13 Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Norway

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Norway is the only country that has preserved the Arctic island lifestyle, fjords, landscapes, and churches built more than a thousand years ago.

This makes it a popular attraction among history lovers, which is why Norway recorded six million tourists in 2019. Plus, the clean and welcoming culture of Norwegian people makes this a friendly affair for a vacation.

The UNESCO World Heritage sites include around 1,000 locations all across the globe, with 13 sites located in Norway.

Here is a quick list of 13 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Norway, including cultural, natural, and tentative.

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Cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Norway

Bryggen

Built in 1702, Bryggen is the iconic harbor district in Bergen, one of the oldest port cities in northern Europe. 

It was later rebuilt after the great fire that reduced the entire city to ashes.

You can consider Bryggen as today’s living and active part of the cultural heritage with multiple attractions, such as Fish Market, Bergenhus Fortress, restaurants, shops, and cafes.

Behind the vibrant vernacular buildings lies a whole new world of passages, small antique shops, artist studios, and other galleries that makes you feel Alice in wonderland. Furthermore, the narrow wooden alleys and buildings preserve the original medieval urban structure.

If you want to learn about the lives of Hanseatic merchants that traded in Bergen for around 400 years, you must visit the Hanseatic Museum of Schøtstuene. Moreover, the visit to the museum will make you marvel at the foundations of the oldest buildings in Bergen, excavated later by archaeologists.

Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site

The Rjukan-Notodden holds great significance because of its role in “the second industrial revolution” while transitioning from coal to hydroelectric power. You can visit the remaining artifacts of dams, power stations, railways, and ferries amidst the Norwegian natural beauty.

In 1903, Eyde and Birkeland converted the water power into electrical power at the Rjukans waterfall. Later, in 1905, Norsk-Hydro company was established and built the factory and an entire town near the Rjukanfossen waterfall.

In 1920, a modern industrial town was constructed that completely transformed the farming community. The factories were able to manufacture artificial fertilizers from the nitrogen present in the air to meet the increasing agricultural production demands of the early 20th century.

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The Rjukan-Notodden is a unique landscape of waterfalls, rivers, valleys, and mountains that once housed factories, transportation, transmission lines, and hydroelectric power plants. The remaining physical structures are testimonials of the industrial revolution in Northern Europe.

Rock Art of Alta

If you want to learn about prehistoric times, you’ll find the rock art of Alta inspiring and informative as these rocks bear the 2000 to 6200 years old engravings and paintings.

It’s one of the most ancient UNESCO World Heritage sites in Norway, located far north of the Arctic Circle. The head of the Alta Fjord houses more than thousands of rock paintings and carvings at around 45 sites in five prominent locations. Given the north proximity, you’ll want to pack warm winter travel clothes to ensure you’re comfortable during your visit.

These carvings indicate that Alta was a significant gathering location of hunters and other people in the Arctic Circle. You can see the traces of communication between the living and spirit world and marvel at the cosmological insights of the prehistoric hunters. Rock Art comprises panels that represent boat journeys, fishing and hunting experiences, and other micro- landscapes.

You can visit the museum that houses historical exhibitions, a souvenir shop and sip a cup of coffee at the cafe with panoramic views.

Røros Mining Town and the Circumference

The traditional Røros mining village is one of the oldest towns in Europe that houses wooden buildings. You can consider it a living museum of industrial-rural landscape, founded in 1646 and later developed as a mining and agricultural town.

Additionally, you can visit the authentic wooden buildings that date back to the 1700s. Interestingly, around 2000 houses are well-preserved by the people of Røros for the tourists to travel back in time. Finally, you can roam around the charming streets and visit the old copper mines.

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The Røros church, also known as the Bergstadens Ziir, is another attraction of the mining town, featuring magnificent architecture and interior.

Another worth mentioning fact is that Røros is renowned for its locally produced food, especially the traditional flat pastry Pjalt usually served with brown cheese.

Struve Geodetic Arc

If you are into science, you’ll love visiting Struve Geodetic Arc, a chain of survey triangulations that stretch through ten countries from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea.

In 1845, German astronomer Freidrich Georg Willhelm von Struve tried to map the Earth’s shape and size. He started doing so by placing a large number of measuring points along the meridian from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, covering a distance of around 2,820 kilometers.

The entire measurement project lasted for 40 years and is considered the first-ever international project in which Norway participated. Hence, the project holds its significance in the science world as a significant development in topographic mapping. The original arc comprises 258 main triangles and 265 main station points.

You can visit this meridian column that essentially marks the northern point in Hammerfest.

Urnes Stave Church

Built around 1130 AD, Urnes Stave Church is one of the oldest stave churches in Norway. It represents the traditional Scandinavian wooden architecture and other traces of Romanesque spatial structures, Celtic art, and Viking traditions.

Around 1,000 to 2,000 Stave churches were built in medieval times across Norway. However, only 8 of them are left, and Urnes Stave Church is the oldest among all of them.

The distinct feature of this church isn’t its old age; instead, the lavishly decorated structure and carvings depict motifs, including crucifixes, plant-shaped ornaments, and mythological creatures.

The Romanesque architecture consisting of cylindrical columns and semi-circular arches can transport you to medieval times. In addition, you can see a link between the pre-Christian Nordic culture and the Christianity of the medieval ages by looking at the 12th century carved figurative capitals.

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Vegaøyan – The Vega Archipelago

On the south of the Arctic Circle, there is a cluster of islands centered on Vega. These islands form a unique cultural landscape that depicts an entirely different frugal lifestyle dependent on fishing.

You can visit the fishing villages, warehouses, eider houses, lighthouses, and farming landscape to bear witness to the evidence of human settlement from the Stone Age to the present era.

The villagers have unique hundreds of years old practice to keep the wild eider ducks as livestock. These islanders look after the birds, build nesting places, and protect them during nesting time. The birds then come after one year to give up down and eggs.

UNESCO added Vegaøyan to the world heritage sites of Norway to pay tribute to the women, as these are the ones who take care of the eider ducks while the men are away fishing.

Visiting Vega Archipelago will allow you to sneak peek at the farmers’ and fishermen’s self-sustaining way of life for the past 1,500 years.

Natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Norway

West Norwegian Fjords – Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord

Norway has more than a thousand fjords along the coast. However, the most iconic fjords that you often see on the postcards are none other than the Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord.

Located in south-western Norway, Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord are 120 kilometers away from one another. Both of these fjords are the worlds’ deepest and longest scenic landscapes.

Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord still resemble blue lakes, but in reality, comprise saltwater. Thus, you can experience the natural beauty of the crystalline rock walls, which can rise to 1,400 meters from the Norwegian Sea and extend up to 500 meters below sea level.

Different villages, waterfalls, and trails for mountain hikes and glacier walk spread throughout the fjords. You can plan your trip starting with simple hiking to one of the villages. Later, you can visit the mountains, waterfalls, and other viewing points of fjords. Other activities include rafting, Stand up paddling board, rock climbing, and glacier hiking.

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Tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Norway

The Laponian Area – Tysfjord, the fjord of Hellemobotn and Rago

In the county of Nordland, Tysfjord, the fjord of Hellemobotn, and Rago are three sites that are a rare combination of an ancient landscape, natural scenery, and living Lule Sami settlement.

Moreover, you’ll witness the cultural-historical values as depicted by the cultural monuments from earlier settlement eras. Among the Sami people living in Norway, the Lule Semi population is essentially a minority.

The entire area is an epitome of natural beauty, with mountains consisting of high peaks in the northwest and a rounded upland plateau landscape on the east side. Not only that but the entire mountainous area is further broken into the symmetrical and branched system of fjords.

The entire scenery is nothing less but pure natural beauty with polished slabs of rocks, caves, and U-shaped valleys.

If you want to witness a dramatic mountainscape in the Laponian area, you must visit the Rago national park.

The Lofoten Islands

If you want to play among the waves with dolphins, the Lofoten islands should be on your bucket list while visiting Norway. Moreover, you can have a unique experience of riding horses through the waves alongside the beach.

One of the most significant advantages of visiting the Lofoten islands from September to March is to see the northern lights, a once-in-a-lifetime experience indeed.

If you are an adventurer or a hiker, you can climb up the famous Svolværgeita under expert supervision. It’s worth climbing up to the peak to view the smooth coastal trail and wild valleys. You’ll forget the strenuous hiking experience and fall in love with the scenic views of the Lofoten islands.

You must be wondering about dinner at this stage. Don’t worry, as you can go on a fishing trip and catch fresh fish for your dinner.

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The Lofoten islands stretched around 250 km S-SW with a line of islands that forms a high wall of mountains up to 1100 meters above sea level.

Svalbard Archipelago

If you are ready to embrace an arctic adventure, plan your trip to Svalbard that will make you realize as if you are on a different planet. You’ll experience closer to the universe underneath the northern lights. Here, approximately 60 percent of the Arctic archipelago is covered in thick snow.

Svalbard comprises bedrock that contains naturally occurring fossils from almost all geological periods. Due to its scientific significance, Svalbard is no less than a natural archive for natural history and geology.

You can experience an allrounder Arctic experience that includes mountains, valleys, snowfields, plateaus, fjord glaciers, islands, and lagoons. A perfect attraction for people looking for extreme outdoor adventures.

Another reason for visiting Svalbard is its proximity to the North pole and accessibility to the open water and ocean currents.

Islands of Jan Mayen and Bouvet

Surrounded by deep Greenland, Iceland, and Norwegian seas, the Island of Jan Mayen and Bouvet covers a total land of 375 square km. Moreover, the climate is arctic maritime with thick fog along the border between the arctic and subarctic transitional zones.

You can also visit the stratovolcano Beerenberg, which is the northern active Supermarine volcano. Interestingly, the last eruption happened in 1985.

The primary reason behind visiting this UNESCO World Heritage site in Norway is its unique geographical location and its connection with the geophysical processes of the ocean and the atmosphere. This way, it combines all these natural elements to form a fantastic set of environmental factors that you can only witness on Jan Mayen Island.

If you are enthusiastic about plants, you can find around 75 species of vascular plants, 150 lichen species, and 180 species of mosses.

Viking Monuments and Sites / Vestfold Ship Burials and Hyllestad Quernstone Quarries

If you are a fan of Vikings, you must visit the Viking monuments and other sites consisting of vast landscapes, seas, and townscapes, that stretch from the North Atlantic all the way to the Baltic Sea. There are a total of nine nominated sites from six nations out of thousands of Viking sites from the 8th to 12th centuries AD.

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If you have seen the Vikings series, you know that they developed a unique maritime culture that significantly impacted Northern Europe.

The Viking Period bore witness to the transformation from tribal to state societies that resulted in three Christian kingdoms. One of these kingdoms is none other than the Nordic state that later became an integral part of Europe by the end of the Viking Age.

Visiting the Viking monuments and sites will allow you to witness the Viking period’s religious, economic, and social transformation. These monuments include harbors, defensive structures, assembly sites, trading towns, and production sites.

Author Bio: Kyle Kroeger is a travel blogger for his site ViaTravelers.com. Via travelers is a modern travel blog providing the best tips, hacks, and itineraries to ensure you have an amazing adventure. Follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube to get our latest travel updates in real-time.

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