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What To Drop From Itinerary?

Help! Trying to plan a Scandinavian itinerary and I need to know which places to chop off. We'll only have about 17 days...I did some research, came up with places that look interesting, then started sketching out a rough itinerary. It's WAY too much. I have to chop it down somewhere. So, here's what I have so far. I've added numbers of nights in a few places, but I could tell quickly that the itinerary was too weighty for the time we have available. Notes about us: it'll be my husband and I traveling from the US with two teen daughters. We're open to traveling by train or renting a car. We really like history and are very interested in Viking history. We enjoy some light hiking (but are not hikers in any sense), we like some outdoorsy activities and love walking through cities and towns. I'm also a little confused about how to see the fjords... My younger daughter and I are very prone to seasickness. So, while we definitely want to see them, I'm not sure how much time we'll need to spend there or if we want to do NIN.

Fly into Stockholm (2 nights)
Train to Copenhagen (3 nights)
Pick up car, head to Gothenburg (1 night)
Gothenburg to Oslo (2 nights?)
Head to Borgund Stave Church, then continue to Fram
Fram to Bergen
Bergen to Stavanger
Stavanger to Kristiansand to grab the ferry to Hirtshals
Hirtshals to Aarhus
Aarhus to Odense/Aero
Aero to Roskilde
Roskilde back to Copenhagen to fly home

So, as you can see, this isn't going to fit into 17 days (including travel). Our trips are usually pretty fast-paced, so we're fine moving along at a good clip, but this simply isn't possible. What are must-sees and what could be dropped? I'm thinking Gothenburg should fall off the itinerary?? Any help would be SO appreciated!

Posted by
266 posts

I haven't been to western Norway so I won't try to advise too much on that, but from where I have been (Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Gothenberg, northern Jutland in Denmark) and considering the geography, here are a few suggestions to maximize efficiency and prioritize:
Two nights in Stockholm is not enough, especially if you're coming from US so your first day there will be kind of a jet legged blur. Three nights there. Agree with dropping Gothenburg.
Then, why go all the way south to Copenhagen, then north to Norway, then back south to Copenhagen? Instead:
Three nights Stockholm.
Stockholm fly to Bergen.
Work your way back to Oslo seeing the places in between you mention.
At least two nights Oslo.
Overnight ferry to Copenhagen (you mention seasickness concern, but also taking ferry on a different Norway to Denmark route -- the Oslo-Copenhagen routing is very efficient and pleasant (book decent cabins and dinner in advance)) -- I've done it going the other way, and I don't think that route is particularly prone to rough seas.

Allow several days for Copenhagen. You don't need to stay in Roskilde, it's an easy day trip from Copenhagen. If you have more time, I think Odense and Aero are just as easily reached from Copenhagen as they are by working your way down the whole length of Jutland from Hirtshals. Hirtshals and Aarhus are not a priority in my opinion.
So roughly, let's say, Stockholm 3 nights, Bergen and elsewhere in Norway (except Oslo) 4 nights, Oslo 2 nights, overnight to Copenhagen 1 night, Copenhagen (including Roskilde) 3 nights, somewhere else in Denmark (Odense or Aero?) 2 nights, maybe 1 night back in Copenhagen before flight, equals 16 nights -- still a bit rushed, but a bit less backtracking.

Posted by
8872 posts

Make an investment in the RS Norway guidebook. Useful and practical information to help you refine your itinerary.

Posted by
4 posts

Slate... Thank you!! Honestly, I have no idea why I had us going to Copenhagen from Stockholm before heading up into Norway...makes no sense. Thank you for pointing that out. I think I had originally planned to fly in and out of Copenhagen and was thinking of making a big circle. Then decided to fly into Stockholm and for some reason didn't really adjust everything else to make that make sense. Anyway, thank you for your advice. I have a much better place to start reworking the itinerary from.

Claudia...It's sitting in my Amazon cart. Just hadn't gotten around to hitting submit yet!

Posted by
6661 posts

You really need to rethink this plan, although it's great that you are aware that it won't work. When is this trip? It's pretty important to know if I can suggest ferry travel or not. But you should not be worried about the fjords. Especially the inner parts are often very calm.

I agree that two nights in Stockholm is not enough, especially if it's the first stop and you'll be jetlagged. And if you are interested in Viking history, you really need to add a day in Uppsala to the plan.

Train to Copenhagen (3 nights) Pick up car, head to Gothenburg (1
night)

This makes no sense at all. Why go south to Copenhagen, pick up a car there, drive north and then return to Copenhagen? A much better option would be to take the train to Gothenburg. But given the time you have available, you might have to skip Gothenburg. A shame, it's a nice city but you can't see everything in 17 days. In that case, take the train to Oslo instead.

Head to Borgund Stave Church, then continue to Fram. Fram to Bergen

Fram is a ship, that can now be found in the Fram museum in Oslo. Going from Oslo to Fram via Borgund is a huge detour so I'm going to assume you mean Flåm. If you're planning to stay in Flåm, check the port schedule. If there are cruise ships in Flåm, you should probably stay somewhere else.

You can also skip Stavanger if you need to find a bit more space in the itinerary. The ferry from Bergen to Hirtshals via Stavanger is not a bad way to get to Denmark. But if you plan to travel by car in Norway, return it in Bergen.

Århus is not a bad idea, Jutland is too often overlooked when people travel to Denmark. Odense is also a nice place. But you might want to reconsider Ærø, it is a bit out of the way and overrated in my opinion. Then spend some time in Copenhagen before returning home. From Copenhagen you can also consider a day trip to Höllviken in Sweden, where there is a small museum with a reconstructed viking village.

Posted by
4 posts

Badger--thank you! Yep, I realized that heading back to Copenhagen makes no sense. Not really sure how I ended up planning it that way. LOL! We'll be traveling in the summer...late June/early July. And yes, I do mean Flam, not Fram. Sorry about that. Thank you for your input! You and Slate have given me a much better place to start planning from.

Posted by
7644 posts

We’re in Oslo right now, wrapping up the last week of a month-long trip that includes 6 nights in Copenhagen (day trips to Roskilde and Kroneborg Castle and Louisiana Art Museum) and the rest in Norway. We’d initially planned on ferry between Hirtshals and Kristiansand, but it’s not an overnight sleeper, and a short, cheap flight on Norwegian Air between Copenhagen and Norway made more sense. We’d also considered Aero but dropped it, for more time in Norway.

Unless you’re determined to see Aero and Hirtshals in Denmark, and Kristiansand and the Setesdal and Stavanger in Norway, I’d recommend dropping those. We did. Just too far out of the way, car rental complications (see below), and the Pulpit Rock hike out of Stavanger sounded like an unpleasant, super-crowded mess in September … to say nothing of what it must be like when you’re planning on going.

In the end, we’ll have had several flights on Norwegian Air when we’re done … Copenhagen to Trondheim, Trondheim to Bergen, then rent a car in Bergen to drive the “Nutshell” area and up to the Geraingerfjord area too, before returning it in Bergen, then flight Bergen to Oslo, and finally flight from Oslo to Copenhagen for our flight home. Last 2 nights in Copenhagen, and the round-trip route from Denver to Copenhagen on British Airways was our best deal.

Car rental picking up in one place in Norway and dropping off elsewhere was going to incur an excessive one-way drop fee, so we went with a single Bergen rental and return plan, using Hertz.

We drove right past Flam (cruise boat crowds in September were too much for us, and that’s nothing compared to when you’ll be there), and we based our Sognefjord time in Hafslo, farther north. You’ll have stave church, fjord views, glaciers, and drives galore. Also hiking options, too, if you want them, with fewer crowds. The car ferry from Kaupanger to Gudvangen lets you have a car in fjord country, yet have a boat ride on the best fjord on the way back to Bergen.

I can’t offer suggestions about Sweden, but for the Norway part, drive a rental car for fjords, and use Norwegian Air to speed up getting between Bergen, Oslo, and Copenhagen.

Posted by
27417 posts

Accommodations in the fjord area are in high demand. I believe it's easier to find rooms in places not readily accessible by public transportation, but you still should start looking now. Flam is an ordinary town in a magnificent setting that is at least somewhat spoiled if a huge cruise ship is in port. If you decide on a car rental in that area, you'll probably be happier staying elsewhere.

When limited time is available, I think it's hard to beat the scenic impact of the Norway-in-a-Nutshell route. The Flamsbana train, Naeroyfjord ferry between Flam and Gudvangen, and bus from Gudvangen up to Voss provide very good fjord views without need for a car. However, those are rather expensive transportation segments (especially times four), and I think there's some truth to the opinion that views from above are better than those from the water, so you may reasonably decide views while driving elsewhere are sufficient. (A rental car will likely be very costly, too--just about everything's expensive in Norway.) I'd still try to include one boat trip on a fjord--ideally on the Geirangerfjord or the Naeroyfjord.

In planning how much time to allot to each city, be sure you're working with current info on the sights you want to see. For example, the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo is currently closed and not due to reopen until 2026/2027. There are certainly other sights in Oslo (the new National Museum and MUNCH are lovely venues for viewing art, for example), and I happily spent over a week in Oslo last year, but I think most visitors will find they need/want more time in Stockholm. Stockholm is a lot larger than Oslo, and it's spread across a bunch of islands, so moving from sight to sight takes longer. The large medieval district in Stockholm, Gamla Stan, is to me a plus.

I haven't been to Cooenhagen recently enough to comment on it.

Posted by
2663 posts

17 days are plenty of time and you do not need to change too much. You travel partly on my ways I use for my trips with my own car.

Valid qustion: Which time of year?

Basically I would skip Gothenburg (sorry Badger). The car ride between Copenhagen and Oslo is rarely interesting. Therefore use the night ferry from Copenhagen to Oslo.

Borgund is a time consuming detour. More on your way is Norway's largest stave church in Heddal (see inofficial landscape route). E134 and Odda with Hardangerfjord are scenic rides (see Hardanger route). You can also use Hardangervidda route for your way to Bergen. and the other way back to Kristiansand. Stavanger itself and the way to Kristiansand is no longer spectacular after what you will have seen before.

Avoid the Scandic Bystranda hotel in Kristiansand. Good breakfast but that's it.

Why do you want to visit Flam? Lysefjord is also spectacular with scenic views.

Posted by
6661 posts

We'll be traveling in the summer...late June/early July.

In that case, there is no need to worry about sea sickness in my opinion. You'll be fine on the Bergen/Stavanger to Hirtshals boat.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone! This is exactly the kind of insight I was hoping for. I'm taking notes on all of the tips posted here and I'll be working on this trip over the weekend. I've found this Scandinavian itinerary a lot more difficult to pull together than itineraries in the rest of Europe, largely because of the travel times between cities. So the wisdom posted here about what to see, what to skip, and suggested travel routes is incredibly valuable. I'll update once I have a good itinerary planned out! :)

Posted by
1837 posts

I can only offer advice about fjord Norway, which we have visited twice, most recently June, 2023. For that part of your trip, I would suggest fly into Bergen, spend a day exploring the city, then pick up a rental car. Suggested route ( you could drive it in either direction): Bergen - Sande to Balestrand via route 610 - Manheller ferry to Laerydal - short detour to Borgund stave church - FV 243 to Aurland - Gudvangen or Flam to park the car and do the electric very smooth passenger ferry / bus round trip - Voss - Vorringfossen - Latefoss - Bergen. You can plot this on Google maps - it totals about 550 miles of driving. If you have more days for Norway, I could suggest some additional detours.

I wouldn't worry much about motion sickness on ferries - the actual crossings are short (10-20 minutes), the boats large. Sort of like a large parking lot that moves 2-5 miles across a fjord.

If you must fly into Oslo for some reason, take the airport train to central Oslo train station, stay the night at a hotel near the station ( we were very happy with the Comfort hotel attached to the station) - next day take the train to Bergen (Finse to Voss is very scenic).

Due to distances, it is much more efficient to change locations instead of opting for a central location and day-tripping. However, if you really want to stay several nights in one location, Voss would work for a few nights.

The Moon Norway guide is much more useful for Norway than the Rick Steves book.

Posted by
159 posts

We did a trip that combined Denmark and Norway in the summer of 2022. It was a wonderful but very busy and exhausting trip. I could not imagine adding a third country to that trip. I would do more research and use Rick's guidebooks to figure out what specifically you want to see and narrow down to two at most countries, one country if you want a more relaxed pace!

Posted by
7906 posts

Why are you going to Copenhagen and then going back to Sweden?

My main issue with you itinerary is that you have not included two of our favorite ports in Norway, Geiranger and
Ålesund.

The fjord at Geiranger by far the best in Norway. Further, the Path of the Trolls tour is not to be missed.