Norway – masterpieces of nature!
The Norwegians Fjords were rated the top tourist attraction in the world in 2004 by National Geographic. The Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) was announced as one of the world’s most spectacular views and natural attractions by Lonely Planet and CNN GO travel magazine. So many visiting tourists can not be wrong. Norway can nature!
Norway is a country with unbelivable low popolation density of 15.5 people/km². That means a lot of space for dramatic waterfalls, spectacular snowwhite mountain peaks, crystal clear fjords, majestic glaciers, outstanding fresh unpollutet air and the freedom for locals and visitors almost to camp and hike where ever you want.
There is no more uplifting natural phenomena than the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Visible throughout the long night of the Arctic winter from October to March, they dance across the sky in green or white curtains of light, shifting in intensity and taking on forms that seem to spring from a child’s vivid imagination. While there’s no guarantee that the northern lights will appear at any given time, if you are lucky enough to see them, it’s an experience that will live with you forever.
Scoured and gouged by glaciers, western Norway’s fjords are pincered by steep, rugged terrain where cliffs plunge down to barely populated shorelines and vertiginous waterfalls seem to drop from the clouds. The fjordscapes of western Norway are so utterly unique and so profoundly beautiful that many people rate them as the most impressive landscapes on the planet.
When first presented with such beauty it’s hardly surprisingly that many people are left pondering how such a geological wonder formed. The answer is simple (well, kind of simple). Some 450 million years ago the mountainous west coast of what is today Norway was part of an enormous mountain range with peaks so high they would have been able to fondly stroke the summit of Mt Everest and ask him what he would like to be when he grows up. Then along came an ice age or two, it got really cold and a vast sheet of ice kilometres thick plonked itself atop these mountains. After that there was much crunching, crashing, shattering and various aches and pains. Finally the sun came back out and the ice started to melt, leaving behind overly steep-sided valleys, which were then flooded by rising sea levels, and hey presto, the fjords were born. (Note: some geology professors might take issue with the scientific accuracy of this description.)
Highlights of the fjords
The 20km boat chug along Geirangerfjord, a Unesco World Heritage Site, must rank as the world’s most beautiful ferry journey. Long abandoned farmsteads cling to the fjords’ near-sheer sides and minty coloured waterfalls twist, tumble and crash down to the emerald green waters below. Take the ferry from Geiranger and enjoy the calm as you leave this small, bustling port, or hop aboard at quiet Hellesylt.
Pulpit Rock and the Lysefjord
The imposing granite walls of the Lysefjord, a short distance from the town of Stavanger, would be many a visitor’s favourite Norwegian fjord even without the remarkable, and frankly rather terrifying, Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen). One of the key postcard images of Norway, this remarkable vantage point is a table-like piece of flat rock whose sheer sides tumble vertically down to the fjord waters some 604m below. It’s the kind of place where non-vertigo sufferers suddenly realise that they’re scared of heights after all.
Norway is the last refuge for some of Europe’s most intriguing wildlife. While you may stumble upon polar bears (in Svalbard only), Arctic foxes, reindeer and other species during your explorations of the Norwegian wild, dedicated safaris in the Norwegian interior will take you within sight of the otherworldly musk ox, as well as the rather loveable elk (moose). Along the coast, Norway’s bird life is abundant and filled with interest, while whalewatching outings are a staple of the Nordland coast, especially around Lofoten and Vesterålen. (www. lonelyplanet.com)
Norwegian philosophy is very much that conservation is everyone’s responsibility. Enjoying nature and the outdoors is considered a national past time, and this is reflected in our attitude towards the preservation and use of the wilderness.
In practical terms, this means that even though large parts of mainland Norway consists of national parks and other protected areas, Norway’s right of access makes sure you can enjoy nature more or less as you wish – even in these sensitive and vulnerable regions.