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Norway trip to see northern lights, fjords, and Oslo

My husband and I are planning a trip early March. Planning to fly into Oslo, then after 2-3 days going north into areas to see the lights, and do some recreational activities. Looking for suggestions as to the best way to get from Oslo north, after reading the comments from previous posts that the roads are narrow and difficult to stop and view sites. Is there a high speed rail, or is a bus trip the best option? I need to spend more time on the Norwegian tourist website, but would appreciate ant suggestions. And also suggestions for places to see and to dine at.

This site was extremely helpful to me last year when we traveled to south France and Switzerland. SO am hopeful people will once again come through and be helpful! Many thanks

Posted by
3946 posts

There is no high speed rail in Norway, apart from a few lines around Oslo that might be called high speed. Trains are faster than driving, but still slow compared to other western European countries. The views from the train is great though, no matter where you travel. Oslo-Bergen often appears on lists of the most beautiful train lines in the world, but the other parts of the rail network are not bad either.

If you want to get really far north you can also fly, SAS has a good network of domestic routes between the major towns and cities. Norwegian also flies domestic, but it's hard to predict the state of that company (and SAS has better planes).

If you want to see the northern lights you also need to think a bit about where to go. If the goal is just to see the lights, it makes sense to cross the border to Sweden. And I'm not just saying that because I'm Swedish, but the mountain range means that the Norwegian coast is pretty cloudy and on the Swedish side the rain shadow means a lower risk of clouds.

Posted by
8132 posts

I looooved my time in Norway heading north from Bergen via bus, but that was in August.

I really think that 1) with it being wintertime; 2) starting from Oslo; 3) needing to get far enough north for the northern lights -- you will do much better to fly up north.

Posted by
6090 posts

How long are you planning to be "up north" in Norway? Anyone chasing aurora displays needs to understand the necessary ingredients that determine the likelihood of you actually seeing them.

The short version: you need to be patient, and you need to be lucky (in fact, usually you need to be both patient and lucky). Yes, it does HELP improve your chances of seeing them to go to a far-northern location (and northern Scandinavia is a good place), but just going there is no guarantee you will see the aurora. There are many factors that will (or won't) make it happen. One of the best things one can do to improve the odds is to be "there" (right place, right time, right local conditions) is to simply be there a while (a lot longer than a night or two) because the light show only appears once in a while.

I'm not saying "Don't go to northern Norway in the winter to see the aurora."

What I'm saying is, "Northern Norway in winter is beautiful and worth experiencing for itself; maybe you will get lucky and see the aurora while you're there, maybe not. But because you can't count on Mother Nature cooperating during your vacation, don't be heart-broken if the sky there looks the same as it does at home."

Posted by
22 posts

Appreciate the many comments. We are completely aware that we might not even see the lights, but are willing to take that risk. Thanks everyone!

Posted by
5818 posts

If you lucky enough to see the Northern Lights consider it a bonus to experiencing Norway's nature.

Useful TI: https://www.visitnorway.com/things-to-do/nature-attractions/northern-lights/

Bill Bryson on seeing the Northern Lights:
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/20563/neither-here-nor-there-by-bill-bryson/9780385658607/excerpt

In winter, Hammerfest is a thirty-hour ride by bus from Oslo, though
why anyone would want to go there in winter is a question worth
considering. It is on the edge of the world, the northernmost town in
Europe, as far from London as London is from Tunis, a place of dark
and brutal winters, where the sun sinks into the Arctic Ocean in
November and does not rise again for ten weeks.

I wanted to see the Northern Lights. Also, I had long harbored a
half-formed urge to experience what life was like in such a remote and
forbidding place. Sitting at home in England with a glass of whiskey
and a book of maps, this had seemed a capital idea. But now as I
picked my way through the gray late December slush of Oslo, I was
beginning to have my doubts....

Train service covers mostly the southern populated areas of Norway. For the more remote locations long distance bus/coach service reaches the more remote and less populated areas. For travel north consider lair with SAS and Wederoe serving the nothern villages. https://www.wideroe.no/en/destinations

Posted by
3946 posts

with it being wintertime

March will be winter in the north, but most likely spring in the south.

Posted by
22 posts

Based on the comments I've read so, we will likely spend only 2 days in Oslo. Then want to spend 2-3 days in Bergen. Does anyone know the best way to travel to Bergen? I haven't checked rail and bus service yet; just seeing if anyone has already done this and is familiar with it. Then want to travel farther north to Tromso (sic). Want 2-3 days there-probably 3 ever hopeful to see the lights, before returning to Oslo and flying back to the USA. I'm fairly sure that little town also has an airfield but will investigate that further. Again, anyone with knowledge of that town and area, information would be appreciated.

And any other tips, comments, observations, do and don't suggestions are welcome.

Posted by
3946 posts

Does anyone know the best way to travel to Bergen?

Define best? The train is a good option, the Oslo-Bergen route is very scenic. But if you have time you can make a detour to Flåm or take the "Norway in a Nutshell" tour to Bergen.

I'm fairly sure that little town also has an airfield but will
investigate that further.

Yes Tromsø has an airport. But if that is your plan you should in my opinion book an open jaw ticket with Tromsø as the departure airport.

Posted by
22 posts

SO as I'm planning this trip, my husband is pretty concerned that all of our travel time will be consumed by travel from Oslo to Bergen, then Bergen to Tromso, then Tromso back to Oslo. Our arrival date is March 5th into Oslo; leaving on March 13th. I see that SAS offers flights into Bergen and Tromso, but little options on any nonstop flight from Bergen into Tromso, and back to Oslo. Hence too much wasted time.

Iam wondering if we should just skip Bergen and go straight up to Tromso? Will there be enough to do in Tromso? Are there fjords in Tromso like there are in Bergen? I know I need to research this more but unfortunately I waited until the tenth hour to take care of all of this.

Seeking opinions on whether to skip Bergen and just concentrate on Oslo and Tromso. Tromso appears to be a bustling town with various activities. Just would appreciate anyone who has been there to way in.

Many thanks everyone!

Posted by
5818 posts

Here is a link to the Tromso TI "pass" incliding things to do/wee:
https://www.visittromso.no/about-visit-tromso/tromso-pass
I hope that you enjoy outdoor adventures as you will have almost as much daylight as night. https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/norway/tromso

I haven't visited Tromso but have been to Oslo a number of times, Bergan once (as part of the Norway in a Nutshell combination tour) and as far north as Mehamn. Understanting that the Nothern Lights is your goal, I would try to squeeze in serveral days in Oslo and the Nutshell - Oslo to Bergean via Flam. In an ideal world add days and plan on a longer trip to Norway to allow you to experience more than the (oportunity to see the) Northen Lights.

Posted by
3946 posts

SO as I'm planning this trip, my husband is pretty concerned that all
of our travel time will be consumed by travel from Oslo to Bergen,
then Bergen to Tromso, then Tromso back to Oslo. Our arrival date is
March 5th into Oslo; leaving on March 13th.

Oslo to Bergen will take a bit of time, but it is worth it for the views.

I see that SAS offers flights into Bergen and Tromso, but little
options on any nonstop flight from Bergen into Tromso, and back to
Oslo. Hence too much wasted time.

Norwegian regional airline Widerøe (https://www.wideroe.no/en) has direct flights between Bergen and Tromsø, and SAS flies direct between Tromsø and Oslo.

Iam wondering if we should just skip Bergen and go straight up to
Tromso? Will there be enough to do in Tromso? Are there fjords in
Tromso like there are in Bergen?

There are fjords around Tromsø, but they are in my opinion a bit bland compared to ones further south.

Posted by
5818 posts

Want 2-3 days there-probably 3 ever hopeful to see the lights,...

Probability of clear skies in March is poor. If seeing the ligths is important, add more days and you have the option of departing early if you are lucky early in your stay.

https://wanderlog.com/weather/9905/3/tromso-weather-in-march

How cloudy is Tromso in March

The average amount of time that the sky is clear or sunny (partly
cloudy or less) in Tromso during March is 5.3 hours (22% of the day).
For comparison, the day with the most clear, sunny days in Tromso is
July with 9.1 hours while March has the shortest amount of cloud-free
hours of only 5.3 hours

How much does it rain or snow in March

In Tromso in March, there's a 42% chance of rain or snow on an average
day. And on the average day it rains or snows, we get 0.00 in (0.1 mm)
of precipitation. In more common terms of how much that is, some would
describe it as not rainy/snowy at all.

The wettest month in Tromso is March with a 42% chance of
precipitation on a typical day and gets 0.16 inches (4.1 mm) of
precipitation,

Last year'w weather statistics:
https://www.yr.no/en/statistics/graph/1-305409/Norway/Troms%20og%20Finnmark/Troms%C3%B8/Troms%C3%B8

Posted by
6090 posts

And, just to reiterate my post above -- it's best not to get your heart so set on seeing the aurora that you miss out on other things (every trip is always a series of trade-offs), and accept that there's a lot of luck involved. Here's a recent trip report that perfectly illustrates what often happens, despite one's best efforts and notwithstanding marketing claims:

Trip Report: 10 Day Northern Lights Winter Self Drive of Iceland’s South Coast – “Guide to Iceland”

Their trip was to Iceland, not Norway (and in the middle of winter, not March), and there's no way to know if yours will turn out the same way. But it was marketed as a trip to see the aurora and that was their intent. OP says they enjoyed the trip, which is good to hear, but...well, read for yourself. Always need to balance what we hope will happen against what might (or might not) happen and consider how else you could spend that time/money. You do seem to be weighing your options carefully, which is smart (because it does sound like a non-trivial excursion).

And just as another reality check, I recommend browsing this older thread on the same subject, to see more context/experiences provided by others:

Northern Lights

Good luck and have fun, whatever you chose to do.