Gateway to the Arctic is an adventure capital
OUR trip to Norway began in the north, at Tromso, one of the best places on earth to see the enchanting aurora borealis.
Tromso lies 350 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle and is the largest city in northern Norway.
The first night of searching for the elusive northern lights was the best, with shimmers of green in the late-night sky and a surprising encounter with the multi-coloured aurora from the bus on the way back to town.
Despite the climatic challenges, human settlement in the Tromso area dates back thousands of years, although the city itself was founded only about 200 years ago.
Tromso soon became the centre for animal trapping in the region, and in the early 1900s it was the starting point for expeditions to the Arctic - hence its nickname, Gateway to the Arctic.
Apart from the phenomenal northern lights, Tromso is renowned as an adventure capital where thrill-seekers can speed up their sightseeing on an RIB (rigid inflatable boat) along a deserted fjord or take teams of panting sled dogs for a run.
A less strenuous pursuit was an overnight stay on the Lyngen Peninsula northeast of Tromso in a "lavvo", a glass-top teepee that allows a wide view of the night sky.
These cosy cabins are equipped with wood heaters for maximum comfort.
Each day offers a rich variety of "wow" experiences.
Definitely an experience not to miss is the cable car up Mt Storsteinen, which reveals a dazzling panorama of snow-topped mountains, the shimmering sea and an astounding vista.
When we arrived back at the hotel, quite literally chilled, the hot tub and sauna revived much-travelled bodies.
Norway's attractions are many, with its spectacular scenery, a chance to see the northern lights, fascinating Viking history, and a diverse and entrancing mix of people.
The capital Oslo was next on our itinerary, a city bursting with beauty and culture.
Oslo was named European Green Capital 2019 for its dedication to conserving natural areas and reducing pollution.
Tram 19 took us to the National Theatre at the centre of Oslo's tourist trail.
There's no shortage of museums to explore.
Most mesmerising of all was the Viking Ship Museum housing the remains of three boats.
Seeing the best-preserved Viking boat in the world was a show-stopper.
An intricately carved wooden cart, farm implements, textiles and sledges were all buried in the boat with their high-status owner in the ninth century.
Oslo's Historical Museum hosts eclectic displays on the peoples of the Arctic region, some Egyptian mummies, American Indians and the Middle Ages.
Vigeland, aka the Sculpture Park, came highly recommended.
Apparently it attracts millions of tourists a year.
While a beautiful space for ambling and appreciating the splendid autumn colours, I felt that the hundreds of sculptures modelled on naked people were underwhelming.
Next day we caught the train to Bergen, a trip lasting seven hours and the most scenic of all as it passed raging rivers, dinky timber houses, massive pine forests and snow-clad mountains.
For a spectacular two-hour cruise up the Sognefjord waterway flanked by steep mountains and frequent waterfalls, we boarded a ferry at Gudwangen.
Overnight we stayed in the delightful village of Flam (pronounced Flom).
Never having experienced the supreme comfort of a room with a heated floor while the snow fell outside, we soaked up Norwegian hospitality and feasted on reindeer burgers.
In the morning, the historical railway from Flam to Myrdal chugged for an hour through snow-white valleys and wonderful mountain scenery.
It felt like being in a life-size train set, everything so ordered and tidy, including the uniformed railwaymen. It was a great experience.