Hello again! Apologies for the brief hiatus. We were traveling and I have gotten a bit behind in my posting. So let’s pick back up, shall we? I believe we were talking about our Scandinavia trip. Next up was our road trip through the fjordlands of Western Norway. If you spend any time in Norway, I highly recommend building in some time to explore the fjordlands. You’ll hear about people doing Norway in a Nutshell, but you can easily do this trip for a fraction of the price at a slower pace.
Our itinerary around Western Norway looked something like this:
Day 1: Fly into Bergen in evening, drive to Eidfjord, visit Voeringfossen.
Day 2: Drive to Odda, hike to Trolltunga, drive to Aurland.
Day 3: Drive to Flam, take Flam Railway, drive to Stegastein Viewpoint, visit Borgund Stave Church, take Flam Fjord Cruise, drive to Ardal.
Day 4: Original plan: Hike to Vettisfossen and Ingjerdbu cabin; revised plan due to inclement weather: drive to Vinje, hikes to Stalheimfossen and Tvinnefossen, visit Nesheimstunet farm.
Day 5: Drive to Bergen, have lunch, visit Bryggen, take the funicular to Mt. Floyen for views and hiking, have dinner, stay near airport for flight the next morning.
If it seems like we did a lot of driving on this itinerary, we did. However, the drives through the countryside and rural towns hidden in fjords are incredibly beautiful and a few hours passed by in the blink of an eye. It didn’t hurt that Norwegians were having a moment with Justin Bieber. Nearly all of my memories of Norway are linked to the sounds of his hit songs Despacito and I’m the One (with a side of the Moana theme song). Fortunately, we had a great little rental car that included a GPS which helped us navigate the countryside without issue. I’d also recommend prepaying your tolls, especially if you are planning to go over any of the big bridges. It was significantly less for us to pay one up front toll fee in advance rather than paying more later on. Plus, there were not toll booths so I don’t believe you would have the option to pay in cash anyway.
A couple of other things to note if you’re planning a trip through the Norwegian countryside: make sure to build in time to travel through the many tunnels. Norway has an unbelievable amount of tunnels that cut through the mountains (Norwegians are very proud of their tunnel system). Many are under construction or only one-way, meaning you’ll have to wait for cars to come through from the other direction. Depending on the length of the tunnel, this process can be quite long. I think the longest we had to wait was 30 minutes, but tunnels definitely added time to our estimated travel time on multiple occasions.
Also, restaurants and grocery stores close very early. I’m talking 6 pm for grocery stores in many towns and 8 pm for restaurants. If you’re planning to spend a long day out hiking, make sure you plan to buy food ahead of time so you aren’t stuck without anything when you’re done for the day. And as far as water, don’t feel like you need to buy bottled water. Norway has fantastic water fed from the mountains, so you can drink it straight out of the tap or from glacial melt when you are hiking.
With that, let’s get into more details about all of the amazing hikes, waterfalls, viewpoints, and activities to consider adding to your itinerary for a road trip through Western Norway.
- The Vøringfossen waterfall is the 83rd highest in Norway at 182 meters. It is one of the most famous waterfalls (or fossens) in Norway. The best view is from the Fossli Hotel at the edge of the valley. From here, you can see several falls running through the valley. We didn’t actually go to the hotel, but we viewed the falls along the side of the valley from a small path. The path is a bit precarious and lacks guard rails along the edge. There are even several signs denoting where people have fallen to their deaths, so take care if going near the edge! Note: The National Tourist Route Project is improving viewpoints, paths, bridges, parking areas, and facilities near the falls to make it easier for tourists to enjoy the waterfall.
- The perfect place to stay near Vøringfossen is at Quality Hotel Voeringfoss in Eidfjord. It is a beautiful historic building at the edge of the fjord surrounded by mountains. A stay includes a large breakfast buffet and the hotel bar and restaurant that also serves lunch and dinner. Ask for a fjord-facing room if possible, knowing that certain days of the week, a large cruise ship may be anchored in the fjord, blocking your view.
- If you’re physically fit and love a great challenge, hike to Trolltunga for an epic Instagram photo that will make all of your friends jealous. One of the most famous hikes in the area, it is a challenging hike that will reward you with spectacular views. This hike is probably one of my favorite experiences ever. I will go into more detail in my next post about the hike, but for now, know that it is a 23km hike that takes 10-12 hours and is not easy. If you do the hike, make sure you prepare, wear the proper attire, and bring enough food. It is also important to note that this hike is only available seasonally. It is possible to camp on the trail and do it in two days. We did it all in one day and stayed at the Aurland Fjordland Hotel afterward to continue on our journey (note: I would probably stay somewhere a bit closer after the hike).
- To rest your legs from Trolltunga and all of the other hikes you’ve done, take a ride on the scenic Flam Railway. The ride is only 2 hours and takes you from sea level at the Sognefjord in Flåm to the Myrdal mountain station at 867 meters elevation. You’ll see incredible mountain views, waterfalls, and go through 20 tunnels. It is one of the steepest railways in the world, with most of the journey at a 5.5% gradient. Halfway up, you’ll stop to see a Huldra dancing on the beautiful Kjosfossen. Be careful – it is said her siren song lures men into the mountains! You can ride the train back, or if you’re up for it, rent a bike for a 20 km ride back to the Flam train station. Also from Flam, you can take a ferry cruise through Nærøyfjord to Gudvangen. The fare includes a bus ride back to the parking area in Flam. During the ferry ride, you’ll encounter stunning snow-capped mountains that rise 1800 meters around you with countless waterfalls from the snowmelts. You’ll also see the quaint, colorful villages along the fjord and can say you’ve been to a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Drive to the Stegastein Viewpoint. Norway has a National Tourist Roads initiative that includes several architecturally stunning structures. Stegastein Viewpoint juts 30 meters out from the mountainside and rises 650 meters above the fjord to give incredible views of the surrounding landscape.
- One of the unique qualities of Norway is the amount of Viking history and architecture. One of my favorite examples are the stave churches and one of the best preserved is the Borgund Stave Church. Built around 1880, the church is one of Norway’s oldest preserved wood buildings. The accompanying visitor center provides information about the history of stave churches in Norway and their role in the Middle Ages.
- Hike to Stalheimfossen. Just north of Voss, Stallheimfossen is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Norway and the hike is only about 1 mile round trip on easy, flat terrain. Be sure to bring a rain jacket. The falls are so powerful that you will get soaked if you want to get close! For that reason, Stalheimfossen is best to visit in the warm summer months.
- Although you can see Tvinnefossen from the road, make sure to drive or hike the nearby trail to view it from above. About 12 km north of Voss, this waterfall is frequently visited by bus loads of tourists who want to snap a quick photo and grab a souvenir. However, if you want to get away from the crowds, take the small road parallel to the main road (you can drive partway up and then can hike the rest). You’ll have a fantastic view over the valley and can continue hiking to a second waterfall called Trollfossen.
- Also near Voss, don’t miss the Nesheimstunet farm on Lake Lønavatnet. The old farm dates back to the 1600s and consists of 12 old farm buildings. You can walk around at your own place or take a tour by contacting the Voss Folkemuseum.
- Hike to the Vettisfossen near Ardal, one of Norway’s tallest waterfalls. After, continue hiking to the Vetti Farm, where you can get a key to stay in the Ingerbdu cabin. You can also pick up a key in advance at a location of the Norwegian Trekking Association (or DNT). Unfortunately, we were unable to do this because the day we had planned to make this hike, it poured rain all day long. We ended up scrapping our original plan in favor of staying near Voss and hiked to Stalheimfossen and Tvinnefossen and explored the Nesheimstunet farm. It ended up working out just fine because the change in itinerary put us about 2.5 hours closer to Bergen.
- If you make it to Ardal, the Best Western Klingenberg is a wonderful hotel with a large breakfast buffet filled with traditional foods like smoked fish, pancakes, and yogurt. It’s also across the street from a grocery store, making it easy to stock up for a day of hiking!
Since you’ll probably be flying in or out of Bergen, make sure to give yourself a few hours there. First, have a lunch of fish soup at the Torget Fish Market. After, get information on things to do in the town at the Visitor Center upstairs. Walk across the harbor to see the famous old town of Bryggen, which inspired the movie Frozen. And take the Fløibanen funicular to Mt. Floyen to enjoy a view of the town and to hike on one of the many trails on the mountaintop.
I hope this helps you plan your road trip in Western Norway or inspires you to visit the beautiful country. If you’re interested in hiking Trolltunga, come back next week to find out more details and see photos. Thanks for reading!