Norway is known for nature attractions like fjords, mountains and midnight sun, and is easily accessible by plane from most European countries.
Facts about Norway
System of government: Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy
Head of government: Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg
Area: 385,155 square kilometres
Population: 4 801 100 inhabitants
Capital city: Oslo
Languages: Norwegian bokmål, Norwegian nynorsk and Sami
Religion: Church of Norway (Protestant Christianity)
Currency: Norwegian kroner (NOK) 1 krone = 100 øre
Time zone: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) +1 hour
National day: 17 May
Norway is famous for its fjords, two of which, the Geirangerfjord and the Nærøyfjord, feature on the UNESCO World Heritage list. The Sognefjord, the longest of them all, and the Hardangerfjord, famed for its cherry and apple trees, are among the most visited.
The Northern lights are a common natural phenomenon in Northern Norway, and are most commonly observed above the Arctic Circle between late autumn and early spring.
The sun does not set in summer over the Arctic Circle, meaning visitors to Northern Norway enjoy 24 hours of daylight this time of year.
The weather in Norway is much milder than one would expect. Because of the Gulf Stream, temperatures along the coast of Norway are 5-8°C higher than at comparable latitudes elsewhere.
The Vikings have a bad reputation as raiders, but they were also traders, explorers and settlers, and the legacy from the Viking Age (AD 800-1050) lives on.
The Sami people
The Sami are the indigenous people of Norway. Known for their colourful clothes and the huge herds of reindeer they look after, the Sami have been living in northern Scandinavia for over 10,000 years, and today they have their own parliament in Karasjok.
Norway’s success in the Winter Olympics is unrivalled, and the country has a total of 280 medals (98 gold, 98 silver and 84 bronze) to its tally. The best ever games for Norway were the Lillehammer winter games in 1994, when Norway, which was competing on home turf, topped the medal table, having won 26 medals, of which 10 gold.
These include explorers Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen and Thor Heyerdahl, composer Edvard Grieg, violin virtuoso Ole Bull, artist Edvard Munch, playwright Henrik Ibsen, novelist Knut Hamsun, and politician Gro Harlem Brundtland, among many others.
The Royal Family
King Harald V, the King of Norway, and Queen Sonja have two children: a son, Crown Prince Haakon, who is married to Crown Princess Mette-Marit, with whom he has two children and a daughter, Princess Martha Louise, who is married to Ari Mikael Behn.
Trolls are an important part of Norwegian folklore. They vary in size and appearance, but are invariably ugly and messy creatures, and always mischievous (if not downright nasty). They usually live in caves or deep in the forest, and only emerge from their hiding places after sunset – legend has it that they turn to stone upon contact with the sun. Several places in Western and Northern Norway have been named after them, such as Trollheimen, Trollstigen, Trollhatten and Trollveggen.