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Please comment on our itinerary for our first trip to Norway

We're an older couple (70ish) and have never been to Scandinavia. We like nature and hiking. We used to keep a brisk pace when traveling, but we are slowing down. We don't like to move every day like we used to. We travel light. We have driven in Europe, but we usually would rather take public transportation. But it seems like a car would be easier for much of Norway. We'd like to see fjords, puffins, a stave church or two, interesting architecture. More of a "pack a picnic" couple. We are not interested in dining. Planning on going in early June next year. I think I have come up with 25 different itineraries for this trip!!! Originally were thinking adding Lofoton, but that seems like too much. Here it is:

Fly into Oslo
Day 1,,2,3 Oslo
4,5, Flam as part of nutshell on the train. Break up trip here. Bike to Myrdal, etc. Then continue to Bergen on train/ferry.
6,7 Bergen pick up car day 8
8,9, Balestrand
10,11 Drive to Geiranger and Trollstigen...not sure where we'll stop
12, 13 Alesund drop car and get on Ferry to Trondheim on day 14
14 Ferry
15,16 Trondheim
17 fly home from Trondheim

Any thoughts? Am I complicated things by mixing public transit and car rentals and ferries? Is the ferry worth it? Should we just drive to Trondheim? Thanks for any advice.

Posted by
1117 posts

I’m visiting Norway now after starting in Oslo for three nights, taking the train to Bergen ( a beautiful city) for three more nights and am now in Alesund.

Planning an itinerary for Norway was a real challenge and I learned that the usual map-studying and guesstimating the times and costs of getting from point A to point B is not that simple. Norway’s geography and topography complicates overland travel. The same reason the Vikings got around by boat is why it sometimes makes sense to book a flight between destinations. I never would have imagined that taking a bus would be about the same cost as flying from one city to another. However, in Norway that sometimes can be the case, as it has been on this trip in getting from Bergen to Alesund. A 50-minute flight booked months ago came to about the same cost as the nine-hour bus ride would have cost. The lesson I learned is no matter what general pre-conceptions I had about traveling—Norway is different.
I think your itinerary looks very good. I know the weather can be unpredictable in Norway as it was just three weeks ago when a torrent of rain caused disruptions to some road routes and train lines. Take a look at www.AutoEurope.com for renting a car and be aware that there usually is a one-way drop off charge for dropping a car off in a location other than the one the car rental began. That can range upwards from $150 to several hundred dollars. Gasoline is about $8.50 per gallon, but diesel is less and now electric cars are available for rent. Ferry tolls and tunnel tolls (tolls not 🧌 trolls!) are added to the rental bill after you return the car. Check to see if your accommodations provide parking and be prepared to pay for parking in cities.
Because of the high cost of dining out, I’ve found renting apartments with kitchens has significantly cut dining costs and you can still eat as much Norwegian salmon as you want!
Since you’ll be in Flam, you can drive about one hour to see the Borgund Stave Church which was built about 1100 making it the oldest in Norway. In Oslo, the Norsk Folke Museum has another one of Norway’s oldest Stave churches from about the year 1200. It was reconstructed after being moved to Oslo from Gol, Norway.
Since you’re going to Balestrand and Alesund, I recommend driving the 63 highway from Geiranger toward Andalsnes. This is an extremely scenic route that includes the “Troll’s Ladder.” South of Geiranger, you can stop at the Dalsnibba viewpoint which has a spectacular view from a platform overlooking the Geiranger Fjord.
Between Geiranger and Andalsnes is the Norddalsfjorden. We’ll be overnighting in the highlands above Eidsdal at “Hesthaug Gard” in a kitchen-equipped cabin with a fjord view. The family-owned lodging is listed on Booking.com if you want to see photos of it. The next day, we’ll be crossing the fjord on the Eidsdal ferry and driving 30 scenic minutes east to Tafjord, which is the furthest inland point of the Norddalsfjord. Then onward to the Troll’s Ladder.
As you approach Andalsnes on Highway 63, you can take the E136 Highway which parallels the course of the scenic Rauma Train line. The 75-minute drive from Andalsnes to Dombas is considered by many to be one of Norway’s top scenic routes. Nearby is the the “Troll Wall,” an impressive set of mountain peaks that make up one side of the Romsdalen valley. Set in Reinheimen National Park— this is a place to definitely get out of the car and take some time to walk one of the easy hiking trails in this spectacular mountain setting.
Have a great Trip!

Posted by
25621 posts

The ferry trip from Alesund to Trondheim runs overnight, so it doesn't take up much sightseeing time. I believe Hurtigruten and Havila both run only some days a week, so you'd need to verify that one of them will fit your schedule.

I think you'll want to bike from Myrdal to Flam (downhill) rather than the reverse.

The Borgund stave church is a very nice one to see, and there's a stave-church museum in the visitors center, but it would be great to have a car at your disposal to see it. The bus (possibly requiring a connection depending on the timing of your trip) doesn't give you much time there even if the bus is on schedule--which mine was not.

There's a rebuilt (after arson) stave church on the outskirts of Bergen. If you rent a car in Bergen and have time, it's worth seeing, too. You can also get there via the light rail train that goes to the airport, which is reasonably priced by Norwegian standards. It's probably not worth the time on a short trip to go out there without a car, though; the walk up to the church from the train stop takes a while, and the rail trip isn't particularly quick.

To get from Flam to Bergen, I'd want to take the classic Nutshell transportation: Naeroyfjord ferry to Gudvangen, bus to Voss and train to Bergen.

I can't comment on your driving plans since I stuck to public transportation in Norway. Kenko's point about the cost of Norwegian buses is accurate in my experience.

Posted by
6940 posts

We’re going to be in Norway in 2 weeks. We had roughly 25 itineraries, too, but time, transportation, and costs wound up cutting out Lofoten and Tromso. Car rental was tough, too, as renting in one place and returning anywhere but Oslo was going to involve an anywhere from $450 to $1,500 one-way drop fee. Even picking up a car at one Hertz office in Bergen, and returning it at a different office in Bergen was going to be considered one-way.

We’re picking up an electric car (this’ll be a new experience) in Bergen, driving to the Nutshell Area, staying at Eplet in Solvorn (See Rick Steves’ recommendations in his guidebook) for 5 nights, then driving up to Geirangerfjord area and back to Bergen to return the car. Flying from Bergen to Oslo. An electric car, $1.50 more per day than a gasoline car, is charged less for tolls, and we’re hoping that’ll reduce overall costs. Unfortunately, it sounds like Hertz will be charging a “convenience” administration fee at the end, for processing our toll and ferry charges, on top of the actual tolls and ferry costs. Still, renting directly from Hertz is cheaper than our quotes from AutoEurope, Sixt, Enterprise, Avis, and most expensive of all, Europcar.

Eplet includes free rental bikes if you stay 5 nights or more. For Myrdal to Flam, there’s a charge for bringing a bike up on the train, so unless you’ve already got a bike with you, renting up in Myrdal could be the easiest and cheapest. It sounds like many folks have walked their bikes down the first few steep, sharp switchbacks, before riding on towards Flam. We’ll see how technical those corners are for bike handling, and may do likewise.

Posted by
144 posts

Thank you for all your comments! Kenko, I liked the looks of the Hesthaug Gard you mentioned. Let me know how you like it. Have a great trip Cyn! Let me know how the electric car works out. We thought about doing that but I wonder if it would be confusing. We CAN drive a small manual car bc we drive a manual Honda Fit here at home.

After consulting with the husband, I changed the plans AGAIN to two sets of plans we're trying to decide between. They are both for 16 nights. One is all driving and not public transit. We will pick up a car in Oslo after a couple days in Oslo and go to Sognefjord area, up to Geiranger area, Alesund, and back to Bergen to drop car and fly home. It's a lot of driving; 22 hours if we stick to the original plan, but it's more flexible. We can change plans.

The second is Oslo, followed by the NIN on public transit split up with 2 nights in Aurland. Then 2 night in Bergen and then taking the overnight ferry from Bergen to Alesund where we will rent a car to do Geiringer, Stryn, area. And Runde island because we are birders.This is much less driving, but less flexible. My husband was interested in trying the ferry. We are not cruise people at all, but we hear Hurtigruten is a different experience and he wanted to get a small taste of it.

We are pretty good drivers long distance. We went to visit family in New Mexico last year and we decided, "It's only 25 hours each way, we might as well drive." I know driving in Norway is NOT the same as driving highways in the U.S, though. Any thoughts appreciated, but I have a feeling we will have to dscide whether we'd rather drive and have flexibility or do more public transit and maybe be more relaxing?

Posted by
520 posts

I read a post today on FB about renting an electric car in Norway. She said they weren't able to use their CC and they needed different payment apps which they couldn't download with a US phone number. I'm sure lots of people are very successful at using electric rental cars in Norway, but I'm happy I don't have that charging piece to deal with.

We are doing an 18 day driving trip in Norway this month. I'm hoping our one mode of transportation for the entire trip will make things less complicated.

Posted by
9144 posts

Indeed, driving from Cleveland to NM on US autoroutes has nothing to do with the attention needed to drive in Norway.

I also would advise riding bikes down from Myrdal rather than up to Myrdal.

I am in Norway now for the second time in two years. I find the public transportation (even the buses) a great bit of the fun (but it is definitely a challenge to piece together). The views are incredible, and it is fun going on the Ferries on the bus.

If you have enough time in Balestrand, you can make a morning trip via passenger ferry to the Hopperstad Stave Church in Vik, which is absolutely exquisite. 7:50 departure from Balestrand, 11:35 return from Vik. Highly recommended .

Posted by
5595 posts

If you plan to drive in Norway, renting an electric car will save you a lot of money. So my recommendation is that go for an electric car. If you haven't driven an electric car before, you might want to spend some time to look up charging options. Something you need to do anyway. Even if you don't plan on renting an electric car, you might get one anyway. They are very popular in Norway. So far this year, petrol and diesel cars combined make up 3.75% of all car sales in Norway.

The second is Oslo, followed by the NIN on public transit split up
with 2 nights in Aurland. Then 2 night in Bergen and then taking the
overnight ferry from Bergen to Alesund where we will rent a car to do
Geiringer, Stryn, area. And Runde island because we are birders. This
is much less driving, but less flexible. My husband was interested in
trying the ferry. We are not cruise people at all, but we hear
Hurtigruten is a different experience and he wanted to get a small
taste of it.

That sounds like a better option. Using different modes of transportation is usually a good thing, and there are some great views from the NiN you'll miss otherwise. Hurtigruten is as you mentioned very much a different experience. It is not a cruise, it is a scheduled ferry route along the coast used by both locals and tourists, and transports both passengers and freight. Some only travel a short distance, others the full route. And not a bad place to actually meet people.

We are pretty good drivers long distance. We went to visit family in
New Mexico last year and we decided, "It's only 25 hours each way, we
might as well drive." I know driving in Norway is NOT the same as
driving highways in the U.S, though.

It's not at all comparable. Even the main roads in Norway are in general narrow, winding and will require full concentration to drive on if you're not familiar with them. And it takes time. Assuming an average speed of 60 km/h is usually good for planning and the speed limit rarely goes above 80. Also, make sure you know the traffic laws and the road signs. Traffic tickets in Norway are no joke. E.g. if you're caught using your phone while driving, that will cost you around €1000, and speeding tickets can go well above that. And remember that speed cameras also measure your speed between the cameras.

Any thoughts appreciated, but I have a feeling we will have to dscide
whether we'd rather drive and have flexibility or do more public
transit and maybe be more relaxing?

Try to reduce the amount of driving if you actually want a relaxing vacation.

Posted by
1117 posts

Hi Mary, Hesthaug Gard was in a spectacular setting high above Norddalsfjord. It’s about 35 minutes north of Geiranger. At $100 for a cabin with a kitchen, you can’t beat the price, the location or the mountain peacefulness. You can see my review and photos of Hesthaug Gard now on Booking.com
Geiranger was a tourist trap. You could rent electric carts for one hour for $89 or two hours for $169. The cruise ship in port the day we were there overwhelmed Geiranger with its 4,500 passengers. (Geiranger has a year-round population of 250). Picture Disneyland on the Fourth of July. . It is well-worth taking the 75-minute ferry ($35 per person each way) from Geiranger to Hellsylt to see the Seven Sisters waterfalls. If you do pass through Geiranger, I recommend stopping at the ORNESVINGEN Viewpoint, about 5 miles or 15 minutes north of Geiranger on highway 63. On a clear day the view is spectacular. It’s free— and I think you can skip the Dalsnibba Viewpoint which charges $30 per car and is 30-45 minutes south of .Geiranger.

Don’t miss the “Troll’s Trail” ( TROLLSTIGEN) or the “Troll’s Wall” (TROLLVEGEN). Simply spectacular.
We originally rented a gas vehicle but the rental agency upgraded us to a hybrid gas/electric Toyota RAV4. We never had to recharge the car at a recharge station ( it does that itself as you drive it). After driving about 350 miles, refueling required just 6 gallons of gasoline.
Have a great trip!