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Scandinavian Adventure September 2016 - Comments, Suggestions?

Hello All,
We had such a wonderful time on our BOE Rick Steves tour! One of the greatest benefits is that it helped to give me confidence in planning our own tour to Scandinavia next September. I am planning on three weeks or so. This is a rough itinerary - I would love to hear from the seasoned travelers on this forum regarding their own experiences, comments and suggestions:

1) Fly from Minneapolis through Amsterdam to Bergen - stay 3 nights in Bergen (3)
2) The Hurtigruten Cruise from Bergen to Kirkenes - 6 days (9)
3) Train from Kirkenes to Lillehammer - stay one night and tour the Open Air Museum (10)
4) Train from Lillehammer to Oslo - stay 2 or 3 nights - what should we see? (12)
5) Train (or fly?) from Oslo to Stockholm - stay 3 nights (15)
6) Train (or fly?) from Stockholm to Goteborg
7) Ferry from Goteborg to Frederikshavn, DK
8) Train (or rent car) from Frederikshavn to Skagen to cast my Mom's ashes into the sea to join my Dad's (a friend took his last summer) - should we stay here one night? (16)
9) Train from Skagen to Aalborg, where my paternal grandfather grew up - stay 1 night (17)
10) Train from Aalborg to Arhus - my daughter spent her junior year in high school with a Danish family in Silkeborg through AFS, so would be lovely to have dinner with them - stay one night (18)
11) Train to Copenhagen - spend 3 nights at a cousin's home across the bridge in Malmo, and 3 nights in a hotel in downtown Copenhagen, very near another cousin. (24)
12) Fly home from Copenhagen (no day count, trip is over, yuck)

One thing that is bothering me about this itinerary is being so close to Tallinn and not including it. Should I? I've pretty much got my heart set on the Norway and Denmark parts of the trip but the Swedish portion is very open to discussion. Well, actually everything is open to discussion, as you people have far more experience than I do. But family connections are important. As long as we're there, I'd love to see Nusness (sp?) where the Dala horses are made since I inherited my Mother's vast collection and they have a place of honor in my home. I also remember my Mom telling me about the distant relatives they searched for and found in Sweden and Norway (the elders didn't speak English,) but they never wrote down their experiences! I do have a copy of the family tree, so I'm very glad I am beginning this planning well in advance. I'll try to find them anyway.
Thanks much, Liz

Posted by
1667 posts

I love your itinerary. I did a Scandinavia trip in 2012 that included Denmark, Sweden, and Finland, with a night in Tallinn and most of two full days on either side. I loved Tallinn, and I highly recommend it, but it's hard to see how you'll fit it in on this trip. (I didn't make it to Norway on that trip, but I'm going there next May!)

The only place I see where you could cut back some days is Copenhagen, but if your time with cousins there is precious to you, then do that and save Tallinn for another trip. You're really not that close -- it's about a 15 1/2 hour overnight cruise from Stockholm, and then you have to get back to continue your journey. Plus 3 nights in Stockholm is a bare minimum; if you can figure out a way to add a fourth night there, you wouldn't regret it.

For your next trip, go to the Baltic states and Finland and Saint Petersburg!

Posted by
7905 posts

I would suggest you consider moving your trip dates up if at all possible because much of Scandinavia experiences rain 20 days in the month of September--the rainy season.
We just returned from a 9 day Scandinavian cruise 9/10/2015 leaving Copenhagen. We visited Warnemunde, Germany, Tallin, Estonia, St. Petersburg (2 nights), Helsinki and Stockholm. We spent 3 days before beginning the cruise and one night after the cruise in Copenhagen. We flew to Oslo ($71 on Norwegian AIr Shuttle) and got on the Norway in a Nutshell self directed tour where we spent 4 1/2 hrs. on a train, another hour on the Flam Express train going down into the fjords and a 5 hr. fast ferry to Bergen. Every city we visited was fantastic, but St. Petersburg stood out substantially above the rest.
Let me just warn you about Scandinavia in general. It's terribly expensive in every way. We now see why there are no obese people there--they cannot afford to eat. At TGI Fridays, a burger and a coke was $30 per person for example.
I'd hate to think how much it's going to cost following your itinerary over land. The Baltic cruises are very efficient and they're so cost effective that I'd not think about going any other way.

Posted by
353 posts

Hi Liz,

I think your itinerary is doable, but you might consider eliminating a stop or two to avoid staying just 1 night in some locations, which can be very exhausting. I woudln't consider Tallin, as your itinerary is already pretty tight. Dala horses come from the Dalarna region of Sweden, north of Goteborg and bordering Norway. The largest town is Mora, about 7.5 hours from Goteborg by train. I'd save it for another trip unless you can add some time to your itinerary. Below ere are some suggestions to your proposed itinerary:

3) There are no train connections from Kirkenes. You will need to fly from here to another spot in Norway, most likely Oslo. Both Norwegian Air and SAS have direct flights. See for options. I would fly from Kirkenes to Oslo and go to Lillehammer from there. There are trains every hour between Lillehammer and Oslo, taking about 2 hours, so you could even do it as a day trip. Otherwise, you could take a train and spend the night.
4) There's a lot to see in Oslo, my favorites are the Viking ship museum, Vigeland Sculpture park, Norwegian Resistance museum and the National Gallery. See the Oslo chapter of Rick's Scandinavia or Norway guidebook for more options.
5) I'd fly from Oslo to Stockholm, but to avoid so many 1 night stays, I'd consider dropping Stockholm from your itinerary and doing it on another trip. Stockholm is one of my favorite cities, so I hate to suggest this, but you may consider just focusing on Norway and Denmark this trip and saving Sweden for another time, unless of course you can add some days to your itinerary.
6) If you keep Stockholm in your itinerary, I'd take the high-speed X-2000 train from Stockholm to Goteborg, which passes through some beautiful scenery. Tickets can be purchased several months ahead at a discounted price through the Swedish Rail website - If you eliminate Sctockholm from your itinerary, then I'd take the train from Oslo to Goteborg.
8) You can take the train to Skagen from Fredrikshavn or drive, whichever you prefer. I probably wouldn't spend the night up there, since it's only a 2-hour train ride to Aalborg. Instead, I'd head up for the day, then to Aalborg that night.

Posted by
154 posts

Thank you Lane, David and Rich so much for the feedback! It is very helpful, particularly since I have just started the planning phase. I see now that Stockholm and Tallinn may be unrealistic on this adventure, but I haven't ruled them out quite yet. I think it all depends on whether or not we do the Hurtigruten Cruise - 6 days seems like a long time but really, in that part of the world? With the beauty of the coastline and the fjords? I think it would be absolutely worth the cost (gulp) and time, because chances are we will never go back again. I know that Rick says "assume you will return," but life just doesn't work out that way. David, thanks for the feedback on the high cost of everything in Norway - I have family there and in Denmark, so I know how expensive it is, but your rock solid advice regarding going by ship instead of train seems spot on, so I will look further into that. Rich, thanks for letting me know there is no train from Kirkenes to Lillehammer. We'll probably fly and then take the train from Oslo to Lillehammer and back and then probably continue on to Gotesborg. Drop my Mom's ashes in Skagen and continue on to Aalborg, and then to Copenhagen to meet with my cousins. Thanks again for your input and advice. Liz

Posted by
353 posts

You are welcome Liz. One thing you could consider in regards to the Hurtigruten cruise, would be to only go as far as the Lofoten Islands, rather than going all the way to Kirkenes. This would be a 3-day cruise, giving you a bit more time to spend in other areas. The Lofotens are beautiful and you could spend a day or two in either Stamsund or Svolvaer before flying to Oslo (via Bodø). Just something to consider.

Posted by
154 posts

Thanks Rich. I just watched the Hurtigruten video again and I think your suggestion is terrific. Perhaps we'll go as far as Svolvaer, stay a night and look around, then head to Oslo with Lillehammer as a side trip. That would save us three days, so perhaps we'll use those days to see Stockholm, then take the high speed train to Goteborg, then on to Denmark. Our Rick Steves BOE My Way group was so terrific that we have our own little Facebook group, sharing photos and memories. I intend to share my ideas about this Scandinavian adventure - who knows? Maybe some of them will want to join us. In any event, when it's all said and done, I don't want to be one of those people who looked at travel maps and sites and dreamed about going places and never did because 1) it's too expensive, 2) we can't leave the dog, 3) I might trip and fall off a cliff or the boat, etc, etc, blah blah blah. I want to go to those places, see them for myself and make memories that will last until I can't do it anymore. Cheers! Liz

Posted by
353 posts

Awesome, you are exactly right. You don't want to wake up one day and regret not doing the things you really want to do. Travel is such an amazing experience. I hope you have a fantastic trip!