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Southern Norway's archipelago is made up of islets, small islands and sheltered coves. A distinctive feature of Southern Norway's coastal strip are the characteristic little white towns and villages like Risør, Tvedestrand, Arendal, Grimstad, Lillesand, Mandal, Farsund and Flekkefjord. The towns are very distinctive with their white-painted timber houses, and photogenic cobbled streets and alleyways. Kristiansand is the biggest town in Southern Norway and unofficial capital of the region. It also has the same characteristic white timber houses. The district of Posebyen in the centre of Kristiansand is a clear example that Kristiansand is also typical of the villages and towns of Southern Norway, despite its size.
But Southern Norway is more than sun, islands and picture-postcard villages. In the land between sea and mountains, you will also find long valleys and fertile uplands. A tidy cultural landscape and extensive forest and heathland areas are the 'hidden secrets' of Southern Norway.
This is where you can find some of the country's best salmon rivers, calm mountain lakes perfect for kayaking trips, mountain hikes with stunning views, and a huge variety of activities to choose from. This part of Southern Norway provides an interesting contrast to the holiday atmosphere of the coast. All you have to do is decide how active you want your holiday to be. High-adrenaline waterfall adventures on steep mountains with exciting rapids? Or quiet as a mouse in your quest for the ultimate encounter with a beaver? A variety of companies in Southern Norway offer activities ranging from elk and beaver safaris, to rafting, mountain climbing, canoeing and kayaking. Both beside the coast and in the mountains are a number of excellent golf courses.
World-famous authors and artists like Henrik Ibsen, Knut Hamsun and Gustav Vigeland had connections with Southern Norway. Every year, several theatre and music festivals are held in the region. The Risør Chamber Music Festival has received international acclaim, and is a showcase for world-class musicians. In the galleries and arts and crafts outlets you can find everything from kitsch to provocative contemporary art. Many renowned artists live and work in the region.
Southern Norway is the perfect region for children. It has Kristiansand Zoo, where you can find a forest climbing park, aqua park, playgrounds, rafting, heaps of hay for jumping in, and not least exotic animals - enough to keep the kids entertained throughout their holiday. Kristiansand Zoo is one of the most popular attractions in Norway, but Southern Norway also has numerous other theme parks and activity parks. Southern Norway is the perfect region for children, and you don't have far to go between all its numerous highlights. Sun and sand in the summer - although as we all know, the sun doesn't always cooperate. So if the sun goes in or if you're visiting Southern Norway outside the swimming season, there still are plenty of activities to enjoy, no matter what the weather is doing.
Outside the towns and villages, there tend to be excellent, well-marked trails in stunning natural surroundings. If you're looking for a bigger challenge, there is a huge variety of hiking routes in the forests and mountains. Kristiansand and Oppland Tourist Association have cabins and way-marked trails throughout the mountain region. Many of the trails and paths are also ideal for bikes. Cycle route no. 3, from Kristiansand to Hovden, is suitable for the entire family. It takes you into beautiful natural scenery, with sights and activities all along the way. Cycle route no. 1 runs from Flekkefjord to Risør - 1 past white-painted Southern Norwegian villages and areas of natural beauty. The cycle routes are well signposted and shown on special maps.
All along the coast, there is no charge for fishing, and the waters are rich in cod, coalfish, mackerel and many other species. You can fish independently or with local boatmen who know the area.
The mountains and downhill ski resorts are much closer than most people think. Only one hour's drive from the centre of Kristiansand, you can find ski slopes. After a longer drive up into Setesdal valley, you arrive in Hovden, one of the country's most popular winter sports centres, around 800 metres above sea level. We also have the famous downhill ski resort of Sirdal, which is a short drive from Egersund or Stavanger. Åseral is the closest winter destination if you're travelling from Kristiansand, only an hour and a half by car, surrounded by spectacular natural scenery - and Brokke is on the way to Hovden. All of the resorts have skiing instructors and ski equipment for hire.