We’ve just returned from the most incredible week in western Norway. I mean, I knew it would be beautiful, but wow, was it beautiful!! The fjords and mountains were simply stunning! (And in case you were wondering – no. The movie “Frozen” does not do it justice.)
We started our trip by flying into Bergen, grabbing our rental car, and meeting up with our friend, Pat, who had ever-so-casually flown over from Boston to join us for part of the trip. When we arrived in Bergen on Wednesday, it was cold and rainy (a characteristic typical for Bergen, we later learned), but we walked around for a bit.
We popped in to a pub to grab a very pricey pint (Norway is expensive!) before getting dinner at a Norwegian/Italian fusion restaurant. Interesting combo, right? Pretty tasty though! We all had pasta, but Pat had Norwegian cod in his, Chris had reindeer in his (sorry, Sven), and I had chorizo in mine. (Ok, so mine was more Spanish/Italian than Norwegian/Italian…)
After dinner, we boarded an overnight ferry (Hurtigruten Cruises) that would take us on a 13-hour journey to Ålesund. While Chris drove the car on, Pat and I went to go find the cabin. We dropped our things off in the room, found Chris, then headed out to explore.
We were happy to learn that the upper deck’s jacuzzi, sauna, and bar were all open. We felt like we were on a real cruise, albeit with our car in “tow!” We sat in the sauna and looked out the windows as the ferry pulled away from Bergen, and when we were done taking advantage of all the amenities on board, we headed back to the cabin to tuck ourselves into our bunk beds.
In the morning, we woke up to awesome views of a fjord and some islands from our cabin window. We quickly got dressed and headed to breakfast where we enjoyed more great views as we ate.
At noon, the ferry pulled into the port of Ålesund. The view of the city, backed by enormous, snowy mountains was impressive. We drove the car off the ferry and headed to our hotel to drop our things off before exploring the town.
After a quick stop at our hotel, we decided to take a walk up to Aksla Viewpoint while the weather was still nice. The views did not disappoint!!
After the walk, we grabbed a late lunch (and coffee and dessert!!) at one of the only cafes that was open. (Easter time proved to be a bit of a challenge for us as tons of restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores were closed!) We went back to the hotel for a quick rest before heading out to find a bar to hang out at for a bit.
On the third day, we all woke up and grabbed breakfast before checking out and hitting the road. We had a nice little road trip on the way to Åndalsnes, where we’d be dropping Pat off.
Åndalsnes was a pretty cool town, but yet again, hardly anything was open due to the holiday, so we had a lunch of burgers, hot dogs, and ice cream at the gas station. (Still $13 for a hamburger!!)
We said goodbye to Pat as he boarded his train to head back to Oslo, where he’d stay the night before flying back to Boston. Then, Chris and I threw on our hiking boots and went for a hike up the Romsdalstrappa Trail for some pretty incredible views of Åndalsnes and Romsdalfjorden (a fjord). It took us a little less than an hour to hike up to the cantilevered viewing platform, then we hiked up a little further to a higher spot where we sat for a minute, ate some Norwegian cheese, and took in the amazing view. This was what we had come for!!
Once we got back to the bottom of the trail, we hopped back in the car and navigated to the town of Stranda, where we’d be spending the next two nights. At the end of the drive, we had to take a 15 minute ferry ride.
Now, I have to pause for a second to tell you that for most of this trip so far, Chris could not keep still for a SECOND, but he was especially excited during this last part of the drive to Stranda. He was like a kid in a candy shop. He was running from place to place with a huge grin on his face, hopping up on things to see better – before, during, and after the ferry ride. I tried, on numerous occasions, to take his picture and had to tell him to stand still or stop moving his eyeballs for ONE SECOND so I could just get ONE DECENT PICTURE!! Haha!!
When we drove off the ferry, we turned left and were quickly at our next accommodations; a cute little campground with small white cabins called Stranda Feriesenter. We settled into our cozy little cabin with a pizza we had grabbed from down the street, then hopped into our bunk beds for the night.
In the morning, we ate some leftover pizza for breakfast, threw on our ski gear, and headed to Strandafjellet. The ski mountain was relatively small, the weather was overcast, and the snow was firm, as it had been warm the day before, but the views of Storfjorden (yet anther fjord) were pretty great. We spent a little more time than usual inside the cafe – waiting for it to warm up and enjoying the views.
Chris thought it would be a good idea to get some dried cod… it wasn’t. It was horrible. It was the size and texture of beef jerky, but smelled and tasted like actual fish food… Like what you feed a pet fish. The worst part was that we didn’t finish the package, so we carried it around for another 24 hours, meaning that it stunk up our backpack. And car. And entire cabin.
We had dinner at a gas station again that night (another burger and hot dog) because nothing else seemed to be open, then headed back to the same cozy cabin for showers, some wine we had previously purchased at duty free, and relaxation with some more wonderful views.
Day five was Easter. We cleaned up the cabin and left for what, on paper, was supposed to be a 3.5 hour drive but turned out to be more like 6+ hours due to picture breaks, pit stops, and Chris’s never-ending curiosity. It was a lot of time in the car, but the stunning views made it sooooo worth it. I especially loved how the still water reflected the houses and enormous snowy mountains.
After a lot of stopping to stare at the breathtaking fjord views, we finally arrived in Sogndal. It was a bigger city than we had anticipated! We drove around the town for a bit before checking in to Vesterland Feriepark, the campground where we’d be staying for the night. Our cabin was super cute and spacious! We made a fire and a spaghetti dinner, then watched Tangled in Norwegian on tv. (Just as good as “Frozen,” in my opinion…)
That Monday morning, we cleaned up the cabin, checked out, and started driving again. We took another 15 minute ferry ride…
… drove through the incredible Lærdalsøyri valley…
… and passed through the longest car tunnel in the world, much to Chris’s enormous delight. The tunnel was 24 kilometers long and had three uplit caves spaced throughout the 30 minute ride to “reduce driver fatigue.” Chris loved it, of course… Little did we know that we’d end up driving through more than 100km of tunnels over the course of the week! It was amazing to us that with what seemed like such impassible mountain terrain, Norwegian engineers were able to just bore holes straight the mountains to connect towns to one another. It felt like we drove through at least one tunnel for each hour on the road, and we later learned that all told, there are more than 1,000 tunnels throughout the country!
We continued driving and took a quick spin around the tiny town of Flåm.
Next, we drove to Nærøyfjord. There was a long, narrow, and twisty road that wound along the water to a cute little town, nestled in the fjord. We drove through to explore a bit before hitting a dead end and having to turn back around.
Next, we made our way to Myrkdalen, where we skied for a half day. The weather and snow were much better than they had been on Saturday at Stranda, and we had a great time ripping around in the spring snow. It was our last ski day of the season, so we had to make it count!!!
After skiing, we hopped back in the car and drove to Vossevangen to pick up some groceries before heading to our next cabin. When we arrived at our next cabin in the teeny tiny town of Kvanndal, we were a little underwhelmed. While the town was neat, our cabin was a little lacking… in cleanliness. We decided to go for a quick ferry ride across the Hardangerfjorden to the similarly tiny town of Utne to kill some time and try to catch the sunset.
On our last full day in Norway, we started to make our way back toward Bergen. We made a quick stop in a small town called Norheimsund to check out the Steinsdalsfossen waterfall. It was pretty neat that you could walk behind it, and we were lucky enough to beat not one, not two, but three tour buses full of people to the waterfall!
When we arrived in Bergen, we went for a quick walk up to Mount Fløyen to see if we could catch any good views of the city… we couldn’t… because it was snowing and cloudy. But we did have fun checking out the funny wooden sculptures and signs at the top.
Miraculously, a bit later, the weather cleared up, and we were able to get a few more good views and photos of Bergen while we were out exploring.
We had a pretty mellow last night in Bergen, stopping at a bar called No Stress for a quick drink before bed. (Little did we know it would cost $23… that was a bit stressful.) Exhausted, but happy, after a week of driving on some of the most stunning roads we’ve ever been on, we fell asleep easily, with dreams of inexpensive, fresh London food floating in our heads.
It had certainly been a trip of a lifetime!