Whether found by the side of a road or at the end a grueling trail, waterfalls are like rainbows made permanent – powerful examples of nature’s grace and beauty. Standing next to all that thundering water makes a person feel both small and terribly privileged. And the feeling doesn’t go away. Turns out the best place to get your waterfall fix – whether you’re looking for the perfect spot to propose, get naked, or meditate – is Norway.
Five of the world’s highest waterfalls are located in “The Land of the Midnight Sun,” which moonlights as “The Land of a Thousand Waterfalls” when locals are feeling boastful. Created by Norway’s dramatic geography – fjords, glaciers, high hanging valleys – these cascades (called fossen) are so plentiful that visiting a decent percentage of them takes hard work and strategy.
Start in the southwest near the capital city of Oslo and work your way north, following the melting snow and summer warmth. The southern fjords offer some of the most dramatic falls in the world, including Kjerag Falls, a 2,345-foot sheer cliff where water turns into mist before making it to the ocean below. A little inland Manafossen, a high-volume, unregulated 300-foot thumper storms out of a small crack in a sheer cliff face (many of Norway’s waterfalls are unfortunately linked with hydro electric projects that limit their flow). You can drive or catch a train north toward Olmaa Falls and Nagefossen, two of Norway’s, Europe’s, and the world’s highest falls.
Another, smaller waterfall considered a must-see by veteran fossen jegers (“waterfall hunters,” a nordic equivalent of bird watchers) is Longfoss, a gorgeous 2,000-foot cascade that tumbles into the Akra Fjord. The water blows like laundry in the wind.
Spring and summer come late near the Arctic Circle, so July and August are great months to visit, unless you’re into ice climbing or the really long cold nights. No matter what mode of transportation you choose, it’s impossible to go a day without seeing a waterfall or stopping at a rough stream full of salmon. And yes, locals joke about the fairies, trolls and ancient spirits (collectively called fossegrim) that haunt every waterfall in Norway. From a visitor’s perspective, it is easy to see why these supernatural loiterers hang out where they do.
More information: Norway quite literally contains thousands of waterfalls – depending somewhat on the season – including nine of the world’s 20 tallest. Fly into Oslo on United or Lufthansa, rent a car, and connect the dots of Norway’s waterfall map. Driving from fossen to fossen (or trailhead to trailhead, depending on the falls location) is a common pastime.