This summer one of my travel-dreams finally came true: we went to Norway for two weeks! Let me give you a hint right upfront: if you can afford to stay longer (time- and budget-wise) please do so, there is so much to see and do in this beautiful country that you will consider every additional day worthwhile. Also, it is wise to start putting aside some money in the months before traveling since food is very expensive in Norway (not only in restaurants, also in supermarkets) and you don’t want to get a little heart-attack every time you check out the prices in the restaurant’s menus. Your Norway-cation (great wordplay, right?) should be a time to relax, enjoy and indulge – everything else would be a waste.
Our route and how to get to where
This is the route we took after arriving in Oslo via plane from Frankfurt:
We booked our Lufthansa-flights around four months ahead of traveling and paid a little less than 400€ each. From Oslo we took the train to Bergen since this route is supposed to be one of the most beautiful train-rides in the world. On this eight-and-a-half-hour train-journey you will rise up to 1400 meters above the sea level and see the most amazing landscapes; from lavish green meadows and dreamy hills to massive mountains and glittering lakes. On the way from Oslo to Bergen I just sat there for hours, not listening to music or podcasts or reading my books, but just contemplating the passing landscape – which was a meditative experience that left me absolutely calm (although my back hurt a little from sitting such a long time). Remember that you can book your train-tickets not earlier than three months ahead of schedule, so put a little reminder in your calendar.
In Bergen we took a rental car to explore the country’s north-western-area. If you want to be flexible and are planning to see multiple different locations this is really the only way to get around – please stay safe and do not go more than 80 km per hour; the streets are very curvy most of the time and especially the roads uphill are not only steep, but also extremely narrow. We used the car to travel from Bergen via Balestrand to Valldalen, where our major hot-spot location was situated: the Juvet landscape hotel (more on that amazing place in a separate blogpost here). After staying there for two nights we returned to Bergen via Skei and Mjølfjell. From Bergen we travelled to Oslo by train and then flew back to Frankfurt. So as you may have noted: getting around in Norway means planning for some traveling-time since distances are vast.
Oslo: modern, edgy, hip and eco-friendly
Oslo is beautiful in many different ways, it has various districts that hardly resemble one another and that are each worth a visit. When you see pictures of Oslo in a travel guide they mostly display the very modern architecture of the “Sentrum” where also the famous Oslo Konserthus and the Rådhuset are located. I myself preferred the more edgy spots of the city, like the hip and diversified district called “Grünerløkka” – especially the area around “Vulkan”, an eco-friendly urban area with its own energy center and solar-powered water-heating system. Here are some pictures of the places that I liked the most:
Bergen: cozy, comfy and hilly
Bergen is a cozy little place. It’s the perfect location for strolling around the harbor area, eating fresh fish, grabbing a good coffee (e.g. at kaffemisjonen, Det Lille Kaffe Companiet or Solros Kafe and Bakery) and also: hiking! I was really surprised to find out that Bergen is surrounded by seven hills that offer great hiking trails; some of them are actually very demanding. We started by walking up Mount Fløyen, which was pretty easy and took us approximately 45 minutes. From the top you have a nice view of Bergen (see the picture below) and you can grab a bite to eat at Folkerestaurant. If you don’t want to walk down again you can take the Fløibanen – a funicular which has been in operation since 1918.
If you prefer a more strenuous hike I suggest you walk or rather climb up Mount Ulriken, the highest of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen. There are several paths up the the Ulriken – we accidentally took the most challenging one which involved very steep passages and a fair share of (more or less) climbing. But regardless of how you manage to arrive at the top: it will be worth it. Not only will you be rewarded with a stunning view of Bergen, you will also encounter a very nice restaurant that serves burgers, cinnamon buns and other yummy baked goods that will recharge you energy-levels immediately.
Balestrand: romantic and relaxing
If you are planning to explore Norway’s North-West just like we did, I can really recommend a stop-over at the cute little town Balestrand. Not only is it very romantic (especially if you stay at the Midtnes hotel), it also has a great restaurant in walking-distance from the town’s center called “Ciderhuset“. As the name suggests, you can order locally produced cider (also non-alcoholic cider) and freshly prepared tapas while overlooking the apple orchards, the fjord and the mountains. It is a magical, quiet place that will take away any tension or stress you might have had before arriving.
Mjølfjell mountain lodge: lonely, secluded and quiet
On our way back from our most northern location (which was Valdal, but I will get to that in a separat blog post) we had planned a stop-over of two nights at a place called “Mjølfjell mountain lodge“. I will be honest with you: I mainly booked this bed and breakfast because I read that they are roasting their own coffee – which impressed me tremendously, considering that this accommodation is literally located in the middle of nowhere. And what can I say? The good coffee is certainly not the only feature that makes this cute accommodation recommendable. The staff is very friendly, the breakfast and dinner they serve is very delicious (and most of the ingredients are locally produced), the four dogs that belong to the owner’s family will take your heart by storm and the area surrounding the accommodation is just remarkable. If you are into hiking, rafting, swimming, fishing or basically any other outdoor activity you will find lots of attractive options close to the lodge.
The only little downside of staying at the Mjølfjell mountain lodge is getting there: you will have to drive 30 kilometers on a steep and narrow road where it’s almost impossible for two cars to pass each other, which is kind of nerve-racking and consumes a lot of concentration. Thank god you will be greeted with a freshly brewed coffee and four friendly dogs that are ready to be petted extensively.
That’s it for a start – stay tuned for another Norway-blog-post about Valldal and the famous Juvet hotel.