1. The art village Balestrand: culture and activities in perfect harmony

Balestrand is in an idyllic location beside the Sognefjord. After checking in at Kviknes hotel, take a walk through the village.

There is a long tradition of tourism in Balestrand. Many artists and well-to-do people came to the village for recreation and the scenery, and dragon-style (a Norwegian variant of the Swiss style) villas were built at the end of the 19th century. Art has been – and continues to be – very important in Balestrand, and you will see many sculptures and other artworks outdoors, and art collections in the hotels, among other places. A range of exhibitions are also held each year.

Visit St. Olaf’s Church or the ‘English church’ as it is also called. The church is built in the stave church style in memory of Margaret Sophia Green Kvikne, an English climbing pioneer who married Knut Kvikne in 1890.

Having soaked up the culture, perhaps you’re ready for an adventure? Balestrand Fjord Adventures can take you on an exhilarating RIB trip on the fjord. You will among other things see the magnificent Kvinefossen waterfall and have a chance to admire the beautiful Swiss villas from the sea.

There are also great walks in the mountains around Balestrand. Keipen (1,427 metres above sea level) extends from the fjord to the mountains and offers the best views in the area. The hike is not technically difficult, but the terrain is steep. Raudmelen (972 metres above sea level) towers above the village. The reward for this arduous hike is an amazing view of the fjord and inland towards Fjærland. Tjuatoten (1,098 metres above sea level) is another great, but arduous hike, with a spectacular view. If you're looking for slightly easier walks, head to Saurdalen, a great starting point for several easy walks. The Waterfall Path beside Norwegian Scenic Route Gaularfjellet is not far away either.

Ciderhuset produces cider, juice, fruit wine and apple brandy under the brand Balholm. They offer courses, cider tasting, guided tours, lunch and dinner on request for groups, and we highly recommend a visit!

2. Ålesund: culture, activities and great food

Beautiful Ålesund is a small city with a lot to offer. In other words, the perfect destination for a trip with friends!

The Art Nouveau Centre and KUBE art gallery are natural places to start. Here you can learn more about the city fire in 1904 that led to the city being rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style. Today, the centre of Ålesund is one of the most characteristic built environments in this style.

KHÅK kunsthall, an art showroom with free admission, is shared by Ålesund art association and the Kjell Holm foundation. The art association is one of Norway's oldest art associations and hosts eight to ten exhibitions of contemporary art each year. The Kjell Holm foundation has several important works by Norwegian artists from the national romantic period.

A walk up to Mount Aksla viewpoint is a must. The 418 steps start in byparken park, and you can take beautiful photos of the city and the archipelago from the top.

After building up an appetite on Mount Aksla, you can have lunch at one of the city's best restaurants (remember to book in advance!). Anno is a good choice with a varied menu. Apotekergata no. 5 will also satisfy the most discriminating palates. Molo – a microbrewery on the quay in the city centre serves great burgers.

The guiding company Uteguiden can take you on many different activities. How about SUP in Brosundet sound in the city centre before dinner? Uteguiden can also take you on an electric bike and mountain walk to Sukkertoppen just outside the city centre. The summit is only 314 metres above sea level, but offers a 360-degree panoramic view of Ålesund, the Sunnmøre Alps, the islands and the Atlantic.

In the evening, have dinner at Bro, a restaurant that was listed in the gastronomy guide: The White Guide – the Nordics. Remember to book in advance!

3. From Michelin to magnificent nature in Stavanger

Stavanger has something for everyone – this small city can offer an urban holiday experience with a mix of culture, shopping and (truly) excellent food, as well as unique experiences in nature, all easily accessible from the centre of Stavanger!

Check in to one of the hotels in the city centre and begin by exploring the city on foot. Strolling around the streets of the city, you will see many signs of the annual Nuart Festival, which made Stavanger a centre for world-class street art. Walk down the colourful street Fargegaten, where you will find niche shops, cafés and art galleries – and it's a lovely place to have lunch!

At Stavanger Art Museum, you can see both permanent and changing exhibitions. Among other things, the museum is home to Norway’s biggest and most important collection of landscape painting by Lars Hertervig (1830–1902) and the large tapestries produced by Frida Hansen, one of Norway’s most famous textile artists.

Prepare for a culinary experience in the evening (remember to book well in advance!), as Stavanger has no less than two Michelin-star restaurants! RE-NAA serves local produce and innovative dishes, while at Sabi Omakase, the first Norwegian sushi restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star, you will probably get the best sushi you have ever tasted. Which one will you choose?

You can experience unique nature not far from Stavanger. The beaches in Jæren are definitely worth a visit, even in autumn. It is also easy to get from the city centre to one of the gems of Western Norway: the Lysefjord. This 40-kilometre-long fjord is surrounded by towering mountains, including Preikestolen (The Pulpit Rock) and Mount Kjerag. On board Rødne Fjord Cruise's electric boat, you can experience the fjord in near silence on a cruise lasting three hours. See the majestic fjord, Preikestolen, Fantahålå cave and Hengjanefossen waterfall!

In the evening, you can dine at one of Stavanger's other excellent restaurants. Stavanger has a thriving cultural scene, which you can sample in the evening. Check the events calendar! The perfect end to a memorable trip with friends!

4. Award-winning bubbles in Hardanger

‘Cider from Hardanger’ has become the first alcoholic product from Norway to become a protected geographical indication. The cider produced in the region has won many awards, and when you can stay in a historical hotel where royalty have been and still are regular guests, located in a majestic landscape, it shouldn’t be difficult to persuade your friends to come. Everything is set for a trip you will never forget!

The venerable Hotel Ullensvang is located in the middle of Norway's biggest orchard, by the edge of the fjord in Lofthus. Edvard Grieg was a regular guest, and Queen Sonja has stayed here on several occasions. One of the most popular hikes in Norway is named after her: HM Queen Sonja’s panoramic hiking trail in Hardanger. Perhaps a pool area for adults, outdoor pool or a swim in the fjord sounds tempting?

Along the fruit and cider route in Ulvik, you will find the fruit farms Ulvik Frukt & Ciderie, Syse Gard and Hardanger Saft- og Siderfabrikk. Guided tours and tastings can be booked in advance, and of course you can buy cider in the farm shops. Events in October include the Fruit Launch in Ulvik and the cider festival in Øystese.

If you would like to see more of the area’s attractions, one possibility is Bondhusvatnet lake an hour's drive from Lofthus. Bondhusvatnet is a popular destination and one of the most popular walks in the region.

5. A cultural journey to the town of Kristiansund on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean

If your friends are interested in culture, the thriving cultural scene in Kristiansund – the town near the famous Atlanterhavsvegen road – will be an exciting surprise! Opera, clipfish, an international photo festival, the culture festival Festspillene in Kristiansund and the exotically named Tahiti Festival are among the things you and your friends will find here.

If you come in autumn, you can experience Festspillene i Kristiansund (September) or the Nordic Light Festival of Photography (October).

Festspillene offers concerts, dancing, seminars and a festival quiz. Nordic Light is an exciting festival for those interested in photography and art: You can see exhibitions and hear photographers talk about their projects and travels.

But there’s even more to see and do in Kristiansund: The town was built on clipfish, and many of the local restaurants serve bacalao. You must also try another local specialty, ‘fishan’ – real fish and chips. Take the Sundbåten ferry boat, one of the oldest means of public transport in the world, between the four islands, known locally as ‘lands’, that make up the town. Visit the Varden viewpoint and enjoy the magnificent 360-degree views. If you come by car, driving the famous Atlanterhavsvegen road is of course a must.

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