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Norway Country Report

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Discovery Reports

In addition to the Aurora Borealis, Norway boasts spectacular mountains, fjords and islands

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 December, 2015, 5:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2016, 5:09pm

From February to March, and between August and November, and - ideally - when a full moon lights up a cloudless sky, the furthermost regions of Norway are bathed in one of the natural wonders of the world, best known as the Northern Lights.

The phenomenon, called Aurora Borealis, is one of the most popular draws for visiting Hongkongers. It occurs up to 240km in space, when charged particles from the sun are dragged into the atmosphere by the earth's magnetic field, and collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms, releasing flashes of coloured light that surpass all the efforts of the special effects gurus in Hollywood.

Catching the Northern Lights depends on good weather, plus an element of luck. However, Norway's natural scenery is uniformly spectacular, come rain or shine, and is easily experienced via a road trip. More than a dozen officially designated National Tourist Routes wind their way along the coast and over mountains. For example, the route through Hardangervidda National Park in Eastern Norway leads over northern Europe's largest mountain plateau, where wild reindeer still roam free, while the road over Gaularfjellet takes travellers past numerous waterfalls along the mighty Sognefjord, Norway's longest and deepest fjord. Traffic is light, and there's never any problem about stopping at the side of the road to admire the view.

Alternatively, travellers can board one of Norway's many cruise ships, sailing along the coast, admiring the view and letting someone else do the driving.

En route, passengers can look forward to seeing breath-taking waterfalls and fjords, stopping off to visit various cultural and historical attractions, and going fishing, playing golf or taking part in similar outdoor activities. There are more than 30 ports large enough to take cruise ships, and well over 67,000 islands along the coast, ensuring that every voyage is fascinatingly varied.

Further off the beaten track, the Vega Islands lie off the coast of Helgeland, just south of the Arctic Circle - so the summer months of June, July and August are the most clement times to visit. A Unesco Heritage Site, the 6,000 islands, reefs and skerries are a prime destination for ornithologists, as the archipelago is home to vast flocks of eider ducks.

There are no bells or whistles here, simply biking and hiking trails, a 150-year-old church, a small museum, the opportunity to hire a boat for fishing or just exploring - plus huge quantities of fresh air and peace and quiet.

Equally worth seeing, Jotunheimen is a mountainous area extending over some 3,500 square metres that includes three mountains more than 2,400 metres high.

Popular with alpine and cross-country skiers, mountain bikers, climbers, rafters, cavers and horse riders, the area is also remarkable for its flora and fauna.

The beautiful glacier crowfoot is the highest-growing flowering plant, thriving at 2,370 metres on Mount Glittertind, only a short way below the summit. Purple saxifrage and rose-root also grow as high as 2,300 metres above sea level.

In many parts of the national park the rocks are calciferous, supporting a rich variety of lime-loving plants, such as the delicate mountain avens.

There's no denying that Hardangervidda is a bit of a mouthful: it's also one of the largest plateaus in Europe, and as such, it's one of Norway's most popular cycling routes, The Navvies' Road, or Rallarvegen. Running for almost 100km, it leads over high mountains to the incredibly picturesque port of Flam.

Incidentally, Hardangervidda is by no means a wilderness, and there are plenty of hotels, inns, cabins and lodges in the area. For accommodation that's a little bit out of the ordinary, try the Dr Holms Hotel in Geilo or the Utne Hotel, which are both members of Norway's Historic Hotels and Restaurants.

The town of Røros definitely deserves a slice of limelight as its Alaskan Husky Tours was the first Norwegian business to gain ecotourism certification.

Winter or summer, teams of dogs pull visitors in sledges or carts through the countryside - providing a thrilling ride and a chance to get closer to nature.