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Best things to do in Norway in the winter

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Best things to do in Norway in the winter
Considering a winter trip to Norway? You're in for a special experience. Photo by Pascal Debrunner / Unsplash

Winter is a truly magical time of year in Norway - especially if you're looking for unique experiences. Whether it's chasing northern lights, skiing, or dog sledging, here's why you should visit Norway once the cold kicks in.


If you're a fan of the cold, look no further - Norway is the place to be during the winter season. It has a host of fantastic winter activities to offer, regardless of which part of the country you visit.

Whether you prefer an active holiday or a break without much physical activity, Norway has something for everyone in the winter. While skiing is the go-to activity for locals, tourists enjoy winter tours and safaris, fjord cruises, Christmas markets, and many other memorable experiences.

In this article, we will look at some of the extravagant (think northern lights) and some not-so-off-the-wall activities (like skiing and cruises) you can engage in during your winter trip to Norway.


Chasing the Northern Lights

For many people, witnessing the Northern Lights is high on their bucket list – and for a good reason. Seeing the aurora in the sky is considered a special – often once in a lifetime – experience.

There are a number of options and dedicated tours that can increase the odds of your northern lights adventure being successful – and Tromsø, in particular, is very popular when it comes to northern light tourism.

Your best bet for seeing the aurora is to join a guided tour, as guides will do their best to find a spot where you can enjoy the visual spectacle – of course, depending on the weather and whether the skies are clear.

Most tours in northern Norway include exciting trips through the majestic Arctic wilderness, and a lot of them also offer additional activities that you can pair with your Aurora-hunting safari, such as snowmobile riding and dog sledging.

Dog sledging through white landscapes

Dog sledging is a unique way of experiencing Norway's vast and wild landscapes. Multiple companies offer dog sledging safaris in northern Norway, and you can even combine the activity with a trip to a dog kennel!

Dog sledging trips can be somewhat physically demanding – especially if you're the one driving – but they're well worth the effort, and the feeling of immersing yourself in Norway's winter environment is magical.

Generally speaking, if we're talking about a two-person sledge, the people in it have different roles. One acts as the musher and operates the sledge, while the other is free to enjoy the sights from the sledge.

Sledging trips usually let the two people change places halfway so that both you and your sledge partner can experience both roles.

Remember that you'll need to put in some effort during such trips, which often include pushing the sledge when the terrain gets rough or steep. If you're unsure whether your health or general condition allows you to participate, make sure to check with your tour company.

The tour organisers will usually provide the winter clothes you will need during the dog sledging trip. You will also get a short course on operating the sledge and interacting with the dogs.


Snowmobile safaris

An activity often paired with chasing northern lights, snowmobile safaris are an adrenaline-packed way of moving through winter terrain.

Tour companies tend to add options of overnight stays in cabins to snowmobile safari excursions, which can make for a really special two-day adventure in the north – and increase the chances of seeing the aurora!

No prior experience operating a snowmobile is needed, and you will get a short safety course before you embark on the winter safari.

Most tour organisers can provide you with body suits, helmets, and other necessary clothes so that you're well-equipped to handle the cold.

Many packages offer driving in pairs and allow people to switch during the trip – especially if it's a drive that lasts more than two hours.

Remember that you must have your driver's license with you to drive the snowmobile.


Winter on skis

Norwegians are a nation of skiing enthusiasts. Whether it's alpine skiing or cross-country skiing, expect to find entire families on the trails at every opportunity they can get.

The skiing season in Norway is long, and the country has a lot of beautiful ski resorts (expect crowds, as the resorts are very popular and relatively easily accessible).

One of the key features of Norway's top ski resorts is that they offer varied slopes adapted to different levels of skiing expertise. Furthermore, finding a family-friendly resort with instructors and courses aimed at children is very easy.

On the other hand, if you plan on taking a trip without kids or family, several resorts have a formidable reputation for partying (such as Hemsedal) – one might even call their after-ski bars somewhat infamous.

Note that the top-end ski resorts also offer excellent cross-country skiing opportunities, with a host of well-maintained trails and guided tours.

You can find a detailed overview of Norway's top ski resorts on the website of the state-funded guide Visit Norway here.

That being said, you don't need to visit a resort to enjoy the activity in the winter. In Norway, you can go cross-country skiing virtually anywhere.


Fjord and coastline cruises

Norway has a varied and well-preserved coastline, and its pristine fjords are the envy of the world.

Some argue that winter is the best time to explore both, as the landscapes covered in untouched snow and the fresh and cold air provide visitors with an extraordinary experience.

If you decide to embark on a northbound trip, you'll also have a chance to see the northern lights – as winter is the best season to witness the aurora.

Cruises also offer the chance to engage in multiple winter activities and can be combined with dog sledging, various excursions, and snowmobile safaris.

The winter period is less busy than the summer season, so if you want to avoid the crowds – especially when it comes to cruises in western Norway (like those that start from Bergen, the "gateway to the fjords"), winter is an ideal time to visit.

You can find out more about Hurtigruten's cruise offer here, while more information on Havila Voyages cruises can be found here.

For a detailed overview of fjord tours and cruises from Bergen, kindly consult Visit Bergen's site here.


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