, and horseback ride through the untouched wilderness with the massive mountain plateau dominating the region. The area is filled with tradition, with the locals you meet making it feel like a step back in time, while huge herds of reindeer wander between the rivers and lakes dotting the expansive landscape which varies from grassy wetlands, rivers and streams to barren rock. Two of the most popular activities here are kayaking and canoeing the waterways, bringing stunning views of the scenery and herds of reindeer in the distance.
If you want to get a glimpse of what the world looked like during the Ice Age, be sure to visit Jostedalsbreen National Park, home to the largest glacier in all of mainland Europe. It’s so big, if it were to melt, it would cover the needs of Norway’s water for a century. The landscape is also filled with towering mountain peaks, rich vegetation, smaller glaciers, fjords, lush farmland and waterways for paddling.
Breheimen National Park is filled with diverse nature that ranges from lush green valleys and naked mountain tops to rushing rivers and glaciers. The park is linked to Jostedalsbreen National Park and provides a wealth of recreational opportunities that include hiking, skiing, glacier walking, climbing and summit tours. The Norwegian Tracking Association provides well-marked trails and both self-serviced and staffed cabins that can be found within and around the park. It’s also possible to explore the remains of cultural heritage dating back 6000 years, proving inhabitance since the early stone age. The park protects endangered species of certain birds too, including large predators and raptorial birds.
Folgefonna National Park is home to Norway’s third-largest glacier. While it’s only been a national park for about 15 years, visitors have been coming to explore it since the early 1809s. A stunning and diverse environment, it’s a great place to go glacier hiking, view magnificent waterfalls and witness wildlife like rare golden eagles and white-backed woodpeckers. The top thing to do is to take a glacier hike, with a team that leads guided blue-ice hikes, snowshoe hikes, ice climbing and cross-country skiing across the glacier.
Hallingskarvet has a distinctive landscape, with lots of picturesque paths and trails for versatile hiking experiences enjoyed throughout the year. The terrain is varied with gently undulating moors to the south to high plateau atop Hallingskarvet. Its towering mountain peak, the highest of which is Folarskardnuten, which towers over 6,340 feet and is home to rare and threatened vegetation, like whitlow grass, along with exotic fauna, including wild reindeer. There are hiking trails for every age and fitness level, some easy and less than two miles while others are more challenging – 10 miles or more. There are also dozens of bike trails ranging in length and difficulty providing a thrilling rush.
Bodø makes an ideal base for visiting this national park, a great place to stay if you want to increase the odds of catching the northern lights as you can easily get far from the city lights, surrounded by nature. That includes some of Norway’s most beautiful beaches, which look as if they were stolen from the Caribbean with their brilliant turquoise waters. The park itself offers easily accessible trails for hikers of all ages and is filled with steep mountaintops, cliffs, fjords, rivers, rocks and incredibly lush forests. There’s also abundant wildlife in the area from grazing sheep to wild reindeer and sea eagles. One of the most breathtaking routes is the one leading up to Midtiskar valley, strenuous yet well-worth the reward for the dazzling scenery.