This post is long overdue, mainly because I didn't really know how to sum up or put into words how incredible this trip was. Norway can only be described as mind-blowing. It's one of those places where you really get to witness the breathtaking grandeur that is Mother Nature. Even as a professional photographer I have to admit that pictures don't do it any justice. I've done a lot of trips this past year but if I had to go back and only do one, it would be Norway.
Let me start out with a little background about Norway. It's a country with very strong social programs, so basically everyone living and working there is quite content and well cared for. The average grocery store employee pulls in around 50k a year, healthcare is included in their tax dollars, and college is free. Norway is a VERY wealthy country because of the massive oil reserves that they have in the North Sea. This is very apparent when you visit and you experience the exorbitant price of just about everything. It is one of the most expensive places I have ever been - and that is saying a lot since I've lived in both New York City and San Francisco. We had two kebobs at a street fair and they were $65 USD, to give you an idea. Still, it's worth every penny.
The generalization that people are beautiful is quite true (but maybe I'm biased, being Norwegian myself!) and everything around you is very pristine and well kept. City life is very orderly and there is very little, if any, crime. It's easy to get around on train, bus, light rail, or Uber. We ended up renting a car for our trip because we wanted to cover a LOT of ground while we were there. Gas is actually relatively cheap and we marveled at the funny little beep we heard every time we went through a tunnel (later realizing this was an automatic tunnel toll $$$).
Norway is (surprise!) FULL of mountains, so driving is a thrilling experience. Sharp turns on the edge of cliffs, sheep and livestock blocking the road, and plenty of breathtaking scenery to distract you. I'm sure Zack was ready to kill me with how many times I wanted to pull over and take pictures of rainbows, animals, flowers, snowcapped peaks, and more. There are tunnels GALORE and some of them feel like they are never-ending at over 15 miles long! Just when you feel like you need some air, you can hop on a ferry and motor through the fjords, car and all.
We started our adventure in Oslo where we visited some of my family and then took the train from Oslo to Bergen. This train ride was absolutely magical - it wove through the fjords, high mountain plateaus, and mountain lakes. There was a charming bar cart with giant windows where you could sit with a glass of wine and watch cute little villages and incredible scenery whiz by. The train ride was around 7 hours long and I didn't dare peel my eyes off the window for a second of it.
It's hard to pick a favorite part of the trip but hiking and camping at Trolltunga was one of them. Zack hired a guide (to carry a lot of our camping gear) and this is a prime example of why I am marrying him. What a BRILLIANT idea that turned out to be from a seasoned traveler. The hike was a grueling 14 miles and since we were able to sleep comfortably at the summit we were able to break it up into two days. Having dinner prepared for us at the top of a mountain over a fjord in Norway was an experience I will never forget.
If you go to Norway in the summer, make sure to bring an eye mask! The sun never truly sets and it's a bit disorienting if you wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Pair that with the time change and you feel like you're living in the twilight zone. I have the excitement level of a small child when I travel so sleep is less important to me, but Zack had a little trouble adjusting. Watching the sun dip back and forth across the mountains is really something special.
We spent most of our trip staying in various Airbnbs where the charm-factor was at an all time high. We stayed in a sweet little wooden house on a cobblestone street in Bergen, a cozy little city apartment in Oslo, a traditional Norwegian cabin near the mountains, and a fun little cottage by a river in Aurland. We decided to really spoil ourselves at the end of the trip by staying at the magnificent Turtagrø hotel - I could write an entirely separate post about that, so I just might.
Taking off at the end of the trip, I felt a strong pang in my heart that felt similar to leaving home. My mom lovingly calls me her "little Viking" so a big part of me felt really at home in Norway. Watching the mountains soar behind me, I made myself a promise to return as many times as possible (and secretly start plotting the purchase of a wee mountain cabin).
I've decided to share our itinerary below because it took an enormous amount of time to plan and it really went off without a hitch. We changed a lot of it midway upon recommendations from one of the most enchanting Airbnb hosts of all time and it was totally worth the risk. Sharing travel stories is my favorite way to re-live a trip and two of our friends have already repeated this very one! I'd love to hear from you if you are planning a trip to Norway and, as always, I'm here to answer questions - firstname.lastname@example.org
God reise! (Bon Voyage!) Thanks for reading this incredibly long post!
- Flew into Oslo
- Spent one night in Oslo at a cute AirBnb that is sadly no longer listed [anything near the city central by the water is a great location].
- Had a picnic at Frogner Park, cocktails at Café Rouleur, and coffee at Tim Wendelboe.
- Took the train from Oslo to Bergen (CAN'T MISS) and stayed in this adorable AirBnb once we arrived in Bergen [click here to view].
- Spent 3 nights in Bergen exploring the city, rode the funicular to enjoy panoramic views, visited the Bryggens Museum [which my great grandfather helped to establish as a donor], ate at the fish markets, and had many a cup of coffee at Kaffemisjonen.
- Drove to Øystese to stay in the most romantic AirBnb of all time, [click here to view] photos below.
- Went swimming in the Hardangerfjord, cozied up in our adorable cabin to study maps of our next location, and enjoyed a gorgeous traditional Norwegian breakfast prepared by our AirBnb host.
- Caught the first car ferry out of town and made it to Trolltunga right in time to meet our guide (a fun Swede who had hiked it over 100 times), hiked to the top, and spent the night at the summit overlooking the Fjord.
- Drove to Aurland Valley and stayed in a cabin by the Aurland River [click here to view].
- Kayaked through the Sognefjord (must do), went to see Stegastein (an architecturally significant lookout point over 2000ft above the Fjord), and hiked the gorgeous Prest mountaintop.
- Took the MOST spectacular long drive to the Turtagrø hotel over a special mountain road only open in the summer months, stayed for a night (my favorite hotel experience to date), and spent some time journaling while we overlooked the jagged snowcapped peaks out of our room's window.
- Took another beautiful drive to the Kaupanger - Gudvangen car ferry that took us through the most narrow Fjord in Norway - the Nærøyfjord (so dramatic!).
- Began the journey back to Bergen where we spent one more night before heading home.
And last but most certainly not the least, we mastered "The Thong Song" on our long drive back to the airport...