The best time of year to visit Norway depends on what you want to see and do.
Norway is a year-round destination, but the best time of year for your visit depends very much on what activities you have planned and what your expectations are.
There are very defined seasoned for skiing, hiking, fishing and even chasing the northern lights, but you have more flexibility with less specific desires. Here's our run-down of when's best to visit Norway.
The best season to visit Norway? It depends
Mid-June to mid-August is considered high season, with July very popular for domestic tourism. During this time you'll find it hard to secure accommodation – especially cabins and cottages – on short notice.
Because of this popularity, the shoulder seasons (late May to early June and late August to early September) are being considered by more people. These periods – especially the first – promise long days and the chance of better weather but with less crowds.
In the winter, October-November and February-March are the prime months for northern lights chasing. While December and January are the darkest months, there also tends to be more rainfall and therefore more clouds.
Rainfall depends on where you go, but May tends to be the driest month, while September to November is known to be the rainiest time.
The snowy season
For snow: Snowfall is never certain, but is much more likely between January and March. In the main cities, snow could fall as early as September, although most cities see their first snowfall in November or even as late as December.
Away from the coastline and at higher altitudes, snowfall can occur anytime from September through to May, but again January to March is the time when you can expect the most.
While most ski resorts open as soon as the first snow falls, February and March are the most popular months simply because of the lighter days, especially for cross-country skiers.
Ski resorts are open through to Easter time, depending on conditions. Easter weekend is usually considered the season ending weekend by most of the big resorts.
The great light show in the sky
For northern lights: Even though the northern lights occur year-round, the human eye requires darkness to see them. This is why it is impossible to see the lights during Norway's summers, as the sun doesn't set in large parts of the country.
Even though November-January is the darkest time of year, there is also an increased chance of cloudy skies. This is why September-October and February-March are generally considered the optimum time for aurora chasing.
My preference would be for February-March, as the weather is generally clearer then, and there is almost certainty of snow on the ground. Not only does this brighten up the daytime, it also opens up a whole bunch of other activities for the days while you wait for the light show by night!
The iconic fjords
For the fjords: The fjords are very much a seasonal destination and therefore many hotels, campsites, attractions and even roads are closed during the winter months.
May to August is the best time to plan a visit to the Norwegian fjords, although July can be busy with domestic travellers so advance bookings are required then for all accommodation.
The country's best waterfalls tend to be at their strongest in the late spring to early summer (May-June) when snow melt generally results in a more powerful stream of water.
For road trips: Most people choosing to rent a car do so to get up close and personal with the fjords, so our advice for road trips is similar as to that for the fjords. Late spring through to early autumn are the best time for a road trip in Norway.
Be wary that many mountain roads, including some of the heavily promoted National Tourist Routes, are closed during the winter months and may not reopen until as late as May depending on weather conditions. More information from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
Norway by rail
For rail travel: Norway's railways are world-famous for their spectacular views. The Bergen line and the Flåm railway are particular highlights.
While outstanding in summer, the railways are a great choice of transportation all year round. The Bergen line offers a trip across one of Norway's highest mountain plateaus, and the contrast between the scenery in summer and winter is truly remarkable.
Bear in mind if taking the night train during the summer, an eye mask and ear plugs are a wise investment! You usually get a thin mask and thin blanket included in your fare on the train, but it's a good idea to pack your own as they are not the best quality.
Fares tend to be cheaper outside of the summer months but bear in mind that the closer to December you are travelling, the more chance you will miss some of the spectacular scenery.