When most people imagine a place widely considered to be the best and most developed country in the world, a place that is one of the largest producers of oil and has the fourth largest per capita income, they probably aren’t thinking of Norway. Settled so far north the sun barely rises in the winter, this sparsely-settled country is one of the most prosperous and naturally beautiful places known.
Norway, officially referred to as the Kingdom of Norway, is home to just over five million people, almost a million of whom live in the capital city of Oslo. The main language spoken is Norwegian. Their government is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, and although it is not a member of the European Union, it has very close ties to the region. Norway’s largest industry is by far its natural resources – it produces the most oil of any country outside of the Middle East, and also has noteworthy amounts of natural gas, lumber, fresh water, seafood, and minerals.
Norway is bordered by Sweden to the east and Finland and Russia to the northeast. It has over 25,000 kilometers of coastline along the Norwegian and North Seas, most of which is islands and fjords. The northern parts of Norway are mostly covered in frozen tundra, while the more southern parts have mountains, plateaus, and valleys. Around the country, the winters can vary from mild to very cold, and the summers are mostly mild, except in the lowlands near Oslo.
Norway’s long history has been mostly characterized by the Vikings and a later alliance with Denmark. After unifying the country in 872 AD, the Vikings ruled until 995 AD, when Christian influence increased and the first King of Norway was crowned. Norway later joined the Kalmar Union with Sweden and Denmark in 1388. They tried to rebel along with Sweden, but they failed and stayed in an alliance with Denmark until 1814. In 1814, they declared their independence and adopted a constitution inspired by those of France and America. They stayed neutral in World War I, and attempted neutrality again in World War II, until Germany invaded in 1940 and they were under Nazi occupation for five years.
While many may view Norway as a cold and desolate place, it is far from it. Norway offers some of the most stunning scenery in the world. The fjords that dot its coastlines are dramatic and unmissable. National Geographic ranks the West Fjords as the number one World Heritage site.
Something else Norway is well-known for is its outdoor activities. Anyone who loves nature would never be bored in this country. The hiking trails through mountains, valleys and fjords attract tourists from all around. The mountains of Norway are also home to many quality ski resorts with hundreds of challenging trails.
One of the, by far, most interesting events that draws people to Norway is the midnight sun. Because of the country’s position so near to the North Pole, in the summer there are often up to twenty hours of sunlight per day. In the far northern parts, such as North Cape, it never even sets.
It’s the things like this, along with the natural beauty and booming economy, that make Norway one of the world’s best countries. Even if cold isn’t your thing, Norway is a place that you truly have to see before you die.