Just got home from an amazing trip to Norway. It was honestly one of the best trips I have ever taken! The scenery, the culture, the experience was something I will treasure for a long time. But it took a lot of time and research to plan the whole trip. So I thought I would take some time out and lay out everything I did to prepare for the trip to help future travelers.
Side note: This trip was Andrew and I’s big trip for the year but he didn’t plan any of it. He was so great that he let me plan whatever I wanted to do and he was going to be ok about it 🙂 So obviously I planned this trip all around taking pictures.
To be honest, I didn’t know much about Norway before I booked this trip. Obviously I have seen some stunning images of the country on Instagram but it wasn’t until I was saw this one old episode of the Amazing Race that really got me interested in going. I know, cheesy but true. The very next day I received an email from TravelZoo with a promotion to travel to Norway. I figured that if that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is!
Prior to booking, I read that the best landscapes were along the west coast so Andrew and I booked round trip tickets to Bergen for a week. From then on I was all over pinterest and tripadvisor looking for recommendations of what to do in Norway but in the end it was the advice of my friend, Frithjov who helped out the most.
- To drive as much of the Norwegian coast as possible without being in a car all day
- Not have to drive past the same sights when traveling back to Bergen
- Some short hikes here and there would be great
Frithjov asked one of his friends for recommendations and laid out an ambitious itinerary for us including Kristiansund, Dombås and Odda. But I did not want to have to be on a very strict time table. So after a lot more research and several changes, here’s what our more relaxed schedule finally ended up being
Side note: Booking a ticket on the Hurtigruten was key! It’s a cruise ship that stops at many ports along the west coast of Norway. Luckily you can customize your travel with shorter segments. I’m so thankful for that ship and the ability to bring back the car with us back to Bergen. So booking this ship was the first thing I did and the rest of our travel based on the fact that we were going to take it from Ålesund to Bergen at the end of our trip. Consider goal #2 accomplished.
Day 1: Land in Bergen
Pick up rental car from Rent-a-Wreck – we rented a small automatic car (Helloooo Americans!) Having a small car definietly worked in our favor, especially in cities like Bergen and being able to navigate through the streets easily. If we traveled in the colder, winter months, I don’t think the small car would have sufficed.
Make way to hotel. We stayed at the Scandic Neptun which was in a great location. It was right by the waterfront and an easy walk to Fløibanen Funicular which is a tram that will take you all the way up to Mount Fløyen. We just bought an one way ticket up so that we could walk down the mountain (goal #3). The views are spectacular.
Then we walked straight to a grocery store so we could pick up food and snacks to start our road trip the next day.
Day 2: Bergen -> Flåm (2.5 hr drive)
The official start to our road trip! To ensure we had good internet accessibility while on the road, we rented a Tep Pocket Wifi. It was so great! The unit itself was about the size of my iphone but it came in a little traveling case that kept the cord and all the necessary information we needed all in one place. If you’re traveling anywhere internationally, I’d highly recommend getting one of these. It’s worth it for the peace of mind.
Pro Tip: Make sure you plug in the right hotel address into your GPS. We ended up driving somewhere an hour and a half out of the way. It all worked out because the stops we made along the way were totally worth it. What should have been a 2.5 hr car drive ended up being 5 hrs.
While in Flåm we stayed at the Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri. It an older hotel but the shower’s water pressure was amazing and the beds were comfortable. What really more could you ask for?
It’s also conveniently located right at the base of the road to Stegastein, the ideal viewing point for the Sognefjord. The view is incredible!
Day 3: Flåm -> Geiranger (5 hr drive)
The next morning we woke up, ate the hotel breakfast and headed to the Flåmsbana which is a train that goes right through Flåm valley all the way to Myrdal. It’s about an hour long train ride one way with beautiful views of the valley and waterfalls. To be honest though, if I had to do it over again, I would try to either just do the one way (we couldn’t because of we still had our rental car) or just skip it entirely. You see pretty similar views while driving.
But you do get to stop at the Kjosfossen waterfall which is the definite highlight of the entire ride.
There are plenty of seats going at all different times of the day. We booked our tickets the night before but I don’t think it would even be a problem to book them the day of.
After the two hour train ride, we headed to Geiranger. Our longest drive of the entire trip but my favorite stop out of all the places that we went to. Along the way we stopped at scenic areas to take pictures. But after a while, everything was super foggy! Imagine driving downhill, on Norway’s hairpin turns in the fog not really being able to see more than 5ft ahead of you. Yea! It was a little nuts. But we also had no idea about the beautiful views we were missing out on because of the fog! More about that later though.
We stayed in these great cabins by the water hosted by Geirangerfjorden Feriesenter. Out of all the places that we stayed, this was definietly my favorite. Although we didn’t get free breakfast, we did have a fully equipped kitchen that made dinner and breakfast morning super easy. We just went to the grocery store and bought some chicken wings and other things you can easily heat up in the oven and had a great dinner. Breakfast was leftovers 🙂 There was something about making our own meal that made it feel so much more like home. It felt so comfortable and the view was absolutely amazing. I’d definietly stay here again. I actually wish we stayed one more night in Geiranger because this was my favorite stop of the entire trip.
Day 4: Geiranger -> Molde (2 hr drive)
Geirangerfjord is amazingly beautiful. Too bad it was so foggy that we didn’t see everything when we were driving in so we really didn’t get the full magnificence. Either way, we woke up early so that we could maximize our time in Geiranger before the “short” drive to Molde. We started off with a hike in Vesterås. It was a quick 30 minute hike with beautiful views of Geirangerfjord. The highlight of the hike, at least for me, was running into 5 cute little alpacas! It took everything I had not to drop my camera and cuddle them.
Afterwards, Andrew and I remembered we saw this sign for Geiranger Skywalk: Dalsnibba. We didn’t really know what it was but decided to go for it. HOLY COW if you asked either one of us, this was definietly the highlight of the entire Norwegian trip! We drove up the road that we had driven the day before but without the fog. We were missing out on some crazy beautiful views! I was shocked. Literally my jaw dropped and didn’t close until we were back down the mountain.
Getting into Dalsnibba there’s an entrance fee. The only time we had an entrance fee for anything and I don’t exactly remember how much it was in kroner but it turned out to be about $15 USD for the car. WORTH IT. Still driving up the mountain, we were surprised to be driving through the snow as well! Surprised in a good way though. We were fully prepared for cold, wet weather so it was perfect. At the end of the road, you’re on top of the mountain. It’s windy, cold, and extremely beautiful. I loved every second we were up there. Seriously, if you don’t do anything else that I recommend from this trip, you should do this one! I can’t say it enough but it was absolutely stunning.
After taking about 500 pictures, we drove back down the mountain and started our drive to Molde. Luckily on the way over we had to drive past Mehdi’s viewpoint which is on the other side of Geiranger. After Dalsnibba, it wasn’t as spectacular but worth the quick stop.
2 car ferries later, we ended up in Molde. I had booked two nights at the Thon Hotel Moldefjord through orbitz.com thinking that we would be close to Åndalsnes. That was when I realized that orbitz is probably only good for bigger towns/cities in Europe or America in general. We were actually 1.5 hrs and 1 ferry ride away from Åndalsnes and I wanted to be closer. Luckily I purchased trip insurance and was able to cancel our second night and booked another cabin close to Åndalsnes through booking.com. One of the best last minute decisions I’ve ever made.
Turns out Molde is one of the bigger towns that we visited and luckily there was plenty for us to do with our unintentional visit there. Andrew and I drove up to the Varden viewpoint and spent the best sunset we had (the only sunset we had without rain) looking down Molde from above. Both of us left the mountain smiling.
Day 5: Molde -> Åndalsnes (1.5 hour drive)
Woke up the next morning to our free breakfast and then we were off! Andrew and I didn’t waste any time and headed straight to Åndalsnes. The road to Åndalsnes was beautiful. I especially loved the Romsdalsfjorden. It was so reflective. Luckily I was driving so I was able to make the immediate decision to pull over and grab a few shots.
Our first real stop was Trollstigen. Based on the many comments I’ve received when posting this image on social media, it’s a pretty popular destination for car people. I can see why! But there are so many roads in Norway like this (the foggy road in Geiranger for example), I just think this is the most famous one because there are several viewpoints which make it easy to photograph. Again, it was raining but it was still really cool to see.
Afterwards we went straight to our cabin, Trollstigen Resort. I can’t tell you enough how much I loved this cabin life while in Norway. We had so much more room to “live”, our views each time were absolutely incredible and they have been in the most convient places. I would not have done it any other way. Both of us were pretty exhausted so we spent the rest of the afternoon just resting. As sunset approached we tried our best to find a hike but got lost and ended up missing it. We went back to Romsdalsfjorden. Dinner was another grocery store food reheating session in our kitchen, but it was a great way to end the night.
Day 6 Åndalsnes -> Ålesund -> Hurtigruten (1.5 hours)
Probably my second favorite day of all. A very close second. We finally woke up to a beautiful morning with barely any clouds in the sky. It was the perfect day to tackle the longest and hardest hike of our entire trip (and maybe my life), Rampestreken. It is only 550m (about .35 miles) but you’re going straight uphill the ENTIRE time. Some of the hike has stone steps or a little wooden walkway but most of it was straight up dirt trails and walking across tree roots. I was definietly not used to the elevation and it was a little ego crushing seeing these Norwegian grandmas crushing the trail and actually passing me. Props! I want to be like you when I grow up.
But the view on top is AMAZING! Different than Geiranger and almost as breathtaking. Definitely bring plenty of water and wearing 3 pairs of pants and 4 layers on top was not needed at all! After 100m, Andrew and I were undressing and shoving all our warm clothes in my backpack.
It was difficult but there’s no doubt in my mind that I would do it again! The reward was way too sweet not to.
After the hike, Andrew and I were ready for lunch. We had some left over food from our grocery hauls so we ended up driving to a scenic spot with a bench and finished everything we had left.
Our final destination for the day was Ålesund to hop on to the Hurtigruten. We thought that we could spend the afternoon in Ålesund but it ended up being really rainy (the most rain we had seen the entire trip) and on a Sunday. We didn’t put 2 and 2 together that many things would be closed on a Sunday. So we ended up enjoying a really long, relaxed dinner and found a Best Western hotel that we were able to sit in their common area and relax until it was time to hop onto to Hurtigruten. I’m so thankful for that Best Western. We were able to sit on their comfortable couches, use the bathroom and generally relax and stay sheltered from the rain and wind. Otherwise we would have had to wait in our car until 12:00a to board the Hurtigruten.
The Hurtigruten was scheduled to leave Ålesund at 1a. We had to be at the port by 12:30a. We were there by 12 and was able to drop off our car, head to our cabin and in bed by 12:45. It was a great way to end such a long day.
Day 7 Hurtigruten -> Bergen
We woke up on the Hurtigruten and took full advantage of the breakfast. Another breakfast buffet that offered the typical foods you would see in Norwegian hotels. Not to sound like a broken record, but it was raining. So Andrew and I took our time exploring the ship, walking on the different floors (I think there were 7 or 8 total) and finally ended up sitting at a table by a window and just watched the view. We docked in Bergen at 2:30p and it was really cool to see the city from the water.
Getting off the boat was a breeze and so orderly. We drove straight to our second hotel in Bergen, City Box and I loved that fact that it was in a different part of the city as our original stay in Bergen. This time we were about a mile away from the water but it was far enough that we were able to walk around and enjoy a different part of the city, a more central part. From then on, we didn’t have an agenda. We just wanted to enjoy our final evening in Norway and just take our time. We ended up eating at Pingvinen which I’m assuming is Norwegian for “the penguin”. It was the top recommended restaurant on TripAdvisor so we walked over and both really enjoyed our dinner.
Guess what, it was raining so we ended up walking in the rain for a bit but ultimately called it an early evening and went back to the hotel.
Day 8 Bergen -> Home
The only downfall of City Box was that there was no free hotel breakfast 🙁 We ended up walking to another Scandic hotel that was close to City Box and paid for the breakfast buffet there. We had to catch our flight back home so we dropped off our rental car at Rent-A-Wreck and went straight to the airport.
Tips I learned along the way.
- Almost everyone speaks english. We were actually surprised how seamless it seemed for some to switch from Norwegian to English and it made travel that much easier.
- Norway, especially the southwestern coast is rainy even more so than Seattle and it comes out of nowhere. Bring plenty of layers and waterproof outerwear. An umbrella is a good idea too.
- Orbitz is a great place to look up hotels and places to stay in bigger towns/cities in Europe. If you’re visiting some smaller areas, I’d highly highly suggest looking into booking.com. They have a much larger selection of places to stay at a better rate than Orbitz. I also saw many other travelers in Norway camp and car camp along the way, especially in the more rural parts of the country.
- I first noticed while we were in Bergen that there are seating benches anywhere scenic.
- Food is expensive but found it a little more manageable by eating free hotel breakfasts, eating a majority of our lunches/dinners from grocery store hauls and being selective when we ate out.
- Car ferries. Being from America we weren’t used to anything like this but it was a pretty cool experience. Luckily, we never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a ferry to arrive. The summer time could be different. If you’re wondering, all you really have to do is wait in line for the ferry to arrive. You drive up onto the boat and sit in your car until the man comes to collect your money. The fees vary from ferry to ferry but in general they were about $15 USD. Once you’ve paid, you’re free to walk around the ferry or sit in your car. All the ferries we were on had at least a place to buy some food, bathrooms or at least had a scenic view for us to enjoy. It was a great way to still travel and stretch our legs at the same time. If you do leave your car, there will be an alarm that sounds when you’re approaching your destination. At that time everyone hops back in to the car and you’ll be guided off the ferry once you’ve docked. Prior to leaving to Norway I read forums of people asking how to avoid ferries. I think it was a time issue that actually disturbed them about the ferry, but it was an experience that I was indifferent about and wouldn’t have really changed the route just to avoid them. I can see how it saved us a lot of time.
Overall, I loved our trip to Norway. It was probably one of the best trips Andrew and I have had in awhile. I’d absolutely do it again but visit other parts of Norway, specifically Lofoten and more northern parts while taking more advantage of the Hurtigruten. So if you’re planning a trip to Norway, I hope this helped. If you have any additional questions, I’ll try my best to answer them so feel free to leave them in the comments below.