Most people who come to Norway do the same thing. They fly into Oslo, and then take the train to Bergen and do Norway in a Nutshell. If they have a little more time they’ll head down to Stavanger and climb Pulpit Rock, and maybe Trolltunga if they’re up for it.
Or they’ll head north instead and explore Geirangerfjord, Trollstigen, and Ålesund. Maybe they’ll even venture up to drive the Atlantic Road. And if they have enough money they’ll take a Hurtigruten cruise up the coast of Norway.
These are all great things to do in Norway. Like, they’re definitely famous spots for a reason.
But I also get that not everyone wants to follow the tourists crowds. In fact ever since I published this post I’ve had so many questions from people asking for unique things to do in Norway.
And so I started a list of what to do in Norway for a more unique experience. I’ve slowly been adding to it for months, but I figured today that I should probably just go ahead and publish it.
So here are my top suggestions for actually unique (and often totally random) things to do in Norway that will give you a little more insight into this weird and wonderful country. And maybe you’ll get a little bit of inspiration for your next trip to Norway!
And just to help you out I’ve tried to organize them roughly by season. Because I know how disappointing it is to read about this amazing thing to do and then realize you’ll be visiting at the wrong time of year (though having a reason to return to Norway for another trip isn’t the worst thing).
Things to do in Norway during anytime of the year
Surf in the Arctic
That’s right, you can surf in Arctic Norway during any time of year – I’ve even seen people surfing in Lofoten it in January, brrr. This surf lesson at Unstad Beach in Lofoten is great even for total beginners, and you’ll be able to say you’ve been surfing in the Arctic!
And even if you decide not to go surfing, definitely drive out to Unstad Beach to watch the surfers, because it’s really impressive. Plus the view by Unstad Beach is incredible with all the mountains around it. It’s definitely one of my favorite spots on Lofoten!
Go whale watching
You can see humpback whales and killer whales in Norway in the winter and spring, but in Vesterålen you can see sperm whales all year. And seeing whales in person really is such a surreal experience. They are enormous. Plus if you do a tour on a small RIB boat (which I do recommend, as I’ve heard the big boats can crowd the whales) the boat ride is super fun!
You can read about my experience whale watching in Norway here.
Try brown cheese, salty licorice, and sour cream porridge
These are basically the three foods I make everyone who visits me in Norway try (unless of course they’re vegan). Brown cheese always divides people, almost no one likes salty licorice – but if you do you’ll know you must have some Norwegian genes in you! – and people usually really love the sour cream porridge until I tell them it’s sour cream porridge.
You can buy all of them at the supermarket (I’ve linked examples so you know what to look for).
See where Star Wars: Episode V was shot
Years ago when I was backpacking I remember telling someone that my family was from Norway and she got so excited and said that she had always wanted to see the glacier from Star Wars in real life.
And I was like… what? I didn’t even know that was a thing!
Apparently scenes from the ice planet Hoth were shot on Hardangerjøkulen, which is the sixth largest glacier in Norway. It’s actually pretty easy to get to, as you can access it from Finse, which is on the train line to Bergen.
Watch for UFOs in Hessdalen
After farmers started spotting strange lights in Hessdalen in the early 1980s, people have continued visiting the area in the 1990s and 2000s to watch for UFOs.
The Hessdalen lights are still unexplained, with lights appearing in the valley and hovering or floating through it. In the early 80s the lights were spotted as often as 15-20 times a week, whereas now sightings have slowed down to just a handful a year. But people are still seeing them every once in a while, so this could be your chance to see a UFO in real life!
Take a helicopter tour
Oh my goodness, if you can afford it, you have to take a helicopter tour in Norway!
You can do them over Bergen, over Trolltunga, over a glacier (or even four glaciers!), and a bunch of other places in Norway. You can scroll through all the helicopter tours in Norway and check prices and availability here.
This would be such an amazing once in a lifetime experience to make your trip to Norway unforgettable.
Only visit the north
If you truly want to be a unique traveler in Norway, skip southern Norway altogether and only head north!
I feel like a lot of people feel like they have to see Oslo and Bergen when they come to Norway, just because they’re the most famous places. I do think Bergen is very worthwhile if you want to see the fjords – either that or you could visit Ålesund and see the fjords from there – but I really don’t think you need to have FOMO if you only see northern Norway.
Northern Norway has much more dramatic landscape than southern Norway, so if it’s amazing views you’re looking for than you will love it. Of course ideally you’d have time to see both the south and north, as they’re actually surprisingly different, but if you’re pressed for time I would personally opt for the north over the south.
Fun fact: a Norwegian tour company was recently caught out advertising trips to the fjord region around Bergen with photos of the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway. Because it really is the prettiest place in Norway, just saying.
Stay in an Arctic Dome
You’ve probably seen ads for Finland’s famous glass igloo hotels, and if you’ve clicked on them then you’ve probably continued to see those same ads again and again every day, you caught me, Facebook, I’m a sucker for igloos. And maybe you’ve wondered if you can have the same experience in Norway.
We do have glass igloos in Lyngen, but we also have something a bit different: Arctic Domes.
Arctic Domes are made by a Norwegian company, and a lot of hotels/businesses/people with lots of money buy these domes. And luckily for us travelers in Norway, several Arctic Domes are listed on Airbnb!
I stayed at this Arctic Dome in Narvik, and it seriously was one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had here. It’s definitely a bit of a splurge, but when you think of how expensive hotel rooms are in Norway, an Arctic Dome isn’t all that much more, and the experience is one you’ll never forget.
Spend a week in a Norwegian “hytte” with an outhouse
Arctic Domes may be the latest accommodation trend in Norway, but if you want a true Norwegian experience, spend some time in a Norwegian “hytte,” or cabin.
If you want to experience Norway the way Norwegians do, then you have to spend a few days in a cabin. And if you really want to connect with nature, choose a cabin with an outhouse! You know how I love an outhouse.
A lot of families here have cabins, and while in recent years there has been a trend towards super fancy cabins fitted with televisions, hot tubs, and high tech security systems, traditionally cabins were, well, traditional. In fact a lot of Norwegians still say the more traditional the better when it comes to cabins. Think no electricity or running water.
And while it used to be really difficult for foreign tourists to have this experience, as these cabins are generally owned by private families, now with Airbnb it’s really easy to find a cabin to stay in in Norway. I also just love that Airbnb has given people a way to use their cabins year-round, because I always thought it was such a shame that most of the cabins would go unused outside of vacation time.
Stay in an authentic rorbu
Another great Norwegian experience is to stay in a rorbu, or fisherman’s cabin. You’ll find a lot of these on Lofoten (my favorite is the Svinøya Rorbuer), as well as on the Helgeland coast (like the rorbuer at Støtt).
I love staying in rorbuer because they hold a sense of tradition and history, which is way more special than staying in a big hotel chain where you wouldn’t even know which country you’re in if you didn’t look outside. Plus they’re right on the water, so you’ll get the best views out your bedroom window!
Watch for Selma the sea monster in Seljord
And if you’re heading into Telemark, you could get the bus all the way to Seljord, where you can watch for Selma the sea monster, cousin to Nessie of Loch Ness.
My family used to drive by Seljord every summer and I would always have my face pressed against the car window trying to spot Selma, but I never did!
Which reminds me, the drive from Bø to Seljord is super windy, so be prepared if you’re prone to getting car sick like I am.
Buy burger dressing and cover your pizza with it*
I don’t endorse this, it’s gross. But when in Rome! Except my goodness, no one in Rome would ever do this. But Norwegians love it!
Buy a waffle iron
Chances are you’re going to eat a lot of waffles while in Norway (trust me), and if you want a memory from Norway you could even buy your own Norwegian waffle iron to bring home with you. Did I mention Norwegian waffles are heart-shaped?
And if you’re wondering what the secret to those delicious Norwegian waffles is, it’s cardamon! Add lots and lots of cardomon to the batter and you’ll feel like you’re back in Scandinavia.
My mother always used to listen to A Prairie Home Companion on the radio while making dinner, and I always thought it was so weird that the host always complained about lutefisk whenever he mentioned Norway.
It turns out I didn’t know about this mysterious, apparently super gross fish because my mother can’t stand it. But one year my grandmother made it over Christmas and I fell in love. So what if it’s cooked in lye?
Usually this is served during Christmastime, but you can often find it served in more touristy areas like Bergen and Lofoten.
Go grocery shopping across the border in Sweden
If you’re not up for lutefisk, another key Norwegian culinary experience is to drive across the border to Sweden to buy groceries.
Okay, maybe you don’t actually need to do this. But you will feel very Norwegian if you do – and you’ll save some money!
Cook every Norwegian meal on this list
Of course you don’t actually need to go over to Sweden to save some money. You can make each of these very Norwegian meals for less than $10!
Go to Hell
People love taking photos in front of the sign for this small village in Trøndelag, plus if you go in the winter you could even get a snap of Hell frozen over.
Hell is on the train line and actually right by Trondheim Airport, so it makes for an easy outing if you’re going to be visiting Trondheim.
Visit the world’s largest moose
If you’re driving from Oslo to Trondheim, you’ll likely pass by the world’s largest moose along route 3 in Stor-Elvdal.
I didn’t even know about this moose the first time I did this drive and I remember being very surprised as we approached it. But this year our moose has become quite controversial, as apparently there’s a town in Canada that used to hold the honor of having the world’s largest moose, and they were none to happy when they saw that Norway has stolen that honor from them.
The moose feud has been quite adorable, in a way that only a feud between Norwegians and Canadians could be.
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Watch for muskoxen on Dovrefjell
I’ve still never seen a muskox, but every time I drive or take the train from Oslo to Trondheim I keep an eye out when going over Dovrefjell. I would love to see them in real life – they look like something out of a storybook!
You could also stop at the Snøhetta viewpoint at Hjerkinn to watch from a cosy little room:
Also apparently climate change is taking its toll on muskoxen in the Arctic, so we don’t even know how long they’ll be able to continue to survive now.
Stop at Hunderfossen Amusement Park
I always say, if you want a unique insight into a country’s culture, check out their amusement parks.
Seriously though, you get an immediate sense of what locals are like, plus you’ll usually get to live a real-life version of a lot of the local fairytales. And because Hunderfossen is in Norway, you can expect a lot of trolls!
Hunderfossen is in Lillehammer and while it’s not actually open year-round it has both a summer and winter park – you can check the opening times on their website.
Ride down Lillehammer’s Olympic bobsled track
You guys know how I love a good Olympic bobsled track. Though unlike the one in Sarajevo, Lillehammer’s bobsleigh track from the 1994 Olympics is still in use – and tourists can take a ride down it! You can bobsleigh on wheels in the summer so this is available all year, and while personally I might be too terrified to do this, it also looks like it could be really, really fun.
And judging from the reviews from people who rode down Lillehammer’s bobsleigh track, maybe I should face my fears and try it out. Will you?
Take a private boat through a fjord
There’s really nothing quite like exploring Norway on the water. And riding through a fjord on a boat, whether it’s a kayak, small RIB boat, or ferry, is a very special Norwegian experience.
Get invited to a “nach”
Alcohol is expensive in Norway, especially at bars, so Norwegians usually do most of their drinking on nights out at the pre and after parties. And weirdly they’ve adopted the German words vorspiel and nachspiel here, though usually the pre party is shortened to fors or vors and after party is shortened to nach.
If you’re out at a bar in Norway, I can guarantee there will be some Norwegians who decide to go to someone’s house for a nach afterwards. So if you want to make some friends you should try and get invited! I mean, I can’t promise it will actually be any fun, but maybe it will make for a good story?
Things to do in Norway in summer and spring
One time grill in the park
This is pretty much the most Norwegian thing you can do in Norway in the summer (or anytime there isn’t snow on the ground. And sometimes when there is snow on the ground.)
In fact last summer was freakishly warm and sunny and should have been the best summer ever for all Norwegians, but all that sunshine without rain meant that we weren’t allowed to grill, which essentially made last summer the worst summer ever. I’m not even exaggerating – when you’re here ask someone what the Summer of 2018 was like and you will hear all about the Grill Ban.
But if there is no ban while you’re here pick up a one time grill at the local supermarket, along with a packet of hotdogs and consider yourself a real Norwegian.
Crash a russ party
I was just going to write a simple “lol” here so that I wouldn’t have to try to explain what russ is, because I don’t think I can explain what russ is. In fact I’m not sure I even really understand it myself?
It’s basically a month-long party for graduating high school seniors in Norway that ends on May 17th, Norway’s constitution day.
Except not all seniors choose to participate, because it can be super expensive.
They get vans that they decorate with a theme, and sometimes they’ll have a fake theme before they unveil the real theme (??), and sometimes there are special songs, and they all wear overalls that are usually red or blue depending on what they studied, and some of them will party all night in their russ bus for the entire month.
So like, grown ups really love russ time. Sadly I happen to be leaving the country for the entire russ period this year, such a bummer.
In other words, you probably don’t actually want to try to join a russ party.
Spend a day at Sommarland
If you want a really unique experience in Norway, head to a water park.
I know what you’re thinking: Norway is too cold for water parks! And yes, yes it is.
And yet I’m the proud owner of a lifetime pass to Bø Sommarland, Scandinavia’s biggest water park!
I know, lucky me.
But Sommarland actually is really cool, as it’s built into the mountainside, so the Norwegian landscape is an integral part of the park. And yes, it’s cold, but it’s the perfect place to marvel at Scandinavians.
No, I’m not telling you to ogle swimsuit bods, but just look around when you are shivering head to toe and you’ll see that none of the Norwegians appear to be cold. Like, what? I know.
Bø is a two-hour train ride from Oslo, and then there’s a bus that goes from the station to Sommarland, so you won’t need a car to get here.
Cycle the Helgeland coast
This is like my dream trip, but I am nowhere near fit enough to cycle long distance with all of my luggage. Ever since I cut my hair short I can’t travel anywhere without my curling iron, you know?
But if you’re a bit more sporty than I am, you should definitely do this!
Hike to Marmorslottet, or “the marble castle”
Marmorslottet is one of the most unique places I’ve been in Norway, or anywhere for that matter. Plus it’s a pretty easy hike, so you could come here with kids as well.
Photograph polar bears on Svalbard
If you’re into bucket lists, this has to be at the top of yours, right?
I still haven’t been to Svalbard, but everyone I know who has is obsessed. Of course there’s no guarantee that you’ll see a polar bear while there, but how cool if you did?
Visit Svalbard’s ice caves
And while you’re on Svalbard, you could check out their ice caves and marvel at the ancient ice. It sounds so cool. Literally.
See the world’s largest bonfire in Ålesund
If you’re in Norway on June 23rd, you’re going to want to head for Ålesund.
On Sankthans locals in Ålesund celebrate midsummer with a casual bonfire. And by casual I mean world’s largest. They show the bonfire on television every year and it looks insane. Like, so, so crazy. I would love to go and see it in real life one day, but I might be too scared. It’s really big.
Go to Lysefjorden without hiking to Pulpit Rock
So Pulpit Rock, or Preikestolen, is probably the most popular hike in all of Norway. It gets crazy crowded in the summer, and for good reason – the view is pretty epic.
But if you wanted to be different, you could explore other areas of Lysefjorden. There are in fact other hikes in the area, and how cool would it be to say you went to Norway but didn’t hike Pulpit Rock?
Okay, I’m not sure if that actually earns you cool points. Though it might amongst Norwegians?
Climb to Trollpikken instead of Trolltunga
For those of you who don’t know, Trolltunga means “troll tongue” while Trollpikken means “troll dick,” and sometimes I wonder if the only reason Trolltunga is so much more famous than Trollpikken in Egersund is that Instagram might sensor photos from Trollpikken.
Lol just kidding. But not going to lie, Trollpikken could be a bit rude for your family albums. Except it’s just a rock jutting out in nature! The Trollpikken hike is shorter and easier than Trolltunga, and the views really are amazing. Plus I personally think your photos will be way cooler, just saying.
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Do a via-ferrata
There are a few of these around Norway – even my hometown of Mosjøen has a via-ferrata and zip line. Though probably the most popular one is the via-ferrata tour in Bergen.
I’d tell you more about it, but I’m afraid of heights and my fingers are going to start shaking too much to type if I think about it any more.
Kiss a moose
Ever wanted to kiss a moose? Here is your chance! Plus this is right by Svartisen Glacier, which is Norway’s second largest glacier. And then after smooching the moose you could head down to Mosjøen and visit me!
Hang out in a Viking village
If history is your thing, you could spend a day living out your Viking fantasies in a Viking village.
This isn’t a museum, but a village where people live like Vikings. There are regular guided tours from June to September, and you can talk to the locals who have chosen to live like this even today.
The village is in Gudvangen, which also just so (not coincidentally) happens to be where the fjord cruise that’s part of Norway in a Nutshell departs from.
Tour the silver mines
If you want a fun and unique experience in Norway, why not take a trip to Kongsberg’s silver mines? I’ve actually never done this, but my grandmother lives close to Kongsberg and every summer my family would try to make plans to visit the mines. Then again, we never actually got around to it, so maybe this shouldn’t be at the top of your Norway bucket list?
I do think it would be a fun outing for a family, and Kongsberg is just an hour train ride from Oslo so it would be an easy day trip if you’re staying in Oslo.
Go rafting on Hardangervidda
If you’re visiting in the summer, you could go rafting on Hardangervidda! This rafting trip takes you down the Numedalslågen, where you’ll raft on redirected melted snow from the national park. This is a famous rafting area, and this part of the river is even nicknamed “little Zambezi,” after the famous rafting river in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Hardangervidda itself is beautiful, and such a unique place in Norway. Definitely check it out even if you’re not into rafting.
Climb a sherpa laid trail
If you go on a hike in Norway with stone steps, there’s a good chance that they were laid down by Sherpas from Nepal. Sherpas have been working on making Norway’s hikes safer since 2000, and there are already over 100 Sherpa laid trails around Norway.
In fact both my old home of Rauland and new home of Mosjøen both have hikes that Sherpas worked on.
Go to a festival
If you’re in Norway in the summer, there are a lot of festivals here in June and July. July is the peak of the tourist season, so if you’re looking for a way to have a more authentic experience amongst the tourist crowds, maybe give the place you’re visiting a Google and see if there’s a festival you could attend.
There are music festivals, art festivals, food festivals, and (several!) knitting festivals.
Kayak through a fjord
I mean, when in Norway, right?
Have dinner on a boat
Again, I love experiencing Norway from the water, and there are a few tour options here where you can have dinner on a boat, like this 3-hour buffet on wooden boat sailing through the fjord in Oslo.
Go hiking in the rain
As any Norwegian will tell you, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” They will see no reason not to go for a nice hike in the rain and will simply get out their waterproof jacket, pants, and hiking boots.
Though that said, don’t attempt a really big hike in a storm.
Go cloudberry picking
If you’re in Norway in August, this is the perfect time to hunt for cloudberries in the mountains. Then again, Norwegians are super secretive and protective of their favorite cloudberry spots, so it’s unlikely you’ll actually manage to find any. But oh how exciting it is when you do!
Watch the midnight sun not set
Seriously, watching the sun dip down over the water and then rise back up without actually setting is so surreal and sort of like a weird astronomy lesson.
And if you really want to go all out, you could even watch the Midnigh Sun from a catamaran cruise through Tromsø’s fjords.
Enjoy a mooseburger on the Arctic Circle
There’s a big monument marking the Arctic Circle next to the highway north, and in the summer you can stop for some Arctic fast food.
Things to do in Norway in winter and autumn
Okay, so the obvious thing to do in Norway in the winter is to go cross-country skiing, aka Norway’s national pastime.
But the thing is, only Norwegians actually enjoy cross-country skiing.
Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve taken a lot of foreign visitors to Norway cross-country skiing for the first time, and not one person has enjoyed it.
It’s a shame, because in the winter you can’t hike in the mountains, so skiing is one of the only ways of getting out into that beautiful Norwegian nature. But luckily it’s not actually the only way – you could go snowshoeing instead! And in fact I’ve found that a lot of hotels and tourist offices rent out snowshoes, and many even let you borrow them for free. So it’s definitely worth asking about!
Go airboarding/sledding at a ski resort
Skiing is such an integral part of Norwegian culture in the winter, but you don’t have to be into skiing to experience a bit of life at a Norwegian ski resort. A lot of ski resorts now offer sledding and airboarding as well.
And after living in a big Norwegian ski resort town for three years, I can say that the ski culture in Norway is definitely something worth experiencing (even if you don’t ski). Plus you’ll use the ski lift to go sledding, and the best part about ski lifts is that they take you to the top of mountains with amazing views! It’s like hiking with zero effort, I love it. Until I realize I have to get back down the mountain, at which point I’m terrified.
Experience Sami Week
You should definitely try to spend some time learning about the indigenous Sami culture while you’re in the Arctic, and if you’re lucky you might be in Tromsø during Sami Week, with a huge cultural program including exhibitions, concerts, and the famous Norwegian championship in reindeer racing.
And even if you’re not in Norway during Sami Week, do try to spend some time learning about Sami history and culture, as it’s so interesting. I mean, I’m always blown away by all the hard work done by Sami in the frozen conditions of the Arctic.
Go snowmobiling on Hardangervidda
Hardangervidda is Northern Europe’s largest high mountain plateau, as well as home to Norway’s largest herd of wild reindeer, and what better way to explore it than by snowmobile? This three-hour snowmobile excursion takes you out into the wilderness on the plateau, where you’ll likely see some amazing wildlife.
Watch a ski jumping competition
Ski jumping looks crazy on television, but it’s actually kind of unbelievable when you see it live. Those ski jumps are so high up, and the athletes really do fly through the air. Plus Norwegians love ski jumping so there will be a great atmosphere.
Go ice climbing
I’ve actually only done this in Finland, but there are several places you can go ice climbing in Norway, and while it might sound terrifying at first, it’s actually not that difficult (says the girl who only made it about a meter up before freaking out and coming back down).
I used to see a lot of people ice climbing in Rjukan, and there’s this ice climbing tour in Lyngen that takes you from Tromsø out to the gorgeous Lyngen Alps.
Stay overnight in a lavvu under the Northern Lights
This is like, the ultimate winter experience in Northern Norway – and I actually haven’t done it yet! I would love to spend the night in a traditional lavvu (like a tipi tent), waiting for the Northern Lights to come out. You can book this lavvu night that conveniently leaves from Tromsø for optimal aurora viewing. You’ll learn all about the Sami culture, get to feed the reindeer and even go on a reindeer sleigh ride if you like.
Chase the Northern Lights on a snowmobile
There are so many Northern Lights tours that take you around in a bus or van, but if you really want to feel the Arctic winter (literally), you could book a Northern Lights tour on a snowmobile. You do need a driver’s license to drive a snowmobile, but you don’t need any previous experience to do it.
It is a little scary at first, but you get used to it very quickly, I promise.
For the ultimate Arctic experience, you could even do this on Svalbard. There actually tend to be a lot of cheap flights from Oslo to Svalbard.
Chase the Northern Lights on a husky sled
If snowmobiling isn’t your thing, you could instead chase the Northern Lights on a husky sled. I loved my experiences husky sledding on Senja and in Kiruna in Sweden, and this tour in Tromsø looks amazing.
Watch the Northern Lights from a hot tub
One of my favorite experiences in Norway has been watching the Northern Lights from a hot tub with my friends in Dyrøy.
It’s also hilarious sitting in a hot tub in the middle of winter, because you’ll feel super hot but your hair will get very frozen (I do recommend wearing a hat to protect your hair, because it can break easily when it’s frozen).
Go horseback riding under the Northern Lights
Lol you’re probably getting the gist – there are a lot of ways to watch the Northern Lights in Norway!
Horseback riding obviously isn’t idea if you want to photograph the Northern Lights, but if you simply want to enjoy them out in nature then it’s perfect.
You can read my experience horseback riding on Lofoten here.
I’ll continue adding to this list as I think of things, and if you have anything you’d like me to add please share in the comments!