Trips to Norway

Norway is a country that regularly tops polls for being one of the most beautiful countries in the world and it is really not difficult to see why. This is an island of extraordinary beauty where the topography is astonishingly dramatic, untamed and endless: steep-sided fjords cut deeply into the landscape, dazzling glaciers, snow-topped plateaus and rocky coastal islands.

Norwegians' passion for exploring their natural world has led to the development of a thrilling and varied destination for travellers where experiencing nature is very much an active pursuit. From snowmobiling across the snowy plains to boat trips in the famous fjords, this is a landscape that visitors can explore year round.

The locations that you can visit through Artisan Travel are in the far north of the country in the counties of Nordland and Finnmark. With the lowest density of population, the region has some of the freshest air in Europe and exudes untamed and breathtakingly picturesque wilderness. Guests fall in love with the national parks, the beautiful scenic coastline, the plenitude of sea eagles and whales and tiny traditional fishing villages that are dotted amongst the fjords.

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Norway's history is as rich as its landscape. The Vikings are of course the most famed ancestors of the Norwegians and were not just feared raiders but explorers, settlers and traders whose entrepreneurial activities helped to shape the nation and whose history is a fantastic insight that can be enjoyed on your visit. The modern history of the island saw the founding of immense gas and oil reserves in the 1960s that have led to the country developing as one of the richest in the world and also a country renowned for its high standard of living, progressiveness, tolerance and equality.

Geography and climate
Due to its large latitudinal range and varied topography and climate, Norway has a wider variation of geographical features than almost any other European country. The northern region is dominated by mountains and fjords and large plateaus which cover the landscape. The archipelago of Svalbard is a realm of giant glaciers and multitude of islands.

The north of the country is not as cold as other countries on the same high latitude as it is warmed by the Gulf Stream which leads to milder temperatures and higher days of rainfall. Winters along the coastlines are much milder than visitors to the region would expect. Average temperatures are usually around 0°C from December to February in areas such as Lofoten. Summers here are mild with an average temperature of around 17°C.

The far north east of the country has a subarctic climate similar to Finnish Lapland with average winter temperatures dropping to around -15°C in Karasjok.

Because of the high latitude of Norway, there are also large seasonal variations in daylight, particularly in the northern regions. From late May to late July, the sun does not set below the horizon; leading to the natural spectacle of the Midnight Sun. Contrastingly in winter the sun doesn't rise above the horizon from late November to the end of January, causing very short daylight hours and unique polar light.

Food and drink
Norwegian cuisine in its traditional form is developed largely from the natural surroundings of sea, mountains and wilderness. Given that the coastline of Norway covers more than 25,000 kilometres, it is no surprise that fish and seafood dominate Norway's culinary scene.

Smoked salmon was a traditional Norse dish, that is now a major international export and a dish that is served throughout the country. Cod, herring, sardine and mackerel also feature widely in Norwegian cuisine.

The northern coastal regions, in particular Kirkenes, are renowned for freshly caught king crab dishes. These creatures were introduced to the Barents Sea by Russia during the 1960s to provide a valuable catch for Soviet fisherman. Here they have flourished and spread along the coast and is served as a delicacy.

Lutefisk is also a famous Norwegian dish that is prepared in the northern coastal regions. Fish are hung to dry on huge fish drying racks in a method that has been used for thousands of years.

The diversity of Norway's landscape also provides a habitat for a range of sheep, elk, reindeer and woodland fowl which are commonly used in recipes throughout the country.

The mild summers also allow plants to ripen at a slower pace infusing fruit and vegetables with rich flavour. In particular, crushed juniper and lingonberries are used to complement a variety of dishes.

When it comes to beverages, Norway is the second highest consumer of coffee in the world (after Finland) and coffee is drunk very strong and several times a day. Coffee also plays a large role in Norwegian culture as it is common to invite people to gather to enjoy it.

There is a rich community of brewers across Norway with a variety of locally produced beers. Other common alcohols include vodka and akevitt, a yellow-tinged liquor spiced with caraway seeds.

Economy and culture
The economy of Norway is based on the resources with which it is richly endowed including petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests and minerals. As the world's third largest provider of gas and the fifth largest supplier of oil, Norway has developed into one of the richest countries in the world with a very high standard of living.

Fish are also one of the country's highest export items, something which is of the utmost importance in northern regions of the country where the majority of workers are employed in the fishing industry.

Tourism too, plays a key role in remote northern regions, with visitors from around the world drawn to the scenic fjord landscape and wonderful opportunities for wildlife watching, husky sledding and fishing. Guests too are drawn to witness the phenomenon of the Midnight Sun and the Northern Lights.

In the far north-east of the country, Sámi culture is hugely prevalent, particularly in Karasjok which is the centre of Sámi culture in the area. The Sámi people settled in the Scandinavian Peninsula around 4000 years ago as nomadic hunters and today are protected and recognised under international conventions. Travels in this corner of the world will bring you in contact with the uniquely interesting Sámi culture allowing you to learn more about their working lives, in particular their important role as reindeer herders.

Image credits:  Kirkenes Snowhotel, Trym Ivar Bergsmo, northernnorway.com, Spitsbergen Travel, Green Dog, Engholm Husky winter, Northern Norway, Douglas Bardwell, Terje Rakke,Nordic Life - Visitnorway.com

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