In the early summer of 2012, I together with my boyfriend and my twin brother traveled to Norway. The purpose of the trip was to experience the nature in the Norwegian mountains and experience some of the most fascinating fjord systems in the world. Also, the primary goal was to experience Nærøyfjorden which repeatedly has been voted as the most beautiful place on Earth (National Geographic Magazine in 2006).
From Malmö we had rented a car from where we drove northwards through Sweden and Gothenburg towards Oslo. It is much cheaper to rent a car in Sweden relatively to Denmark and Norway. It’s easy to get around in the Norwegian mountains by car – even the most inhospitable mountains have good road conditions. It’s a good idea to buy an old-fashioned road maps. It turned out to be very useful for us.
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You should be aware that there are many road tolls in Norway. Unfortunately, it in the end of your travel can end up being a lot of money. A good tip is before departure to check where the tolls eventually are located.
We found out that self-drive holiday was a lovely way to experience the great Norwegian nature over a very short time span. In total the trip took four days, nearly a day went to transport up through Sweden. Totally, we drove around 2000 km in southern Norway.
Oslo is a small capital with only 900,000 inhabitants. We only had half a day in Oslo, but we found out it was more than enough. The short distances invites to walk around in the city. I think Oslo is a nice place, but generally there is not that much to see. However, I can recommend the port area and particularly Aker Brygge, where there are many cozy cafes with great views of the cruise ship harbor. Also, I can recommend a walk out to the Norwegian Opera and Ballet, which is a modern building out into the harbor with stunning views of the fjord and the city. In my view, the Royal Palace in Oslo is not a visit worth – not even the park surrounding the castle is something special.
The route between Oslo and Bergen
After visiting Oslo we went towards Bergen by crossing the mountains. Initially, the route went through Hønefoss, where we got a glimpse of Utøya. It was obvious that you should not go far outside Oslo before the impressive Norwegian countryside welcomes you. After Hønefoss we drove towards Geilo, which is a renowned ski destination. Here we really reached the high mountains. There were snow drifts back from winter and the landscape is generally harsh and inhospitable.
We continued westward over the Hardangervidda National Park, a mountain plateau, located at the altitude of 1,100-1,200 meters. It is Norway’s largest national park with an impressive barren landscape with sparse vegetation. There is ample opportunity to experience reindeer. We saw numerous lakes and rivers as well as beautiful ice and snow formations. Driving through Hardangervidda was a unique experience – it was like passing through another planet.
Further west we reached Eidfjord, where we sailed across the beautiful Hardanger Fjord. There are a lot of small ferries crossing the fjord systems and it can highly be recommended to try those. It gives a completely different perspective to see the mountains from the water. After the boat trip we was nearly just an hour’s driving from Bergen.
There are several possible routes between Oslo and Bergen, but I would definitely recommend the trip going through Hardangervidda also taken the boat trip into consideration. Already on the route between the two largest cities in Norway, you get a good impression of the stunning scenery Norway has to offer and the best part is that the most beautiful areas are waiting for toy a little further north.
Our program only allowed time to see the harbor environment and the city very briefly. The port oozed of life where especially “Torget” and “Bryggen” were major attractions. Bryggen is in many ways a little sister to “Nyhavn” in Copenhagen. Bergen is Norway’s second largest city with just over 300,000 inhabitants. Bergen is beautifully surrounded by mountains. The city is most of all known for heavy rainfall. According to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute 2,250 mm of rain falls every year in Bergen – that equals more than 2 meters!. In comparison, the annual rain in Denmark is 745 mm. It was raining, of course, when we visited the city.
We said goodbye to Bergen by taking the funicular up the mountain 320 meters above sea level, where there is a fabulous view over Bergen and the surrounding mountains and fjords. It is relatively expensive to take the cable car, but it is highly recommended. Everything’s for that matter expensive in Norway.
The route between Bergen and Otta
This route was simply the most beautiful. We saw the best of what European nature has to offer. The overall route went over Vossevangen on to Nærøyfjorden, over the Lærdal and Sogndal and further north to Gaupne, where we took a detour to Nigardsbreen. Then we continued northwest to Lom. Shortly before Lom we drove up a small side road up to the mountain of Galdhøpiggen before heading towards Otta.Here we used the Raubergstulsvegen to reached a altitude on Galdhøpiggen. In the end of the road a ski center is situated, which lies in a height of 2469 m. It is really a stunning trip and it can highly be recommended. Access to Raubergstulsvegen is controlled by a check point where you have to pay. The road is only open during the summer.
As mentioned we planned a piece detour to get to the Nigardsbreen, which is a large glacier – it turned out to be a very good decision. Nigardsbreen is one of several glacial arms of Jostedalsbreen, Europe’s largest ice mass. It was a beautiful view. It was fascinating to see some property that was idyllic located in a small green valley with the glacier in the back garden. The blue sky, grass fields, the red wooden houses and the white ice was really full of contrasts.
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Generally, we learned that it was exciting to take detours from the main road. It is fascinating to climb steep mountainsides in sharp needle curves. From small gravel roads you have far better views and achieved a much better experience. It is possible to get very high up in the area where the weather and the landscape is completely different. Visiting some of the small villages are also very exciting and eventful. Via a road map, you can quickly get an overview of the opportunities for detours.
We spent the night at a hotel in the small town of Otta, who was among the northernmost point on our journey. Here we saw how the day length was changed significantly compared to further south. Here came the description of the bright nights really into its own – the night was almost like day. You could easily read your paper in the middle of the night. Otta is located approximately in parallel with the Faroe Islands.
The most beautiful place on Earth: Nærøyfjorden
Nærøyfjorden is an arm of Aurlandsfjorden , which actually is a part of Sognedalsfjorden. Nærøyfjorden is breathtakingly beautiful mainly because it is very narrow and the impressive high mountains up to 1800 meters thunders up around. It is possible to see the fjord from the small town of Gudvangen and up to bakkabygd, located on the southwest side of the fjord. From here, you really feel you small and insignificant – it feels like being in a science fiction movie. We felt very much that the place lives up to its reputation of being the most beautiful place on Earth- the area around Nærøyfjorden is definitely a must see. However, I will also say that the area Aurlandsfjorden and Sognedalsfjorden is nearly as equally impressive.
Between Aurland and Lærdal is the world’s longest road tunnel at 24.5 kilometers. There are indeed many road tunnels in Norway and after a while we found them very boring – that’s why we alternatively chose to take the “Aurlandsveg” which is the original mountain road connecting Aurland and Lærdal. It turned out to be a super choice and can it can highly be recommended to take this specific road. Of course, it takes longer time, but it offer you a absolutely different experience. It is so fascinating to experience the changes in vegetation and landscape when rising and falling in altitude. Several times we crossed the tree line. This route is also recommended by many travel sites. There are a horde of great viewpoints along the way.
Summary and recommendation
We will recommend others to rent a car in Sweden – economic, it can clearly pay off. Fill up the car with food or drinks from Sweden – it is also much cheaper. Norway is a very expensive country that mean that a holiday in Norway quickly becomes an expensive pleasure. Therefore, it is a good idea to be aware of how that can be saved. You should be aware that tolls are very frequently in Norway and it should be included in your budget.
In many ways, it was a fantastic trip where we all got a life experience. We have experienced varying landscapes ranging from lush forests, deep valleys, rushing rivers and powerful waterfalls, barren mountains and plateaus with impressive snow-and ice formations. Norway is truly a paradise for nature lovers. The Norwegian nature is a must see and I can only send you a warm recommendation.
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