The Norwegians themselves go to the south in summer for their vacations, as this part of the country gets more sunshine than any other. Norwegians refer to this vacation spot as Sørlandet, a land of valleys, mountains, rivers, and lakes. Gulf Stream temperatures make taking a dip possible in summer.

Though there is much for the foreign visitor to see and do here, the sheer drama of other regions, including the western fjord district and the region north of the Arctic Circle, far outweighs the more modest attractions of southern Norway.

But if you've got an extra week, you're in for a good time, especially in Rogaland, the southwestern part of the country, which has been called "Norway in a Nutshell," with its wide variety of attractions. Bathed in a mild climate (at least, for Norway), it is a land of fjords, mountains, green valleys, beaches, old towns, and villages -- and is also a great place to go fishing.

The coastal lands of southern Norway, shaped geographically like a half-moon, are studded with beaches, bays, and sailing opportunities. Within this area, the Telemark region is known for its lakes and canals, which are used for summer boating and canoeing. A port city, Larvik is the hometown of one of Norway's most famous sons, Thor Heyerdahl, the explorer who conducted the Kon-Tiki expedition, among other famous voyages. From Skien, visitors can explore this water network. Arendal is a charming old town with a harbor near some of the best beaches. Kristiansand S is a link between Norway and the rest of Europe. The Christiansholm Fortress has stood here since 1674, and the town is near Haresanden, a 10km-long (over 6 1/4-mile) beach.

The district lives today in the technological future, thanks to its oil industry, but it also harks back to the country's oldest inhabitants. Here, the Viking king Harald Fairhair gathered most of Norway into one kingdom in A.D. 872. The locals say that it was from here that the Vikings sailed to discover America.

Rogaland also consists of the hilly Dalane in the south, the flat Jaeren (farmland), the beautiful Ryfylke, and Karmøy and Haugesund in the north.