Norway may be more traditionally associated with winter holidays, but its summer beauty provides the perfect escape for outdoor adventurers and those seeking real wilderness. Of all the escorted tours Europe has to offer, none are more spectacular than journeys through the forests and fjords of this nature-rich Scandinavian country.
Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, manages to retain a small-town charm despite its size. Set on the west coast and surrounded by the Seven Mountains, the sparkling scenery epitomises classic Norwegian vistas and their paint-box of alpine colours. Founded by a Viking king in 1070, Bergen has a long and colourful history as a trading settlement and its old quayside, Bryggen, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The city provides the perfect gateway for exploring the wilderness of Norway’s west coast, where charming traditional villages such as Lofthus nestle between moss-green valleys. Here, under endless blue skies, wildflower meadows lead to fjords backed by snow capped peaks. A walk around Lofthus itself reveals cosy wooden cabins, historic stone buildings and orchards. Stroll along the path carved by monks in the twelfth century and enjoy the view over the Folgefonna glacier.
Getting back to nature is effortless in Norway, and towns and cities enjoy a natural harmony with the wildness that surrounds. Journey north from Lofthus and you can enjoy the region known as Norway’s orchard. A real-world Eden, pears, plums, cherries and apples are grown here and you can catch the blossom which falls like confetti during early summer.
Hiking, cycling and angling are all popular pursuits around the fjords and mountains, with trails to suit all abilities and air that is unmistakably fresh. Around the sleepy town of Eidfjord visitors will find a diverse range of ways to enjoy nature, including treks to the Voringsfossen waterfall which cascades 600 feet, filling the valley with mist. Another hike will take you to the region’s Viking Graves, burial mounds from the Iron Age that are the largest examples of their kind.
For anyone who wants to learn more about the mythology, history and culture that has grown up around this remarkable landscape head north to the Lofoten islands. As well as story-book villages, whale safaris and optimum conditions to spot the northern lights, the islands are home to the Lofotr Viking Museum. This complete reconstruction of a Viking chiefdom presents a living, working example of a day in the Viking world. Highlights include costumed battles, Viking banquets and cruises on a traditional Viking ship.
Photo by Flickr User Edward Dalmulder