Snuggled up north in Europe with the rest of Scandinavia, the rugged Kingdom of Norway has an extreme terrain with high plateaus, steep fjords, mountains, fertile valleys and Northern Lights. The climate is temperate along the coast, but much colder inland. With its far north location, Norway experiences very long days during summer months and equally long nights during winter.

The capital of Norway is Oslo, which is also the biggest population center with over 520,000 residents. Other major cities of note include Bergen with just under a quarter of a million residents, Trondheim with 150,000 residents and Stavanger with roughly 110,000 residents. Ethnicity in Norway is primarily a blend of peoples from the Scandinavian countries in antiquity, with a tiny immigrant population. The dominant majority is a mix of Nordic, Alpine and Baltic peoples intermixed over time.

Oslo is a laid back city with plenty to see and do, more than 50 museums and many art galleries. Compared to the rest of Scandinavia, the climate of Oslo is relatively moderate. May to September offers long sunny days with temperature of around 16 C and up. Its coastal location makes it prone to rains, however. Winters are, needless to say, freezing cold with the temperatures hovering around 1 C in the south though the Gulf Stream keeps the coastal areas from icing up. In winter, Oslo is shrouded in snow with perpetual twilight.

Oslo is well connected by air from Europe and North America, with an international airport at Gardermoen, 30 miles north of the city. Bus services connect Oslo with other Scandinavian countries, Germany and Russia. There are ferries between Oslo and other Scandinavian countries along with the UK and Germany, and trains link Oslo with Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg and London. Getting around Oslo is easy due to its efficient subway and a range of buses, streetcars, taxis, and ferries on the fjord. Oslo is a compact city so walking is a fine option.

Highlights of the city are the Viking Ship Museum, the Munch Museum and Holmenkollen. A new attraction is the Nobel Peace Centre. Try a Hop-On Hop-Off Tour of Oslo, stopping off at all major attractions – The Oslo Opera, Royal Palace and Ibsen Museum, Vigeland Sculpture Park and Kon-Tiki Museum. Boat trips along the fjord offer spectacular views, and vast tracts of unspoilt natural beauty provide a peaceful retreat and excellent opportunities for hiking, skiing and sleighing.

The vibrant Norwegian city of Bergen is a lovely port as well. Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed district at Bergen’s old wharf, has distinctive colorful wooden houses and the Hanseatic Museum, dedicated to the Hanseatic League that traded stockfish and grain in this area for more than four centuries. The St Mary’s Church (the oldest building in Bergen), the Den Nasjonale Scene theater, the Fredriksberg Fortress and the Bergen Museum, which boasts one of the largest collections of cultural and natural history objects in Norway are worth a visit. The world-famous Fish Market (Fiske Torget) is a must visit, where you can stop for some fresh food, flowers and souvenirs. The Fløibanen funicular to the mountain top offers splendid views over the city and its surrounding islands.

One of the great wonders of the world, the tall peaks of Norway plunge down into watery canals that are one of the trademarks of Norway. There is no other exceptional panorama like this on earth, and combined with the old world rustic appeal of the country there is no better vacation destination. Tourists can explore the region themselves and plan their own trip, which can include every single activity you could imagine, from fishing to hiking, sailing to sight-seeing.

The Preikestolen at Stavanger is by itself reason enough to head to Scandinavia. The steep Pulpit Rock has vertical cliffs with heart-stopping drops from the edge into Lysefjorden. The gorgeous scenery will always make you want to go back to get high on nature.

Norway has a few holidays through the year, the most important of which are Constitution Day and Midsummer’s Eve. Constitution Day on 17-May is a traditional event is widely celebrated with dressing in folk costume. Beach bonfires are lit on Midsummer’s Eve, another big celebration in Oslo. If you are looking for a different European experience, Norway beckons.