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Driving tour of stave churches Summer 2023

Because I am a history nerd, that's why I want to see as many stave churches as possible. My plan is to fly into Oslo, visit the Gol Stave Church with public transit, then rent a car for most of my tour, winding up in Trondheim. Once there, I'd like to turn in the car, spend a few nights, then travel to Tromso by train, then return to Oslo and back to the US. (I know there aren't any stave churches in Tromso, I'm just adding it to the trip because I may not make it back to Norway again)

I'm hoping for input on a few questions:
1) Has anyone else done a similar tour of the stave churches or an extended driving tour? Any thoughts, things I should look out for?
2) Any concerns/thoughts about driving conditions in July and August, especially in the rural areas? (I'm an experienced driver, especially in the Rocky Mountains and the California coast, but for an example--I'm wondering how fast the locals drive and if I should be prepared to pull over often to let them by. Also, is there roadside assistance comparable to AAA in the US?)
3) Whether you've encountered double booking while traveling in Norway? (this seems to come up often in reviews)
4) Any knowledge about the safety of traveling alone in Norway?

Really appreciate any information, thanks in advance!

Posted by
5545 posts

2: The risk of bad weather is probably low, but you still need to keep an eye on the weather forecast. And as always, make sure you have enough time. The roads are narrow and winding and the speed limit rarely exceeds 80. Locals that know the road also tend to drive a bit faster than those that haven't been there before, but don't let that stress you. Let them stay behind you until the can find a place to overtake. Pulling over and letting them pass is on most roads not an option. E.g. this is what the E6, the main road between Oslo and Trondheim, looks like for large parts:

4: Take care to avoid accidents and you will be fine.

Posted by
25514 posts

There is a stave-church museum located in the same building where you buy your ticket for the Borgund stave church. Rick says it's museum on the topic. I didn't have a chance to do more than walk through it, but it definitely looked worthwhile. The church itself is one of the best, according to the guidebooks.

There's a lot of demand for Norwegian hotel rooms in the summer. It will probably be easier to find rooms in small places without public-transportation access. It is not safe to show up in a place like Flam or Balestrand in the summer without a room reservation.

Posted by
5312 posts

With regard to driving, don’t be too ambitious with distance covered per day. When I rented a car with friends, we didn’t cover as much ground as we anticipated. In some cases it was because we were gawking at the beautiful scenery or we saw something interesting and wanted to stop. In other cases, we encountered queues at ferries or missed a ferry and had to wait. I did this driving trip 20 years ago so some things have changed, but the scenery remains the same. You will be better able to plan for ferry crossings with the abundance of info on the internet. When we did our trip, we just found rooms in private homes along the way; with airbnb and the likes, I don’t know if our approach would still be realistic. I agree with acraven; you absolutely need to book in the popular tourist areas.

I wouldn’t hesitate to travel anywhere in the Nordics alone. I would expect the rental car company to provide some type of assistance. I would want a working mobile phone.

Posted by
116 posts

I just completed a solo driving tour of Norway. I started in Bergen and ended in Alesund, so not exactly what you are planning but can give you my perspective. I am 61 and also have driven in the Rocky Mountains, having lived in Colorado for 20 years, and also drove Scotlands single track roads. I found driving in Norway to be quite enjoyable staying to rural areas. It was late August, so tourist season was slowing down and there was not a lot of traffic. Most people were patient and I certainly pulled over when possible if I knew I would want to go slower and not hold up others. I drove Stegastein and was glad I did that early in the morning before tourists took buses as that was quite narrow in places. I also drove Trollstigen and really enjoyed that as well as Dalsnibba for the Geiranger view. I did check weather before driving each day using YR app and I reviewed info about Norwegian road signs before my trip which was helpful. Plan on lots of tunnels and some are quite long. I had no issues with getting on ferries but ended up only taking about 4. When planning, I kept time between 2 points to about 4 hours driving as listed by Google maps. I did have one longer day but asked on a Trip Advisor forum if that was too ambitious and was assured it would be fine and it was ok, but glad I only had one of those as I did stop a lot for pictures and to just take in the awesome scenery. Norway is beautiful and people are nice, lots of English. I don’t know about an AAA equivalent but I think you just call police if you need assistance, and I also had a number from my rental car agency. I Googled driving in Norway and found most of what I needed that way. I’m sure you will have a great time driving like I did.

Posted by
3387 posts

My favorite stave church is the one at Kvernes. It's a very long way out of the way but well worth it. You can combine a visit there with a drive on the Atlantic Ocean Road, an amazing feat of engineering! Other than that there is really nothing up there - it's a good long day trip out of Alesund. I've spent summers in this part of Norway and the weather is usually great, with some rainy days thrown in. If you can drive the Rocky Mountains and the CA coast you'll be fine. Just make sure to allow enough time wherever you want to go as the roads are windy and you often have to go around fjords to get to the other side. Norwegian drivers are generally good drivers and I've never experiences impatience from them - traffic is so thin in some places that you don't experience problems with other drivers! Norway is amazingly safe and friendly. I would not hesitate to go there alone.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you everyone for the advice, comments, stories. It's very encouraging and very much appreciated. I'm booking my trip now! Happy New Year!