If you haven't seen Frozen yet, chances are you're living under a rock (or a troll, as luck may have it). The blockbuster film secured Norway's reputation as a winter wonderland packed with snow-covered peaks and exquisite ice castles—all under the fluorescent green glow of the aurora borealis. But you don't need a parka, a reindeer or a talking snowman to find Frozen in Norway. In fact, the beauty of Norway's southern fjord region—the main inspiration for Frozen's Kingdom of Arendelle—is truly at its best during the summer months.
Per Disney, Arendelle gets its name from Arendal, a 16th-century shipping town about a three-hour drive southwest of Oslo. But the Southern Fjords along the country's lower western coast, 186 miles away by car, inspired Arendelle's verdant mountainsides and deep, granite-lined waters—as well as the kingdom's whimsical architecture, with its steep-pitched roofs and turreted, medieval-style castle. Disney Cruise Lines now offers Frozen-themed summer cruises to the region. But if you'd rather experience 'Arendelle' on your own, here are a few southern fjord stops not to miss:
Haugesund and the Nordvegen History Center
Located along the shores of the North Sea, Haugesund is another coastal town that pops to life during summer months, when visitors come to slurp hearty bowls of fish soup (it seems that every restaurant in the region has its own recipe) and take in the country's Viking history. Haugesund is actually considered “Norway's birthplace,” as it was here about 1,000 years ago that Norway's first king, Harald Fairhair, united the country into one kingdom. Numerous ships—the type Arendelle's King and Queen used on for their ill-fated journey—are buried in the region, which is also home to the Nordvegen History Center. The mostly underground museum is a great place to learn about Norse gods and female warriors. It also includes an aboveground Viking settlement, where you can don a traditional Viking helmet (sans horns), chat with reenactors, and learn about traditional crafts.