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Norway plus Sweden and Denmark

Opinions please:
We are in the early stages of planning a trip to Norway, Sweden and Denmark for a little over three weeks, for May/June 2024. We’d like to plan ahead and book our airfare ahead of time. It looks like we will be flying in and out of Copenhagen, because that is the only nonstop that Air Canada flies from Toronto and I don’t like to fly. We prefer slow travel as opposed to rushing around. We were thinking about three stops over 9 days in Norway : Oslo, Bergen and Hardangerfjord area. When possible, we would like to kayak and just enjoy the outdoors to get the flavour of the area we stay in. As far as Sweden goes, we would likely be looking at two spots over 6 days:Stockholm and Gothenburg and in Denmark for 6 days: Copenhagen and Aarhus. We have chosen these places because our reading so far has indicated that “if you can only visit two places (or three) in the country, these are good bases.” We are not in any way married to this itinerary, except for starting and ending in Copenhagen. So my question to you is if you were going to make any changes, perhaps, for more off the beaten path places, where would you suggest? We will be renting a car. Our preference is not to drive more than six hours between the places we stay. And we have also found that a super wonderful accommodation can make the difference in elevating a good trip to a great one.Thank you so much.

Posted by
6662 posts

SAS has direct flights from Toronto to both Copenhagen and Stockholm so you can consider flying to Stockholm as well, or booking an open jaw ticket to Stockholm and back from Copenhagen or v.v. Also, don't rent a car for the entire trip. While a car can be useful in some areas, trains can save you a lot of travel time.

I guess the big question is what are you looking for and what do you want to see and do? Copenhagen-Århus-Bergen-Hardangerfjord-Oslo-Gothenburg-Stockholm (and train back to Copenhagen unless you are flying home from Stockholm) would be an easy itinerary but very city heavy, apart from Hardangerfjord. There are many smaller towns and cities worth some time as well, especially in Sweden and Denmark.

Posted by
63 posts

Hi Badger. Thanks for your response. Good to know about SAS. We have a Covid travel voucher from Air Canada that we want to use so we’re stuck w them for now. Our itinerary IS very city heavy that’s what I was uncertain about and we love smaller towns - so if there were smaller towns to substitute for the cities or more off the beaten path type of places I might not be reading about in guidebooks, I’d love to hear your suggestions. In fact, when we went to Southern Spain last year we visited the cities everyone else went and it was incredibly crowded, too crowded. But by chance we escaped to the white villages one day and discovered a farm with breakfast and dinner on the property and beautiful scenery. I could never have found that place in a guidebook. So please by all means, tell me where you would suggest. We love walking, kayaking and generally enjoying nature and learning about the culture of an area through good food and meeting people . We are a reasonably fit couple in our mid 60’s. We don’t have to rent a car the whole time, but we were thinking it would be good for day trips? The one thing we don’t want to do is be moving every two days. We’ve definitely adopted the less is more mantra over the years.

Posted by
6662 posts

That sounds like a great reason to stick to Air Canada! There are many smaller towns worth a stop and you can without a doubt fill three months if you'd have the time. But I'd like to start with a link to this old thread I posted when I suffered from pandemic boredom: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/sweden/and-the-most-beutiful-town-in-sweden-is

A few suggestions in Sweden are Visby, Karlskrona, Kalmar, Uppsala, Eksjö, Gränna. In Denmark you could replace Århus with northern Jutland, Ålborg and surrounding areas. There a bunch of charming small towns in the area as well as nature. You could e.g. base yourself in Hjørring, which is pretty well connected to other town. And you are close to Hirtshals where you can take the ferry to Norway. For kayaking I'd suggest a kayak trip in one of the Swedish archipelagos, or if you are looking for somewhere more urban, around Stockholm itself.

A car might be good for day trips, but it depends on where you are going. Buses or trains might be better options. And for the longer stretches, trains win in most cases.

Posted by
63 posts

Thanks so much Badger. What are your thoughts on the Norway in a Nutshell Tours. We were looking at the various packages, but I was thinking that, since we prefer not to go on group tours, and rather strike out on our own, that we wouldn’t go that route. The scenery and the brochures on their site look beautiful. You are much more experienced in these areas. Do you think it’s worthwhile to do some thing like this? They seem to be offered for varying lengths of time or should we just put our own “package” together, by looking for individual fjord tours, if we want to see a particular spot?

Posted by
6662 posts

Norway in a nutshell is in my opinion a great way to see a selection of Norwegian landscape in an efficient manner. It should however be noted that it is not a group tour where you are sitting on a tour bus with a bunch of other people, it is done by regular public transport so you can easily buy the tickets on your own and make as many stops along the way as you want.

Posted by
677 posts

We have a 18 day self-driving trip of Norway planned for this September. Our cities will be limited to 1 day in Oslo, a couple nights at Alesund (my grandmother was from there), and three nights near Stavanger (where my grandfather was from). Although I don't go for really expensive accommodations, I think I have found some gems (especially on water) for most of our other nights. If you are interested in my lodging/itinerary, you can message me.

Posted by
27419 posts

I did the classic Nutshell route last summer and really enjoyed it. I bought the various transportation legs myself, saving a bit of money (I think at least $100). I also gave myself two nights in Flam (must be booked very, very, very early) so I didn't have to do the entire itinerary in one day (totally possible, but long) and could take the public bus to the Borgund stave church. That bus runs just once a day in each direction, giving you barely enough time to see the church and maybe the stave-church museum. If you're willing to spend money on a bus excursion, you can also go to the Stegastein viewpoint from Flam.

Lodging in the fjord area is very tight, so you'd be smart to make reservations as soon as you can if you don't want to go straight through from Oslo to Bergen. Flam is a plain, touristy town in a gorgeous setting. There are somewhat-less-overrun places to stay, but my research on transportation options led to the conclusion that it was the most convenient spot without a car--and the three middle segments of the Nutshell route are things I wouldn't have wanted to skip by having a car.

I don't know whether kayaking is on offer around Flam. You could also check Aurland; I believe there's frequent bus service between those two towns.

Here are the places I booked the Nutshell segments:

  • Train Oslo - Myrdal (www.vy.no)
  • Flamsbana Myrdal - Flam (www.vy.no -- book the first two segments as a single trip, Oslo-Flam)
  • Naeroyfjord ferry Flam - Gudvangen (www.NorwaysBest.com)
  • Bus Gudvangen-Voss (I paid on the bus, but I think NorwaysBest may now be selling tickets)
  • Train Voss-Bergen (www.vy.no)

You have very limited time for a three-country trip in that part of Europe, where distances can be great and considerable time can be lost in transit; the Nutshell route is a very time-efficient way to see some of Europe's most spectacular scenery. There is a risk of less-than-ideal weather in that area, though, and it's amplified when you are moving fast and have just one shot at seeing everything before you move on.

I stopped for a night in Fredrikstad (Norway) on the way from Oslo to Gothenburg. I enjoyed Fredrikstad but would rate Lund and Uppsala (both Sweden) somewhat higher as small-town options.

I loved both Stockholm and Gothenburg and think it will be difficult to tear yourselves away from those great cities to go somewhere else when you have only six days for Sweden. If there's any possibility of lengthening your trip, I'd definitely recommend it. Denmark-Norway-Sweden is a lot to attempt in a bit over three weeks.

Posted by
63 posts

Thanks acraven. We are both retired so we can certainly look at extending our time. I just didn’t want to feel exhausted by being on the move for so many weeks. It’s almost like after a while even the beautiful sites start looking all the same. But as I said, we are planning for a year from now, so I am reading and researching and gathering information so every little bit helps.

Posted by
6662 posts

If you can extend the time you really should. Six days in Sweden is not a lot.

Posted by
27419 posts

If you can give yourself more time, you may find the trip more relaxing because you don't have to push so hard every day. I find side trips to small towns--without luggage--relaxing. I get to sit on a train or a bus for 30 to 60 minutes (occasionally longer) and then wander happily along pretty streets. It's really very different from hopping between large cities every 3 days or so.

Posted by
471 posts

My sister and I are doing this route in May 2023. Stockholm to Gothenburg to Copenhagen to the fjords. I bought our flights in November and have been filling in the blanks ever since. I can let you know in June how it works out!

Posted by
63 posts

Thanks ac. I’d love to hear about how your trip was. May I message you in June sometime?

Posted by
27419 posts

Joan, I'll be in Europe from June 14 till early October (a guess) and won't have access to my notes from the 2022 trip. I do keep up with the forum and try to respond to messages while I'm traveling, but my time is more limited when I'm not at home. If you can get to me by the end of May, you'll probably get a fuller response.

Posted by
6662 posts

Your plans don't include some of the fantastic fjords in Norway like
Geiranger,

As far as I can see, they do.