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Seeing Norway Fjords - Car or Boat

My wife and I (mid 50's) are planning a trip to Scandinavia in August 2018 an are planning 1 week in Norway. We will also be visiting Stockholm, Copenhagen and likely Oslo. The main attraction for us (like many others) are the fjords of Norway. I am looking at the many options for getting around and looking for suggestions/guidance: Is it better to see 1) the fjords from a cruise from Bergen such as Hurtigruten (or even larger cruise ship from Denmark for 8 days) and then once in a town/stop such as Flam or Geiranger, take buses up to sightseeing lookout/areas for views and short hikes, or 2) rent a car and drive around the various towns and see scenery from the road, and then take a 2 hour or so fjord cruise from the town? We would like to generally see Bergen, Sognefjord and Gudvagen, Geirangerfjord, and Storfjorden (and Alesund). Basically 4 or 5 days in the fjords and add a day for transit (maybe Bergen to Oslo Train), and possibly 1 day to Stavenger. Thanks very much for any advice or suggestions.

Posted by
5484 posts

You may want to adapt/modify the Rick Steves Scandinavia Itinerary to your desire to visit Stockholm, Copenhagen and Norway. https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/scandinavia-itinerary
Depending on advantageous flight options, you may want to arrive in Copenhagen (CPH) and depart from Bergen. Options of getting from Stockholm to Oslo include flying or train. For Oslo to Bergen take the Norway in a Nutshell route: https://www.norwaynutshell.com/original-norway-in-a-nutshell/oslo/ (Oslo - Myrdal - Flåm - Gudvangen - Voss -Bergen). The Flåm - Gudvangen is by boat/ferry with very close up view of the fjord walls. You book individual legs yourself or use the booking service for a package arrangement. The Nutshell route can be a long one day Oslo to Bergen or split into multiple days adding fjord cruises. For example: https://www.norway-travel.com/fjord-tours/sognefjord-balestrand-oslo-oslo/

Oslo is worth two or three nights: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/norway/oslo

Bergen is worth a full day: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/norway/bergen

Posted by
1700 posts

Oslo, Bergen, Sognefjord and Gudvagen, Geirangerfjord, and Storfjorden (and Alesund), Stavenger ; way too much for a week or less timeframe.
Start off with google maps plugging in driving times to each place to get a general idea of the distances/times you are talking about.
Factor in waiting time for car ferry boats since there are numerous points the road ends you load the car on a boat and get off the other side ; these don't run 24/7 and will slow you down from the times Google lists but is a start.

Some will feel you should give a few days to see the sites in Oslo and Bergen personally if you came for the fjords spend your time there and skip the cities is my mindset though Bergen appeals more to me than Oslo.

I would avoid the large cruise ships you end up being part of the herd rather than trying to avoid the herd.
The Hurtigruten I think is different and better for exploring but is very slow ; so trying to see many areas quickly a car will get you around much faster than a cruise ship. Norway is so long that really visiting many areas in a short time may require small flights mid trip which of course is impractical.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks for the replies. We do plan on seeing Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen for the first week (2 days each) and then see the fjords for the 2nd week (roughly). mreynolds - good suggestions on the car travel and times. I did a rough Google Map and looked at the driving, and frankly the drive from Alesund to Geiranger then Olden and on to Balestrand will provide more scenery and viewpoints to last a lifetime. So renting a car is what we'll do - now its a matter of deciding where to pick up and drop off, and do we drive the first week through the main cities, or use a short eurail pass. It will be fun to plan. Thanks for the insights.

Posted by
660 posts

FYI...there is a large drop fee when picking up a rental car in one city and dropping in another. We spent two days in Bergen, then drove to Gudvangen. Took the "Nutshell" ferry from there to Flam. Took the shuttle bus back to Gudvangen and our car. Had time to drive to Vik and see the Stave church. Stayed in Aurland for 3 nights and saw a lot of beauty (took the train out of Flam). There is a lot to see in this entire area and you could figure it all out via the "nutshell" option vs. renting and driving. A week isn't enough to taken in Oslo and all the things you mention. Oslo - Sognefjord - Bergen is possible via train. Because we had a car, we were able to see a lot, such as the Geirangerfjord and Alesund, but we had over two weeks, and we were following ancestor roots. I advise spending more time in a smaller area. It will still be wonderful and there are several short ferries you can take to see other great towns such as Balestrand.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks Kay
Good timing on the reply as I did some planning over the holidays. We’re skipping Sweden ( next trip) and renting a car with pickup in Bergen and drop off in Oslo. I know there’s a steep drop off charge but works best with limited time. Keeping the driving to a reasonable amount and not try to cover too much.
From Oslo we are looking at train or DFDS ferry to Copenhagen and spend 2 days there. Thanks again for the suggestions. Darren

Posted by
660 posts

We paid that large drop off fee with the car and that was that. We also looked at the overnight ferry and train from Oslo to Copenhagen, but decided to fly. Left early in the morning and had nearly a full day in the city. It was worth it for us.

Posted by
12 posts

Great suggestion Kay - you've given me 2nd thoughts now as we may rent a car in Bergen and see Sognefjord, Flam, and other places in the area. Then return the car to Bergen and fly to Oslo and also fly from Oslo to Copenhagen - faster and pretty reasonable and gives us more city time than driving. Glad you mentioned that :).

Posted by
660 posts

I think that you're making a great choice! Heck, saving the drop fee alone will pay for the flight!

Posted by
11 posts

Kay - did you return your car in Gudvangen? I haven't been able to find a car rental agency in that town (also checked Flam/Aurland). So if there is one there, I'd love to know what it is called!