If you only have a week, skip Oslo and head straight for the Fjords, the western and most iconic part of Norway. The word “fjord” is literally Norwegian. Bergen is a good entry point at the southern part of the fjords, winding north towards Sogndal and ending at Alesund in the north. Stay at any town right on the sognefjord (away from the big cities) for an ideal retreat.
Resist the urge to push the “easy button” and take a cruise or do “Norway in a Nutshell” - driving around Norway is the best (and hardest) way to visit some of the remote locations... and half the joy of the trip was taking the official scenic routes that got prettier and prettier, passing waterfalls, snow capped mountains, taking public ferries, and yes, even stopping for cows in the road. The roads zig-zag across the fjords so plan multiple stops / multiple nights to break up the drive. In addition to hotels and Airbnb’s, Norway is famous for cabins and camp grounds along the scenic routes.
3. Ice Is Nice
Hike a glacier... while you still can. This arm of the Jostedal glacier is only going to last 20 more years. It is a hard hike with crampons and an ice pick, but exhilarating to hike blue ice that is eons old... a piece did break off as we started the hike, so do it soon.
4. Those Summer “Nights?”
At the peak of summer, it is 20 hours of sunshine, and 4 hours of “dusk” where the sun touches the horizon and then pops right back up. Most hotels will have blackout curtains but bring an eye mask if you are a sensitive sleeper. Conversely if you travel in the winter, it is 20 hours of dark with 4 hours of daylight... but you get the chance to see the northern lights. We opted for summer since we wanted to do so much driving.
5. Alesund is a beautiful Beaus-Arts City
Consider starting or ending your trip at an idyllic summer retreat, Alesund. This fishing village burned in a fire and was entirely reconstructed at the peak of the beaus-Arts period in the early 1900’s. Often called “the Venice of the North” it has a central canal and many water-front restaurants and shops. Like Bergen, it has a view spot above the city and is an ideal gateway to Trollstigen and Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO world heritage site.
6. Climb the Trolls Ladder
With a proper automatic car (or a bike if you’re really brave) consider climbing the “trolls ladder”: hairpin turns across a waterfall on one of the steepest roads in the world. This reminded me of Yosemite valley, but greener and more dramatic melting snow and waterfalls at the top.
7. Take the Polar Plunge
If you dare... even in the summer the fjords are freezing. So cold you get a brain freeze just putting your head under water. I could stand it for about 3 minutes, then had to come out.
8. Visit the Old Stave Church in Vic
One of the highlights of our trip was visiting the beautifully preserved Old Stave church. Constructed in the late 11th century, it was essentially built like a Viking ship (but upside down) with the water-tight roof featuring dragons like a Viking long-ship.
9. Ski, Snowboard or Skydive in Voss
Voss is the extreme sports capital in Norway, and while we only stopped by to see the town, we drove by many ski lodges and saw rock climbers who were there for the summer.
10. See the “midnight sun” or northern lights in Tromso
While we did not make it so far north, if you have longer fly to Tromso to take-in the true midnight sun. There will be no dusk like in Alesund, just 24-hours of pure sun light... or in the winter time, the Northern Lights.