Some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet is easily accessible to travelers from the U.S. and Europe, in a way which is also affordable and which can be combined with stays in attractive, highly interesting cities.
Just visit Norway and take a ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour.
Visitors to Norway will find it easy to get away from the crowd. While the country has an area of 385,252 square kilometers (148,747 square miles, which is 1,705 square miles more than the area of the fourth-largest U.S. state, Montana), Norway’s population is only about 4.9 million. Most of the population is concentrated in and around the three largest cities – Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger – and other sizable towns such as Trondheim, Tromsø, Bodø, Kristiansand and Ålesund.
Although Norway is one of the world’s richest countries (because it has saved much of its revenue from deep-sea oil) and consequently is generally expensive for visitors, this 1,100-mile-long Nordic country with a 16,000-mile coastline boasts much of the planet’s most beautiful and dramatic fjord geography, as well as massive areas of mountain wilderness and tundra.
The good news for would-be visitors is that, despite Norway’s generally high prices, its tourism organizations have come up with various ways to show visitors the country’s enormous natural bounty of mountains, fjords, glaciers, lakes, islands, rivers, moorland, sea vistas and wildlife at vacation prices that won’t break the bank.
One of the best ways to experience Norway’s bounty for yourself is to take a ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour. These self-guided journeys on train, boat and coach offer a variety of different options to experience the mountains, fjords and glaciers which lie east of Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city and one of the most attractive towns in Europe. ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tours are designed to let visitors sample much of the best that Norway has to offer in terms of scenery, transport experiences and affordable accommodation.
For U.S. travelers, particularly, the journey starts best by sampling Nordic service and hospitality on board Scandinavian Airlines’ daily early-evening flight between Newark Liberty International Airport and Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen. (The Newark-Oslo flight has the flight number SK908 and the Oslo-Newark flight is numbered SK907.)
For those who prefer more leg room than an economy-class seat provides, but don’t want to have to pay the much higher price required for a business-class seat, each of Scandinavian Airlines’ A330-300s features a sizable premium-economy cabin. The seat rows in the premium-economy cabin (which Scandinavian Airlines markets as ‘Economy Extra’) are spaced 38 inches (96.5 centimeters) apart to allow an additional 6 inches (15 centimeters) of leg room, and each Economy Extra seat is 18 inches (45.7 centimeters) wide, an inch wider than the economy-class seat. SAS also offers other in-flight amenities (including more points in its EuroBonus frequent-flyer program) to travelers in the Economy Extra cabin.
If you’re lucky, as this reporter was, and your SAS flight departs Newark to the north on a fine, clear spring evening with you sitting on the right-hand side of the plane, your journey to Norway starts with a superb view of Manhattan and the rest of the Greater New York metropolitan area spread out all around – see the video below.
As the Scandinavian Airlines A330-300 widebody jet nears Oslo’s beautiful Gardermoen airport, on a good day you’ll also get some fine views of the Norwegian countryside. (See the next video.) While Oslo Gardermoen is many miles north and east of Oslo, there are very fast trains to Oslo’s central station and also an airport bus service. Taking a taxi would, however, probably be prohibitively expensive unless there are several of you traveling and can share the cost.
Luckily for Norway, its desire to provide visitors with a simple way to sample the nation’s extraordinary natural beauty can be accomplished in an area which is easily accessible from both Bergen and Oslo. Even better, the main Oslo-Bergen railway line (which is called the Bergensbanen) runs right through the area.
Both Oslo and Bergen are of very manageable size and both are beautiful cities with many attractions. It is well worth taking at least two or three days in each city to explore it thoroughly. Bergen is particularly blessed in its spectacular location on a sea inlet surrounded by mountains and islands.
The area on which the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tours focus begins about 50 miles east of Bergen and extends north to the Sognefjord – which, at 127 miles (205 kilometers) is the longest fjord in Europe and the second-longest in the world, and is also Europe’s deepest – and south to the huge Hardangervidda wilderness. At 7,500 square kilometers Hardangervidda is Northern Europe’s largest mountain plateau and Norway has made half of the area a national park so much of the wilderness is protected.