Norway's Tourism Industry

The European country of Norway lies on the Scandinavian peninsula and is bordered by Sweden, Finland and Denmark. It is the second least populated nation in Europe and a large part of the country lies within the Arctic Circle. Norway's most notable feature is its western coastline, which is 52,000 miles long and filled with fjords and islands. Much of Norway's tourism is based around visits to this area. They also come to view the wild and varied landscape, which has mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, lakes and other natural features. The main city destinations for visitors are Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger. In 2012, the number of international tourists visiting the country rose to over one billion; 39 million more than the previous year.

Fjords and Mountains

The majority of foreign visitors visit the west of the country and spend time seeing the fjords and mountains and enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking and climbing. One of the most visited fjords is the Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site near the town of Alesund in the south. It has a spectacular mountain walk, the Eagle Road, and two famous waterfalls, the Bridal Veil and the Seven Sisters. The deepest and longest fjord is the Sognefjord. The region of Norway with the highest mountains is the Jotunheimen, or 'Home of the Giant's.' This lies in the south of the country, and includes Norway's highest peak, Galdhopiggen. The largest plateau in Europe is Hardangervidda, in the west. It contains some of the largest glaciers in Norway, and was used by the Norwegian explorers Amundsen and Nansen to prepare for their polar expeditions.


Norway is a popular destination for cruise ships and visitor numbers are increasing. In 2012 there was a 29 per cent rise in the number of cruise passengers visiting Norway; a total of 588,000. The biggest cruise ports are Bergen and Oslo. Most cruise ships depart from the UK, Germany, Demark and the Netherlands, although there are many Norwegian cruise ships that sail along the coast, including the historic Hurtigruten route.

Culture and History

Norway's isolation and harsh climate led to the development of a unique folk culture, with distinctive regional architecture, crafts and art. These can still be seen in many areas and is also displayed in several museums, including the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo. In the far north of the country, the Vega Archipelago has fishing and farming settlements that have remained little changed since the Stone Age, and rock carvings and paintings at Altafjord show scenes from as far back as 4200 B.C. Both places are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Norway was the home of the Vikings, and there are many reconstructed settlements and museums, such as the Gudvangen Viking Village near the Aurlandsfjord and the Lofotr Viking Museum on the island of Vestvagoya.


Oslo is the capital and Norway's largest city. It is situated on the Oslofjord and surrounded by mountains. Over half the city is covered by parks, lakes and forests. Some of the most visited attractions in Oslo are a complex of maritime museums that include a Viking Ship Museum, a museum devoted to the painter Edvard Munch, the Vigeland Sculpture Park and the Akershus Fortress. Many visitors climb the Holmenkollen Ski Jump to enjoy spectacular views over the city.


Bergen is the second largest city in Norway. It is often called the 'gateway to the fjords' and 'the city of seven mountains.' Bergen contains the most visited attraction in the country, the Floibanen railway that runs to the top of the nearby Floyen Mountain. Bergen also contains the Bryggen, a wharf area of medieval, painted buildings which are a much photographed attraction.

Northern Norway

The far north of the country attracts many visitors wishing to see the unique, natural phenomenon of the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis. This spectacular display, caused by particles in the air, fills the sky with vivid colours. It can only be seen at certain points on Earth, and northern Norway is one of the most accessible. In the winter months, the northern lights appear on nearly all clear nights. Another natural phenomenon that draws visitors to the north is the midnight sun. This is a period of around 70 days in the summer months when the sun never sets, leading to a 24-hour day. The north is also home to the Sami, the indigenous people of the Arctic region. They have their own language, religion, parliament and traditions. The Sami are traditionally nomadic, and live mainly by herding reindeer and fishing. The Sami capital, Karasjok, lies in the far northern Finnmark region, and has a cultural park where visitors can experience their way of life. The town of Kautokeino has an annual Easter festival when thousands of Sami gather with their reindeers, and this draws many tourists.