Wondering when is the best time to go to Norway? What if I tell you that it’s winter? There are 100 and 1 reasons why you should visit Norway in the winter. Let me share with you the 16 of them. And some pretty pictures of the Norwegian snowy landscape. Be prepared for the sudden urge to buy a flight ticket – I warned you!
Since we moved to Norway, we are getting requests from friends and family to visit. And they are all asking “when is the best time to go to Norway?”. Well, normally people travel to Norway in the summer, don’t they?
But when I get asked that question I hesitate with the answer. I am not so sure. When I wrote an article about the best things to do in Oslo in winter, I couldn’t stop writing. Because there is plenty to do in Norway in winter! Whether you visit the countryside, the mountains, the north, south, or the west coast to see Bergen in winter. If you look for something different, spectacular, and unusual, and if you are ready for the challenge, you should at least once visit Norway in the winter.
And because it’s pretty. We like pretty things, right?
Norway in the winter?
Sure thing, summer is the high season in Norway. For a reason. Everything is green, it’s (relatively) warm, it can be sunny, the roads are open, travel is easier. You can hike to places like Kjeragbolten or Trollpikken, try wild camping, or admire the midnight sun in the north, like on Senja Island.
This doesn’t mean that with a little bit of effort, you can’t discover another side of the country – in winter. That’s when Norway transfers into another, magical world. The hills are covered with snow, the lakes freeze, the Norway fjords in winter are quiet, and the Northern Lights dance in the sky. And if you come to Norway in December, you will get to see all the fairy lights Christmassy atmosphere. For those who dare and try Norway winter travel, the big rewards await.
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16 reasons to visit Norway in winter
#1 Winter in Norway is like a set from “Frozen”
Did you know that Disney’s Frozen was inspired by the wintery Norway landscape? It shouldn’t be a surprise, because thanks to the magical Norwegian winter, the country does look straight from a Disney fairytale.
The raindeers run in the fields of Svalbard, the little wooden houses contrast with the white snow, and dramatic waterfalls fall off the cliffs. Akershus fortress in Oslo was actually a model for Elsa’s and Anna’s castle in Frozen. Now you have to come to Oslo in winter and see it for yourself.
#2 There are no crowds
Norway is one of the most popular destinations for travelers. Luckily, mainly during summer. Come in winter and you will have the famous landmarks and spectacular nature just to yourself. Ok, you might need to share it with a few skiing Norwegians or a reindeer or two. It’s not a bad company when discovering a country, though, is it?
Compare the popular town of Flåm from Norway in a Nutshell in winter and in the summer and you will get two different stories. I am still in love with the winter version.
#3 Norway is a great destination for skiing
From the kilometers of cross-country skiing tracks to the ski slopes and wonderful ski touring opportunities – skiing in Norway is a national sport.
…and all other winter sports
And there are a whole lot of other sporty things to do in Norway in the winter months. This includes sledding (I recommend Korketrekken in Oslo), ice skating, snowball fighting, ski jumping, visiting Christmas markets, and many more. When the waters and lakes freeze over, and you are adventurous enough you can try ice skating or walking on the frozen sea. Just make sure that it’s safe – the ice should be at least 10 cm thick. For more winter activities in Norway, capital check things to do in Oslo in winter.
Read more: Fun & unique things to do in Oslo in winter
#4 You can try dog sledding
Another fun activity to do in Norway in winter is dog sledding. Be a responsible traveler and make sure you choose the company that treats their dogs well. We’ve tried dog sledding in Norway near Oslo and loved it. The best part? Dogs loved it too 😉
Explore some of the dog-sledding activities:
#5 You can go on a snowmobile tour
In winter you can go on a snowmobile adventure in Norway. The drive on the sea ice and getting close to the dramatic glaciers of Svalbard is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you are lucky you can even spot the polar bears on the way. There are also other snowmobile driving experiences in other parts of Norway, such as snowmobile tours in Tromsø (which is one of the best things to do in Tromso in winter), or in Alta.
#6 You can chill in the sauna and swim in the frozen fjord
The sauna tradition originating in Finland can be widely found also in Norway. Some of the saunas are open even in the summer, but I have to tell you that there is nothing better than a hot sauna in winter, with breaks for a cold dip in the frozen sea. I’ve done that in Helsinki in winter and in Oslo in winter – and I would do it again.
#7 You can chase the Northern Lights
The Norwegian winter is a time of darkness. And that means a higher chance of spotting the Aurora. Staring into the black night sky illuminated by the Northern Lights in Norway should be on everyone’s bucket list. The best time to visit Norway for Northern Lights is in winter.
You can see the Northern Lights in the north of Norway, especially in Tromsø. It’s best to rent a car and drive out of the city or take one of the Northern Lights tours. There are plenty of Norway winter tours, specializing in the Northern Lights hunt to choose from – for example, this, highly-rated Northern Lights Photography Tour.
Check other Norway winter tours and the Northern Lights tours in Norway:
#8 Warm up in the mountain cabin
Ask me for my dream winter day and it will be walking amongst snowy mountains, arriving in this cute wooden hut in the middle of the forest where all the trees have fluffy snow caps. Lighting up the fireplace and drinking mulled wine from the cozy cabin looking out to the frozen landscape.
The best part? It’s so easy to make that dream come true in winter in Norway. If you wonder where everyone is during the Norway winter holidays, this is the answer – in the cabins in the mountains. And it makes perfect sense! You can find a lot of cottages to rent for a cozy weekend in the cabin in Northern Norway. For some of my personal suggestions that I tried myself, have a look at this post for Norwegian hytte – cute cabins in Norway you can afford to rent.
#9 You can go for an adventurous winter road trip to Norway
Summer road trips are accessible to everyone. Winter road trips in Norway are only for the brave ones. The rewards are spectacular. Driving in Norway in winter can be challenging (not for the newbies!) but is certainly doable. Take it slow and take it all in. Do not try it without the previous winter driving experience.
Read more: Norway winter itinerary – magical road trip
#10 You can try ice climbing
This is something, that I had a chance to try for the first time last winter and I got completely hooked. You can try ice climbing in Rjukan, which is one of the most famous locations for ice climbing in Norway (and Europe). With its special climate and almost 200 waterfalls, the ice climbing possibilities are endless. The town itself is tiny but the outdoor activities are great. Rjukan lies 2,5 hours drive away from Oslo, so it’s a good idea for a weekend trip when you visit Oslo in winter.
If you are not an experienced climber you can contact some of the local climbing agencies that can take you for a day on the ice. For those more interested, there is also a possibility of ice climbing courses – from weekend to week-long.
If you have some ice climbing experience already, you can come to Rjukan and climb on one of the many waterfalls. In the season, the area is full of climbers coming from all over the world. It’s a great atmosphere and fun outdoor adventure activity to try!
Where to stay in Rjukan in winter
If you want to stay near Rjukan for the night, I can highly recommend Sandviken Camping. There are cute wooden cabins located just by the lake with a fjord view. You also get access to the sauna – perfect after the whole day out in the cold! That’s where I met some Polish climbers, who helped me try ice climbing for the first time the next day. Check the availability and prices here.
Read more: Best Norwegian gifts and souvenirs
#11 It’s actually not that cold
While it’s true that the Norway winter temperature can go down to -25°C or even -40°C in Svalbard or higher in the mountains, that’s not the case everywhere. On the west coast, the winter temperatures often stay around zero. That’s thanks to the warm Gulf Stream, which is bringing a milder climate to that part of the country. Norway’s winter weather can be easily changeable and much colder in other places, though, so dress accordingly if you plan to travel there.
#12 You can explore the cute local Christmas markets
December in Norway is full of fairy lights, the sweet smell of glogg and caramelized nuts, carols, and Norwegian sweaters. Scandinavian wintertime is lit up by millions of lights around Christmas time. You can find it all in the traditional Norwegian Christmas markets set up throughout the country. It’s a perfect spot to pick up some Norwegian gifts or souvenirs to take back home.
#13 You don’t have to wake up early for the sunrise
If you are a late sleeper but still want to see some of the stunning winter sunrises Norway can offer, you are in for a treat in Norway in winter! The days in winter are much shorter with the late sunrises happening even at 12 am in Tromsø (until it gets completely dark). It’s a perfect time for catching those dreamy photographs with several hours of the “golden hour”.
#14 You can discover the Blue Light
When you travel to Northern Norway in winter, after the Polar Night is starting to be over, you will be able to witness the special blue light that lasts for hours. The blue hour phenomenon is the period of twilight before sunrise or after sunset when the sun is below the horizon but it’s still not completely dark.
In winter, in the northern hemisphere, that time is longer, especially during the period when the sun starts to return after the long Polar Night. It’s a magical time, worth to be watched on the snowy landscape.
#15 You can stay in the ice hotel
Every year in winter in Norway and around the whole of Scandinavia, special hotels are being built. The ice hotels, that you can find in northern Norway in Alta are made entirely from snow and ice. They feature several bedrooms, ice bars, ice chapels, and ice artwork. It takes about five weeks of hard work to have a hotel ready. The prices of the stay are not cheap, but in this case, you pay for the unique experience rather than just for a room.
In Norway, the ice hotels that you can visit and stay at are: Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta, Snowhotel Kirkenes in Kirkenes, and Bjorli Ice Lodge in Bjorli. Last season I visited Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel in Alta and I was amazed by its architecture! Everything, including beds, lights, “fireplace”, and even a bar, and a chapel is made out of ice! Staying there is a truly special experience. Check prices and availability here.
If you don’t feel like staying in a hotel made out of ice, you can just visit one of them on the Tromsø Ice Domes Tour. Learn about their construction process, admire their beauty, and have a drink in the ice bar. Check prices and availability here.
Explore ice hotel tours in Norway in the winter:
#16 Winter in Norway is a perfect excuse for hot waffles, hot chocolate, and a glass of mulled wine
Norwegian waffles are something that you have to try when you visit Norway in winter. As a tradition, when Norwegians ski out in the wilderness, they usually stop in the cabin for some waffles with brown cheese or cream and jam. The cheeky glass of mulled wine is yummy warming up addition to that!
What to pack for Norway in winter
Whereas winter in Norway is fun, to fully enjoy it, you need to come prepared. Make sure to check my post for the best Norway winter clothing and what to pack for Norway in winter.
Here are some essential items to pack for Norwegian winter:
- The base layer – merino wool top and merino wool bottoms
- Mid-layer – fleece or down jacket.
- Waterproof and windproof outer layers. A Goretex jacket and waterproof pants work well.
- Waterproof boots, with solid soles, not be slippery on the ice. For hiking, I often use my trekking shoes with warm socks.
- Wool socks
- Thermal socks, a hat, and a scarf.
I hope those are enough reasons why you should visit Norway in the winter. But, you know, I can keep going, so if you want to know more, just ask me. Or let me know in the comments about your reasons!
Read more about Norway:
- Norway winter clothing – what to pack for Norway in winter
- Best Norwegian gifts and souvenirs to bring back from your trip
- Norway on a budget – Local tips for cheap Norway travel
- 13+ Best things to do in Svalbard
- Svalbard snowmobile tour to the East Coast
- Norway in a Nutshell in winter
- Dog sledding in Norway
- Norway winter itinerary
- The best things to do in Oslo in winter
- The most interesting things to do in Bergen in winter (indoors and outdoors)
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