Duration: 13 days
Expenses: 8,848NOK or 680NOK/day (AUD$1,420 or AUD$109/day)
If you’re going to bother going all the way to Norway, please do something other than the standard Norway in a Nutshell tour. Better still, don’t support those enormous cruiseship companies that pollute the fjords low grade crud. I really wish I had more time in Norway to explore more than just the south. But I have a feeling I’ll be back soon to explore the far north and hopefully even freeze my ass off in Scandinavian winter.
Before you go you should probably know…
Unless you’re from Scandinavia, save yourself the heart attack and don’t convert prices into your local currency. Norway is bloody expensive, even for Scandinavians.
But in order to compensate for this, Norway is immensely beautiful and likely very different to anywhere you might have been bar New Zealand or southern Chile and Argentina. Whilst the height of the mountains may not match the Alps, just go stand in the bottom of a fjord and understand how prominent the mountains can be. Fire up Google maps and observe the incredible size of Sognefjord and the powerful potential of glaciers to carve their gargantuan signatures on this earth.
Ice has carved archipelagos all up and down the coast of Norway and I can only hope to be lucky enough to explore them in a vessel like Hurtigruten some day.
Also, like most of Europe, it’s a path heavily tread in summer from July to August. This trip is all during September which in Norway is already low season due to the colder and shortening days.
Things to see in Southern Norway
Let’s start with the fjords then. West Norway is better known as Fjord Norway, but for the life of me I still can’t work out why that is.
The entire coastline of Norway is covered in fjords really, but the biggest and mightiest is Sognefjord. It stretches all the way from north of Bergen to west Jotunheimen National Park hundreds of kilometres inland.
We hitchhiked from Fagernes to Flåm along the “inland fjords” or lakes and camped on the edge of one near Vang. Flåm is one of the most popular spots on the standard Norway in a Nutshell tour and it’s a tourist trap, but I’m not saying don’t go there. The scale of Næroyfjord and Aurlandsfjord is amazing.
We then took the ferry along most of the length of Sognefjord to Bergen.
Jotunheimen National Park
A very popular hiking area in the summer and surrounded by ski areas in the winter. Jotunheimen is home to Norway’s highest mountain, which as far as mountains go, isn’t massive, but it’s higher than Mt Kosciuszko in Australia! I guess it’s hard to be tall with the weight of glaciers powerful enough to carve Sognefjord holding and grinding you down.
The climate certainly feels alpine, but yet I was surprised to see so many trees. This surprise meant that the valleys were alight with fiery autumn colours.
There is a great web of hiking trails all through Jotunheimen. We went there specifically to hike Bessegen Ridge, but the whole time I was planning alternate itineraries which might bring me back to Lom in the north of the park. Definitely an area worth exploring in September!
There are two natural wonders in Norway which are allocated zero marketing budget. Trolltunga and Preikestolen market themselves with the power of Selfie Media.
Trolltunga is the serious pilgrimage, with a full day 22km return hike required in potentially tough elements. But that’s not enough to deter selfie pilgrims from showing up in suede jackets, skinny jeans and Converse All-Stars nor naked!
Preikestolen is nearer to Stavanger, but in my case it wasn’t really worth travelling down for on its own. I think it pales in comparison anyway.
There’s a heap of interesting history of course involving Vikings and Nordic history as a whole. In Lillehammer, there is a great museum that covers pretty much all aspects including Maihaugen, the largest open air museum in Europe, which shows off the architecture and living style of old Norwegian people.
You can learn all about the Winter Olympics held in Lillehammer too. Norwegians are freaks at winter sports and it’s no surprise given the environment they grow up in and the culture of outdoor appreciation.
In Bergen, once Norway’s biggest city, you can also check out Bryggen and learn about its role in the Hanseatic League.
Try Norwegian food
If you love Nutella, you have to try Nugatti where the nu is short for nougat. It’s got less sugar and more nuts in it, plus it comes in a couple of variations. I liked crispy the best.
Lefse is a Norwegian flat bread. This one comes with cream and cinnamon inside. That’s why it’s the “godt” (aka good) one.
With fishing so important to the history here, you can get fish all sorts of ways. We tried a bunch in Bergen. The popular fish seem to be cod, haddock and mackerel. Also, don’t forget smoked salmon is a big part of Nordic cuisine – you’ll find it called gravlaks.
There’s no better way to be naughty and ruin your chances of Santa visiting you this Christmas than eating the sleigh pullers. I didn’t find reindeer all that amazing, but maybe a steak cut would be tastier.
What’s still left on the wish list?
Gosh how much more can I write before you get bored. Ålesund in the west. Geirangerfjord and the Old Strynefjell Mountain Road in northern Fjord Norway. Trondheim and Trollheimen in the middle. Reine and the Lofoten Islands. Tromsø, Finnmark and Seiland National Park in the far north. And how’s about hitting 80° north and visiting Svalbard?
As crazy as it sounds I’d love to visit the north in the winter. I just feel like Scandinavia needs to be appreciated in all its white, frozen, wintery glory. Plus who wouldn’t want to see the northern lights there!?