I am inclined to love any country that’s whimsical enough to count the troll as their national mascot, but the fact that it also happens to be absolutely stunningly beautiful really sent it over the top for me. On our recent trip to Norway we followed the suggested 4-7 day itinerary from Fjord Norway (found here), turning it into a round trip journey from Oslo, with the addition of the famous hike to Trolltunga on our way back back to Oslo from Bergen. We (happily!) decided to take the train from Oslo to Trondheim where we picked up a rental car that was later returned in Oslo. Below is our list of favorite Must Do’s for Norway, including helpful hacks we wish we’d known ahead of time.
Best of Norway
Train From Oslo to Trondheim
This train journey was absolutely spectacular, going along a lake, through forests, through mountains; never a moment where there wasn’t a scene of stunning beauty out the window. Trondheim itself is a charming little university town with an incredible cathedral and a sweet little old town on the river (pictured above) which is chockablock full of cozy cafes and bars.
Trollstigen (“The Troll’s Road”) is an iconic site in Norway. Ornevegen (“the Eagle Road) is the steepest, twistiest part of this route, framed by two waterfalls. At the top there is a information center, viewing platforms, and cafe. During the summer, as well as ice cream and other snacks, you can buy a punnet of strawberries. The Norwegians are rightly very proud of their strawberries and you will find strawberry stands along all the roads, in fact.
Norway’s most iconic Fjord, Geiranger is definitely not to be missed. There will be different viewing platforms and stops all along the road as you descend into the valley and then up again on the other side. The town itself wasn’t the most charming, but it is full of hotels with stunning views. If you have time, you will want to take a ferry tour of the fjord, tickets available here.
This had to be one of our favorite stops the whole week we were in Norway. Along the route through the mountains from Geiranger to Sognefjord, there is a pay station at the beginning of the turn off. You can expect to have spectacular sweeping views of the mountains and on a clear day a birds eye view of Geiranger Fjord, as seen above through the mists. We also spotted an amazing looking isolated hotel right on the mountain lake where the turn off to Dalsnibba is, that we would have loved to stay in if we’d known about it ahead of time, reservations available here.
Where Geiranger was rugged and dramatic, the Sognefjord area was golden and idyllic. Consider stopping over in the town of Olden.
*If you are following the same route we did, keep in mind that the road through the mountains from Utvik to Sogndal was washed out by landslides and was completely closed as of July 2017, and you will want to verify ahead of time if it’s been reopened. Because of the geographic layout of the fjords this means a huge detour. We unhappily discovered this at 10pm after a long day of driving and were forced to double back and take a two hour detour that was impossible to find through Google Maps. Luckily our hotel (a bed and breakfast near Sogndal we highly recommend, called Villa Solvorn, reservations available here), was able to guide us to taking a ferry from Lote. It is also possible to take a different route, but it starts near Dalsnibba about 2-3 hours back from Olden.
Ferry from Kaupanger to Gudvangen through the Naerfjord
While there is a faster driving route from Kaupanger to Bergen with a much shorter ferry (and some of the longest tunnels you’ve ever been through), this is the scenic route that’s worth it. It only runs from May to August, and only about every 3 hours during peak of high season (mid July-mid August), so advance reservations are highly recommended. The travel time is about 2.5 hours so plan accordingly. Time table and booking information available here.
Bergen has to be the prettiest city in Norway. Don’t miss out on the Mount Floyen Funicular for sweeping views of the city and surrounding fjords, exploring the old town of Bryggen and it’s famous fish market, or a stroll through pretty and lively Hollendergarten which is full of bars and restaurants. We were able to do all three of these things in a single evening as they are very close together.
One of the most epic views in Norway if not the world, Trolltunga (Troll’s Tongue) is definitely a must if you visit Norway. However, it is very difficult to reach and requires a certain level of fitness and determination as it is a 20-28km hike roundtrip (28km = 17.5 miles). Next week I will share a post giving our best tips and tricks for Trolltunga, specifically, to make your own journey there as painless as possible (including one essential shortcut that we WISH we’d known about before we went, and didn’t see in any of the many articles we read in our research).
Know Before You Go: Gule Sider App
We didn’t find out about his app until almost the end of our time in Norway so didn’t get the chance to use it much, but this is what Norwegians use instead of Google Maps. It has much more accurate ferry information, which can be extremely helpful when you’re trying to get around the complicated fjord road/ferry network. Automatically downloaded onto my phone in English.
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Carina Covella is a writer and currently working on her forthcoming memoir, Love Dogs, detailing her six month transformational journey from Hollywood through India. Carina graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University cum laude with a degree in Art History. She also attended the Sorbonne in Paris and studied opera at the Manhattan School of Music through the university exchange programs. Until recently she lived in Mill Valley, California with her wonderful Welsh boyfriend Anthony in a house nestled in the trees, but now they’re off on a two year adventure around the world. When she’s not writing or traveling, she loves to cook for her friends and family.