Capital City: Oslo
Norway (Norge) is the westernmost, northernmost — and in fact the easternmost — of the three Scandinavian countries. Best known for the complex and deep fjords along its west coast, it stretches from the North Sea near Denmark and Scotland into the Arctic Ocean where it borders northern Finland and the northwestern tip of Russia.
Norway is on a large peninsula shared with Sweden in the north of Europe. In the north, it also borders Finland and Russia.
Norway is well known for its amazing and varied scenery. The fjords in the west of the country are long narrow inlets, flanked on either side by tall mountains where the sea penetrates far inland. The vast majority of the land is a rocky wilderness, and thus Norway has large, completely unpopulated areas, many of which have been converted to national parks. Even outside the national parks, much of the land is unspoiled nature.
A rugged landscape shaped by the Ice Age, shows forested hills and valleys, mountains, waterfalls, and a long coastline with fjords, islands, and mountains growing directly up from the sea. Norway's highest point is Galdhøpiggen, 2,469 m (8,100 ft) in the Jotunheimen region that lies midway between Oslo and Trondheim, but away from the coast. In the far north (Finnmark), you will find flatter open spaces. Several of the worlds greatest waterfalls are in Norway, particularly in the western fjords and the mountain region.
Norway is one of Europe's most sparsely populated countries. With a population of only 4.9 million people and a land area of 385,802 km2, the population density is only 16 inhabitants per km2. Most of the population are Norwegians. The indigenous Sami people traditionally inhabit the northern part of Norway, that along with parts of Sweden, Finland and Russia outlines an area known as Sapmi (or Sameland). Other recognized minorities are the Kven people, Jews, Forest Finns, and Norwegian Romani Travellers. In recent years, immigration, in particular from the European Union, has increased greatly.
Norway is formally a Christian country with a dominant Lutheran majority of near 90 %. The number is skewed by a type of automatic membership of the state church, where people become automatic members when they're baptised or if one of the parents is a member. In reality, roughly 3/4 is atheist or agnostic. Because of this, Norway has become rather liberal in moral issues and thus more similar to southern neighbors like Denmark and the Netherlands. Homosexuality is accepted by most people and recently (2008) same-sex marriage was given the same legal status as traditional marriage. For instance, a previous male minister of finance and prominent figure in the conservative party is in partnership with a prominent male business manager.
Because of the gulf stream, the climate in Norway, especially along the cost, is noticeably warmer than what would otherwise be expected at such a high latitude. Almost half the length of Norway is north of the arctic circle. Summers can be moderately warm (up to 30°C), even in northern areas, but only for limited periods. The length of the winter and amount of snow varies. In the north there is more snow and winters are dark; on the southern and western coast, winters are moderate and rainy, while further inland the temperature can easily fall below -25°C. Some mountain areas have permanent glaciers.
Norway's hours of daylight, temperature and driving conditions vary greatly throughout the year. Seasonal variations crucially depend on region as well as altitude. Note in particular that the area with midnight sun (north of the arctic circle) also has winter darkness (polar night) when the sun does not rise above the horizon at all.
Norwegian weather is most pleasant during the summer (May to early September). If you like snow, go to Norway in December to April. Along the coasts and in southern part of West Norway there is little snow or frost and few opportunities for skiing, even in winter. In the mountains there is snow until May and some mountain passes are closed until the end of May. If you come in the beginning of May some passes can be still closed, but since the snow is melting very quickly, you will get a possibility to enjoy plenty of waterfalls before they disappear. And in this time the number of tourists is very small. Spring in Norway is quite intense due to the abundance of water (melting snow) in conjunction with plenty of sunlight and quickly rising temperatures (typically in May).
Be aware that daylight varies greatly during the year. In Oslo, the sun sets at around 3:30 PM in December. North of the Arctic Circle one can experience the midnight sun and polar night (winter darkness). However, even at Oslo's latitude, summer nights exist only in the form of prolonged twilight during June and July, these gentle "white nights" can also be a nice and unusual experience for visitors. The polar (or northern) light (aurora borealis) occurs in the darker months, frequently at high latitudes (Northern Norway) but occasionaly also further South.