Summer 2020 was the summer to stay close to home and away from crowds. Instead of exploring Uganda, I headed out on a two week road trip in Norway with my boyfriend, the dog, and our veteran motorhome. It started off as a substitute for my planned travels abroad, but ended up as a holiday I will remember for life.
We swam in the cold, crystal clear sea and admired the sun set in the horizon by snow-white beaches in Western Norway. Ate craft-baked pastries with home-made cheese at small local bakeries and learned about local culture and architecture in the great valleys in Eastern Norway. Saw a musk ox in Dovre National Park and explored the UNESCO-listed mining town of Røros.
HOW WE PLANNED OUR TWO-WEEK NORWEGIAN ROADTRIP
Throughout spring we made a list of places we wished to see and roads we wanted to drive. After a while this list turned into a perfect roadtrip route. It was not a hard itinerary. We did not have a day to day plan, just 2-3 weeks available and places we wanted to visit. If something happened along the way, the route could easily be changed. We also had to take into counting that our motor home was born in 1986 and had not been on longer trips than 2 hours the last 10 years…
The evening before we were setting off, we had still not decided to start the route in eastern or western direction. The plan was to let the weather forecast decide, but it looked cold and grey in all directions. We could just as well start with Western Norway, which normally gets more rain than the eastern parts.
Our itinerary ended up like this:
- Day 1: Voss – Gaularfjell
- Day 2: Gaularfjell – Naustdal
- Day 3: Naustdal – Bremanger
- Day 4: Bremanger
- Day 5: Bremanger – Vågsøy
- Day 6: Vågsøy – Stryn
- Day 7: Stryn – Heidal
- Day 8: Heidal
- Day 9: Heidal – Dovre National Park
- Day 10: Dovre – Alvdal
- Day 11: Alvdal – Røros
- Day 12: Røros – Dovre National Park
- Day 13: Dovre – Sognefjellet Scenic Road
- Day 14: Sognefjellet – Sogndal
- Day 15: Sogndal – Vikafjell mountain plateau
- Day 16: Vikafjell – Voss
BEACH HOPPING AND MIGHTY NATURE IN WESTERN NORWAY
The first leg of the trip was Gaularfjellet Scenic Route. Living with a white water kayaker, I am used to walking along rivers. And that is exactly what we did on our first day after admiring the view from “The View” and laughing at the quote of the man who initiated building the road: “A good road is 10 times better than a bad road. But no road is a 100 times worse than a bad road.” So true, and still a wicked idea to start building the road across this mountain plateau – as so many other roads we where about to drive.
Our main next stop was the islands in Bremanger. Known for their stunning beaches. It was still raining when we arrived Grotlesanden beach. Which only meant that we had almost a kilometer of perfectly white beach to ourselves. Did we swim? Yes. Am I proud? Yes. It was 10 degrees celcius in the air…
Tip: Do not travel to Norway for warm and sunny weather…
We stayed on Iglandsvik Marina for a couple of nights. Visiting the old charming fishing village Kalvåg and hiking in better weather the next couple of days. The main reason we went to Bremanger in the first place was to hike to the isolated roadless beach Vetvika. We were not dissapointed, but we were not alone either. From one beach to another, we headed further north after a long day of hiking. With ferry to Måløy, a rather unidyllic small city but with great wall-art, we arrived Refviksanden beach a few hours later.
Our beach hopping in western Norway ended in the best possible way. On a beautiful white beach with a beer in hand, watching the sun dissapear in the horizon at 23:06. The perks of Norwegian summers!
HUNTING BAKERIES, ARCHITECTURE AND HISTORY IN EASTERN NORWAY
From the islands and beaches of Western Norway our roadtrid continued east. One of my favourite parts of travels in Norway is how fast the landscape, architecture and dialects change. You get in the car, drive for few hours and suddenly the scenery is completely different.
We arrived Lom in time for lunch. Lom is known for its bakery. A must for a pastry lover like me! Apparently also a must for everyone else… As this summer was a bit special in terms of every second Norwegian being on a roadtrip at the same time, Lom was busy. Very busy. I do love baked treats, but not so much I would even consider queing for an hour. Instead we looked at the old stave church from the 12 century and popped by the Norwegian Mountain Center to learn more about how the mountains were created.
From Lom we continued to Heidal. One of our main destinations on this trip, and a village and a valley that even few Norwegians have heard about. Lots of people drive through without stopping. They probably do not know that Heidal is where you can find the highest density of listed buildings in Norway. Large, beautiful farms in traditional sunburned wood surrounds the valley. What people do know about and stop here for, is the river Sjoa. A clear turquise playground for riversports such as rafting. In Heidal I also finally got my craft baked treats at Heidal Ysteri and Café. They even produce their own cheese!
Heidal and Lom are surrounded by national parks with some of the tallest and most impressive mountain ranges in the country. Dovre National Park was next up for us. It was a misty and wet day, but we hiked the short trail to Viewpoint SNØHETTA in Hjerkinn. A cabin made by the famous Snøhetta architects with panoramic views towards the mountain Snøhetta. Unfortunately the mist covered the majestic mountains, but we got another highly appreciated treat: a musk ox! He was wandering on the field a few hundred meters below us and only properly visible using binocular. But we saw him! It is the only place in Norway one can see these massive creatures and the big attraction here are musk safaries. I have to go back some day to do that!
From Hjerkinn we continued down Folldal valley. The rainy weather suited for indoor activities, so we stopped at Folldal mines for waffels and a tour of the museum. From here one also have great views of Rondane National Park. In less misty weather off course… We stayed in the area for another day to explore Jutulhogget canyon. One of the largest canyons in Northern Europe, 2,5 kilometres long and up to 240 meters deep it makes a facinating natural attraction.
24 HOURS IN RØROS, FJORD LIFE AND SUNSETS
Driving into Røros, seeing the large white and blue church tower over the town centre, a childhood dream came true. I remember reading a children book about a boy and a girl coming to “Bergstaden”, a nickname for this old mining town that was established in the mid 17th century. I cannot remember the full story, just the feeling of wanting to go there. We spent the evening trawling the colourful streets for a place to eat, but we were not alone in Røros either and ended up eating a mediocre meal at a hotel. No line in front of the door should have given us a clue… Anyway, we were rewarded by a sunset when walking on the slag heaps afterwards. The next morning I took the dog out for an early morning walk and watched the town come to life while sipping coffee outside the traditional Trygstad Bakery. I love early morning sightseeing!
Røros has a fascinating history. Before copper was discovered here in the 1600’s there were only a sami population living in the area herding reindeer. As soon as the mines were constructed people migrated here to work from other areas in Norway as well as Northern Europe. The mines officially closed in 1977 and the town and surroundings were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.
Røros were cold, no more than 8 degrees celcius and windy in mid-July, and we were now eager for some warmer weather. And guess what! It looked like the western fjords would get sun a couple of days later. So, south west we went. Back in Lom, we turned south-west up Bøverdalen valley towards Sognefjellet Scenic Road. The scenery of Jotunheimen National Park was stunning. And or campspot for the night no less. Imagine being able to sit outside the car seeing the sun set behind the mountains 1400 masl. It is something that just needs to be experienced. Sognefjellshytta and Turtagrø Hotel offer rooms for rent if you do not travel with your own house like we did.
After a 1400 altitude metres descent and countless turns our old van got a break by the Sognefjord in Skjolden. Finally, time for picnic in the park, sunbathing and swimming in the freezing fjord. That was more or less all we did for the next days, both in Skjolden and at our friends place near Sogndal. As the weather was about to turn again, we turned towards the mountains again. Vikafjell mountain plateau this time. Getting closer to home, we decided to go for an evening hike and camp one last night. We walked to a viewpoint of the fjord and could see over to Vetlefjorden and Gaularfjell where we started our tour two weeks earlier.
The proximity of fjords and mountains is Western Norway in a nutshell
THE RIGHT TO ROAM AND ITS RESPONSIBILITIES
In Norway we have the right to roam, called “Allemannsretten”. Which means that we are free to move and camp wherever we want, as long as we are not on farmed land, at least 150 metres away from houses and cabins, blocking farm roads and leave no trace after a maximum of two nights in the same place. The responsibilities we have when being outdoor and camping are listed in the Outdoor Recreation Act. It seems like most people are aware of this, but some could do with some more research before leaving home. For example, if you see signs of an old bonfire, use that spot instead of making a new one. Bring all garbage with you and hide everything composable, so that it looks nice and clean when the next one arrives. And remember: toiletpaper has nothing to do in nature! Bring it with you or burn it.
WHAT TO PACK FOR A ROAD TRIP IN NORWAY
If you have read this far, you have probably understood that you can get all sorts of weather on a roadtrip in Norway. From temperatures below zero in the mountains to warm summer days by the fjord and in the eastern valleys. Plan on wearing layers. Wool is great, it keeps you warm when it is cold and breathes when it is hot. Rain and windproof jacket and trousers should be brought along, together with a hat and gloves. A light down jacket is perfect for chilly evenings. For a swim in the fjord or a mountain lake, remember swimwear. Shorts and t-shirts, maybe also a summer dress for those nice summer days that you may experience. If you plan on dining out, bring something nicer but still casual. Shoes suitable for hiking is another must.
On this trip I lived in the two hiking pants and two shorts that I brought, light wool jumpers and my wind- and rainproof jacket. I brought one pair of jeans, and wore them twice. Both times during our 24 hours in Røros.
Want to read more about roadtripping in Norway? Read about a 40 hour winter roadtrip here.