From the polar bears of Svalbard to the arctic foxes of the more central regions, Norway holidays boast a variety of ways to view Arctic wildlife in its natural – and stunning – habitat. Wildlife tourism lets you see another side of Norway, where there is a strong connection with its animal inhabitants.
It’s impossible to miss Norway’s dramatic fjords, whose cragged cliffs cut great swathes into the country’s interior or its majestic glaciers that, over millennia, have oozed down from ancient ice fields. In between, you’ll find stunning mountain passes and, just off the coast, islands buttressed by rocky spires.
Indeed, it’s the Norwegian landscapes that so often grab headlines. However, you don’t have to look much closer to see that they’re populated by thriving ecosystems. Heading the list is Svalbard – a huddle of islands set adrift from continental Norway approximately midway from the North Pole. Here, glaciers account for almost two thirds of the landmass meaning that there are quite literally more polar bears than people.
Svalbard is also home to the considerably rarer walrus, whose breeding grounds are found in the remote extents of the archipelago and are only accessibly on boat day-trips. Back on land, you’ll find a reindeer population roaming wild. While domesticated by the indigenous Sámi people and a common sight across Norway’s north (even wandering further south to the country’s central national parks), on Svalbard you can find herds ranging far and wide.
For some of the world’s largest mammals, head to Andenes whose summer waters are host to minke, humpback and sperm varieties alike. Its perfect conditions for plankton, close to Europe’s continental shelf, have made it one of the best places in the world to spot whales. You’ll also be treated to an abundance of seals and a chance to spot puffins, cormorants and majestic sea eagles.
Moose and elk
To some, the hardy moose and elk are the species that best represent Norway’s commitment to the rural ideal; there’s something regal about their proud necks and branching antlers. Often sticking to the shelter of the forests of northern Norway – moose burgers are a favourite delicacy – they can be difficult to spot but, if you’re lucky, you might even spy one or two in Oslo.
What’s more, there are so many activities that offer unique perspectives on Norway’s wildlife. Snowmobile excursions reward those who brave the cold with glimpses of arctic foxes while traditional dogsledding is equal parts exhilarating and perfectly scenic. In fact, a winter skiing expeditions on Svalbard is one of the best ways of seeing polar bears while joining a Sámi guide on a wilderness trek is particularly rewarding.