Saturday, December 31, 2011
As we begin the new year, it’s time to starting thinking about 2012 travel plans. We hope the January issue of Viking—our annual travel issue—will inspire you to set out on your own Nordic dream adventure. We've packed the issue with advice from travel experts, including Innovation Norway's Harald Hansen. You’ll find our interview in the January issue, and you can read the extended conversation here:
Viking: What new attractions are drawing tourists to Norway?
Harald Hansen: The traditional attractions and destinations have, of course, been Oslo, Bergen and the fjords—and still remain so. We see also that more and more Americans are visiting further north and south of Bergen to the Stavanger area and to the Ålesund region. There’s increasing popularity to visit northern Norway above the Arctic.
V: What's drawing people there?
HH: Arctic experiences—they want to see the Northern Lights and the winter. They want to see the Midnight Sun and do more of a soft-adventure type of vacation. That’s something we see all over Norway actually—hiking, biking, dog sledding, snowmobiling and king crab safaris.
V: Are there any new trends in Norwegian travel? Do you recommend any smart phone apps or websites?
HH: We recommend our website, visitnorway.us. We are on Facebook and Twitter. And in all the advertising we do, we put up apps where you use your cell phone to get onto our website. More people are using the new apps to get information. Check out our Visit Norway app. We’ve just been doing an advertising campaign with Iceland Air and Scandinavian Air the past year, where we have billboards up on bus stops on subways and trains, where people use their iPhones to enter a competition, or just to access information. So it's becoming more and more important for us to use all the new gadgets that are out there.
V: Do you have any money-saving travel tips to share?
HH: A lot of people think that Norway is very expensive. It is expensive compared to the United States or Canada, but there are ways to work around that. If you go to our website, you can look at the accommodations, and there’s a lot of hotel passes. For example, there's an excellent pass called the Fjord Pass where you can get up to 40 percent off hotel rates. And the same thing with train passes and bus passes. Norway bus express has its own pass, and there are ways of avoiding those high costs. Scandinavian Airlines and Iceland Air are always running specials. It’s important to follow that. Be active and be online to find deals. We put out all of those offers on our website. Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim now have city passes, which gives you free entrance to all attractions and museums, free public transportation within the cities, even reductions on restaurants and sightseeing. That is something you should always look into and either talk to your tour operator or travel agent. Or buy it when you get to Norway. They are sold at tourist information offices, so it's not something you necessarily have to purchase ahead of time.
V: Are the Northern Lights a big draw?
HH: Yes, the Northern Lights are the most popular attraction in the world for travelers now. And Norway is the best place to see it. This year is actually the best cycle in 50 years to see them!
V: What are some of the top sites to see?
HH: The Oslo Opera House opened three years ago and has become the most visited attraction in Norway. You can walk up on the roof. The Opera House is actually built into the fjord, like an iceberg. The roof is made of white marble, so you can walk all over it and there are restaurants there. In addition to housing the National Opera and Ballet, it has also become a place where people meet up and sun bathe up on the roof. In the summer, they have rock concerts and set up stages out on the fjord where people sit on the opera house itself and the performances are on floats out in the fjord. The new Holmenkollen Ski Jump has also become a very popular destination. In February, Oslo will host the world championship in snowboarding, which is a big attraction for Americans. And 2013 is the 150th anniversary for the birth of the painter Edvard Munch, so that's going to be a big deal.
V: Are there things to do with kids when visiting Norway?
HH: Yes! Go to the fjord region for some kayaking, hiking and biking. The Bergen Aquarium is very popular, and there is the new science center called VilVite. Of course the funicular and the cable car overlooking Bergen are cool. They have just opened up a new restaurant up there which is a great experience. In Oslo, there’s the reptile park and the International Museum of Children’s Art. At the Noble Peace Center, you can learn the history of all the winners, and it’s very interactive so kids can use technology to learn about peace efforts. It’s a great center—one of my favorite places to go.
V: Is there a language barrier?
HH: Not a problem whatsoever. Everybody speaks English.
V: Anything you caution against while traveling?
HH: Not really. We are a pretty safe destination. Nobody has to be afraid of anything. But you always have to pay attention and be aware when you travel anywhere. We always say there's no bad weather, there's just bad clothing. When you travel in Norway—especially during the summer—bring a light raincoat, layers and be prepared for everything.
Posted by Amy Boxrud at 8:36 AM