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Norway 2023

My travel dates are 4/26/2023 - 5/7/2023. leaving me a total of 8 full days. I am flying into Bergen. I would like to experience the fjords and spectacular waterfalls. I am open to cruises and would like to experience the scenery on hikes. I am in okay shape at 65 years old. I would like to experience the history and cuisine of Norway. I am considering renting a car to see areas outside Bergen. Some of my concerns would be if I should try to squeeze Oslo into my itinerary. I am looking into Flam, and areas south of Bergen. I believe there will be exquisite photo ops anywhere I go. Any feedback is appreciated regarding places to see, tours to take, things to avoid, etc.

Thank you

Bill

Posted by
8023 posts

We took the Norway In A Nutshell Tour from Oslo to Flam, rode a train down into the fjords and picked up a fast ferry that ended in Bergen. They do the same tour in reverse. It was a very enjoyable, but long day.

We loved Bergen when we got there. Possibly the most beautiful and nicest people we've ever experienced.

If at all possible, your trip might be more enjoyable a little later in the year. Norway is so far north and the tourist is mainly from June to the middle of September. Temperatures run 40 degrees F at night and maybe 50 degrees F days when you're proposing to go.

We didn't rent a car in Norway because (1) they're very expensive rentals and (2) gasoline (and everything else) is terribly expensive. They are well serviced by trains.

Posted by
6005 posts

You roughly have time to see Bergen, Oslo and the area inbetween. Are you leaving from Bergen as well? But if you are looking for spectacular waterfalls, Norway is to be honest not the best destination.

Posted by
1811 posts

We did seven nights in Norway a few years ago. We flew from Edinburgh to Bergen, rented a car, and drove straight to Voss for two nights. Our full day in Voss we drove to Eid fjord and Vorringfossen. Third day we drove to Flam, took the train up the mountain round trip, stopped at Hopperstad stave church, then took the ferry to Balestrand for two nights. Spent the full day driving around that area. Next day, drove to Geiranger, spent the full day taking the ferry (without car) round trip on the Geiranger fjord. Last day drove to Bergen where we explored the Bryggen area and took the tram up the hill. Next day flew to London. With an extra day, you could spend another night in Geiranger and use the day to drive the twisty road to Andalsnes or you could drive to Alesund.
We did this in late June. In May, some of the roads may still be snowbound.

We are visiting again next summer for two weeks and still do not plan to visit Oslo.

Posted by
862 posts

We (59 and 72) have recently returned from a 4 week trip to Norway. We travelled exclusively by train/bus which was a safe, clean and efficient way to travel around. Every Norwegian we met spoke perfect English and was very friendly and helpful. Norway has a hiking/camping culture but if you are not used to hills it can be pretty challenging.

We spent time in Bergen and Stavanger and did a really nice fjord cruise out of Stavanger to Lysefjord and Preikestolen (pulpit rock - it features in one of the Mission Impossible films). Very nice waterfall on the Lysefjord cruise that the boat backed up to and was within three feet of the water. A highlight of our trip was getting from Bergen to Stavanger by bus on a really spectacular road route that featured two ferry crossings.

The resistance museum in Bergen at the fortress was really well organised and free. We ate dinner one night at the fish markets which offered reindeer, whale etc. in addition to seafood like lobsters and cod.

We didn't do Norway in a Nutshell as I was recovering from COVID and didn't have the stamina for such a long day. Maybe next time.

We also went to Alesund and on an all day Geirangerfjord cruise from Alesund. Geirangerfjord was spectacular, even on a very misty day. There is a waterfall walk from the ferry dock in Geirangerfjord where you are walking almost in a massive waterfall. Spectacular but damp.

Also went to Trondheim where Nidaros cathedral and an old fort that was used to imprison resistance fighters in WWII were highlights.

We spent a week in Oslo, staying in Grunerlokka area. We had hoped to visit the Viking museum but it is currently closed for renovation. The Munch museum, Vigeland park and castle/fortress were very interesting. The best view in Oslo is from the sculpture park Ekebergparken which is accessed by a thrilling tram ride that felt more like a rollercoaster than public transit!

On Norwegian cuisine - it was disappointing. We are used to high quality seafood and found Norwegian cod a little boring. Eating out in general is extraordinarily expensive, and we found the limited access to wine very irritating. In Oslo, we rented an apartment but could not find anywhere close to us to buy a bottle of wine to take back to the apartment.

If you do rent a car then be prepared for confusing parking restrictions. In all of the places we stayed having a car would have been a problem. Most hotels in the historic centres do not have parking and you will need to park on the street.

With your limited time I would not try to squeeze in Olso. Confining yourself to the western fjord areas would work well. I suggest Stavanger, Bergen and Alesund as nice places to stay.

If you do hire a car be aware that Norwegian drivers do not speed and seem very patient about waiting to overtake slower cars. The roads were excellent and there are many rest areas with a toilet and picnic table.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
26484 posts

I would try to take a ferry trip either on the Geirangerfjord (southeast of Alesund) or on the Naeroyfjord (from Flam to Gudvangen or vice versa). Those are two of the very best (probably the absolute best) water-level fjord trips in the country. The Flamsbana railroad between Myrdal and Flam is also extraordinarily scenic.

Although you are traveling before peak season, I'd recommend making lodging reservations as soon as you can. It's not too early to check availability via a website like booking.com. The fjord area in particular is underbuilt, given the demand.

I think the criticism of Norwegian cuisine can be justified. The seafood can be somewhat bland, though that's not always the case. I believe it was Rick who made the point somewhere that Norway's a country where there is value to be obtained by not choosing the cheapest restaurants. Costs (primarily labor, I think) are very high in Norway, so you may not get the sort of meal you expect when you go to the least expensive sit-down restaurants. Paying a bit more may produce a noticeable improvement in quality. Or so he has suggested; I didn't really test this out, because I am cheap. I did enjoy a couple of lunches in the little cafe at one of the KODE art museums in Bergen. There was a little sandwich-board-style sign out front. I had fish soup one day and a different fish dish--I think a daily special--the next day. The menu was very limited, but the cost was reasonable.

Posted by
116 posts

I rented a car from Bergen and enjoyed the freedom to stop when and where I wanted to. I definitely had time at places the trains and buses wouldn’t have allowed. That being said, I did get a really good deal and traveled this past August. Weather, as someone mentioned, could be more unpredictable in April and early May. For history, look up Stave churches. There is a whole website of the best ones to see in Norway. I went to two of them, and some are within a couple hours of Flam. Very unique and interesting. Great museum about them at Borgund Stave Church. I drove along part of Hardangerfjord which has many century farms and cider and was easy to get there from Bergen. Then easy to go up to Flam. Tons of waterfalls everywhere I drove. Not super spectacular like Niagara, but beautiful still and there was one that you could walk up to and behind (near Hardangerfjord). I didn’t go to Oslo as I’m not a big city person, but you would have time. I spent 9 days and drove down to Hardangerfjord, Flam, Geiranger, Atlantic Road and ended in Alesund. Maybe Oslo would be a better option given weather and time of year for your trip then some of the places I went. Norway is so beautiful.

Posted by
7509 posts

We have been to Norway twice, both times on cruises. Our last one visited six Atlantic ports of Norway all the way to the North Cape.
Wonderful cruise with Royal Caribbean. NCL, Celebrity and HAL have cruises as well.

A cruise is a great way to see the fjords, as well as the port and surrounding countryside (doing excursions from the ship). Also, Norway is the most expensive country in Europe that we have visited and since you are on a ship all your meals and lodging are covered.

On our first cruise stop in Norway at Bergen, we had lunch in the city and a beer was $10.

I researched visiting Oslo and it sounded moderately interesting, but we decided not to visit that city. You could do that city before or after a cruise, I don't think cruises stop there.

You only have a total of 8 days, so you probably can't do the North Cape cruise. One thing about renting a car, since you are going in late April, early May, some of the roads may be blocked with snow. When we visited Geiranger (a must see), we did an excursion up to the mountains nearby and were told that a week before the roads were closed due to a snowstorm. this was in mid-June.

Here is my review of our cruise
Stockholm and Norway Aritic Circle
https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=659526&et_cid=3214772&et_rid=17221689&et_referrer=Boards

Posted by
10864 posts

Please do include Oslo! We started our trip to Norway there and found it to be a wonderful and unique city, lots to do and see. Frogner Park is a gem!

Posted by
6005 posts

A cruise would not be my recommendation when visiting Norway. You get to see the coast, a few fjords and whatever can be reached on an excursion. But you will miss the interior, and it will most likely be crowded wherever you go. If that is your cup of tea, by all means go for it. But I doubt it will save you any money.

Posted by
99 posts

We are going on a Viking Cruise next summer to Norway so that we will be able to see more sights than we would otherwise be able to see. Because they are relatively small ships, we will be able to get into places that the giant cruise liners simply cannot. Although the cost is definitely higher than land based excursions or the big cruise lines, we should be able to see some fantastic sights...the excursions they provide are wonderful.

Posted by
40 posts

Thank you all for your excellent feedback. It is apparent a return trip is in order.

Right now, I have elected to focus my time in Bergen, Flam, and Stavanger. I will have a rental car to take advantage of traveling at my leisure.

Please, what are the "must see & do's" for the Flam area. I believe 3 days in Flam would be my stay. Thank you again for your feedback.

Bill

Posted by
26484 posts

I don't usually consider things must-dos because travelers have different interests, but if you're going to spend time in Flam, I think we can assume it's for fjord scenery. In that case, I think these two activities are musts:

  • The Flamsbana train up to Myrdal. It is expensive; check to see whether there's a bit of a discount for a round trip. Or you might like to ride up and return to Flam on a rental bike. I think you can get off the train part of the way down and walk the rest of the way if you're more of a hiker than a biker. Tickets are available on the vy.no rail website and possibly from other sources. You won't get an assigned seat, but I think it's possible for the trains to sell out.

  • The Flam-Gudvangen ferry through the Naeroyfjord (the most scenic in the areas you will be visiting). This, too, is expensive. You can book a round-trip that returns by bus; that would be somewhat less expensive (and faster) than doing the roundtrip by ferry. There are two companies running ferries. Tickets for the fancier/more-expensive one are available through NorwaysBest.com. I don't know whether the bus ticket for the return can be purchased separately by those choosing the less-expensive ferry.

There's a very nice stave church in Borgund. The visitor center where you purchase your ticket has a very good stave-church museum. Borgund is accessible by direct bus from Flam in the summer (off season, a transfer and considerable walking are required), so it should be easy to get there by car. Google has the church flagged as "temporarily closed", but I'm guessing that's just a seasonal thing; there's nothing on the website about an unexpected closure. There's food available at the visitor center. I didn't have time to eat there because of the very limited bus schedule, but Rick mentions the food.

There are reportedly (and not surprisingly) good hiking options around Flam.

There's a small museum covering construction of the Flamsbana very near the train station in Flam. The co-located shop had nicer-looking souvenir merchandise than the larger shop nearby. This is a decent bad-weather option, but the museum probably wouldn't take more than an hour.

The "Visitor Center" in Flam is not a tourist information office; it is a travel agency that exists to sell you tickets. It can be handy if you need tickets, but don't expect it to provide accurate information about something on which it doesn't stand to make any money. (I was told there were no buses to Borgund.) I highly recommend doing your own online research before your trip so you don't have to depend on obtaining information from those folks in Flam. (Your hotel could be very helpful on that score, of course.)

Weather is extraordinarily iffy in western Norway. You'll want to consider viewing conditions in choosing which day(s) to take scenic excursions, but as I mentioned above, I think you might need to be careful about ticket availability on the Flamsbana. It's one of the components of the Norway in a Nutshell excursion and is also very popular with folks on the mega-cruise ships docking in Flam.