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Why summer is the coolest time to explore Norway

Caroline Hurry

Contributor

The land of Vikings, trolls, and rugged natural scenery lends itself to a road trip between June and August when the slow Norwegian sun casts a magic spell over the cinematic landscape of glorious fjords, waterfalls, mountains, forests, remote farmhouses, and wooden churches dating back hundreds of years. Fill a cooler box with your favourite victuals to consume al fresco amid soul-cleansing scenery, hire a car, and get going. Starting in Sweden, beetle up the West Coast’s E6 and cross the Svinesund Bridge into Norway. A small word of caution: The maximum speed limit is around 50 miles an hour and Scandinavians love strict adherence to the rules. Wheelbarrows get handled with more zip than any Ferrari here, as fines are steeper than Norway’s black-run slopes. Hitting the slow cruise control will provide ample opportunity to take in the spectacular surrounds of the Oslo, Lillehammer, Øyer and Larvik regions.

Oslo

Just under a two-hour drive from the Svinesund Bridge, forested hills give way to Norway’s vibrant capital at the tip of the 60-mile-long Oslofjord that lends itself to some great boat rides. Check into the Amerikanlinjen Hotel around the corner from Karl Johans Gate, Norway’s longest pedestrian street lined with designer boutiques, cafes, clubs and bars.

A Fairtrade coffee from Stockfleths Lille Grensen will quell the strongest caffeine cravings as you explore Oslo’s Cathedral, Parliament, National Theatre, City Hall, and Royal Palace. A longer walk will lead you to the Nobel Peace Center.

Grab a burger from the Go'Grilla Foodtruck to eat on the hoof along the five-mile-long Harbour Promenade, popular among the locals who lap up the summer warmth with live music, ice creams, and a seawater pool. Take in the sailboats, Viking ship, and just across the water, the Snøhetta-designed Oslo Opera House, where pedestrians traverse the roof even more than the vast interior where concerts are held. There’s always something arty going on around here and in August the free Mela music festival is a riot. 

Lillehammer

From Oslo, a two and a half-hour drive north-east will bring you to Lillehammer’s high mountains and forest-clad hills with the spectacular Rondane, Jotunheimen and Langsua national parks in easy reach. You can hike, cycle, or ride horses throughout the region, which comprises eight municipalities. Immerse yourself in Norwegian culture, stay at historic farms dating back to the Middle Ages, and enjoy fresh local food.

Famous for hosting the Winter Olympics in 1994, most of the arenas are open to visitors, making it more popular for winter sports enthusiasts keen on cross-country and alpine skiing.

Good restaurants include LYNG mat & bar close to the Scandic Lillehammer Hotel, offering creative combinations of fusion food, and Nikkers in Elvegata, which does a delicious reindeer steak or grilled salmon.

Buy a combined ticket to the interactive Norwegian Olympic Museum and next door Maihaugen, an open-air affair that brings village history to life with its old timber houses, 12th-century wooden church, crystal clear lake and woodlands. Find the best coffee at the Lillehammer Art Museum, housed in a building that from certain angles resembles a huge foil-wrapped block of ice, and marvel at the collection of 1400 works by Norwegian artists. 

Øyer

The municipality of Øyer is famous for the pine-covered slopes, lakes, and valleys of the soaring Øyerfjellet mountain range where waterfalls plunge like vertical rivers. Take The Gondola that whisks you up 1923 feet to the mountain top in 10 minutes and drops you off at the trailheads where you can continue on a hike or cycle ride. In summer you can count on spectacular views and an absence of queues. There’s a restaurant at the top but a pre-packed picnic basket offers broader sight-seeing opportunities.

Above a squiggle of precipitous bends along a toll road is Hafjell, a village that ‒ like Lillehammer and Gudbrandsdalen ‒ hosted the Winter Olympics. It’s part of the Hafjell Alpine Centre, that offers more than 25 miles of slopes at varying levels of difficulty. The overall drop on the mountain is 2740 feet. The Pellestova Hotel feels like a haven amid sheep-filled meadows surrounded by the healing beauty of lichen, lakes, and wooden farmhouses where wildflowers grow from sod roofs and clanking cowbells punctuate the bucolic atmosphere. So far from the madding crowd – in summer the hotel is almost empty ‒ all you can do is relax. And breathe.

Nadine Burzler

Larvik

After channelling your inner Viking in the crisp mountain air for a couple of days, head south-west for the beaches, Bøkeskogen, and natural mineral water springs of the Larvik municipality in Vestfold County.

Take in lungfuls of negatively-charged ions with a walk through Larvik’s magnificent protected Beech Forest that stretches inwards along Farris Lake, just 10 minutes on foot from the harbour.

Around 16 minutes by car from the forest, the Foldvik Family Park’s pool and petting zoo will keep bored children amused for hours. Also worth exploring is Mølen, Norway's largest beach of rolling stones, a 20-minute drive just west of Stavern, a small town south of the city of Larvik.

The 230 stone cairns and heaps of boulders laid out in parallel rows are all Iron Age burial mounds and you’ll find more than 100 species of rock including Larvikite, Norway's national stone, named after the area. Vistas around here are spectacular as is the birdlife with 316 migrant species.

Check into the Farris Bad hotel straddling beach and town, which also boasts Norway’s biggest spa. Spend a blissful afternoon or two exploring saunas with sea views; ice baths, and pools that massage your feet. For a break from seafood, try dinner at the New Ambassador Indian Restaurant within walking distance from the hotel. The chicken curry is good.

The ferry to Jutland in the north of Denmark leaves from Larvik at 7 am sharp.

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