Tag Archives | norway

Seeing Norway’s Fjords by Car

The fjords of Norway are one of nature’s wonders: gigantic and rugged mountains teeming with waterfalls that churn into deep inlets that empty to the sea.  Most people think that the only way to see Norway’s fjords is via an expensive cruise. Not true. We recently partnered with our friends at Auto Europe to explore the fjords via automobile. If you haven’t already, we recommend reading part one of this feature :”The Perfect Norway Roadtrip“. It highlights our recommendations for the wonderful capital city of Norway: Oslo.  Here is a map of our trip:

Before we give you a detailed plan of what to see in Norway, we think we need to put the debate to rest about the whole fjord cruising thing. Yes, being on the water is incredible. But the problem with the cruise ship is twofold: you have to go where the ship goes or swim really well.  The worst thing about cruising: where the boat goes a whole lotta people go as well. No fun. Having the flexibility of driving a car enables you to see what you want to see. It allows you to spend as much time as you want staring at a magnificent waterfall. It also allows you to be alone with your lover at the base of a majestic lake all by yourself. We did both of these and felt sorry for the hordes of cruisers who never experienced Norway the way we did.

Part one of our series focused on Oslo to Lillehammer. Now it’s time to head north towards Andalsnes.

Gjerdset Turistsenter

Gjerdset Turistsenter

Gjerdset Turistsenter

Located just 18 km from Andalsnes is a beautiful collection of cabins overlooking a lush forest and deep blue lake. You can rent cabins large or small depending on number of your party. It is perfect for traveling with families.  What we love most about this location is the ability to take little row boats out onto the lake. It is truly a surreal setting. You are completely surrounded by the majestic Romsdal Mountains.  Of all of the areas of Norway, this spot mimicked the views from the Disney cartoon, Frozen.  This is a great base to explore the fjords and the deep lakes that are in the surrounding area. As we mentioned in our previous post, Norway is extremely expensive. One of the advantages of renting a small cabin is the ability to do your own cooking thus saving you money.

alesund

Alesund

Once you have your fill of alpine living, it’s time to head for the water. Drive northwest for another hundred miles and you will come to the charming seaside city of Alesund. The old city is filled with Norwegian charm. Architecture and colors combine to create a beautiful tapestry that is pure Norway. The city is known for its art-deco architecture. Hotels here don’t come cheap. This is a great place to use your points. There is a very nice Radisson blu right on the water. They have big rooms and a massive breakfast.

The must do’s in Alesund include climbing or driving to the lookout perch above the city. We would highly advise you to head up there anytime the weather looks clear, which is not very often for this part Norway. Taking a good picture up there is a challenge. The location is quite popular, so try the early morning if you get clear skies. The hike up to the top is quite rigorous, but the steps make it very doable.  As you can see above, this is the best we could do.

The second must do is shopping. There are so many little eclectic stores that have Norwegian folk items, Maritime trinkets, and your standard tourist souvenirs. We found some good deals on some clothing including hats, gloves, and coats all handmade with bright Norwegian colors.

Norway Waterfall

Norway Waterfall

For our tour of the fjords, this is as far north as we’re going to go. From here drive south toward the hamlet of Hornindal. It is approximately two hours drive south. You will follow some of the worlds most stunning scenery. Cascading waterfalls are in view at just about every turn. Yes, we stopped a lot!

Once you arrive in Hornindal, we highly recommend the First Hotel Raftenvold. It is perched on the banks of Hornindalsvatnet Lake.  Try saying that name three times fast! At a depth of 514 metres (1,686 ft) it is the deepest lake in all of Europe! The hotel is located right on the edge of the water. You can even take a swim if you wish!

They’re not a whole lot of places in this area to eat. We do recommend eating in the hotel restaurant.  A word of warning: do be careful because the hours are a little bit confining. Mike took his sweet time getting ready for dinner and they were ready not to serve him because he was five minutes late. Be on time!

Aurland

The next morning we continued our quest.  We drove to the charming town located on a stunning fjord called Aurland. We stayed at the Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri. It has great little cabins right on the fjords, affording you a wonderful view to wave at the cruise ships as they pass by. The hotel has a rich history, it was once home to the Norwegian Sea captain Juell circa 1770.

The city of Aurland is located on Europe’s deepest Fjord, the Sognefjord. It is 1,308 m deep and 204km long! It is known as the king of the Fjords. Here you will have easy access to Geriangerfjord, the Briksdal glacier and Vestkapp Mountian. This area is considered by many to be the most beautiful place on the planet.

Stegastein

Stegastein

Just outside of town, and up a zig zagging road is the fjord viewpoint called Stegastein. Sounds like some kind of dinosaur?   The viewpoint includes a laminated wood and steel viewing platform that is visually stunning. It is has won numerous international design awards. It juts 30 meters out into the air and affords some incredible selfies with the fjord in the background.

A little Odda

Our road trip now takes us further south to the little fishing village of Odda. Odda turned out to be one of our favorite places during our stay in Norway. It has a number of little restaurants, beautiful water, and some amazing waterfalls. Prices can be a bit steep in town, we elected to rent a cabin at Seljestad Cottages just 20 minutes outside the city.

Latefossen Falls

Latefossen Falls

Latefossen Falls

Ten minutes outside of Odda on our way to our cabin, are Latefossen Falls. Latefossen must mean car wash in Norwegian. You actually drive your car through the waterfall! We struggled to keep our camera dry as we braved the torrent of mist to take photos. Definitely stop and take some pictures!

Trolltunga

The most famous attraction near Odda is Trolltunga (translated, the Troll’s Tongue). Type it into Google and you will see some stunning pictures of the rock outcropping that will make anyone scared of heights go into freak out mode. We elected not to take on the 15-mile hike. It was a bit much for our hiking abilities.  But, good news for you, our friends at www.norwaytonowhere.com did. Here is their report.

Norway is perfect for driving. The roads are in good condition. Petrol in the county is cheap and plentiful, and the rental rates from our friends at @autoeurope are affordable. Skip the cruise and take a drive that will envelop you in some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.

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The Perfect Norway Road Trip

So often we hear that the best way to see Norway is by taking a cruise. We could not disagree more! The best way to see Norway is by taking a road trip! Norway’s stunning natural beauty, friendly people, and captivating history make it a great place for traveling couples. The fjords of Norway are unlike any place we have ever visited and we can’t wait to share with you a few of our tips and tricks for making your road trip successful.

Oslo Airports

Most international flights bring you to Norway via one of three “Oslo” airports. None of the airports are near the city.   The (OSL) Oslo Airport Gardermoen it Is located 47 km north-east of Oslo. The Rygge Airport (RYG) is located at 66 kilometers south-east of Oslo and finally the Torp Airport TRF is located 110 km south-west of Oslo. Do not fret about which airport you arrive at as there is easy access to rental cars at each. There are actually many pros to staying your first night outside of Oslo proper. We elected to stay in the small hamlet of Fredrikstad and had a great experience.

Picking the Right Rental

We’ve written a recent post will help you select the right rental car. Please keep in mind that there are a lot of mountains, climbs, and weather in Norway. Don’t go cheap on the rental car. We used and highly recommend our friends at Auto Europe for rentals in Norway and the rest of Europe.

Oslo

The bustling capital of Norway is truly beautiful. Perched on the edge of the sea. Cruise ships park right in the center of downtown. Norwegians have long been a seafaring people. Sailboats, motorboats and rafts line the harbors and almost outnumber the cars. Your road trip we’ll start with a couple days in Oslo. Holding off on renting your car until the time you’re ready to leave Oslo is also an option. The public transportation is actually very good. As we will address later Norway is very expensive. Oslo is extremely expensive. We stayed at the Radisson Blu on points. It is a beautiful hotel. If you have hotel points Oslo is the place to use them as hotel chains are rare as you head north.

Key things to see in Oslo:

Nobel Peace Prize Museum: we put this one first because it was by far our favorite. Few museums leave you wanting more museum. The Nobel Peace Prize Museum is one of those select few. It is a two-story museum located along the harbor. There is a nominal fee for entry, and then you proceed upstairs to view different exhibits about the winners of the award. It is extremely moving.

The Scream!

The Scream!

 

National Museum of Art: the second must-see in Oslo is the National Museum of Art. It houses the best-known artists from Norway. King of the Norwegian artists is of course much. You must find the scream. The crowds tend to block the view, but be patient and the opportunity to snap a good picture we’ll certainly come. Munch is an interesting character. You really should do some reading on him prior to your visit. An entire museum dedicated to him is in construction as we speak.

Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House

The Oslo Opera House One of the most stunning pieces of architecture in the world is the Oslo Opera House. Its shape and placement reflect the shape of an iceberg. The inside is even more stunning than the outside. We highly recommend taking the full tour of the Opera House. They take you backstage, which is it technological paradise. You also visit the ballerina dressing rooms, musicians preparation areas, and a number of other workshops for production of the sets. Really cool! The tours are led by pensioners who have retired from their work with the opera house. They know the place inside and out. Our guide had great stories about some of the performances and performers. One of the best souvenirs we purchased was a used shoe. In the gift shop of the opera house you can purchase used ballet shoes used in actual performances.

Inside of the Oslo Opera House. Each pattern on every chair is unique.

Inside of the Oslo Opera House. Each pattern on every chair is unique.

 

The Crying Baby

The Crying Baby

Vigeland-Land– The famed Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland has a complete museum and even an entire park dedicated to displaying his work. One of his famous pieces is the crying baby. People come from the four corners of the earth to see this baby throwing a tantrum. The park is stunning. It is a great place to take a picnic or there are small cafés located throughout the park are great places to grab some ice cream or a cake. When word of warning about visiting the museum. It is definitely rated PG 13. There are a number of works that depict human sexuality in less than a discrete manner.  The park is fine but the museum may not be appropriate for families.

Want more pictures of Norway?  Just give us a follow on instagram.

Oslo Food Scene

The best food on our trip was found in Oslo. You can get just about any type of cuisine in the city. Our favorite spot is an Indian place called Mister India (http://www.mister-india.no/). Located on one of the side streets in downtown, the food is incredible. There are red & green Curry that is to die for. You maybe wondering why we elected to go to an Indian ethnic place. We figured we’d get plenty of Norwegian traditional food on the road trip up north. This definitely proved to be the case. It’s okay to check out couple ethnic restaurants in Oslo and still call yourself an authentic explorer.

There are number of really good Fish houses along the harbor.

Lillehammer Olympics

Lillehammer

Once you have conquered all of Oslo it’s time to head north. Our first stop is at city whose name is very familiar to sports fans. Willie Hammer was the home of the Olympics in 1994. There are a number of museum displays that celebrate the Winter Olympics. There is a huge hockey stadium that has a bobsled you can check out. Lillehammer also has a World War II museum that is very interesting.

End of Part One of the Norway Road Trip! Stay tuned for the second half!

We worked worked with our friends at @autoeurope to present this post.

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How to Be an Expert in Road Trip Prep

The Fighting Couple is going on a road trip. A really, really, long one: 1,457 km or 900 miles to be exact.   We are headed to the Nordic country of Norway. (Here is a link to our route: (Our Norway Trip Map)

You can imagine there are going to be some serious fights on this trip. Luci and I in close quarters for an extended period of time is a recipe for disaster.

The right travel partner makes all the difference! As our friends Karolina and Patryk say:

“The golden rule of a perfect road trip is to find a good person to travel with! With a good companion you can solve all the problems and make unforgettable memories!”

Public Transit vs. A Car

Once you have found the perfect travel partner.  The next step is the car. We are huge fans of public transit. We wouldn’t see big cities any other way. Cities like Paris, London, Boston, Bangkok, and Singapore offer great ways to get around. But….when you want to get out and see the country, there is no better way, than by car. Taking on a large country like Norway? Having a car is a must.

The Perfect Road Trip!

The Perfect Road Trip!

Pick the Right One

The first thing you need to do is pick the right rental car. Thinking of driving your own car? Sometimes it is more economical to put the miles on someone else’s vehicle. We book our trips six to eight months in advance. Last year, when we began the planning process, we knew that we needed the right car. Here’s our best advice: Spend the extra money and get a bigger car. There’s nothing worse than being cramped in a tiny car getting blown all over the road. Nothing strikes more fear into the heart of a petrol head than the word “compact”. Spend the money.

If you are renting a car in winter, check out our post on winter driving and rental cars.

couple driving

Breaking Up

One of the key things we have on this trip is setting aside two real “drive” days. The rest of the time we drive an hour or two in the morning and the same in the evening. We try to do most of the driving before and after everything opens or closes.   With the help of Google maps, you can get a preview of what the roads look like.

Find a Way

As we have shared in the past, GPS single handedly saved our relationship. Putting miles on your car because you are lost is not an option. Even with great tools, trust us, Wi-Fi and cellular can at times be sketchy. Nothing beats an old-fashioned Garmin GPS with current maps. Rent one from the rental company or candidly, buy one really cheap on eBay. Be familiar with your route and have a rough idea of the direction and cities that you are headed to. Also pay attention as you drive; this will help give you markers in case you do get lost! Think of it as memory breadcrumbs.

Eat

When we take long road trips, we like to hit a large grocery store and load up on snacks and beverages. You never know when a short drive turns into a massive mess.  Nothing is worse than when Luci gets “hangry” and all of the sudden the fighting begins. We don’t want that for you. Candidly, we don’t want the competition. There can only be one Fighting Couple.

couple in car kissing

Questions

Not all the side effects of driving are bad. We have found that it is actually a great time to discuss issues in our relationship. You definitely have a captive audience. A word of warning: Avoid the really heavy stuff. If one of you gets mad, there is nowhere to go. Another conversation starter is the “Book of Questions.” There are a number of different ones out there. We enjoy asking each other these random questions and hearing the sometimes-bizarre answers.

Stop

Buy yourself a good guide to the area that you are exploring. Make some stops along the way. Get out and walk around. Stretch the legs and clear the mind. Getting the blood flowing during a long road trip is critical. We have found many interesting spots that were not on our agenda, when Mike has the courage to deviate from the excel spreadsheet.

We hope that you find a few of these ideas helpful. We can’t wait to share with you our epic road trip. We do need to let you know that our friends at Auto Europe are helping us plan our trip. We have been using them for years. They offer a wide variety of autos at fair prices. Best of all, our experience with their customer service is stellar.

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