Lasse Heimdal, Secretary General of the Norwegian Association for Outdoor Organisations, expects a very different year for tourist destinations in Norway. Norwegians taking 'staycations' will only go some of the way to replacing international visitors.
“Norwegians will partly replace foreign visitors. But Norwegians will in general go for a more active holiday; walking, cycling etc than the average cruise tourist,” he tells The Local.
“Surveys also tell us that Norwegians will spend more time in their cabins in the mountains and by the sea, and using their own home as a holiday base-camp for day trips to attractive areas and experiences.”
He expects Norwegians to flock to hiking areas such as Besseggen, Romsdalseggen, Lofoten, and Rallarvegen, meaning some areas may even see an increase in visitors, but not to the extent that it will cause problems.
“For hiking, we have place enough for everyone. Even the DNT (Norwegian Trekking Association) cabins in the mountains still have free beds in many places,” he said. “In general, we recommend Norwegians to start their vacation early, or do it later, to avoid the most crowded period in July.”
For now, classic cruise tourism spots such as Geiranger and Bergen will, however, see numbers dramatically reduced.
Here are some of the places you should visit to make the most of this year's unusual summer.
Jump the Svolvær goat or catch a wave in the Lofoten Islands
Photo: Henrik Johansson/Flickr
Hotels in the stunning Lofoten Islands currently only have about 10 percent of their normal bookings, and there will be no cruise ships this summer.
Vegeir Selboe, marketing manager at Destination Lofoten, says he expects the islands to be unusually uncrowded this year, even if more people come from southern Norway than in a normal year.
“We are seeing a lot of interest from people, and there is a bad rumour going around that it's going to be crowded, but that's not true at all,” he tells The Local. “Regardless of how many people come, we will not be able to fill the gap from tourists abroad.”
This year might also be a good time to brave the local Lofoten Island surf. Unstad Beach has become almost crowded in summer in recent years. Now's your chance to have it almost to yourself.
Lofoten's Unstad beach. Photo: Spesialsnorre/Flickr
He recommends taking the opportunity to jump the Svolværgeita or Svolvær Goat, without having to wait in line, as you would in a normal year.
The double-pronged peak, which towers above Svolvær, the largest town in Lofoten, is normally very busy in summer.
“There's normally a bit of a queue on nice days, and it's mostly foreigners,” he says. “If you've ever had a dream of doing it, this is the year.”
But, he warns: “Remember that you will need a local guide. It’s a dangerous place to go without a guide.”
See the beautiful Art Nouveau city of Ålesund
Photo: Marte Kopperud/Visit Norway
After the city of Ålesund was devastated by fire in 1904, it was rebuilt by young Norwegian architects in the Art Nouveau style. The city has been one of the worst hit in Norway by overtourism in recent years. Now is the time to see it without the crowds.
You can visit the Art Nouveau centre, and also walk up the famous steps to the Fjellstua observation point without having to queue. “To some extent Norwegian tourists will make up for the loss of foreign tourists, but not completely,” predicts Anita Nøring from Visit Ålesund.
Here's our guide to the ten best things to do in Ålesund.
Drive, or cycle, the spectacular Trollstigen road
Photo: Øyvind Heen/Visit Norway
Photo: Ivar Utinsns/Visit Norway
Troll's Path or Trollstigen, both Norway's most spectacular road and also one of its most dangerous, can get very crowded in summer, with queues of tour buses bringing cruise ship tourists up from the coast. The crowding is particularly acute at the viewing platform at the end of the road.
“It can be quite busy, and there will probably quite a good group of visitors this year as well,” predicts Nøring. “But you will not have the traffic from the cruise ships.”
See the Geiranger Fjord in summer without a single cruise ship
Geiranger fjord, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2005, is one of Norway's most visited tourist sites, with its sides flanked by steep mountains. But the landscape which has wowed tourists since the 19th century has been marred a little of late by the number of cruise ships permanently anchored. This summer is your chance to see it completely empty.
Chill out on Pulpit Rock
Named the world's most spectacular viewpoint by Lonely Planet, Pulpit Rock (preikestolen) is also one of the busiest, with a record 310,000 visitors in 2019. This year, though, it should be much less crowded, after all, it doesn't appeal to Norwegians the way it appeals to the rest of us.
Take a selfie on Trolltunga
Photo: Benjamin Davies/Visit Norway
Trolltunga is the most Instagrammable location in all Norway, and a strong contender for the best place in the world to take a selfie (it was voted number one in a survey by Buzzfeed). But unfortunately that means even the long and arduous hike up to the ridge isn't enough to put off huge numbers of tourists. Now's your chance to get that selfie without having to queue (at least not for that long).
Back to normal before too long
Heimdahl predicts that Norwegians' embrace of staycations will not outlive the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the short term, there will be more domestic holidays. But after the Corona, Norwegians will soon turn back to Spain and Greece,” he says.
“Living many months a year in a dark and cold part of the world, we have learned to appreciate the temperatures a week or two at the Mediterranean area can offer.”
Presumably, it won't talk long before the fjords begin to fill up with cruise ships again either.