While those planning a vacation to Norway might be most drawn by the prospect of a cruise through its vast yet utterly bewitching system of fjords or the chances of spotting the twinkling shimmer of the Northern Lights from the top deck of a cruise ship, this country is not only characterized by superlative natural beauty. No: with the Norway wildlife here ranging from polar bears to whales, walruses and wolverines, this charming Scandinavian nation is an animal lover’s dream.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the top places to spot Norway wildlife in its natural habitat.
Svalbard: the home of the most iconic Norway wildlife
The largest of all the bear species on the planet, the polar bear has become a symbol of the Arctic wilderness and remains one of the most lauded species of Norway wildlife.
The archipelago Svalbard is one of the hottest (well, coldest!) places on earth to see this incredible animal as it’s located about halfway between Norway and the North Pole. Population numbers of the bears have increased over the past few decades, with over 3,000 now believed to roam here.
When visiting Svalbard and taking a trip out into the wilderness, due caution should be exercised – they are wild animals after all and should be treated with the utmost respect. One of the best ways of seeing them is between the months of May and September from the safety of a snowmobile or an expedition cruise off the shores of the island.
A more difficult animal to spot here is Svalbard’s population of walruses, which inhabit the remote islands of Karl Prins Forlandet and Moffen Island. Although there’s no guarantee you’ll have the luck of catching a glimpse of the walrus’s iconic tusks (which can grow to a remarkable 3.2-ft. (1m) long), an organized boat tour during the summer months offers the best chances.
Øvre Dividal National Park: wolverines, wolves and brown bear
Covering 290-sq. miles (750km²), the Øvre Dividal National Park in Troms county has the highest density of wolverines in the world, making it the place to find this strange creature. Although it looks similar to a bear, it’s actually the largest species of the weasel family and is an opportunistic hunter, eating a diet of berries, small rodents and even known to attack mammals much larger than itself.
This park is also home to some of Norway’s other rare predators, brown bears, wolves and lynx, although you’ll need to have a keen eye and good fortune to glimpse one.
In summer, the way to visit Øvre Dividal National Park is by hiking a section of the Nordkalottruta or Arctic Trail, a 500-mile (800km) path that winds through various national parks in Norway, Sweden and Finland. In winter, dog-sledding adventures allow you to access even remoter places.
Hardangervidda National Park: wild reindeer
Although reindeer are a common sight (and a common hazard) on Norwegian roads, those that you see while passing through the country are actually domesticated creatures. If you’re on the lookout for wild reindeer, while Svalbard has its own population, Hardangervidda National Park, 350-miles (220km) from Oslo has some of the largest herds of wild reindeer in the world.
As Norway’s biggest national park, it also has a wide selection of activities for visitors, including hiking, camping, cycling and canoeing, with the former again the ideal way of exploring the park and seeing its flora and fauna.