When I saw non-stop round trip tickets from Boston to Norway for $284 dollars, I knew I had to book them immediately. I had seen pictures of the incredible fjords and recently read an article about Norway being the happiest place on Earth, so within 24 hours of finding this deal I was officially going to Norway on my first solo trip!
Duration: 7 days – land Saturday morning, depart Saturday afternoon
Season: Spring (early May, 2017)
- Day 1: Evening flight out of Boston (8pm)
- Day 2: Land in Oslo (10am) – drop your bags and explore!
- Day 3: Norway in a Nutshell from Oslo to Bergen
- Day 4: Full day in Bergen
- Day 5: Pick up rental car and drive to Preikestolen via Stavagner
- Day 6: Hike Pulpit Rock, drive North to Eidfjord*
- Day 7: Explore Eidfjord and the area, drive back to Bergen*
- Day 8: Early flight back to Oslo, explore Oslo
- Day 9: Grab brunch and then afternoon flight home
* Staying in Eidfjord and exploring the area wasn’t planned! Plan A was to stay in Odda and hike Trolltunga on Day 7, but due to a road closure I had to turn around and drive around a fjord adding 5 hours onto my drive! Thankfully I had met a friend on the ferry who happened to be in Eidfjord an hour north and could get me a room for when I arrived at 11:30pm. Lesson: plan ahead for road closures into May, be flexible, and be thankful for new friends!
Things to See and Do:
- Opera House: Sloping into the water, it’s an architectural site to see. Grab your camera, pick up a coffee, or get lunch to go and join the locals and visitors for a mid-day bite to eat on the roof – watch your step!
- Vigeland Sculpture Park: In May this park was full of people running, sun bathing, playing lawn games, and BBQing. It’s a little under 3 miles from central Oslo, so put on your walking shoes or buy a tram ticket!
- Akershus Fortress: It’s free to enter the grounds, and you can get a great view of the fjord! Bring a book or snack to sit along the grassy wall and enjoy the day or watch people passing by.
- Holmenkollen Ski Jump: It’s about a 30 minute tram ride from the city center, and there’s a nice cafe where you can grab a coffee to walk around the grounds. It’s free to check out the ski jump, and there’s also a ski jump simulator, a ski museum, and a zipline you can check out (but I didn’t have time for)
- Aker Brygge: A neighborhood along the water that is modern and fresh. Funky buildings, sculptures, and bustling restaurants, bars, and stores fill the neighborhood. Bring your bathing suit – there’s a small beach and plenty of grassy spots where people will be sunbathing!
- Bryggen: The row of colorful buildings that you see on every Bergen postcard. It’s definitely worth walking by during the day and at night.
- Mount Fløyen: A beautiful view of Bergen that’s accessible to everyone! You can reach the top by walking up (it’s more of a steep, paved walking path than a hike), taking the Fløibanen (funicular), or hiking from a connecting trail in the 7 peaks. At the top there’s free wifi, a viewing platform, restrooms, a restaurant, cafe, and souvenir shop.
- Vidden Trail (Mount Ulriekn to Mount Fløyen): An 18km hike across mainly open, flat, mountainous terrain that will end at Mount Floyen as described above! I intended to take the cable car up Ulriekn, but due to high winds it was closed when I got there (I had checked and it was open when I left my hostel wifi!) The Ulriekn hike was easy to follow (make sure you stay off the mountain biking path) and should take 1-1.5 hours (it’s steep!) Once at the top follow the path of Cairns until you see markers pointing to Fløyen (about 5 hours to cross to Fløyen).
Southwestern Fjords (on the road!):
I really wish I had more time to spend on this part of my trip (four days in the Western Fjords just wasn’t enough!) I would have loved to spend a night in Stavagner and I’m looking forward to going back to do more hiking (especially Trolltunga!) Be prepared for narrow roads (stopping for cars to pass is common when roads narrow, and sometimes you even have to throw it in reverse to get to wider part of the road), expensive gas, lots of ferries, waterfalls on the side of the road, road closures due to snow (seriously check this before driving) – and breathtaking views around every turn.
- Road Trip Day 1: Bergen to Preikestolen via Stavanger (Ferry 1 Halhjem-Sandvikvåg, Ferry 2 Arsvågen-Mortavika, Ferry 3: Lauvvika-Oanes)
- Road Trip Day 2: Preikestolen – Eidfjord via Svandalsfossen (Ferry 4 Hjelmeland-Nesvik)
- Road Trip Day 3: Eidfjord to Bergen
- Fantoft Stave Church: Norway is known for their stave churches (elegant wooden Medieval churches) so I knew I had to put at least one on my road trip itinerary! It was a short 15 minute drive from Bergen and easy to find using GoogleMaps. It was closed when I visited so I couldn’t visit inside, but during open hours you can for a small fee.
- Stavanger Geopark: (a play area made from recycled materials from the oil industry – great for photos!) near the Petroleum museum
- Bøker Og Børst Kaffe: This little cafe had outdoor seating (unfortunately it was raining), coffee, a great draft beer list, books, and board games. If I was in Stavanger for the night, this is where you would have found me. Instead I ordered a latte and grabbed a seat at the bar near the window to watch the rain with a good book!
- Preikestolen: One of the most popular hikes in the area known for its sheer vertical drop off 604 meters over the Lysefjord. The hike is well-marked the entire way (with distance markers too) and takes a few hours round trip. I did this hike in the rain and fog and it was still incredible (though looked nothing like the photos you would see on Instagram.) I highly recommend staying at the hostel at the trail head (then you don’t have to pay for parking!) Breakfast is included (and it’s a good spread) but bring your own food for lunch/dinner – their restaurant is very, very expensive.
- Vøringsfossen Waterfall: Only about a 25 minute drive from Eidfjord, this waterfall is pretty impressive! In the summer there are some good hiking trails down into the valley – unfortunately there was too much snow when I went so check the weather conditions.
Norway in a Nutshell (Oslo to Bergen):
I did the one way Norway in a Nutshell package from Oslo to Bergen because I heard this was a “must do” from everyone that I talked to. You can also take this one way from Bergen to Oslo, or round trip from Bergen or Oslo.
My itinerary was:
- 8:25am-12:58pm: The Bergen Railway (Oslo to Myrdal)
- 1:27pm-2:25pm: The Flåm railway (“The World’s most beautiful train journey”)
- 3:15pm-5:30pm: Fjord Cruise on the Nærøyfjord
- 5:45pm-7:00pm: Bus to Voss
- 7:38pm-9:01: The Bergen Railway (Voss to Bergen)
It’s a FULL day, and you arrive at Bergen late (and hungry!)
Pros: This is a great way to see parts of the country that are hard to get to without a car. The scenery is beautiful and the connections are well planned out so you don’t have to do any thinking (buying the tickets on your own won’t save you any money unless you have a Eurorail pass). The Fjord cruise was the highlight for me. If you don’t plan on getting a rental car this might be ideal for you.
Cons: If you’re planning on renting a car during your trip you can see all these sites for less money and without wasting an entire day (I could have easily went to Flam on my road trip if I had an entire extra day!) It’s expensive (about 1900NOK/240USD) and by the end of my trip I wish I had saved the money and time and opted for a night train or a quick flight.
Tips and Tricks:
- Norwegian Airlines offers cheap airfares, but they don’t have your normal international flight luxuries. No meals or snacks are provided, and you have to pay extra to check a bag. You get one carry on and one personal item and their total combined weight can’t be over 10kg/22lbs – I saw people have to check their carry on for being too heavy! Thankfully I packed my entire week into my small backpack…
- In Oslo I stayed in Citybox Oslo, a budget hotel located downtown very close to the train station, Oslo Central Station (Oslo Sentralstasjon, abbreviated Oslo S). It was clean, convenient, and comfortable and was only 825NOK for a single room (~$100 USD)
- Oslo public transportation: You can buy a tram ticket in most Narvesen and 7-Eleven shops (convenience stores, who would have guessed!) or using the mobile ticket app if you have wifi or cellular service. Tickets are expensive (33NOK/4USD) so walk when you can!
- Trolls. They are everywhere and I made it my personal mission to get a picture with each one that I saw.
- Food in Norway is expensive – it wasn’t uncommon for a dinner to be over 200NOK for an entrée (over $25 for a burger!) I stopped at the local grocery store to stock up on bread, peanut butter, bananas, pretzels, and a roll of plastic bags to make a lunch for all of my hikes (and for snacks when on the road!) I am not ashamed to say I lived off of PB&Bs (peanut butter & bananas) for most of my trip. I did stop at an Ikea during my road trip (can you say Swedish meatballs?) and this ended up being a delicious and affordable meal!
Norway is a country full of amazing views, incredible hikes, and warm and welcoming people. I couldn’t have picked a better country to make me feel comfortable on my first solo trip. Now I just need to figure out when I can make it back to explore the rest of the country (Trolltunga, Lofoten Islands, Tromsø and the Northern Lights, Svalbard are all on my radar!) to continue the quest of finding the perfect lunch location to eat my peanut butter banana sandwich.