The country's sleek and subdued capital, Oslo, may exemplify Scandinavian cool, but Norway makes a dramatic impression. Serrated fjords split isolated inlets and limpid bays; otters, badgers and moose prowl the perimeter of Trondheim, the country's third-largest city. Within the Arctic Circle, the snow-draped mountains of Tromsø glisten under the Midnight Sun in summer, when the whole country enjoys a brief but brilliant bloom of daisy-strewn fields and emerald-green meadows.
Norway's waterfront capital, Oslo, is buffered by heather-strewn islands and dense wedges of tranquil woodlands. The splintered shards that form the glistening Oslo Opera House showcase the city's cosmopolitan character. Brightly colored wood-paneled houses flank Bergen's bustling harbor; its cluster of museums and galleries distinguish it as Norway's cultural capital. The northern city of Tromsø is enveloped by snow-capped mountains and birch trees. Shrouded in perpetual darkness in winter, it dazzles defiantly under the ethereal shimmer of the Northern Lights.
Chiseled into shape during the Ice Age, Sognefjord is Norway's deepest and longest fjord and a geographic marvel. Its sheer edges soar from the watery depths of the North Atlantic, while waterfalls cascade from its peaks. One of continental Europe's largest glaciers, iridescent Jostedalsbreen weaves through the jagged mountain passes of Sogn og Fjordane. Within the Arctic Circle, northern Norway lies under the crunch of heavy snowfall and vast tracts of virgin forest.
The ripple of rugged fjords and tranquil inlets limning the coast of Hordaland shows Norway at its most spectacular, whatever the season. Within the Arctic Circle, Lofoten's craggy coastline teems with cod, mackerel and coalfish -- and the fishermen who come in chase of them. More northerly still is the isolated archipelago of Svalbard, where reindeer inhabit unsullied nature reserves and polar bears roam the shimmering glaciers.
Eating and Drinking
Recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize can celebrate in sumptuous style in the Michelin-starred restaurants of the Oslo city center -- but it's significantly cheaper to buy shrimp from the waterfront, seasoned with zesty lemon and creamy mayonnaise. The timber-framed restaurants at Bergen harbor serve succulent slabs of fresh salmon and salty cod in timber-framed taverns. Adventurous epicureans can sample reindeer drizzled with crushed juniper berries or even seal-meat lasagna in the vibrant restaurants along Storgata, Tromsø's pedestrianized high street.