Norway //

When to go

In the popular imagination, Norway is commonly regarded as remote and cold – spectacular but climatically inhospitable. There is some truth in this, of course, but when to go is not, perhaps, as clear-cut a choice as you might imagine with other seasons other than summer offering particular bonuses. There are, for example, advantages to travelling during the long, dark winters with their reduced everything: daylight, opening times and transport services. If you are equipped and hardy enough to reach the north, seeing the phenomenal northern lights (aurora borealis) is a distinct possibility and later, once the days begin to lighten, the skiing – and for that matter the dog-sledging, ice fishing and snowmobiling – is excellent. There are skiing packages to Norway from abroad, but perhaps more appealing – and certainly less expensive – is the ease with which you can arrange a few days’ skiing wherever you happen to be. As the year advances, Easter is the time of the colourful Sámi festivals, and mid-May can be absolutely delightful if your visit coincides with the brief Norwegian spring, though this is difficult to gauge. Springtime is particularly beguiling in the fjords, with a thousand cascading waterfalls fed by the melting snow, and wild flowers in abundance everywhere. Autumn can be exquisite too, with September often bathed in the soft sunshine of an Indian summer, but – especially in the far north – it is frequently cold, often bitterly so, from late September to mid- to late May. Nevertheless, most people travel during the summer season, when bus, ferry and train connections are at their most frequent. This is the time of the midnight sun: the further north you go, the longer the day becomes, until at Nordkapp the sun is continually visible from mid-May to the end of July (see The midnight sun). Something worth noting, however, is that the summer season in Norway is relatively short, stretching roughly from the beginning of June to the end of August. Come in September and you’ll find that many tourist offices, museums and other sights have cut back their hours and buses, ferries and trains have already switched to reduced schedules.