If you enjoy breathtaking scenery, generous hospitality and want a real taste of the great outdoors head to Norway this summer for a road trip to beat all others.
While the beaches of Europe still pull in the crowds searching for a taste of summer sun, Norway is gaining popularity with holiday makers looking for something a little bit different. Last August I headed to the west coast and spent ten days discovering for myself the joys of taking the road less travelled.
Where to go
There is so much to see in Norway that you have to be fairly organised if travelling on limited time. I spent five days travelling the area between Oslo and Bergen and five exploring the Lofoten Islands, choosing for this trip to venture out of town rather than stay in major cities. Picking a few areas and taking your time is better than rushing around trying to see it all.
What to do
If you love being outdoors there is no shortage of things to do on Norway’s west coast. Between fishing, whale watching, kayaking and hiking the fjords there is plenty to keep you busy. For those looking to relax time can be spent sampling the local cuisine in coastal villages and beach hopping along the peninsula.
For those who like a challenge the Trolltunga hike is a gruelling 8-10 hour round trip in the Hardangervidda National Park, a couple of hours east of Bergen. Set off early and be well prepared with proper shoes, clothes, water and food. This is quite a tough hike and it is important that you read up on exactly what this entails before you get going. That being said, the view over the fjords is well worth the time taken. Preikestolen and Kjerag are popular with tourists looking for shorter hikes with similar spectacular views.
For a bird’s-eye view over the Lofoten Islands hike to the summit of Reinebringen. Again, this is quite a tough climb but much shorter than that at Trolltunga. You can see for miles from the top and it is the perfect reward for your efforts.
The Lofoten Islands boast some beautiful beaches, some of which are quite deserted making them a really great place to relax. It is utterly blissful to lie back by the bright blue water surrounded by a stunning landscape of mountains and fjords.
The water is cold to swim in but if you want to get out to sea and keep dry you can Kayak the fjords from Reine. This is a really tranquil way to take in the beautiful scenery around you.
Where to stay
Depending on your budget there are a huge variety of accommodation options ranging in comfort and price along the west coast of Norway. Things do get booked early so it is worth planning your visit in advance.
For those on a budget there are plenty of great campsites and small fishermen’s cabins in some amazing locations. We really enjoyed our stay at the Stave camping grounds where you can unwind in hot outdoor pools whilst watching the sunset right on the coast. Right of access laws in Norway allow camping across any countryside including national parks, so you can find some really beautiful settings to pitch your tent if you are willing to look for them.
For animal lovers, there are a few husky farms with accommodation attached, and some even offer summer husky sledging.
RyanAir has some cheap flights to Oslo – ours cost about £68 return from London in August. Something to note, however, is that RyanAir flies to Moss airport, Rygge, which is about 60km outside of Oslo. From here you will need to get a train into Oslo, which takes about an hour. Norwegian airlines fly to Gardermoen airport which is closer to town.
One of the highlights of our trip was the train journey from Oslo to Bergen. This 6-7 hour Bergensbanen train ride takes you through a mass of beautiful landscapes from the bottom of lush green valleys right up to snow covered glaciers and over Hardangervidda, europe’s highest mountainous plateau.
You can take the trip in one go if you are short on time, or stop along the way. You could use your whole holiday exploring this line alone. The Flam rail line runs from Flam to Myrdal and can be used to connect part of the longer train journey. Hailed as one of the most beautiful journeys in the world, this is not to be missed if possible. Bear in mind, however, that this small offshoot journey gets booked up well in advance, especially in summer, so if you are hoping to ride the railway you should try to plan ahead.
We also took two internal flights between Bergen, Tromso and Oslo. These weren’t particularly cheap so again I would advise booking in advance as far as possible, and if you can be flexible on dates that will help.
The rest of our trip we took by car, experiencing some of the most fantastic scenic routes. We used Enterprise rent-a-car but there are several car rental companies to choose from and it is worth shopping around to get the best price.
Things to remember
Accommodation other than campsites and transport such as trains should be booked early to avoid disappointment, especially if visiting June-August.
Norway is expensive. If you want to make the most of your trip book in advance and save before you go. Camping can save a lot of money that can then be spent enjoying some of the activities on offer.
The weather in Norway is not guaranteed, even in summer. Pack layers, waterproofs and good walking shoes. As long as you are prepared, whatever the weather, Norway will prove to be a unique holiday destination you will never forget!