The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization works to identify and protect cultural and natural heritage around the world. An international treaty known as the World Heritage Convention asks signatory countries to preserve sites of great value to humanity, and identifies them on the World Heritage List. Norway has eight UNESCO World Heritage sites, each of which is worth your time and perhaps an excursion before or after your Norway cruise to get to know it. Let's take a look:
Geirangerfjord and Naeroyfjord
The only natural site included on Norway's World Heritage List, these west Norwegian fjords are among the longest and deepest in the world. In fact, they are probably what you imagine when you picture a fjord, complete with waterfalls, forests, high cliffs, mountains and picturesque villages. There are also many natural features, both in terms of landscape and plant and animal life, that give these fjords their World Heritage status and protection.
On a Norway cruise, you will almost certainly see these fjords. If you choose a ship that is small enough, you will likely also travel on them. This is the best way to experience the fjords in full, and can't be replaced with any other kind of journey.
Your Norway cruise is likely to start at Bergen, which is home to the World Heritage site of Bryggen. It is the old wharf neighborhood of the town, which has been destroyed repeatedly by fire but always rebuilt in the style of what was there before. It stands as a reminder of what wooden urban structures in Northern Europe looked like during the time of the Hanseatic League, between the 14th and mid-16th century, and shortly after.
Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site
This site commemorates the construction of a complex to create artificial fertilizer in the early 20th century by the Norsk-Hydro company. Today it is a monument to the Industrial Revolution in Norway, complete with company towns that show where and how workers lived. There are also transport systems, hydroelectric power plants and factories to view.
Roros Mining Town and the Circumference
Much like the Industrial Heritage Site, the Roros Mining Town shows how people in a particular industry worked and lived. From the 17th century until 1977, copper was mined at Roros and in the surrounding area.
Rock Art of Alta
The stunning rock art in the Alta Fjord, far north in Norway, dates from around 4200 to 500 B.C. There are thousands of paintings and engravings that show the presence of a civilization in Norway that is very old indeed.
Struve Geodetic Arc
Norway has some parts of the Struve Geodetic Arc, which are points of a survey astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm Struve undertook between 1816 and 1855 to measure a long segment of a meridian. It helped scientists learn the exact size of the earth.
Urnes Stave Church
The only stave church in the world on the UNESCO World Heritage list, the Urnes stave church stands in Sogn og Fjordane and dates from the 12th and 13th centuries - it's a must-see for all history and architecture aficionados.
The Vega Archipelago
Vega, just south of the Arctic Circle, and the surrounding islands show the life of people who depend on fishing and eider ducks. It has been inhabited from the Stone Age until now.