Hover: If you've ever wondered what it's like above the Arctic Circle, a Norway vacation will help you take in all the wild north has to offer.
You'll be able to see an incredible range of wildlife on your Norway vacation. You can visit Honningsvag, located above the Arctic Circle, or Olden, known as the Gateway to the Glaciers. Or why not explore Geiranger Fjord, the Jewel in the Crown of Norway's fjords? Dress warmly and start exploring this magnificent destination.
Join a wildlife safari for the chance to see the snow-white arctic fox, a walrus or even a polar bear. You'll hike past stunning glaciers, lakes and waterfalls and might even spot a moose or reindeer. (Just remember to keep your distance.)
Norse mythology is full of extraordinary animals, and after hearing all of those stories, you may be hoping to see Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse ridden by the god Odin, or Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, the goats who pull Thor's chariot. Even if you don't, you're likely to come upon some splashing puffins or whales when you're back on the ship and sailing through the deep blue fjords.
Svalbard, a remote archipelago in the Arctic Ocean whose name means "cold coasts," is a popular spot to observe northern wildlife. Consider a trip to these islands, located halfway between Norway and the North Pole, if you're keen on seeing polar bears. May to August is the best time to spot them, and you'll also find untouched arctic wilderness and old mining towns. The polar bear is the world's largest land carnivore. It can weigh more than 1,500 pounds and prefers a menu of seals. It's also a strong swimmer and usually lives on its own. The indigenous Sámi people, who live in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia, traditionally don't use its name for fear of angering the animal. They call it "the old man in the fur coat" instead.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates there are 22,000 to 31,000 polar bears left in the world. Like other ice-dependent species such as walruses and seals, they are at increasing risk because of the shrinking sea ice cover. The temperature in the Arctic is warming more quickly than anywhere else in the world.
On the Svalbard Islands, you may also spot walruses in the wild. These creatures, who are usually 6 to 12 feet long, have an average weight of about 2,200 pounds. They are the only living member of the Odobenidae family and spend two-thirds of their lives in the water.
Walruses breed on the Karl Prins Forlandet and Moffen Island. They can be spotted lying on the ice with hundreds of companions and are also sometimes seen along the shores close to the capital city Longyearbyen. This is where most of the archipelago's inhabitants live. Almost two-thirds of Svalbard consists of protected nature reserves and national parks.
The area south of the Arctic seaport of Kirkenes is surrounded by Finnish and Russian territory, and the northern Øvre Pasvik National Park has a population of brown bears. Just like polar bears, brown bears aren't tame, so it's safest to join a tour with a knowledgeable guide during your Norway vacation.
Brown bears eat all day during the fall, stocking up for their upcoming four to seven months of hibernation. Don't worry about waking up one while hiking here in winter. They sleep so deeply that pregnant bears don't even wake when they give birth midwinter. By the time she wakes up, a mother bear's babies have grown from drinking their mother's milk.
Watching whales splashing in the ocean is an unforgettable experience. There are a variety of places you can take a whale safari during your Norway trip, from the port of Andenes on the island of Andøya. Tours take two to four hours, depending on how far out the giants are and how long it takes to find them. The chances you'll spot whales in the wild here are high, and some companies offer a free second trip if you don't see any.
Visit the Whale Centre in Andenes, housed in an old fish processing warehouse at the harbor, to learn more about these magnificent creatures. You can also tour around the coast and inlets of the Lofoten islands if you're hoping to see whales.
Sperm whales are the most common type of whale here. You may also come across pilot whales, orcas (killer whales), fin whales, mink whales, humpbacks, porpoises (which are small-toothed whales) or blue whales, the largest animal on earth. Whales can be between 45 and100 feet long.
It's important to check beforehand if whale watching trips will be happening during the month you're visiting. In addition, hope for fair weather, since boats won't be able to depart if it's stormy.
Centuries of hunting whales in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans have reduced many whale species to dangerously small populations, so it's important that you choose your whale safari carefully. Reputable operators follow the guidelines by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the International Whaling Commission.
One of the more ethical options is a tour by hybrid catamaran from Tromsø. It switches to a silent electric engine as it approaches the whales so you can get close to the animals without disturbing them.
You may also spot dolphins when cruising the Norwegian Sea. Some of the types you might see include bottlenose, Atlantic white-sided, white-beaked and common dolphins.
Also keep an eye out for seals. They're often seen near the shores and in some fjords. The main species include harbor seals, gray seals, ringed seals, harp seals, hooded seals and bearded seals.
Hoping to see musk oxen during your Norwegian vacation? Head to Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park, where you'll find the only Norwegian group of these long-haired, hoofed animals. They died out in Europe during the last Ice Age and were reintroduced from Greenland during the last century.
During the summer, you can join a walking safari with a certified guide who'll be able to find the musk oxen. For your safety, keep a minimum distance of 200 meters from the majestic animals.
Musk oxen have a thick brown coat to help them withstand harsh winters and blend in with their surroundings. They can weigh more than 800 pounds. and run more than 37 miles per hour. Their name comes from the musky odor the males emit during mating season to attract females.
During your hike, you'll be surrounded by sharp peaks and deep valleys. Climb the Snøhetta mountain or head to the viewpoint near Hjerkinn for an unforgettable view. If you're lucky, you'll also get a glimpse of a few reindeer, mountain grouse, arctic foxes, ravens or golden eagles.
Moose, also known as elk in British English, are quite common in Norway. If you're looking to take part in a moose-watching safari as part of your Norway vacation, you should try the Andøy Friluftssenter at Buksnesfjord. It's located on the island of Andøya, south of Andenes in the Vesterålen archipelago. You have the highest chance of encountering them during the summer immediately after sunset.
Males have large antlers, which they grow and lose each year. Unfortunately for Europe's largest deer species, moose burgers are a favorite on Norwegian menus.
It's also quite common to see reindeer (or caribou) in Norway. Europe's largest herd is located on the Hardangervidda Plateau and numbers about 7,000 reindeer. You can see wild reindeer in the national parks of Reinheimen, Femundsmarka and Rondane as well.
On the Svalbard island, the reindeer are shorter and whiter than the mainland variety. In the north of Norway, most reindeer are owned and domesticated by the indigenous Sámi people. Reindeer herding gives the Sámi meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation.
The Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre in the Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park is a great place to stop if you're looking to learn more about these creatures.
Northern Europe's only sizable wild cat species, the Eurasian lynx and the furry wolverine, roam the Reisa National Park. It's not easy to spot these shy animals, but the spellbinding gorges and frozen forests make the trip worthwhile anyway. Start your hike from Sarelv or Kautokeino.
The medium-sized lynx has a light brown coat marked with black spots and a white belly, while the wolverine resembles a small bear but belongs to the mustelidae family, which includes weasels and ferrets as well.
Another chance to spot lynxes and wolverines during your Norway vacation is in the pine forest of the Stabbursness National Park and in the Øvre Dividal National Park.
Saltfjellet-Svartisen National Park has stunning glaciers, and it's the place to be if you'd like to see arctic foxes in the wild. These beauties also inhabit the more southerly Borgefjell National Park and the Svalbard archipelago.
You need to look carefully, as arctic foxes are probably Norway's most endangered land mammal. Making it even more tricky is the fact that their fur changes with the seasons so they can blend into their surroundings. In winter, their fur is gray and white as snow, while in summer, it turns light brown. Their coat is so thick and warm that it's believed they don't feel cold until the temperature drops to −94 °F (−70 °C).
If you don't get to see an arctic fox in the wild, you can always go to the Namsskogan Familiepark or Polar Park in northern Norway.
A king crab safari is another remarkable experience you should try during a cruise to Norway. Join a boat trip from the Finnmark coast in the Barents Sea near the Russian border to see the red crabs. They can measure more than 6 feet from claw to claw and weigh more than 33 pounds.
If you're feeling hungry after the trip, you can eat some of the crabs that have just been caught. Try them with white bread, homemade dressing and white wine.
From Olden, known as the Gateway to the Glaciers, you can join a crayfish trip into Nordfjord. Admire the dramatic, icy landscape and the fresh air, then enjoy your tasty catch once you get back.
When cruising on a ship in the freezing Arctic waters, you'll often hear the calls of thousands of seabirds. The sounds of 473 bird species have been recorded here.
On Svalbard, puffins can often be seen on boat trips from Pyramiden and Barentsburg. Another fabulous spot to observe them is from Bleik, a village south of Andenes, which offers puffin safaris. If you're there during their breeding season, you may be able to spot their brightly colored beaks.
During your Norway vacation, it's also worthwhile to join a bird safari that leaves from the village of Gjesvær, which is located above the Arctic Circle. During the summer, you can join a boat trip to the Gjesværstappan islands. Large quantities of puffins nest here as well as many other birds, including white-tailed eagles, skuas, northern fulmars, razorbills, gannets and kittiwakes.
In Norway, located at the very top of Europe, you'll encounter sparsely populated regions with fresh air, snow-capped mountains and formidable fjords. Experience the Midnight Sun in summer and the Polar Night in winter or admire the Northern Lights as they fill the sky with green, purple, red and yellow. Listen to the cries of thousands of seabirds and catch a glimpse of some of the most impressive Arctic wildlife.
Whatever species of wildlife you'd like to see and whatever destination in Norway you choose, you're sure to have a once-in-a-lifetime trip when you cruise to Norway.
You'll hike past stunning glaciers, lakes and waterfalls and might even spot a moose or reindeer. The chances you'll spot whales in the wild here are high, and some companies offer a free second trip if you don't see any.