Well, this year has certainly started out an adventurous one! We’re just about 6 months into the year and I can almost say we’ve been somewhere exciting every month of the year, almost. Go us!
When we were in Stockholm earlier this year, I also happened to take a day (business) trip to Oslo, flying in at 7am and flying out again at 7pm. Although fleeting, I did manage to steal a couple of hours to see the highlights of Oslo. This short visit plus the many suggestions from the clients I went to see only propelled Norway further up the bucket list. So when Ollie mentioned he had to be in Gjovik for a “school trip” last month, the travel buds were set alight. It would be rude not to.
Although Norway is considered an expensive region (that is no lie; skip to the end to see our total cost), flying out couldn’t be cheaper. Thanks to Ryan Air, flights start from £7.99 one-way (that was the actual cost of my flight back) to Rygge Airport, 60km South of Oslo City . When you put it that way, suddenly Norway doesn’t seem so out of reach or budget after all. But not ones’ to mope around a city for 4 days, we of course wanted a bigger piece of the action and so driving to Bergen and back, a meer 560km each way, sounded just like our kind of challenge. But just how cheap could we make this visit? And would we survive 16+ hours in a car together?!
Day 1: Bear Parks and Roadside motels
Our flight out wasn’t going to land until 4pm, so by the time we’d pick up our little car and get on our way, it wouldn’t give us much time to put in the miles but knew we wanted to get out of the city and to give us more time to explore the following day.
We picked a little, but very good road-side motel in the village of Bromma. It wasn’t long after leaving the city that we started to climb into the mountains; the roads emptying and the landscape engrossing.
Before reaching our stop for the night, we stopped off in Flå for some dinner, home to Norway’s Bear Park, Bjorneparken, and the start to the Tour of Norway the following day. Just a shame we couldn’t have explored the area a little more.
Day 2: Bridges, Waterfalls, Fjords and Snow
Last light at 11pm and first light at 4.15am was a little confusing on the body clock but we had hoped that would help us get up earlier to get on the road. After a humble Norwegian buffet breakfast we were on the move by 10am (so not quite!).. and, we can’t have been 15 mins down the road before we stopped to take photos and explore a bridge(!). With 338km and at least 5 hours of driving to cover, we quickly realised our distractions were going to make it a very long day in the car. But it was totally worth it.
We were following The Aurlandsfjellet route, passing through Voss, Nærøyfjord and Flåm, where we stopped to enjoy our lunch (bread, meat and cheese cheekily taken from the breakfast buffet) over looked by the wondrous mountains and picturesque Fjord (and not so picturesque cruise ship). Already wearing our walking boots, we even managed to squeeze in a hike (once we’d finally found the way due to diversions and a lack of signage), up too many steep meters through the forest for views over the port and the rather impressive Brekkefossen waterfall.
The tourist board’s description of the Aurlandsfjellet route says you will experience lush rivers, stunning waterfalls, steep hillsides and mountains. The route is dense with magnificent viewpoints and interesting stops. And they really aren’t wrong. The sights truly are to be seen.
We finally arrived in Bergen at 6pm, giving us plenty of time to find our Airbnb apartment, freshen up and head out to dinner for some delicious Norwegian Venison* at Ta Kokker, a restaurant in one of the old wooden houses of Bryggen.
*but leaving the alcohol for the locals to enjoy for fear of breaking the bank.
Day 3: Bergen
With just 1 day to explore the historical and UNESCO Heritage town of Bergen, of course the heavens opened and it chucked it down… all day! But being typically British, we’d packed our wet weather gear and so trundled out to explore the sights. Our first stop was to take a ride on the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen, just one of the 7 mountains that overlooks Bergen. 320 metres above sea level, the viewpoint at the top provides 360 degree views of the city… if it’s not raining that is!
Next we walked back to Bryggen to explore in the day light; a colourful picture of timber buildings and linking walkways, giving insight into what trading in a historic port in the 1400s would have been like. After a well deserved break for a cinnamon bun and hot chocolate, we wondered along the docks and into the grounds of Bergen Fortress. Although it’s not free to enter the buildings, we soon stumbled upon a free military museum… although unless you’re interested in the uniforms of Norwegian army’s through the years, there are probably better things to explore.
To top off the afternoon and avoid the weather, we got back in the car to explore the surrounding Islands of the North Sea, heading back to our apartment for some home cooked food and a movie.
Day 4: And return
And so, not long after arriving it was time to leave again. Following the The Hardangervidda Route back, the scenery and villages were not too far different. We stopped for lunch in Eidfjord, another cruise-ship stop but luckily boat free and blissfully quiet allowing us to enjoy the view uninterrupted. In our obsession for waterfalls and whitewater, we went in search of Vøringsfossen, Norway’s largest waterfalls. Having seen a sign pointing in a direction up the river, we started to walk, climbing sharply up the mountainside…. but we soon realised we were on a bear hunt. We’d later learn they were in fact another 15 mins drive down the road. Oh well!
This route took us higher up into the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, still caked in deep snow and making for spectacular driving. It was 5pm when we realised, having messed around looking for waterfalls and jumping in the snow that we still had at least 2.5 hours left of driving. And so we put all other distractions behind us and put the foot down to get to our final stop on our trip in time for some dinner.
Anyone else lucky enough to have travelled through Norway will no doubt agree it’s a stunning place well worth a visit. We wished we had a lot more time than we did to really explore the Fjord region, with plenty of cycling, hiking and kayaking opportunities. We definitely wouldn’t rule out going back for a longer… but maybe when we’re rich!
So, did we manage to do it on a shoe string? Almost.
4 days including food (eating in on one night and being thrifty with our lunches from the breakfast buffet), accommodation (motel, Airbnb & a nice 4* hotel on our final night), flights, car hire, fuel (approximately £100), tolls (£15) and the funicular railway in Bergen cost approximately £450 each.
I’d say that’s not bad considering… but then again, you can nearly have 2 weeks in the Azores for that!