South Norway, in Norway called Agder or Sørlandet, is the southernmost region of Norway. The coast of southern Norway (Skagerrak) is often called the Norwegian Riviera. The picturesque towns and the enchanting archipelago is surrounding the Skagerrak - coast, inland is perfect for hiking and the mountains there are good opportunities for skiing in winter. All surrounded by beautiful nature scenery. The climate, particularly along the coast is mild for this latitude. Southern Norway has the highest number of recorded hours of sunshine per day in Norway. The south coast is a popular area for holiday homes and some of Norway's most expensive properties are in this area.
The secluded interior is a different place and the interior, notably Setesdal valley, is home to well-preserved traditional culture that is included on UNESCO world heritage list.
- 1 Arendal – Coastal town
- 2 Evje – provisioning before entering Setesdal
- 3 Farsund – Coastal town, known for its rich architecture
- 4 Flekkefjord – Coastal town in southwest
- 5 Kristiansand – Largest city and centre of the area
- 6 Lyngdal – A pleasant small town by three fjords
- 7 Lillesand – A cozy small coastal town
- 8 Mandal – A small town in the souternmost part of Norway
- 9 Risør – Coastal town, known for white wood houses
- 10 Tvedestrand – Narrow streets lead down to a small harbor.
- 1 Den lille dyrehage (Zoo) (Brokelandsheia), Brokelandsheia, Sundebru (By the E18- European Route 18), ☏ . This is a small zoo on the eastern outskirts of Agder. For those who think it's too far to Kristiansand Zoo or can't get enough of animals.
- 1 Setesdal – a major valley in middle of the interior from Kristiansand to the uplands at Hovden
- 2 Hovden – ski centre in Setesdal
- 3 Lindesnes including the main town of 11 Vigesand - Norway's oldest lighthouse with a museum on the southern tip (South Cape) of the country.
The coast is lined with picturesque white-painted wood towns surrounded by lovely archipelago (skjærgård). The south coast is a favorite vacation area for many Norwegians in the summer. Although formally part of Telemark, Kragerø is often counted among the towns in Agder because of a similar style and popularity as a summer resort. It's easy to travel between the coast towns. Outside the towns, however, public transport is infrequent.
The inland is less visited, but those interested in trekking to pretty solitary lakes or whitewater activities should give it a try. Relatively lowland of the coast gradually gives way to big valleys and high plateaus and real mountains. The interior and the coast has different character and were in fact separate counties. Due to difficult transport the interior valleys, notably Setesdal, was long relatively isolated from the coast. Setesdal still takes care of its cultural heritage in terms of dialect, music, traditional clothing (for special occasions only) and silverware. Traditional costumes are easily recognized. Setesdal's intangible cultural heritage like traditional singing, folk dance and folk music in 2019 was inscribed on UNESCO world heritage list.
Setesdal is 150 km and cuts sharply into the bedrock with characteristic steep, polished cliffs rising abruptly from the relatively flat valley floor. Some 40 km of the valley floor is occupied by the Byglandsfjord-Åkrafjord lakes. These are two separate lakes that appear as one. They appear as fjords and are indeed called "fjord" according to local naming convention. The river often widens to what appears as lake.
The coast is heated by the ocean and winters are relatively mild, while in the interior winters can be cold and heavy snowfall is common. Compared to the iconic fjords of West Norway and great Oslofjord, there are only minor fjords in Agder typically stretching a few kilometers inland while the longest are some 10 to 15 km. The coast is fragmented by countless skerries, peninsulas and islands as well as a tangle of bays, fjords and straits. There are few sandy beaches (one important exception is Sjøsanden at Mandal) and there are mostly cliffs or polished rocks known as svaberg in Norwegian. Such svaberg are quickly heated by the sun and ofte the favorite spots among locals enjoying the sun or going for a swim.
Population is concentrated along the coast close to the water where the towns are. In the interior there are only villages. Agder was divided in two administrative areas - Vest-Agder and Aust-Agder counties, that is, West and East Agder. The two counties merged into one, Agder county in 2020.
The western part in particular has strong ties to USA because of emigration and many emigrants that returned. This is most visible in Lista, Vanse, Farsund and Kvinesdal areas. American cars, American diners, "Brooklyn Square" make this the closest you get to USA in Norway. Many emigrants returned and brought US style houses home, some even with US voltage (120 V). Some 10% of the inhabitants are US citizens.
Most people will respond in English to any question you may have. Some Norwegians also speak some German, due to the proximity of the language, and that they study it in school.
- For more information on the most common phrases in Norwegian, see the Norwegian phrasebook article.
The south coast has characteristic dialect with for instance "d" is often used where other Norwegians use "t", while "b" is often used instead of "p". This gives the southern dialect a notable softer tone similar to Danish. Those interested in dialects, can also observe a remarkable difference in Setesdal compared to the Danish-sounding Kristiansand dialect, to the very different north valley dialect that sounds more like Gaelic.
In several inland municipalities, a writing form of Norwegian usually associated with West Norway known as Nynorsk is the official form. Closer to the coast, the general rule is that people tend to speak a dialect more and more similar to East Norwegian dialects the further east you travel. East of Tvedestrand, a rolling r is applied while western areas use the voiced uvular fricative like in French and German.
There is one major airport of South Norway: Kristiansand (KRS IATA).There are scheduled flights to four domestic destinations as well as international flights to Alicante, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and London-Stansted. Connecting bus and coach services operate to Kristiansand, Lillesand, Arendal and Grimstad. When buying plane tickets, don't mix up the city with Kristiansund much further north in Norway.
- Skien Airport, 120 km east of Arendal. Flights only from Bergen. Access by taxi to central Skien and local buses, rutebok.no.
- Sandefjord Torp Airport , 120 km east of Arendal. International low fare flights. Access by local buses, rutebok.no.
- Oslo Airport, 300 km northeast of Arendal and 370 km of Kristiansand. Major international airport. See the below how to get in from Oslo.
- Stavanger Airport, 125 km northwest of Flekkefjord, 230 km of Kristiansand and 295 km of Arendal.
Coach connections to Oslo and the towns along the western shore of the Oslo Fjord is excellent. Nor-Way Bussexpress has 9 daily connections between Kristiansand and Oslo, Konkurrenten.no between 4 and 7 departures while Lavprisekspressen runs twice daily. You are guaranteed a seat - if the bus is full, the bus company will add an extra bus. Lavsprisekpressen provides online ticketing only. These express buses are usually just as fast as the trains to Oslo. To towns like Larvik, Tønsberg and Sandefjord you might arrive several hours later if you go by train. There's also infrequent express bus connections to Stavanger and up along the Setesdalen, with connections to cities such as Bergen and Haugesund. Regional buses run frequently along the coast, from Lyngdal and Lista in the west to Arendal in the east, run by several different bus companies.
The ferry company Color Line operate car ferries to Denmark, 2 times each day (3 times on Saturday - Monday) to Hirtshals. The trip takes 3 hours and 15 minutes, with the Superspeed ferry operating the route. Prices soar in the summer. Fjordline compete on the same route seasonal from May to August.
Main entries by car:
- The E18 is the main road between the area and Oslo. Constructed partly as high speed motorway, partly as semi-motorway.
- Road E39 is the main entry from Stavanger and West Norway.
- Route 9 is an entry through the interior and the natural beauty of the Setesdal Valley from Haukeligrend at the edge of Hardangervidda (Hardanger Plateau). Road 9 connects to E134 at Haukeligrend. From the east E134 is the access from Drammen and Kongsberg through Telemark. From the west E134 is access from Haugesund and Hardanger in West Norway.
Regional trains connect Kristiansand to other cities and towns along the Southern Railway Line (Sørlandsbanen). Up to 8 trains daily depart for Stavanger, while up to 6 daily trains leave for the country's capital, Oslo. The trip from Kristiansand to Stavanger takes about 3 hours and the trip Kristiansand- Oslo is 4½-5 hours. Unlike other railway lines in Norway, the Southern Railway largely runs perpendicular to valleys (particularly west of Kristiansand) with many bridges and tunnels. Trains both westwards towards Stavanger and eastwards to Oslo follow an inland route, meaning that travel to the towns along the coast (except Kristiansand) is quite inconvenient by train. From Nelaug station, however, there is a corresponding local train to Arendal. There are lots of nice forest views and rural settlements, though.
The station in Kristiansand is situated right next to the town centre, the ferry terminal, and the bus terminal. Kristiansand station is a terminus (french: cul-de-sac) and trains have to reverse from the station..
- For more information on driving, see the Driving in Norway article.
On foot, by car, bus, bike, motorcycle - or make your way at sea. Taxi is a rather expensive alternative. Local buses, tickets and info by Agder kollektivtrafikk.
Travel by small boat among the many small islands and straits is popular. In 2007 the Spangereid canal was created to allow small motor boats a short cut across Lindesnes peninsula. The trip around Lindesnes peninsula is much longer and the open sea can be rough. This canal was constructed in the Viking era around year 700, but was at some point abandoned until opened again in 2007.
The beautiful landscapes of South Norway
- Norwegian coast of Skagerrak (part of the North sea), also called "The Norwegian Riviera", known for the beautiful archipelago. Suitable for boating, sailing, discovery and swimming in the summer.
- Setesdal and the inland, with forests and mountains, hiking terrain, ski resorts, in addition to lakes and rivers suitable for fishing, rafting, canoeing and kayaking.
- Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement park
- Lindesnes Lighthouse
- Setesdalsbanen heritage railway, Vennesla -8 km preserved steam powered railway that once connected Kristiansand and Setesdal via Byglandsfjord.
- 2 Setesdalsmuseet (Setesdal museum), Rysstad. Includes all museums in the Setesdal valley. Main location at Rysstad where the silversmith and fiddle collection is.
- 3 Rygnestadtunet (Rygnestad farm museum), Valle (Road 450/9 junction). Collection of ancient wood buildings, rarely found outside Norway. It is an authentic farm as when it was abandoned in 1919, protected by law and made into museum. Buidlings were erected during a several hundred years, the oldest from around 1300 or older which is close to unique for a wooden building. Part of Setesdal museum.
- E18 Risør - Tvedestrand - Arendal - Grimstad - Lillesand - Kristiansand
- E39 Kristiansand - Mandal - Lyngdal - Farsund - Flekkefjord
- Norwegian National Route 9 Kristiansand - Evje - Setesdal - Hovden
- Ferry Hirtshals, Denmark - Kristiansand
- Water based (Boating, Sailing, Diving, Canoeing, Fishing etc.)
- Land based (Hiking, Skiing, Cycling, etc.)
- Island hopping
- Lighthouse holiday
- Steam boat trip with D/S Bjoren on the lake Byglandsfjorden
- Train ride with the Setesdalsbanen heritage railway line
- Visit Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park
Norwegian cuisine is known for eclectic food with a good supply of many local ingredients. Try Norwegian seafood!
Restaurant Under in Lindesnes is the first seafood restaurant below the ocean surface in Norway and one of the first in the world. In addition to the experience, delicious seafood is served. The restaurant is awarded a star in the 2020 Michelin Guide.
Local Norwegian beer, aquavit and cider. Along the Skagerrak coast several local breweries and microbreweries are brewing beer that are definitely worth tasting, although prices are high. Or simply drink clean and fresh tap water.
There is a wide range of accommodation available.
- Campsites for tents, separate caravans, motorhomes, small apartments and cabins for rent in the summer season.
- Norwegian Trekking Association (Norwegian: Den norske turistforening, DNT Sør): simple accommodation for rent for hikers in the mountains.
- Holiday Centers
- Private room rental
- Hotels: Most located in urban settlements. Available in several price ranges.
Apart from those associated with outdoor activities, there are few dangers. There is little crime in the district of Agder, but for your safety it is advisable to take good care of your belongings. You are generally not getting into trouble if you do not seek it out.
Every year there are reports of foreign visitors that get into trouble in small boats at sea, fatal incidents also occur. Beyond the protective islands and skerries lining the coast, the sea is unpredictable and can be rough.
The high moor-like plateaus can be difficult to navigate, particularly in bad weather. Map, compass and appropriate clothing are needed on hikes. Weather in the mountains and on the high plateaus can be very different from the coast and low-land weather. Mosquitoes can be a nuisance in the interior lowlands, but are not dangerous.
- Ticks (flått) are common in Agder during summertime. They can transmit Lyme's disease (borreliosis) or TBE (tick-borne encephalitis) through a bite. Both can be very serious. The risk areas for TBE are mainly along the coast from Oslo to Trondheim. Although incidents are relatively rare and not all ticks carry diseases, it's advisable to wear long trousers rather than shorts if you plan to walk through dense or tall grass areas (the usual habitat for ticks). You can buy special tick tweezers from the pharmacy that can be used to remove a tick safely if you happen to get bitten. You should remove the tick from your skin as soon as possible and preferably with the tick tweezers to reduce the risks of getting an infection. If the tick bite starts to form red rings on the skin around it or if you experience other symptoms relating to the bite, you should go visit a doctor as soon as possible. Since ticks are black, they are more easily found if you wear bright clothes. It is adviseable to inspect the skin after a day out, particularly on children. Dogs that run around in grass and bushes often attract lots of ticks.
- Winter driving
- While the coast is relatively mild, heavy snowfall and difficult driving is common also along roads E18 and E39. Driving in the interior in winter requires skills and experience. In the interior and uplands temperatures can drop to -20°C or lower, January average at Hovden is -10°C. The road from Hovden to Haukeli (junction with E134) is exposed to rough weather and can get closed in winter. Winter tires are recommended from November to mid April, but studded winter tires are not allowed outside the winter season. Bring plenty clothes and something to eat and drink during winter drives particularly through the uplands and interior.
- Animal collisions
- Moose ("elg"), row deer ("rådyr") and grazing sheep are relatively common in the forest areas of Agder. Drivers should be cautious at dusk and dawn where road runs through pine forest.
- Police (Politi), ☏ 112.
- Fire, ☏ 110.
- Emergency Medical Services (Ambulance), ☏ 113.
- If you are unsure which number to call, ☏ 112 is the central for all search and rescue services and will put you in contact with the correct department.
- For non-emergencies, the police is to be called on ☏ 02800 (in country only) or Agder Police District at ☏ .
- For treatment of casualties or serious illness (non-emergencies) ☏ 116117 (in country only).
- The hearing impaired using a text telephone can reach the emergency services by ☏ 1412.
- Roadside assistance. In case of traffic accident you are supposed to call the police only if individuals are injured or if the crash causes a traffic jam. The police will not get involved if there are damages on the vehicles only.
- Rogaland with Stavanger in the west.
- Hardanger and southern Hordaland through Setesdal
- Telemark - mini-Norway, Kragerø is often included among the south coast towns