Norway In Hibernation: Your Guide To A Scandinavian Road Trip
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOUR VIKING ROAD TRIP
The Nordic, unearthly mountain range is like no other terrain I've ever seen. From the sea level valleys grounding you, to the highest peaks lifting your tired spirit... I have never been this far north in my travels and Scandinavia doesn't disappoint. I highly recommend this Godly destination for nature loving and experienced travelers. This month I spent five days on a Norwegian road trip with two girl friends. Just planning this trip on our own was a true testament to our backpacking abilities itself. And by that I mean working with small budgets and cutting corners to see this unimaginable beauty. We flew into Bergen on the west coast (opted out of seeing Oslo and heading straight for the fjords), and drove our way up to Gerinagerfjord as well as Ålesund. In addition, we explored the banks of the massive Jostedalsbreen National Park and it's frozen lakes. Below you'll find tips for budgeting, a map, northern light visibility information, and my personal video documentation of this magical Scandinavian journey.
TIPS BEFORE YOU GO:
- The best time to see Norway is during summer, this is when the animals pop out, when tourists can actually rent kayaks or canoes, and find grocery stores with hours matching the "midnight sun". Although going during spring was beautiful to see more desolate land. Just plan for national parks to be closed due to unpredictable weather.
- You must RENT A CAR to explore Norway, there is just no other way. Our experience with a company Sixt was quite shameful, but then again - all rental companies try to rob you. MAKE SURE you agree on your contract to UNLIMITED MILAGE prior to departure!
- Bring proper rain gear and WATERPROOF BOOTS, or else you wont be able to trot around in snowy planes, mossy mountains or slippery rocks.
- DRIVING northward, weather will drastically change as you enter and exit out of tunnels with changing elevation levels. You can enter one tunnel having just drove through sunshine and light drizzling on your windows, and exit ten kilometers later to blizzard-like winds and snowfall, unexpectedly speeding up your windshield wipers.
- You'll have to take ferries and tolls roads, usually the price is racked up on your rental car for you. Be patient with ferries, you'll arrive right on time just as often as ten seconds too late, waiting for another thirty minutes.
- Choose AIRBNB accommodations to meet local Norwegians and get a fresh perspective on the towns you are staying in / near to. We stayed at incredible options set at the foothills of mountains and fjord rivers, I have included my favorite host linked here. With the accessibility to cook each meal for ourselves as opposed to eating out indulging in fresh salmon every night, we saved tons of money.
E 39 is the designation of a 1330 km long north-south road in Norway.
There are a total there are nine ferries, (highest number of ferries for a single road in Europe) on this road. There is also the world's longest tunnel, brace yourselves for that one, took us about 30 minutes to get through.
YOU CAN AFFORD to travel here
I believe one of the aspects of Norway that intimidates travelers is the economy and high prices. If you cook for yourself and buy groceries, if you split petrol with friends on a road trip, if you use Airbnb or the few hostel options... you can afford to travel here. And trust me, you'll want to grab yogurts, fruits and bread to have picnics along the scenic routes everywhere you drive through! I'm positive you'll want to spend most of your time outdoors or on the road. My friends and I made sure we would keep our tab low, so we each brought food in our backpacks: packets of quinoa and boxes of pasta. Despite the weird looks you might get from security, it is a smart idea. ESPECIALLY for Sundays when grocery stores are not opened (and I mean NONE in the Nordic countryside). Better to have food with you and prepare in advance than starve out in the wilderness. Choose snacks such as nuts to pack in protein before hikes.
With a population of only five million people spreading across the country, you will run into very few Viking relatives, but when you do, they'll be some of the kindest folk you'll meet while traveling around in Europe. Maybe its the Scandinavian charm, everyone helps each other out. And don't worry, everyone also speaks English surprisingly well!
Ålesund is a city located not too far below the Arctic Circle. With a number of cute coffee shops in town and even a mall, you'll find places to eat and warm up. There is a hike of 200 steps up to a view point (I'd highly recommend for photographers and thrill seekers). Hopefully the fog will clear and you get there around sunset, because it's stunning sightseeing. Along the outer banks of town, you'll find other hiking options such as: Borgernes veg, Aksla Stadion, Sukkertoppen (The Sugar Top) and Hogkubben.
This city was founded in 1070 AD by the king of Norway, Olav Kyrre. The mountains surrounding it have given Bergen the nickname of 'The city between the seven mountains". Being settled in the middle ages, the city still carries it's historic and maritime energy. You can even try the traditional fishermen's white stew without breaking the bank at the fish market (you can't miss it). The cheapest PARKING in town is called P HAUS garage, a three minute walk into the town center, where you'll find civilization like starbucks and gift shops.
NORTHERN LIGHTS VISIBILITY
The website you can use to check the northern lights visibility is linked here! The season for viewing is typically October and March in NORTHERN Norway. The polar night makes them easier to see, as a belt around the magnetic North Pole.
Tusen takk for reading! Below is a video of my friends and I dancing our way through the Norwegian Fjordland, enjoy!