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14 days in Norway: fjords and Lofoten Islands

We will be in Norway for 2 weeks in July after visiting friends in Denmark. It's a trip with my husband, we're late 50s, early 60s, active nature lovers and hikers (but a moderate two hour hike in a day is probably our max).

Our first thought was to ferry from Hirtshals in Denmark (since we will be in Blokhus) to Kristiansund, train/ferry to Stavanger and rent a car from there heading north for fjords on the west coast.

But now after learning about the hurtigruten ferries, I'm pondering flying Copenhagen to Oslo, two days for Norway in a Nutshell with an overnight in Flam, a day or two in Bergen, a four day cruise to Lofoten Islands, two days in Lofoten Islands, fly back to Oslo with 1 day left (what do do with it?) before flying back home via London.

I'm torn though between 14 days with a car (skipping Lofoten Islands and cruise) and the above itinerary as it seems like that just leaves me one free day for anything else I might want to explore in the west…no driving the Atlantic Road between Kristiansund and Molde, for example. There's never enough time lol. Any advice?

Posted by
26480 posts

I don't know what you might be able to do with a car in one day, not having had one in Norway. You could break your Hurtigruten time into two chunks and spend the night at one of the stops. I spent one night in Alesund and multiple nights in Trondheim (which is far north as I got).

Or, if you can find a car-rental outfit that allows drop off at a different location, you could do something like disembark in Molde, rent a car and drive to Kristiansund. Google Maps says that would take between 1 and 2 hours.

With luck one of our other posters will have suggestions about great uses for a one-day car rental.

Posted by
10 posts

I'm in the middle of planning a very similar 14-day trip for August. After looking closely at the Hurtigruten timetables, I realized it is way more time on a boat than I am looking for, so we scraped that plan. Instead, we've reversed our route and are flying into Bergen (from the US), spending a couple of days in Bergen, (car rental leaving Bergen) Balenstrand, Flam, a family farm visit, then to Oslo airport to drop off the car and fly to Lofoten Island area (EVE airport). It's a direct flight of 1 hour-40 min. We will then spend 4 days in the Lofoten Island areas and fly back to Oslo to spend time there before leaving. We do miss Trondheim with this plan, but instead of all the time on the boat, we get lots of time in the Lofoten area, which seems like a big plus!

Posted by
187 posts

Roxanne, this is a brilliant idea! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm going to consider it.

Posted by
29 posts

Roxanne- is the family farm visit a place you can stay overnight? If so, would you mind sharing.

Thanks

Posted by
6005 posts

Your first thought sounds like a good idea, but there are certainly other options as well. The ferry to Kristiansand is a good start. At least I guess that is what you mean. (Kristiansand and Kristiansund are two different towns.) Kristiansand itself is also worth a few hours so don't rush through it. There is also the option of taking the ferry from Hirtshals direct to Stavanger or Bergen.

Flying Copenhagen to Oslo is a terrible idea if you are in Blokhus. It would be easier to take the ferry from Hirtshals and then the train to Oslo. Or if you really feel that you want to fly, there are flights to Oslo from Aalborg.

I the end it boils down to what you prefer. Four days on a ship would be too much for me, but it might suit you. And in general it will give you a great view of the coast. Flying to Lofoten and back would not be my choice as there is so much to see inbetween that you are missing. You could also head north using some combination of Hurtigruten and train. And if you have a day left, you should spend it in Trondheim. Although there are a lot of things to do and see in Oslo as well.

Posted by
187 posts

Thanks Badger. I appreciate the input. I'm pretty good at planning trip itineraries but Norway feels more challenging with the train, ferry, driving, bus options. Those are all excellent points.

What do you think about this idea? Ferry to Kristiansand, train to Oslo, fly to Leknes or Svolvaer (2-3 days). Or heck, maybe just fly Aalborg to Oslo to save a travel day as I'd like to spend most of our time in the fjords and Lofoten.

Three days Lofoten Islands. Fly Bodo to Trondheim and rent a car for the last 7 days, returning in Bergen. It looks like a 10.5 hour drive Trondheim to Bergen so that would give plenty of time to see Bergen, do Norway in a nutshell and fjords.

Posted by
6005 posts

Glad to hear you liked my post, even if it felt more like a bunch of random thoughts instead solid advice. But you are right, planning a trip in Norway can be a bit challenging if you don't know the country.

Your new idea sounds good, but I would make a few changes. Ferry + train to Oslo just to fly north sounds a bit complicated. I'd suggest flying Aalborg to Leknes or Svolvær. Should be doable on one ticket with SAS, but will be a late arrival. If it's not possible on your day, you can at least fly to Bodø and travel to Lofoten the next day.

After a few days in Lofoten, take the ferry to Bodø and then the train to Trondheim. It will take longer than flying, but the views are worth it in my opinion and should not be missed. Then you should stay at least one night in Trondheim and see the city before you pick up a car and head to Bergen.

Posted by
187 posts

Thanks Badger. That makes so much sense to fly Aalborg to Leknes. Looks that would require 3 layovers though so I think spending the night in Bodo and ferrying to Lofotens is better as it cuts out one.

It appears that Bodo to Trondheim is a 10+ hour train ride. It looks like an epic journey though. I see they have sleeper cars as well but maybe I want to be awake for this?

Also, picking up a car in Trondheim and returning in Bergen adds quite a bit of cost to an already pricey car rental as opposed to say, renting round-trip from Bergen or Oslo but I'm thinking maybe it's worth it!

Posted by
6005 posts

It seems like the Aalborg to Oslo flights do not run in the summer. Sort of makes sense, but makes your trip a bit harder. Flying via Copenhagen and Oslo is a detour and will take time, but maybe it is still the easiest way? I can't on the spot think of any obvious better solution. Another option would be to take the ferry to Gothenburg and fly from there, but whether it's a better option or not is a good question. But it would cut out one airport.

Bodø to Trondheim is a long trip. If you just wan't to get to Trondheim, the overnight train is a great option! But you'll miss the views, and for that reason it is worth taking the day train in my opinion. It is a long trip, but consider it a tour of Norway.

Renting a car one way will be a bit more expensive, but it will make things a lot easier. In my opinion, the logical way to continue your trip is along the coast down to Bergen and then take the train, or some kind of NiN-trip, to Oslo. Returning the car to the same place you picked it up will make the trip a bit more complicated.

Posted by
187 posts

Thanks again, Badger! Actually, there are plenty of flights Aalborg to Bodo on SAS which seems like they way to go!

You've convinced me to definitely take the train. The scenery looks unbelievable. And I think we will suck it up and just pay the extra for the rental car in Trondheim, returning in Bergen or Oslo as I agree, it will be a lot easier this way.

It's even more exciting because I believe this is the train ride that features in the sleep story about the Nordic Night Train in the calm app: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcrcXtjRTTE

I listened to this story a year or so ago and resolved to take this train one day but almost missed it. Now, thanks to you I will! :)

Posted by
6005 posts

The flights would have been easier if the direct Aalborg to Oslo flight had operated in the summer as well. But a two stop flight is certainly doable.

Don't think of the train as a way to get from A to B, think of it as a way to see Norway. The views are great and you will se a variety of what the landscape has to offer, forests, mountains, lakes and fjords. It can also be worth spending a bit extra on a Premium ticket.

It's even more exciting because I believe this is the train ride that
features in the sleep story about the Nordic Night Train in the calm
app: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcrcXtjRTTE

It is! Nordlandsbanen is the rail line between Trondheim and Bodø.

Posted by
187 posts

I think I'm finally getting close to an itinerary now but would love it if anyone wants to weigh in on the plan for the last week. I'm so grateful for everyone's help in this thread!

The complete itinerary is fly Aalborg to Bodo, 3 days in the Lofotons, train down to Trondheim, day in Trondheim and then rent a car for the next four days to drop in Bergen. One more day in Bergen, then Norway in a Nutshell with two nights in Flam (for cycling and kayaking) followed by a final night in Oslo for flight to London 2 nights before heading home to SAN.

It's going to be exorbitant, btw, for a one way car rental for approx 4 days Trondheim to Bergen but I guess that's the price of Norway in July. I thought about a Hurtigurten two day cruise instead but it's more costly and then we miss all the things along the way.

So I'm interested in ideas for what to do, where to stay between Trondheim and Bergen. Thinking:
Day 1: Drive Atlantic Road from Trondheim to Kristiansund (3.5 hours)
Day 2: To Geringer (4 hours) and/or Loen. Is Loen worth it for another 2.5 hour drive from Geringer? Best area to stay on this day?
Day 3: To Balestrand? (5.5 hours from Geringer or 3 hours from Loen)
Day 4: To Bergen (3.5 hours)

If we're going to do all this driving, I'd love to ensure we're not missing any really wonderful sights.

Posted by
26480 posts

I think it would be great to fit in a stave church while you have the car. I don't know how practical it would be, given the fjords you'd need to cross or drive around, but there are stave churches in Kaupanger (currently open) and Urnes (open May 2 - September 30). The exterior of the Kaupanger church looks a bit more dramatic to me, but I haven't been to either of them. I liked the Borgund church a lot, and there's a stave-church museum there as well, but the location doesn't look convenient for you; Borgund is on the south side of the Sognefjord.

You could also check out the (rebuilt after an arson attack) Fantoft church on the outskirts of Bergen. If the timing worked for you, it would probably be more efficient to stop there before returning the car rather than taking the rather long tram trip from downtown Bergen. I had quite an uphill walk from the stop. I assume you can get closer with a car (Google Maps suggests this), but I paid no attention to the parking situation.

Posted by
187 posts

Thanks acraven for bringing up the stave churches. I've been so focused on fjords that I've neglected them. And, as someone who's made the mistake of trying to return a car more than once in a major city center (I'm looking at you, Paris), this is great advice for Bergen.

Posted by
6005 posts

Overall I think it is a great plan and a very well researched trip. You won't be able to see everything, so don't try to do it. But adding a stave church is not a bad idea. Fantoft is easy to visit, from the tram stop you can also take a bus up the hill which will get you as close as driving. Otherwise Rødven, south of Molde, might be an option. Even if it is one of the smaller ones. A big problem is that driving in Norway takes time and distances that look short on the map can take a long time due to mountains and fjords in the way. But Borgund should be doable as a day trip from Flåm. Or you could simply visit Gol stave church at the open air museum in Oslo, that is certainly one of the easiest options.

Also note that you probably need to join a tour for kayaking in Flåm. In general you can't rent a kayak and head out on the fjord on your own unless you can show some kind of certificate that you know what you are doing.

As for the drive, you could head for Ålesund instead the first day. It's a more interesting town than Kristiansund in my opinion. But it will also be a longer drive and limit your time in Trondheim, unless you stay two nights in Trondheim.

Posted by
187 posts

Thank you, Badger. Alesund it is :)

It's an hour longer from Trondheim but also cuts drive time the next day so I think it works. We will be spending two nights in Trondheim, the first after the train from Bodo and then a full day and night before getting the car.

We actually own kayaks here at home and when I googled there seems to be kayak rentals in Flam so not sure about needing a certification of some type but I will ask.

What a spectacular trip it's going to be! Couldn't have organized it without everyone's help here. Thanks again.

Posted by
6005 posts

Great that you are planning a full day in Trondheim, it is certainly worth it! Don't miss the cathedral! As for Ålesund, try to find somewhere in the eastern parts to stay where you can park your car. It is not a town you want to drive in.

If you have some kayaking experience, that is good. This is far from my area of expertise, but Norway has a certificate system known as Våttkort that shows your experience. But the easiest thing is probably to contact the rental place in Flåm and ask them. I don't know what the waters are like in San Diego and where you use the kayaks, but the Fjords can be a bit tricky. They are deep, Sognefjorden is over 1200 metres at the deepest parts, so the water doesn't get very warm even in the summer.

Posted by
6005 posts

Another idea that struck me. Instead of driving south from Trondheim, take the coastal ferry to Kristiansund. Takes around 3.5 hours so you can leave Trondheim in the morning and be in Kristiansund for lunch. After lunch, take the bus to Ålesund and spend a night there before you pick up the car.

That will save you one day of car rental, as well as give you a bit of coastal scenery since you scrapped the plans for Hurtigruten.

Posted by
187 posts

Thanks again Badger! We will definitely look into the ferry idea. Anything that saves on car rental costs is a huge plus. Also appreciate the heads up on a kayaking certificate in Norway.