From dog-sled racing to canoeing, from curling to speed skating to skiing, Norway is the most sports-oriented country in Europe. Nearly half of the four million people of Norway are members of the Norwegian Sports Federation, and three out of four Norwegian children take part in sporting activities. Winter sports are dominated by skiing, of course, along with ice hockey and curling. In the too-short summer, virtually all Norwegians head for the outdoors while the sun shines. They sail, swim, or canoe, and trails fill with hikers or mountain bikers.
With a quarter of Norway's coastline at your disposal, nearly 14,000km (8,680 miles), you obviously have plenty of opportunities for sea fishing.
Norway has long been famous for its salmon and trout fishing, with more than 100 salmon rivers flowing into its fjords. The best months for salmon are June, July, and sometimes August. Sea-trout fishing takes place from June to September and is best in August. The brown-trout season varies with altitude.
Fishing in the ocean is free. To fish in lakes, rivers, or streams, anyone over 16 must have a fishing license. The cost of a license to fish begins at NOK200 ($40/£20). National fishing licenses can be purchased at local post offices. For more information, contact the Bergen Angling Association, Fosswinckelsgate 37, M-5004 Bergen (tel. 55-32-11-64; www.bergensportsfiskere.no).
A U.S.-based company that can arrange fishing (as well as hunting) excursions anywhere within Norway and the rest of Scandinavia is Five Stars of Scandinavia, 13104 Thomas Rd., KPN, Gig Harbor, WA 98329 (tel. 800/722-4126; www.5stars-of-scandinavia.com). For a truly unusual fishing experience, consider renting one of their old-fashioned fishermen's cottages in the isolated Lofoten Islands. The rustic-looking, fully renovated cottages each lie adjacent to the sea and evoke 19th-century isolation. Five Stars will rent you a cottage for as short a period as 1 night, but we recommend a minimum stay of 3 nights to appreciate this offbeat adventure.
The best salmon-fishing tours take place in central Norway, especially along the Guala River, one of the country's best-known salmon-fishing rivers. Ursus Major (tel. 99-22-49-60; www.ursus-major.no) offers weeklong fishing tours in Trondheim, which cost from NOK1,500 to NOK24,900 ($300-$4,980/£150-£2,490) per person, including meals and accommodations.
The River Gudbrandsdalslågen, running through a beautiful valley and Hafjell Hunderfossen, is one of the best fishing rivers of Europe, set against a backdrop of the Øyer Mountains, with its many fishing lakes and rivers. The main types of fish caught are burbot, trout, char, and grayling. Many lakes in the mountains have rowboats for free use, and permits are easily obtainable at gas stations, grocery stores, hotels, or inns. For more information, contact the Øyer Tourist Office at tel. 61-27-70-00.
For the serious cyclist, there are two great routes in Norway: the North Sea Cycleway and the Old Navvy Road. Each of them is only partially paved. The coastal route is much easier, whereas the Old Navvy Road runs across open mountains, passing through pastures and meadows en route down to the nearest fjord. Pick up detailed maps of routes and how to reach them in tourist offices throughout Norway.
Because the Old Navvy Road follows the Bergen-Oslo train tracks for most of the way, the usual starting point is Haugastøl, known for its herring and jazz.
The North Sea Cycleway stretches for 296km (184 miles) and is mostly rural, with woodland, moors, and crags, passing many a meadow. It runs through such ports as Flekkefjord and Egersund, passing such larger towns as Sandnes and Stavanger.
The Old Navvy Road, called Rallarvegen in Norwegian, was built from 1895 to 1902, starting in the tree-lined east and climbing into the open mountains, with panoramic views of snow-covered slopes; high-altitude, incredibly blue lakes; and the Hardangerjøkulen glacier. The most dramatic point along the route is from Vatnahalsen, where the road descends the 21 hairpin bends of Myrdalskleiva, continuing down the Flamsdal Valley to Flåm. The road has been a cycle track since the 1970s.
Bike rentals abound in Norway. Inquire at your hotel or the local tourist office. The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association provides inexpensive lodging for those on overnight bike trips. For suggestions on tours, maps, and brochures, contact Den Rustne Eike, Vestbaneplassen 2, N-0458 Oslo (tel. 98-63-19-69; www.denrustneeike.no). They can arrange guided tours in the Oslo area and elsewhere in Norway. Tours last from 3 hours to 14 days.
In July and August, 7-day bike trips run through the Lofoten Islands. They offer moderately rolling terrain, dramatic scenery, traditional rorbuer (fishing cottage) lodging, and hearty regional cuisine. Prices begin at NOK17,000 ($3,400/£1,700). Tours are offered by Backroads (tel. 800/GO-ACTIVE; www.backroads.com).
To cycle through the splendors of Norway, you can join Britain's oldest (1878) and largest association of bicycle riders, the Cyclists' Touring Club, CTC Parklands, Railton Rd., Guildford, Surrey GU2 9JX (tel. 0844/736-8450; www.ctc.org.uk). The fees for membership start at £35, which includes information, maps, a subscription to a newsletter packed with practical information and morale boosters, plus recommended cycling routes through virtually every country in Europe. The organization's knowledge of scenic routes is especially comprehensive. Membership can be arranged over the phone with a credit card.
One of the best bets for mountain biking is the Setesdal region, with its many small roads and forest trails. Setesdal Rafting Centre (tel. 37-93-11-77; www.troll-mountain.no), 7km (4 1/4 miles) north from Evje on the main road (Rte. 9), is an expert in the area, offering both guided trips and bikes for rent with helmets from mid-April to late October.
The Øyer Mountains are also excellent for cycling, and the scenery is splendid. For more information, including suggested cycle tours in the Øyer Mountains, consult the Øyer Tourist Office (tel. 61-27-70-00), and rent bikes from Hafjellsporten Sports (tel. 61-27-70-93).
Some of Europe's noteworthy bird sanctuaries are on islands off the Norwegian coast or on the mainland. Rocky and isolated, the sanctuaries offer ideal nesting places for millions of seabirds that vastly outnumber the local human population during certain seasons. Foremost among the sanctuaries are the Lofoten Islands -- particularly two of the outermost islands, Vaerøy and Røst -- and the island of Runde. An almost .5km (1/4-mile) bridge (one of the longest in Norway) connects Runde to the coastline, a 2 1/2-hour drive from Ålesund. Runde's year-round human population is about 150, and the colonies of puffins, cormorants, razor-billed auks, guillemots, gulls, and eider ducks number in the millions. Another noteworthy bird sanctuary is at Fokstumyra, a national park near Dombås.
The isolated island of Lovund is a 2-hour ferry ride from the town of Sandnesjøen, south of Bødo. Lovund ("the island of puffins") has a human population of fewer than 270 and a bird population in the hundreds of thousands. You can visit Lovund and the other famous Norwegian bird-watching sites on your own, or sign up for one of the organized tours sponsored by Borton Overseas, 5412 Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55419 (tel. 800/843-0602 or 612/882-4640; www.bortonoverseas.com).
Brochures and pamphlets are available from the tourist board Destination Lofoten (tel. 76-06-98-00; www.lofoten.info).
Canoeing, Kayaking & Rafting
Canoeing and kayaking, two increasingly popular sports, allow visitors to reach places that are otherwise almost inaccessible. Both activities should provide you with a unique opportunity to observe Norway's animals and birds without frightening them with the sound of an engine.
Some of our best experiences out on a canoe have been with the Setesdal Rafting Center (tel. 37-93-11-77; www.trollaktiv.no), 7km (4 1/4 miles) north from Evje on the main road, Rte. 9. The region of Setesdal, known for its mountains, rivers, and varied wildlife, contains a stunning stretch of the River Otra -- ideal for canoeing -- extending from the rafting center south to the village of Evje. En route you'll pass several osprey nests and beaver lodges. The center is also the best place in southern Norway for white-water rafting from mid-April to late October. From late June until September, water temperatures can reach 68°F (20°C), which makes the River Otra the warmest in Norway. Both half-day and full-day trips can be arranged. Crossing Latitudes, 420 W. Koch St., Bozeman, MT 59715 (tel. 800/572-8747 or 406/585-5356; www.crossinglatitudes.com), is another source for sea-kayaking and backpacking expeditions.
If you'd like to go rafting on the Sjoa River, billed as "the wildest in Norway," you can obtain full information from the Vågå Tourist office, Vågavegen 37, N-2680 in Vågå (tel. 61-21-29-90; www.visitvaga.no), which also provides information about horseback riding, mountain or glacier climbing, mountain biking, and canoeing.
The rivers around Voss resort, in Norway's fjord country, have some of the finest river rafting. Voss Rafting Center (tel. 56-51-05-25; www.vossrafting.no) offers rafting and other watersports such as river-boarding and canyoning. Overnight stays in the wild along with meals can be arranged.
Norway has more than two dozen 18-hole golf courses, and the Norwegian Golf Federation (tel. 22-73-66-20; http://golf.no) can provide information on all of these. Many golf clubs are open to foreign guests. Greens fees tend to be moderate. Our two favorite clubs are the 18-hole Oslo Golf Klubb, at Bogstad, Oslo (tel. 22-51-05-60; www.oslogk.no), and the 18-hole Meland Golf Club, Meland/Frekhaug (tel. 56-17-46-00; www.melandgolf.no), 36km (22 miles) north of Bergen.
Norway's mountains and wilderness are among the most spectacular in the world. The Norwegian Mountain Touring Association, Storgata 7, N-0101 Oslo (tel. 22-82-28-22; www.turistforeningen.no), maintains affiliations with all the hiking associations of Norway and provides maps and advice. The association offers guided hikes that last from 5 to 8 days. They cost from NOK605 to NOK1,035 ($121-$207/£61-£104), including meals and lodging. Local associations mark the routes and operate a network of cabins for hikers to share.
Blue Marble Travel, 222A Race St., Philadelphia, PA 19106 (tel. 215/923-3788; www.bluemarble.org), features reasonably priced biking and hiking trips in Norway. European Walking Tours, 1401 Regency Dr. E., Savoy, IL 61874 (tel. 800/231-8448 or 217/398-0058; www.walkingtours.com), sponsors walking tours for the mature traveler in Norway. The operator, Jacqueline Tofté, is a native of the Swiss Alps and has charted routes across meadows, through remote valleys, over mountain passes, and alongside serene lakes. The tours include searches for wildflowers, birds, and mountain animals, with lessons in local architecture, traditions, and history thrown in as well.
Throughout Norway you'll find riding schools with horses for rent. Many country hotels in Norway also keep a few horses for the use of guests. Many organizations offer horseback tours of Norway's wilderness, enabling visitors to see some of the more spectacular scenery. Tours can range from a few hours to a full week. Luggage is transported by car. One tour organizer is Borton Overseas, 5412 Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55419 (tel. 800/843-0602 or 612/882-4640; www.bortonoverseas.com).
Our favorite place to go mountain riding is offered by Voss Fjellhest outside the resort of Voss (tel. 56-51-91-66; www.vossfjellhest.no). In Panoramic fjord and mountain scenery, you'll be taken on day or weekend rides, where everything is arranged for you, including accommodations and meals.
Norway's long coast can be a challenge to any yachting enthusiast. The most tranquil havens are along the southern coast. To arrange rafting trips or boat trips, along with boat rentals and evening parasailing, contact SeaAction (tel. 94-36-85-14 or 33-33-69-93; www.seaaction.com).
In Norway, you can catch a glimpse of 20m (66-ft.), 40,000-kilogram (88,185-lb.) sperm whales, the largest toothed whales in the world. You can also see killer whales, harbor porpoises, minke whales, and white-beaked dolphins. Whale researchers conduct 6-hour whale-watching tours in the Arctic Ocean.
For information and bookings, contact Passage Tours of Scandinavia, 239 Commercial Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308 (tel. 800/548-5960 or 954/776-7070; www.passagetours.com). Whale-watching in the Lofoten Islands can be arranged by Borton Overseas, 5412 Lyndale Ave., Minneapolis, MN 55419 (tel. 800/843-0602 or 612/882-4640; www.bortonoverseas.com).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.