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Itinerary for Scandinavia -- Please Help!

I'm beginning to set up a trip for next summer for me (solo, female, not super young), to Scandinavia. I always research and plan my trips thoroughly and pretty well, but for some reason this one has me getting nowhere on an itinerary. This will be a 5-week trip. I want to go to (not in order) Copenhagen, Olso, Bergen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Talinn, and St Petersburg. And probably a Norway in a Nutshell tour (from what I understand so far). Plus a few smaller wonderful places in between. After the whole thing is done, I'll fly to Paris to see a friend and fly home. As usual, I'm starting with Rick's Scandinavia book, but -- it has a 3-week car trip, and a 3-week train and boat trip, with some places 1 night each (not usually my style). I don't want to drive all over for 5 weeks (exhausting and expensive by oneself), but don't mind driving for a few days where it is really advantageous (example - took trains all over Spain, but I rented a car 4 days for the white hill towns between Sevilla and Granada). I guess what I'm hoping for help with is a reasonable, efficient itinerary--where do I fly into, where to leave from, what order to go around, where is best to take train, where best to drive. I love art, churches. museums, architecture, walking tours, shopping if it's good, and relaxing people-watching. Not much I don't like. Mostly a city-girl, walker definitely not a hiker, but I do love beautiful scenery (a nice fjord would be good). So can anyone help me get started and at least well enough to nail down good entry and exit points and a framwork? And a few ideas of doable wonderful little towns on the way. Thanks for anything -- I'm just feeling stuck.

Posted by
6866 posts

Our Scandinavian trip a year ago was by cruise ship out of Copenhagen, and we hit all of your desired cities. We went into Copenhagen 3 days early, and really enjoyed the city.
12 day cruises are the easy and much less expensive way to visit great Scandinavian cities. And the two days we spent in St. Petersburg with a private tourguide were glorious.
We caught a budget flight from Copenhagen over to Oslo and then went on the Norway in a Nutshell tour to Bergen where we flew home from.

All of these countries, except Estonia, are deadly expensive. For example, a burger, fries and Coke at TGI Fridays is $30. A cup of coffee in a 7-11 is over $4. We strongly suggest you consider going by boat.

Posted by
308 posts

My husband and I did three weeks in Scandinavia in May. We flew into Helsinki and spent 3 nights there and took the 2 hour ferry to Tallinn and spent 2 nights there. We took the overnight ferry to Stockholm and spent one day there before joining the 14 day Rick Steves Best of Scandinavia tour. The tour ended in Bergen, where we flew out of.

Posted by
2907 posts

My experience is with Sweden, but I've looked at all those cities for various trips. For the record, when traveling alone in Europe, I'm not confident enough to rent a car (think 3rd party insurance career), so I commend you for that! I like a passenger to help navigate, etc. and then the driver still doesn't get to see the scenery. However, that's just me. I got around Sweden by inexpensive SAS flight, trains, and local buses-in small town Småland and with some fun locals. Just saying this so you know my limitations/experience.

I am not familiar enough with Bergen and Norway in a nutshell so exclude that for more research on your part. Oslo, Copenhagen, and Stockholm are easy by comfortable train or flights - I'm a train person. Between Stockholm, Tallin, Helsinki, and St. Petersburg there are ferries (or Helsinki to St Pete a train). I am a person that would rather slow travel on trains/ferries and see the scenery vs flying whenever possible. I'm not old enough for cruising port to port as I'm only in my 60's. Sweden is not as expensive as people would lead you to believe. I found it to be less expensive than London and Paris and Boston. In Sweden my hotels averaged $117.00 dollars with my least expensive being in Stockholm (and it was a hotel with friendly people which was a good start for my solo trip), but I don't require many stars either.

I recommend going way beyond RS's book. Except for Italy, I'm a Lonely Planet Guide Book fan. If it were me I'd start in Oslo, do the fiord thing with Bergen, and then Copenhagen to Stockholm, and then hit the ferries to the other cities and then back to Stockholm as well from which to fly home, but I'm a Sweden fan and I don't know your budget. You have plenty of time to do slow transit on trains/ferries, so I would do it that way so as not to repeatedly interrupt your vacation by that is a chore, IMO. That being said SAS is quite reasonable for flights within Scaninavia so you could opt for flying if you prefer airports. Have fun planning. Wray

Posted by
17 posts

Hi Theresa.

Here is my suggestion for what could be a roughly framework on such a trip.

Week 1:
- Fly into St. Petersburg
- 3-4 days/nights in St. Petersburg
- Fly from St. Petersburg to Tallinn (Aprox. 1 hour)
- 2-3 days/nights in Tallinn

Week 2:
- Ferry from Tallinn to Helsinki (Silja Line or Viking Line, se the timetables)
- 2-3 days/nights in Helsinki
- Buss to Turku (2,5 hours)
- 1-2 days/nights in Turku
- Overnight ferry to Stockholm (06:00PM -> 09:50AM the next day)
- 3-4 days/nights in Stockholm

Week 3:
- Flight or bus from Stockholm to Gothenburg (1 hour flight, bus will be aprox. 5 hours)
- 2 days/nights in Gothenburg
- Train/bus from Gothenburg to Copenhagen (4 hours)
- 3-4 days/nights in Copenhagen
- Maybe a couple of days to explore a bit more of Denmark?

Week 4:
- Overnight ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo (DFDS Seaways, 4:30PM to 09:45AM the next day)
- Be sure to get up early to get out on deck to watch the sail in the Oslofjord from about 07:00AM.
- 3 days/nights in Oslo.
Norway in a nutshell:
1. Train from Oslo to Myrdal, from Myrdal to Flåm
2. 1 day/night in Flåm (optional, but recommended to avoid stressing)
3. Boat from Flåm, on the Aurlandfjord and Nærøyfjord, to Gudvangen
4. Buss from Gudvangen to Voss (scenic)
5. Train from Voss to Bergen

An alternative to 3-5 in the Nutshell trip is an expressboat from Flåm to Bergen on the scenic Sognefjord. It will take you all the way from Flåm to Bergen on a boat in about 5 1/2 hour.

Week 5:
- 2-3 days/nights in Bergen
- A buss ride to Stavanger, preferebly via the fantastic Hardangerfjord-area.
- Maybe 1 night somewhere on the way to Stavanger. (Rosendal, Stord, Haugesund)
- 2 days/nights in Stavanger.
- Fly from Stavanger to Paris

I'm from Norway, so bear with me for giving my country more room than the others in the itenerary :)

Posted by
5782 posts


  • Fly into St. Petersburg
  • 3-4 days/nights in St. Petersburg
  • Fly from St. Petersburg to Tallinn (Aprox. 1 hour)

Consider ferry alternative for visa-free travel by US citizens:

Visit St. Petersburg by ferry without a visa

Thanks to the law that allows cruise ship passengers to visit St.
Petersburg without visas, it is also possible to take the ferry from
Helsinki or Tallinn and stay in St. Petersburg for up to 72 hours
without a Russian visa.

Please note: This rule only applies to passengers on St. Peter Line
ferries. If you plan to visit St. Petersburg from Helsinki by train or
bus, you do need to get a Russian visa before departure.

Posted by
16883 posts

You won't need to drive to see the destinations you've selected and more. The stops that are additional on Rick's driving plan are:

  • The glass factories between Vaxjo and Kalmar
  • Uppsala, which is also accessible by train and can be a day trip from Stockholm
  • Lillehammer, which is also accessible by train but you'd have to backtrack again to Oslo, whereas drivers can choose a scenic route through Jotunheimen to the Sognefjord.
  • Jutland/Aarhus/LEGOLAND which are also accessible by public transport within Denmark but getting there from Bergen is very slow by either ferry or train+ferry. The easiest way to get from Bergen to Denmark is to fly to Copenhagen.

So if you decide to drive a bit, it would probably be for more freedom around the fjords.

Budget flights are quite practical for connecting any of the big cities, especially if you already saw it by ground in one direction.

Posted by
9 posts

Here is the itinerary my daughter and I used when we went to Norway last September. We timed our trip to occur after tourist season ended (cheaper).

4 days in Oslo - get Oslo Pass - Our AirB&B was right next to the red line but we walked everywhere. so much to see! The best city for museums and parks. We basically cooked for ourselves - nice grocery stores.

Train from Oslo to Bergen - long and beautiful! The red line goes to the Oslo train station . The train goes from from sea level to alpine back to sea level and is said to be one of the worlds most beautiful train trips.

We spent 2 nights in Bergen but could do Bergen in 1.5 days. A lot of historical sites were closed. Loved the newer Maritime museum.

My family immigrated from a small town east of Alesund. So from Bergen we timed our trip so we could catch the older (classic), smaller and less expensive cruise ship Lofoten (Hurtigruten). It does a RT up the coast from Bergen almost every 3 weeks. We booked an inside room for 2 (sink yes, toilet down hall) for $119 US per person. The fare includes a terrific Norwegian breakfast with linens and china. You can also pay for just the trip (no room, no breakfast) much like how the Alaska ferry works. The ship goes into the fjords and makes one or two small stops at coastal communities along the way. Most of the passengers were continuing on, but locals hop on and off.

We rented a car in Alesund and headed for Geiranger with a stop at the family farm along the way. Alesund is a nice city, but you will definitely want to get out into the beautiful countryside. From the family farm we continued on and caught the flam ferry in Hellesylt that goes up the Geiranger fjord (Unesco) to Geiranger and spent the night. The long boat ride includes narration. The next day we drove to Trollstigen (amazing) and back to Alesund. The roads are excellent but do have lots of curves, hills and serious switchbacks. Glad we had an automatic on those switchbacks. Driving is easy - same side as the US, drivers are very polite and not aggressive, and the maximum speed limit is 55 mph (90 k) - most times your speed is slower.

I am now planning a similar trip in the fall of 2017 but with my husband and cousins. This time we want to make contact with our Norwegian relatives. My husband and I will first visit Scotland. My husband and I hope to continue from Alesund to Bodo before heading home.

Have a wonderful trip! Hope this helps!