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Norway: Fjords Region
Score: 85

The Fjords, which topped the charts in our 2004 rankings, get even higher marks this year. "About as good as can be done,"says one panelist. The gorgeous scenery and the "well-preserved Norwegian rural life" are vigorously protected, plus "the local people seem to benefit." Should keep a wary eye on the growing cruise business.

Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:

"Visiting this region requires a substantial investment by the international tourist, which keeps visitor levels low and allows for a low level of impact. The cruise and expedition ships are highly responsible, acting also as ferries for local people. Local operators and hoteliers are highly dedicated to traditional culture and educating tourists."

"Environmental quality is at the highest level. Landscape is amazing and aesthetically one of the most beautiful. The icons of Norway are so unique that it is difficult to imagine anything else. The local culture can be seen on the shores and mountains. It gives an ideal overview of well-preserved Norwegian rural life."

"The short tourist season, rugged terrain, limited population, and inherent sensitivity of the locals to the environment bode well for the fjord region."

"Unique, memorable experience, especially at the end of spring when the snow is thawing and the waterfalls are all coming out of the clouds!"

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