It was June 2020 and a warm summer weekend was coming up. I was at home in Voss instead of on a safari in Uganda. With not even the slightest interest in spending yet another weekend in the mountains, I thought to myself; why not go on a small adventure on my own? I usually go on at least one solo travel each year, but never within Norway. Why not spend the weekend seeing some of those places that I had wanted to but never found time to visit?
I spontaneously booked a hotel room, packed swimwear, a towel and other necessities in a bag, and jumped in the car. Starting on a 2-days solo road trip to the cute villages of Lærdal, Fjærland, and Skei in the Sognefjord area.
Lærdal: first stop on my solo road trip by the fjords
I left Voss at 09:00 and approx. 1,5 hours and 45 km of tunnels, including the world’s longest, I arrived Lærdal. My first stop on this road trip is known for its old town centre, Lærdalsøyri. With almost 170 listed wooden houses from the 18th and 19th century it truly is a charming town. Lærdal was one of the most important market towns between eastern and western Norway for centuries.
Traders came by boat on the Sognefjord from west and by foot on the Kings road across Filefjell. This changed with modern infrastructure and Lærdal is now a small detour of the main road and a rather quiet town.
I had visited the old town of Lærdal before. My main reason to stop now was to visit a small and picturesque shop called Fredag (Friday), located in one of those old houses. In recent years locals of Lærdal has transformed the quiet street with cosy shops and cafés and made it a place to stop.
One of those locals is Mariell, whom I have followed via her blog Hjartesmil for almost as long as I can remember. Her shop is filled with items you cannot find everywhere else, from food to accessorizes to pottery to note books. I had lunch on a bench in company with my book and went shopping before continuing my drive along the fjord.
Fjærland: for book and fjord lovers
Another 1,5 hours and a ferry across the Sognefjord later I parked my car in Fjærland. The village where the glacier meets the fjord, and also where you find the Norwegian Book Town. The small town is filled with second hand books in the summer, and I have wanted to visit since I first heard about the book town.
I spent a couple of hours just strolling around the idyllic town centre right next to the sparkling fjord, popping into small boat houses, basements and garages, and looking through road-side book shelves. All filled with books. Mostly in Norwegian, but you can also find treasures in other languages. Fjærland is nothing less than a book lover’s dream!
Fjærland is nestled between tall mountains and the turquoise coloured Fjærlandsfjord, an arm of the large Sognefjord. The water’s special colour originates from the glaciers you can spot in the distance. Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier in continental Europe and like the Sognefjord, it has several arms stretching down towards the lowland valleys. Melting water from the glacier ensures year-round low temperatures and the vibrant colours in the Fjærlandsfjord.
With my bag filled with new books, I put my towel down on a lawn by the quay and spent the afternoon reading in the fantastic summer weather. Looking up from my book now and then only to see youths having fun in the waters and families kayaking past.
I love travelling solo. I can spend as much time as I like on the things I find interesting. Eat whenever I feel like it. Read a book for as long I wish. Stop wherever I want.
Did I dare to test the water temperature too? Yes! But only once… It was 13 degrees celsius.
Climate change up close
Back in the car I continued north. After just 15 minutes I took the well signed posted detour to see the remnants of Bøyabreen glacier. Just off the road I found a parking lot and a trail to the viewpoint. From here you can still spot the glacier arm and the small lake of freezing melting water, but the glacier is melting fast.
When visiting Fjærland, I would highly recommend that you take the time to visit the Norwegian Glacier Museum to learn more about glaciers and climate change. The modern and interactive museum is interesting for all ages.
Skei in Jølster: Western Norway away from the fjords
I left the fjord in Fjærland, but Western Norway’s beautiful scenery are more than just fjords. After another 30 minutes of driving and 10 minutes to check into my hotel in Skei in Jølster, I sat on the hotel terrasse with a cold beer in front of me. Skei is one of those typical places that you just drive past. This time I was spending the night, as the next day I was finally visiting a museum I had postponed for far too long.
The warm and bright evening was spent with beer, dinner, my book, and great views to Jølstravatnet lake until it was time to go to bed.
If you have read previous posts on this blog, you know that getting up early to explore is one of my top travel tips. Skei was no exception, but instead of experiencing a quiet city waking to life I went out for a morning hike. Uphill I went and at the daytrip cabin I was awarded with an amazing view of Jølster. Western Norway is a sight for sore (and tired) eyes!
Next on the agenda was the mentioned museum. The home of the Norwegian painter Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928), Astruptunet farmstead, is located 20 minutes’ drive from Skei and is today an open-air museum. Astrup is known for his colourful paintings of midsummer bonfires, lush landscapes, and his family. A guided tour of his home includes a visit to his atelier and the different buildings where he lived with his wife and their 8 children. It is no wonder where he found his inspiration, just look at those surroundings!
Astruptunet is a real gem, even if you do not know his work. To see more of his painting, I recommend to visit KODE art museums in Bergen.
Cramming in as much of the holiday feeling as possible, I settled down on Skei Marina for a few hours. The lake offered a considerably more comfortable swimming temperature and a lovely atmosphere with people bathing and coming and going on SUP, kayaks and boats. The perfect ending of my short solo road trip adventure.
My choice of route
Exactly 36 eventful and relaxing hours after leaving, I arrived back in Voss. I can most definitely recommend the following itinerary:
- Voss – Lærdal: E16 via Flåm
- Lærdal – Fjærland: RV5 via Sogndal, incl. 1 ferry
- Fjærland – Skei in Jølster: RV5
- Skei – Sogndal: RV5
- Sogndal – Voss: RV13 via Vik in Sogn, incl. 1 ferry
If you have time, and it is your first visit to the area, I recommend to also spend a night in Sogndal or Vik.