Norway. Nature at its best. When everything glitters in sunlight, but also when everything is wrapped up in mystic fog. A paradise for everyone who loves mountains, rivers and lakes, forests, the sea, fishing, wild camping, peace and quiet. All those different landscapes and an amazing spectrum of green – blue shades of deep waters and hills has not disappointed us. Despite the larger numbers of tourists during the summer months.
We visited Norway during our 5 week long wild camping road trip through Scandinavia and the Baltic countries.
Places: Kristiansand, Sinnes, Lysebotn, Lysefjord, Florli, Preikestolen, Tau, Stavanger, Rennesoy, Fantoft, Bergen, Osteroy, Voss, Vik, Sognefjord, Balestrand, Briksdalbre, Jostedalsbreen NP, Hellesylt, Geirangerfjord, Liabygda, Trollstigen, Atlantic road, Fv17 road, Vega archipelago, Svartisen NP, Bodo, Lofoten, Andenes, Bjerkvik, Narvik
How: with our LR Defender
Stayed in: wild camping, campsites
NORWAY IS HUGE and it took us around 3 weeks to travel FROM SOUTH TO NORTH. Of course we could have taken a lot more time, but some do this same distance in a much shorter period. We made lots of kilometres every day and because the ROADS ARE CURVY, it is really not possible (nor allowed) to drive fast. We started in KRISTIANSAND where we got by FERRY from HIRTSHALS in DENMARK. We continued to our first fjord, LYSEFJORD – here there are some great hiking possibilities (PREIKESTOLEN, KJERAG, FLORLI). Onwards via STAVANGER on the coast up to BERGEN. Later on we visited more fjords (SOGNEFJORD & GEIRANGERFJORD included). Although the weather was anything but nice we also drove over TROLLSTIGEN and the ATLANTIC ROAD. The ROAD Fv17 took us through some amazing places and we hopped on to the less known VEGA ARCHIPELAGO. We saw 2 GLACIERS as well, JOSTEDALSBREEN and SVARTISEN. In BODO we caought a ferry over to LOFOTEN ISLANDS where we spent about a week and ended in ANDENES. Here, we unexpectedly had the HIGLIGHT OF THIS TRIP and decided not to drive to NORDKAPP this time, but to head to SWEDEN instead.
Our first hello with Norway was pretty unspectacular. KRISTIANSAND is quite big and apparently there is lots to do in terms of MUSEUMS and other ATTRACTIONS, but we decided to use the remaining hours of the day for driving more into the nature up north. We chose not to take the ferry to OSLO for a couple of reasons. It seemed like another big expensive city, we would have to drive a lot more to come up to STAVANGER area and besides, I was already there once.
Even the RAIN and the FOG couldn´t stop our excitement about this beautiful landscapes and curvy roads and the more we were approaching SINNES, the nicer was the landscape. We also had our first encounters with MOSQUITO – that was no fun at all, but now at the end of the trip we can really say the situation with mosquito and flies was not all that scary in Scandinavia. We were just very unlucky to have one of the worst encounters with the little animals on our first day.
With numerous photo stops we finally found a SPOT BY A LAKE to spend the night. It felt so good to be able to sleep out in the nature without thinking it is not allowed. Making a FIRE IN DRIZZLE RAIN was a bit of a challenge, but we succeed in the end. Dinner. Bbq. And a big chhers to new adventures!
The weather was not looking much better the next morning. Sadly, we had to give a pass to a great hike over to KJERAGBOLTEN, the famous round rock stuck between two cliffs. The hike is minimum 6 hours long and it would have been just stupid to try and go there is fog and rain. The car park was half full though, but personally I would have never hiked an unknown path in such conditions. Instead, we took the CRAZY CURVY ROAD down to LYSEBOTN, a small town at the end of our first fjord, LYSEFJORD.
LYSEBOTN & LYSEFJORD
In LYSEBOTN, there is not so much to do at all. While we were WAITING FOR THE FERRY, we walked around a bit and took a look at the CAMPSITE, TOURIST AGENCY, one nice SHOP where we bought some bio eggs and yummy salmon. Then, the FERRY took us up this beautiful fjord to FORSAND.
The wind was blowing strongly, it was still raining and the mountain tops were hiding in fog, but it was still beautiful. I admit, I would have preferred to have a sunny day, but apparently it is much more authentic in such weather. During the 2hrs long ferry ride we at least saw tons of WATERFALLS and since the ferry is also used as a TOURISTIC BOAT, we had a guide explaining lots of interesting stuff over the MICROPHONE.
The ferry also makes a stop in this HISTORICAL LITTLE TOWN, which is famous for its 4444 STEPS – THE LONGEST WOODEN STAIRCASE IN THE WORLD runs alongside water pipes that belong to a HYDRO PLANT at the fjord. Hiking up the stairs and down the stairs will take you around 4hrs. Considering the fog that day, we skipped this one as well, but I´m sure it is a fun thing to do.
As said, we did not succeed this hike. Otherwise this is a MAJOR HIGHLIGHT over here and a hike that should not be missed out on in sunny weather. It seems to be quite a walk which takes 6-8hrs there and back. The PARKING FEE (just above LYSEBOTN) is 20€ and you are not allowed to stay over the night. The path takes you over some slippery rocks so bring good shoes and watch your step. Once you reach the famous TRAPPED ROUND ROCK, you can also step on it, if you are brave enough. Great picture guaranteed!
The next day the skies have finally cleared up and we woke up to a SUNNY MORNING. Kjerag wasn´t meant to be, but nothing could get in the way of hiking up PREIKESTOLEN now. This 604m HIGH MASSIVE ROCK PLATEAU, at the 40km long LYSEFJORD is as well one of the highlights around Stavanger. Shortly after 8 in the morning was a good time to start the hike from the UPPER PARKING (20€ a day), but if you can go even earlier to beat the crowds.
THE HIKE IS 7km LONG and with all the stops, including a longer one at the top, it took us approximately 4hrs up and down. In general it is an EASY HIKE, but there are some STEEP SECTIONS and sometimes you have to climb a little bit, so GOOD FOOTWEAR is a must. Towards the end the path leads by a couple of nice LAKES (great spots for a little picnic), but those magnificent VIEWS OVER THE FJORD await at the very top.
Especially THE LAST PART OF THE HIKE goes over slippery rocks and then a narrow passage takes you to the famous 25x25m ROCK PLATEAU. It is nothing for those who fear heights. There are also NO FENCES whatsoever, so watch your step and don´t go too close to the edge. If you still have some energy left, you can climb up the rocks above the plateau, the view might be even better.
You don´t like the crowds? We neither. But nothing to worry about over here, it is easy to find a QUIET SPOT OVERLOOKING THE FJORD. We had lunch with us and this was about one of the best spots to eat it. Bring a jacket to protect you from the wind though, it can get really windy up here.
We were glad to do this hike, despite LOTS OF TOURISTS especially on the way back – sometimes the path is really narrow and you have to wait in line. So again, it makes sense to beat the crowds (especially big groups who come with buses). Not to easy to find a SPOT FOR SPENDING THE NIGHT around here, except if you go to the CAMPSITE close by. Otherwise you are not allowed to camp along the road. We slept on a PARKING along the main road. It had toilets and picnic tables, so it was OK for one night.
In TAU we took the FERRY TO STAVANGER and the views on NORWAY´S 4th LARGEST CITY were great from the sea. If you are coming here without a car, this is a great BASE FOR EXPLORING LYSEFJORD & AROUND. Stavanger has an AIRPORT and lots of TOURIST AGENCIES that can help you plan DAY TRIPS. I think 5 days would be perfect to see it all. Other than that, here are lots of MUSEUMS, RESTAURANTS, SHOPS and so on, to keep you busy even if the weather is not nice. We didn´t make a longer stop here though, but just enough to get an impression of the place.
ROAD E39 FROM STVANGER TO BERGEN
From southern Norway you can reach BERGEN on different roads. We chose to drive the COASTAL ROAD which took us over a few ISLANDS. Mainly because it was sunny and we wanted to smell the sea again. Do some fishing. And have dinner while watching sunset.
There were a couple of FERRIES, BRIDGES and even UNDERWATER TUNNELS on the way while passing through mostly FLAT ROCKY ISLANDS, dotted with RED WOODEN HOUSES, SHEEP and amazingly green MEADOWS. In general, there were close to none tourists on this road.
Coming here through turned out to be a good choice, we found a nice SPOT TO SPEND THE NIGHT. Tucked between a PINE FOREST and a very own PRIVATE BEACH. Including a PIER for FISHING. And we also had dinner with sunset.
Just before BERGEN we stopped at this interesting fairy tale like STAVE CHURCH in Fantoft. It is not one of the famous ones of such sort (for example like the one in URNES, which is under UNESCO as well), but still.
It is estimated, that around 2000 of such CHURCHES were built in different parts of Europe. Until today, most of them were kept intact in NORWAY – there are 28 of them and they are especially unique due to the COMBINATION OF VIKING AND CHRISTIAN MOTIVES and WOOD CARVINGS.
I was very excited to visit BERGEN, NORWAY´S 2nd LARGEST CITY again. First reason being the famous FISH MARKET and second the amazing ARCHITECTURE IN THE OLD TOWN. For a change, we were very lucky with finding a PARKING spot right in the city centre and only about a 5min walk from the fish market. The city is big though but you can check out the main sites in just one day or even less.
Bergen is otherwise also known to be EUROPE´S WETTEST CITY. Well, we had a lovely sunny day for a change. First we were off to explore BRYGGEN – the old town which is an UNESCO HERITAGE SITE. Its houses are simply stunning. Once COLORFUL FISHERMEN´S HOMES are turned into SHOPS, GALLERIES and MUSEUMS today, but still they retained their charm. Don´t forget to walk through the PASSAGES BETWEEN THE BUILDINGS, there are some great spots, hidden to the masses on the main street.
BERGEN´S FISH MARKET is one of the most famous and visited markets in the country. Besides FISH, you can also get VEGETABLES and FRUITS. In the summer months there are plenty of yummy BERRIES of all sorts. Here, fishermen were trading fish already in the 13th Century and in 2012 they opened a COVERED MARKET HALL as well. Here you also find a couple of RESTAURANTS (and a toilet).
Looking at all these stands we were getting hungry and despite the HIGH PRICES we splurged on 4 FISH OPEN SANDWICHES. A BEER for each of us as well. 40€, so be it. Still much cheaper than a proper meal in a restaurant over here.
Amongst the yummy NORTHERN SEAFOOD specialties you can buy here is of course SALMON. You can have it smoked, marinated or plain. Then there are CRABS, CLAMS, LOBSTERS and SHRIMPS. Also WHALE MEAT, but I´m kind of not supporting eating it. On the other hand, we could not resist buying some SALMON (20€ for 300g) which we had for brunch the next coup0le of days.
BERGEN WAS GREAT. It might have been even better if we took a look at the city beyond the center (taking the CABLE CAR up to FLOYEN HILL for instance) but the 7€ per hour PARKING FEE was too much for a full day here. It would have been hard to find a free place to sleep in the city so we had to move on. Luckily the days are long in the summer and you can see a lot.
BERGEN – VOSS PO CESTI E16 IN BERGSDALSVEGEN
More or less clueless of what is on the way from BERGEN towards GEIRANGER, we moved on and decided to leave the E16 and drive the less travelled BERGSDALSVEGEN road. This one took us through DARK NARROW TUNNELS and endless CURVES with no fences all the way up to VOSS.
We found VOSS so touristy, it was just too much for us in that moment so we quickly moved on and found a great place to sleep. Just next to an OPEN AIR MUSEUM where there was nobody. Obviously you had to make an appointment prior to arrival .Well, so much better for us, we had the place (and this view) all to ourselves.
VOSS – VIK
We decided to skip FLAM TOWN (we expected it to be similar to Voss) and cut to SOGNEFJORD by taking the ROAD TO VIK.
We stayed on th E16 for a while and turned to 13 at one point. I hav to say we were AMAZED BY THE SCENERY. Suddenly it looked a bit like on the first day we drove in Norway. Patches of snow, lakes, mountains, green valleys, rivers. Just wow.
we could not miss visiting THE LONGEST AND THE DEEPEST FJORD IN EUROPE, so we took the FERRY from VANGSNES towards HELLA in drove alongside fjord on the ROAD 55 for a while. All the way to SOGNDALSFJORA. Even though this fjord is praised in all the guidebooks and in many people´s eyes as the most beautiful one, we were not exactly blown away that day. But again, the weather might have something to do with that.
Don´t get me wrong, the fjord is surely impressive, especially if it´s the first one you get to visit. We just thought it is much too big and huge in that moment.
BRIKSDALSBRE, JOSTEDALSBREEN NATIONAL PARK
THE WEATHER was getting worse and worse so we hurried up to the LARGEST GLACIER IN EUROPE, JOSTEDALSBREEN. Unfortunately we had to skip a GUIDED TOUR WALKING ON THE ICE, but it would have made no sense in the weather plus we were too late to sign up for it. Instead, we drove to one of the GLACIER´´S ARMS, to BRIKSDALSBRE. The ROAD 5 took us first to SKEI, then we took the E39 and the fascinating Fv60 to OLDEN. From here it was about 20km more on the Fv724 passing by beautiful GLACIER LAKES until we reached the end oof the road in BRIKSDALSBRE.
It was already late in the afternoon but we decided to take advantage of the LONG SUMMER DAYS and complete this hike while it was still not raining. The weather forecast was showing us even SNOW in the next days. You have to pay for the PARKING, there is a RESTAURANT and a SOUVENIR SHOP on site as well. If you have troubles walking there is also an ELECTRIC CAR that can take you up and down. Otherwise the path leads you pass WATERFALLS (bring a jacket, you will be wet, especially when there is lots of wind) and eventually ends at a gorgeous GLACIER LAKE under the GLACIER´S ARM. Walking on ice is strictly forbidden and the area very close to the glacier itself can be dangerous too so please respect the signs.
WE WENT TO A CAMPSITE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN NORWAY. There were quite a few camp grounds around here but we´ve already laid our eyes on one while driving up to the glacier. For 1 NIGHT, 2 PAX and a CAR we paid 23€. Not bad at all for a very nice camping which was not full at all and we got a great first row spot by the lake. No, there were no mosquito. We also WASHED OUR LAUNDRY for 4€, cleaned the car a bit and enjoyed the rest of the evening.
We were caught up in rain already during the night and the weather predictions were right on spot – it stayed cold and wet for the whole week. We got to experience this part of the country in fog and drizzle but oh well, sometimes it´s like this.
The next day we drove along INNVIKFJORD and drove to HELLESYLT on the ROADS 15, E39 and 60. Despite the not so nice weather we took the FERRY ON GEIRANGERFJORD to the town GEIRANGER on the other end. We could have taken the SCENIC ROAD 63 instead, but considering the weather this didn´t seem like a good choice.
This 15km LONG FJORD, one of the nicest ones for me in Norway, is on UNSECO´s heritage list as well. There is no denying, it is an absolute TOURIST HOT SPOT and the GEIRANGER TOWN is totally overrun, full of hotels, shops and tourist agencies. Too ´busy for our taste so we fled quickly.
Three is a marvelous VIEWPOINT along the curvy ORNESVINGEN-EAGLE ROAD which leads from Geiranger towards EIDSDAL, that you should definitely stop at. We hardly got a parking spot, but it was worth waiting for a while. The VIEWS ON GEIRANGERFJORD are spectacular from here up.
We spend the night at TAFJORD, with the help of Park4night app we found quite an OK spot with a pier for FISHING, overlooking the RAINY FJORD. With a little patience we caught our DINNER which we ate inside the car for a change.
The ROAD 63 took us through some beautiful MOUNTAINOUS LANDSCAPES again the next day. Patches of snow, waterfalls, lakes and mighty peaks have accompanied us all the way that day. Yes it was still raining, it was also windy and I was fearing it will actually really started to snow. Luckily that didn´t happen. But there were moments when it all cleared up a little bit and we still enjoyed the views.
Slowly we were approaching the FAMOUS PASS, TROLLSTIGEN. This ICONIC ROAD with its 11 SERPENTINE of around 10% decline, is one of those major “must do´s” in Norway. There were lots of cars going up and down, but there is a very nice big PARKING at the top, just next to a great VISITORS CENTER. A couple of minutes walk away you reach a VIEWING PLATFORM – it´s really worth going. I´m sure the view on a sunny day is quite a different one, but the one we had was also not that bad at all. Even though it was really really cold.
The road was SLIPPERY AND WET, but we made it down without major problems. Here and there we got some water over the car while driving so close to waterfalls, there was really lots of water everywhere. Definitely recommend driving this road, even in the rain.
THE TROLLS AND NORDIC MYTHOLOGY. It´s its own world. A world where trolls have always played an important part. They were giant scary creatures who ate children and kidnap women. They lived in forests, mountains or in caves. Well, the ones we met were looking rather friendly :).
THE ATLANTIC ROAD
Around here I was really fed up by the weather to be honest. But at least it was looking better in the next week. We skipped Alesund, but drove on yet another iconic road, THE ATLANTIC ROAD. It is only 8km LONG and includes 8 SPECTACULAR BRIDGES while it leads you over the ocean on little islands.
This part of the ROAD 64 is considered to be one of the greatest ENGINEERING ACCOMPLISHMENTS and at the same time one of the most DANGEROUS ROADS in Europe. On a sunny day you might ask yourself why it is so, but it is all different in the rain and fog. Not to mention if there are high waves crashing into those bridges.
In the search of a sunny place we passed TRONDHEIM and took a turn on the ROAD Fv17 at STEINKJER. This road leading up north is slower than the E6 but it is much more scenic. Our main goal were the LOFOTEN ISLANDS but we were still quite far so we made a few stops. Finally it was getting warmer and sunnier, which was good for our general mood as well – we were keen on driving the less known roads and finding something that was not in the books and overrun with people.
First we had to FIND A PLACE TO SLEEP. Enough driving for the day. It is tempting to drive a lot over here, especially because the days are so long. And yes, sometimes it took us a while longer to find that perfect spot. And sometimes we took very small roads that are not even necessarily on maps. But those were usually the best ones.
ROAD Fv17 includes lots of FERRY CROSSINGS. And while waiting for one (after just missing it for like a minute) we spontaneously decided to take the one docked at the other pier. That one was going to VEGA ARCHIPELAGO. A quick stroll through pictures online persuaded us to go for it. Another good sign – there were only Norwegian cars in the line. So maybe our wish of finding a more secluded place is coming true faster than we thought it could.
And really, no tourists anywhere, Yay! It was so beautiful here. This is how the Lofoten might have looked like 40 years ago. This 6000 ISLANDS are known for its PEOPLE, WHO MAINTAINED THEIR TRADITIONAL WAYS OF LIVING for hundreds of years. These are mostly FISHERMEN and FARMERS. Beautiful LANDSCAPE, dotted with small VILLAGES and lonely RED HOUSES, the sea and the surprisingly high mountains left us speechless.
The WEATHER was still very unreliable so we only did a couple of SHORT WALKS. If you have the time and better conditions, here are some GREAT HIKING POSSIBILITIES – from easy ones to more challenging ones. Well, we at least had our fun with the car here. Great back roads.
This is the first UNESCO VISITORS CENTRE IN NORWAY and it is beautiful! Everything, from the BUILDING itself to the SETTING BY THE SEA, the EXHIBITION, even the SHOP and the CAFE. Could not help myself, bought some things over here.
VEGA ARCHIPELAGO is under UNESCO because of one very special animal – THE EIDER DUCK. These ducks which feathers are one of the most expensive in the world, are nesting over here. These little WOODEN HOUSES are set up on smaller islands to help protect the ducks. You can of course also buy some products here, if you can afford them that is.
For the first time in Norway we went to a real RESTAURANT. For a 3 course LUNCH meal. Including wine, we paid 90€, which was kind of OK for Norwegian standards, but definitely not something we could keep on doing every day. We found this nice restaurant in HAVHOTELLENE hotel. We didn´t stay here for the night but honestly I wouldn´t mind on a different occasion. It looked nice and cozy.
Back on MAINLAND, we made a quick stop at SVARTISEN GLACIER, which is the SECOND LARGEST GLACIER IN NORWAY. You can take a BOAT ACROSS THE FJORD and HIKE UP TO IT (you can also rent a BICYCLE), but again – due to the weather we skipped that and enjoyed the view from a far.
LOFOTEN ISLANDS are a story on their own. That´s why I have written a special post about how we spent 1 WEEK there. We experienced and seen so much over there. Saw the WHALES, ORCAS, WENT ON HIKES, CAUGHT THE MIDNIGHT SUN, DID SOME FISHING, ENJOYED THE WHITE SANDY BEACHES, ATE LOADS OF CINNAMON ROLLS and and and. So if you are interested in reading more about Lofoten click the button below.
read more about LOFOTEN
FROM LOFOTEN TO SWEDEN
It was somewhere around here that we decided NOT TO GO TO NORDKAPP this time. Driving up there would take too much time and many more kilometers. We didn´t want to do it just to tick it off. Besides, I´ve been already and as far as I remember there is nothing all that interesting to see on the way, it is more the feeling that you´ve driven all the way up to the top of Europe. Well, maybe some other time. Instead, we spent the night close to NARVIK and headed to SWEDEN the next day. And onward through Finland, the Baltic countries and Poland back to Germany.
IF WE HAD MORE TIME AND NICE WEATHER
One can never see everything. But if we had better weather and more time we could have visited OSLO and a couple of those fairytale stave churches around there. We would have done the KJERAGBOLTEN hike, the TROLLTUNGA hike and possibly a few others. We would spent a day in STAVANGER, ALESUND, TRONDHEIM and drive to TROMSO. Possibly also to NORDKAPP. We would go HIKING ON ICE on one of the glaciers and do a KAYAK TOUR. But we can´t complain. In the 3 weeks we were here we´ve seen sooo much and we are grateful for that. We´ll be back!