Garnering Oscar nominations, number one hit songs and more than $1.2 billion at the U.S. box office since it was released back in November 2013, Disney’s “Frozen” has fast become the most successful animated film of all time and, with a hotly anticipated sequel in the works, this is the perfect time to set out on a “Frozen”-inspired adventure.
The onscreen kingdom of Arendelle might be fictional, but the icy wonderland was famously based on Norway, where the vast fjords, alpine villages and snowy peaks appear tailor-made for the big screen. It doesn’t even have to be snowing to enjoy the fairy-tale landscapes — fans can follow in the footsteps of Elsa, Anna and Sven all year-round. To help plan your itinerary, here are 10 of the most beautiful Norway destinations that inspired “Frozen.”
Geirangerfjord, West Fjords
With its iridescent waters framed by jagged cliffs and snow-capped peaks, the rugged Geirangerfjord bears a striking resemblance to the animated Kingdom of Arendelle. Explore the UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord by cruising or kayaking around the fjords or hiking in the surrounding hills, where you can peer down over the wild landscapes below.
Nærøyfjord, West Fjords
Just south of Geirangerfjord, the sprawling Nærøyfjord is also part of Norway’s UNESCO-listed West Fjords, and it’s a fairy-tale landscape of narrow inlets overlooked by towering cliffs and tumbling waterfalls. For the most dramatic views, ride the spectacular Flåm Railway all the way from Bergen, or drive the Aurland Mountain Road to the Stegastein viewpoint at 650 meters.
Journey further into the fantasy world of “Frozen” with a trek to the remote Lofoten Islands, where the traditional fishing villages and looming sea cliffs are postcard-worthy from all angles. If you’re visiting in the winter months, make the most of the arctic climate by skiing, snowshoeing or ice fishing, or else enjoy the views with a hike through the hills, then discover the islands’ rich Viking heritage at the Lofotr Viking Museum.
Norway’s Stave Churches
Norway’s unique stave churches are among the last of their kind in the world — distinctive wooden designs that reflect the country’s Viking heritage and date back to the Middle Ages. More importantly for “Frozen” fanatics, their unusual architecture clearly served as the blueprint for the striking Arendelle Palace. Pay a visit to the remarkably preserved Borgund Stave Church, the oldest in Norway, or the UNESCO-listed Urnes Stave Church — both suitable homes for a fairy-tale princess.
Trollstigen Mountain Road
Norwegian folk stories and fairy-tales are full of mythological creatures and, if you believe the legends, the dark forests and rocky mountain caves are full of magical trolls, just like in “Frozen.” The Trollstigen (Troll Ladder) Mountain Road is one of the most famous spots used by Norway’s “trolls,” so look out for the oddly shaped rocks by the roadside, the remains of trolls who were caught out in the sunlight and turned to stone. This isn’t one for the faint-hearted, but driving the winding mountain pass as it twists and turns its way up the steep mountainside is a real thrill.
Akershus Fortress, Oslo
Oslo makes a strategic starting point for any tour of Norway, but don’t leave the capital without paying a visit to the Akershus Fortress, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the grand royal castle that Elsa and Anna call home. The sprawling medieval fortress dates back to 1299 and also has a royal past, so you can wander around the castle grounds, imagining a lavish coronation ceremony just like Queen Elsa’s.
Most visitors head to Norway’s northernmost region to walk the mighty sea cliffs of the North Cape, but Finnmark has much more to offer. Venture off-the-beaten track in the region’s five national parks, where the vast glaciers, gaping canyons and virgin forests are teeming with arctic fox and wild reindeer, or discover the unique culture of the Sami people, the indigenous tribes that inhabit the remote northern territory. Head to the Sápmi Park in the Sami capital of Karasjok, where you can learn all about the nomadic reindeer herders and their colorful traditional dress and handicrafts, which inspired much of the costume design for the characters in “Frozen.”
The self-proclaimed “capital of the Arctic” makes a good choice if you’re looking for a winter adventure, and its snow-blanketed landscapes are the perfect backdrop for an epic “Frozen”-style adventure. Snowmobiling, husky sledding and whale watching tours are all popular activities in Tromso, but it’s also possible to ride in a reindeer sleigh just like Kristoff and Sven’s, or take a midnight trek to see the awe-inspiring Northern Lights. Don’t worry if you can’t make it during the winter months — Tromso is equally bewitching in summertime, with the Midnight Sun providing endless daylight for hiking, sailing and kayaking tours.
The UNESCO-listed city of Bergen is one of Norway’s most charming historic towns, and walking around the old merchant quarter of Bryggen, it’s easy to see how it inspired Arendelle’s enchanting waterfront. Stroll along the pretty harbor with its traditional fishing boats, renowned fish market and rows of colorful, wooden houses. Then tour the fascinating Hanseatic Museum, ride the funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen or take a hike up the mysterious Troldhaugen (Hill of the Trolls).
Norway’s Ice Hotels
The ultimate way to experience Elsa’s ice-bound kingdom is to brave a night in one of Norway’s legendary ice hotels — spectacular dwellings made entirely out of snow and ice, and adorned with glittering ice sculptures. The Sorrisniva Igloo Hotel and Kirkenes Snowhotel are popular choices, both of which offer ice suites where you’ll sleep on a solid ice bed, cocooned in warm sleeping bags, making you feel like a real-life Snow Queen.
– Contributed by Zoe Smith