Thursday, August 31, 2017

Norway the Natural Beauty Queen



  • Have a US quarter, one Euro or 50 UK P. to get the luggage carts.  You put the money in the slot to release the cart and will get the money back when you park it back.
  • Get a window seat to get the peak at the hundreds of small islands/island community just before landing at Bergen
  • Car rental is pretty easy and if you could book in advance (with pre-paid), it is less expensive if you feel comfortable driving and you have a group of more than 2 people.  With the extensive driving that I did for six days, the tolls came at about $90.
  • If you are planning to take the ferry from Gudvangen to Flam and also to take the Flam Train, look at the schedules because it involves return trip in a bus
    and the bus service stops at certain time in the evening. 
    Look at the ferry schedules to get the maximum out of your trip.  For example, we spent a lot of time before going to Gudvangen in the Tvindefossen waterfalls and when we reached there we found out that there is no return ferry/bus available to get back to the car.  So we decided to drive to Flam instead of taking the ferry.
  • If you have a car and have a couple of hours in Flam, drive up to Stegastein platform.  It is a very narrow road but the views are pretty awesome.  In summer months, you could drive past that platform and heard that it is very scenic.  We were
    there in the shoulder season and the road was closed.
  • Renting a car and driving around is really fun, there are number of speed traps and the speeding fines are pretty high.  Read about the camera speeding tickets before going.  You will notice them all over the place.
  • If you are traveling alone, it may be more expensive driving
    around.  But gives you a lot of flexibility.
  • Pack a good winter jacket(s) and good hiking boots if you enjoy outdoors. 
  • Bergen is very beautiful and everything is in a walk-able distance.  We stayed in the hostels in Norway most of the time and the overall experience was good.
  • If you happen to go during the shoulder season to hike up Trolltunga, don’t pay for the guided hike ’till you find out
    how the trail is.  Or keep checking the TA forum to see the trail conditions.  We went to the trailhead and a lot of people were hiking by themselves, so we decided to do the same.  As long as the trail is well walked and you can follow the path, there is no need for the guide (as long as the weather is good and you have hiked before with some serious hikes).  The problem is when the hiking trail is not clear because of the heavy snowfall in the previous days, in that case you should go with the guide &
    don’t want to get lost.
      You will see the mile markers all the way and see a lot of people hiking.
  • In my opinion, it is better to go to Norway for hiking during the shoulder season to avoid the crowds.  Especially in Trolltunga, less than 20 people were there when we reached but it took a while to take our pictures there.  There are a bunch of guys taking nude pictures there.  You need good waterproof hiking boots,
    jackets, sunscreen and sunglasses to have a safe hike.
  • Take an extra pair of socks when you go to the Trolltunga hike and on the way you’d surely get your feet wet and it’s not fun hiking with wet socks.
  • The ferry system and the
    road system are all well connected and you have to drive to experience and enjoy how organized Norwegians are.
  • Being a vegetarian will be difficult in small towns, so pack something that you could eat to survive if there is no vegetarian food.  In big towns, you can always find, Italian or Chinese food.
  • It is cheaper to book the breakfast with your hostel stay instead of paying for it on the day.

My Journey

Renting the car and driving off to Gudvangen is easy and we stopped on the way to have lunch but couldn’t find anyone selling vegetarian food and we finally found a pizza place that was run by
a Sri Lankan family where we could have some food.  Our plan is to take the ferry from Gudvangen and take the train from Flam before heading out to somewhere to stay that night.  We didn’t make any reservations.  The drive from the airport to Gudvangen was so scenic, we stopped in a number of places including Tvindefossen waterfalls before reaching Gudvangen for our ferry.  Because of the ferry and connecting (returning) bus timings, we couldn’t take the ferry, so we decided to have the experience of driving through the world’s longest road tunnel (Aurland tunnel) and staying in Balestrand to visit the St
Olavs Church, and make the return back to Gudvangen via the town Vik.  Before headed out to Aurland tunnel, we drove to Stegastein platform and the views are spectacular.  The length of the tunnel (25km) prompted engineers to include various features like different color lights in the tunnel, areas where you can pull over the car to take a break, etc., to alleviate claustrophobia and tiredness.  We drove through a number of small towns and had to take ferries twice before reaching Balestrand.  There’re beautiful roadside falls so good worth stopping for.

When we reached Balestrand, it was getting dark, so we just walked around the town before going to sleep.  The scenery is very
really breathtaking around the town.  Stayed at the Sjøtun Camping, and it is pretty decent.  You can read the blog and it talks a lot about Balestrand.  The next morning we drove around the town and having our breakfast in the harbor enjoying the view.  The St. Olaf’s church is really worth the visit if you are in that area.  After spending a few hours in the town, we left to
come back to Gudvangen, and it involves road trip to Dragsvik, ferry to Vangsnes and road trip Gudvangen and driving through a high mountainpass, all of them with amazing views. 

The road from Vangsnes to Gudvangen is one of the scenic roads and we stopped at the Hopperstad Stave church.  This church
was built sometime around year 1130 and the surrounding scenery is also really amazing.  This is a good stop to enjoy the church as well as the scenery in the small town.

The ferry ride is really scenic and well worth the time.  There were a lot of Chinese tourists in the boat and almost all of them were more interested in feeding the seagulls, having pictures taken with them than enjoying the scenery
around them.  There are a lot of nice little towns on the mountains as well as beautiful waterfalls.  Once we reached Flam, we walked around and had lunch there before returning by bus.  Since we took the ferry and driving by ourselves, we decided not to spend time or money on the Flam train because we talked to someone who was driving and also went on the train mentioned that the scenery is almost the same.  Please check where to board the bus to return to Gudvangen, we didn’t do it and were looking for the bust at the minute and we almost missed it.

We wanted to hike Trolltunga, so decided to drive to Odda for the overnight stay so that we could start our hike early in the morning the next day.  It is hard to describe the beauty that you will witness
in Norway and you have to experience it.  We stopped in a number of places on the way and went though a number of tunnels that are more than a couple of miles long.  I booked a room in the Trolltunga Hotel with a shared bathroom.  Since it was a shoulder season, there’re not many people either in the town or in the hotel, and it worked out pretty good for us.  The breakfast at the hotel was good.

Getting to the trailhead was pretty easy and got some guidance from the hotel, and the drive took about 30 minutes.  There were few people parked their cars and started the hike around 8am and, right at the trail parking place there was shop from where the guided tours start.  The guy at the shop was recommending guide but we saw a bunch of people going for the hike and upon checking, the guy at the store indicated that if we are experienced hikers, we should be able to do it by ourselves.  So we started our hike around 8am.   For the first one mile, it was uphill in a tree cover and after that we had to cross a bunch of streams that were pretty shallow.  After 3km, we ended up hiking on the snow all the
way for the next 8km.  Since a lot of people hiked on the trail, there was a clear path and in every mile there’s a signpost to indicate how far we had come, which is nice.  Once it got sunny, walking in the snow was tiring but the scenery was amazing.  We had our lunch at the 7km point and took some rest before continuing the hike.  When we reached the Trolltunga, there were about 15 people and a couple of them were taking naked pictured on the rock.  We waited for about 20 minutes before taking
pictures there and stayed there for more an hour enjoying the views.  Hike back was hard and the streams that were shallow when we crossed in the morning had a lot of water going and we had to find spots to cross without getting our shoes wet, but there’re few streams we had to cross walking on the water.  We got back around 9pm tired and hungry, a Chinese restaurant appeared to be a god sent gift at that time :-)

Initial plan was to drive to Pulpit rock before heading to Bergen but looking at the distance and time to drive, we decided to skip the
Pulpit for this time and decide to head to Bergen stopping on the way in Utne which is a nice small town.  The drive to Bergen is so scenic all the way with so many waterfalls and beautiful scenery.  I thought that driving in Bergen would be a nightmare because I was driving in an European city for the second time after the nightmarish experience in Spain, and it was smooth sailing.  I booked the Youth Hostel right close to the
Fish Market and found a parking lot little further.  So we parked the car in the parking lot and took the bus to get to the hostel, which is pretty easy and simple.  After putting our stuff in the hostel, we ventured out and walked around the fish market and the city.  The city is very walker friendly and there are very nice neighborhoods we walked around.  The fish market area is very lively and good to hang around in the late evenings. 

We took the walking tour of Bergen, went around different areas of
the city.  We didn’t visit any museums or didn’t take any tours but simply enjoy watching the life that passed by.  Bergen is a beautiful city with very colorful buildings and nice cafes.  Everything is almost walk able distance and we didn’t take any transit other than to get to the car parking lot.


If you enjoy outdoors, the one country that you must visit is Norway.  The natural beauty of this place is mesmerizing and you may ask whether I had been to Switzerland, yes we were there two years back.  But I really enjoy the beauty of Norway and hiking/driving in Norway.  We spent 2 days and one night in Bergen, I think that that should be enough time to spend here..and you should get out of the city to enjoy the nature if you are in Norway.  We’ll surely comeback to explore more.

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