ast week we gave you a photographic taster of our road trip through Sweden, Finland and Denmark. This week we will put an even bigger worldwide must-see in the spotlight: stunning Norway. However, we had the same problem again: way too much to rave about! To avoid blabbering on and on, we will let our pictures do most of the talking. We really hope they will inspire you to plan your own trip to this utterly amazing country. If you already are convinced that you absolutely have to see Norway, but are afraid of the price tag, in this blog we give you some great tips on doing it on the cheap (we have done it on less than 60 EUR per day for two).
As we did last week, we would like to start off with giving you an overview of our 8357 km travel route. If you click on the photo, you can see the full details of where we have been.
Ultra-expensive Norway is a typical bucket-list destination and rightly so! We start of with the modest capital Oslo, with its magnificent opera house, its Oslofjord ferries and the uber cool Viking ships museum. While the cruise ships unloading their passengers by the thousands instantly dwarf the cities waterside monuments, its modernist city hall, Akerhus Fortress and Astrup Fearly museum still manage to stand out. And let us not forget the Domkirke, the royal palace, the gentrified port area Aker Brygge and the city centre’s cozy streets and bars, where people happily down the most outrageously expensive beers on the planet.
On our way to the fjords, we drive past intricately carved and black tarred stave churches surrounded by some of the most beautiful and well-kept cemeteries in the world, guarding their little piece of heaven, and past old wooden farms that are sometimes still colorfully painted inside.
Heading for the most southerly fjord we will visit, our GPS suddenly guides us through the magnificent snow-covered marshy highlands of the Sulleskarroute. These black and white highlands, only sparsely populated with the occasional langlauf skier, prove to be a recurring diversion in between fjords and we cannot stop being amazed by them. The tiny mountain roads, often hemmed in between rocky outcrops and high walls of snow, offer fabulous views from every mountain pass. On these narrow paths snaking through, you have to continuously be on the lookout for small avalanches and, of course, any oncoming traffic. Our absolute favourite views here are the perfectly still half-frozen lakes that spookily mirror the surrounding mountaintops.
While these freezing highland roads were an unexpectedly scenic part of our trip, nothing prepares you for the magnificence and majesty of the fjords. Every time a new fjord suddenly opens up past a snowy mountaintop we are absolutely stunned. We drive all the way down to the misty Lysefjord, head north to the Sognefjörd, the famous Hardangerfjörd, where we even spot dolphins, and visit the picture perfect Geirangerfjörd.
However, we thought the most striking of them all was the much less touristed Naeroyfjörd, the narrowest Norwegian fjord. We decided to hang around and wild camp on one of the tiny patches of level grass alongside this beautiful walled in fjord. On our terraced piece of rock we enjoy the view of sheer rock-face booming up on all sides and dozens of raging waterfalls thundering down in blissful solitude. What better spot to relax a few days and enjoy the sun, read, make a campfire, befriend the local shetland ponies and long-haired cows that drop by and of course make use of the right to fish in the sea for free (without any luck whatsoever).
What a stunningly beautiful region! We almost always sleep with a jaw-dropping view of a fjord, we take one ferry after another, and sadly pay way too much toll. We enjoy snowy mountains and sunny fjords, see more waterfalls than you can keep count of, admire half-frozen mountain lakes and even catch a glimpse of a glacier now and then.
You can’t imagine the number of roads here in Norway that are worth their own epic road trip: the hairpin Lysevegn, the Trolstigen, the Hardangervidda roads, the Sognefjellsvegen through Jotunheimen, the Ørneveien, the spectacularly bridged Atlantershavsveien and the long coastal road Kystriksveien and so on.
Peppered in between all the natural splendour of the fjord lands lie some great little and not so little towns. We visit the art deco style archipelago town of Alesund, the grand cathedral town of Trondheim, and relatively touristy Bergen. Bergen is Norway’s second biggest city, and has quite a few sights with its old town with old wooden merchant houses, its fish markets and fish restaurants, its many sailing ships and of course a plethora of Scandinavian Cool stores. Even the remoter villages and small towns often enjoy a great setting and are relatively well stocked with (expensive) supermarkets, an oversupply of hairdressers, great public services and even the occasional community movie theater. Restaurants and bars (and nightlife in general) are, however, pretty rare.
To be honest, while the visual appeal of the fjord landscape is obvious and indeed absolutely mesmerizing, it was not even our absolute favourite part of this wonderful country. This first place goes to the windswept coastline of the Arctic North, and especially to the absolutely magical Lofoten and Vesteralen islands. Even the ferry trip towards the Lofoten from Bodo is breathtaking. We took the long route over the mist covered sea past the rocky archipelago of Rost and the high peaks of Vaeroy island and finally across the famous and (potentially) lethal Moskenes maelstrom. Magnificent!
The Lofoten are one long drawn out Kodak moment, with drying fish and fish heads, beautifully situated villages, unforgettable roads past the coastline, jagged mountains rising up above the cerulean water, clusters of little red houses, thousands of bobbing boats, and some of the most stunning, be it ice-cold, beaches in the world.
In the Vesteralen we walk on the soggy paths of the Queen’s way and visit the artsy and remote village of Nyksund. In the high north we also drive along the scenic coastal road Kystriksveien, see thousands of birds on crenelated cliffs, eat fresh salmon grilled on our tiny BBQ and camp under the ever-present arctic sun. We also spot quite some wildlife from the seats of our car, including moose, dolphins, sea eagles and a seal.
The culinary treats of the north are also very appealing with fresh arctic fish turned into an amazing Fiskesuppe, fresh salmon, surprisingly tasty Bacalao (aka stockfish) based dishes, Svele (a type of pancake typically served with a type of sweet caramelised goat milk cheese) and freshly baked pastries.
Above the Arctic Circle you get to experience many beautiful natural phenomena, and not just the Northern Lights in winter. The stunning lowering of the Arctic sun, which never fully disappears below the horizon this time of year, makes for some of the most otherworldly shades of pink and white. While we loved the long days and the spectacular nightly colorations, we never really got used to birds chirping and full daylight at 3 AM. One of the most beautiful shots we made of this, was above the already very impressive Salstraumen maelstrom, where every tide huge rapids and whirlpools are created by water flowing in and out of a fjord through its narrow mouth. It is supposed to be awesome for fishing here too, but yet again we were completely unlucky.
Our most northerly destination was Tromso, again a beautifully set and surprisingly large cozy town that is definitely worth a visit, especially because of it being there at all. But do have a look at its stunning cathedral and its beautiful library. Maybe one day we will be back here to experience it under the magic of the Northern Lights.
From here we headed towards Finnish Lapland (read more about that here), but not before taking a final dip in the Arctic waters at Skibotn on the Lyngenfjörd.
If you want to meander from fjord to fabulous fjord, have a look at our pictures here. If you prefer to daydream of an Arctic expedition, click here for more pictures of Norway’s Arctic North.
If you want to have a look at Part 1 of our Scandinavian road trip and the photos of Sweden, Denmark and Finland, have a look here. Have a look here for our tips & tricks to visit Scandinavia on the cheap and keep an eye on our blog for other things you should know when travelling to Scandinavia! Takk!
Greetings from hot hot hot Paraguay!