Our first ever Norway itinerary was perfect. I don't just say this to get you excited, I really mean it. During our road trip in Norway, we discovered mountains, lakes, fjords, national parks, cities and vast forests. We had the most incredible adventure and we'd love to do it over and over again. The highlight was going to the Arctic Circle and seeing the Northern Lights in Norway. I mean wow, what an epic thing to see. That's exactly why we can't wait to share with you our Norway itinerary which is ideal for any first time visitor.
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The perfect Norway itinerary for first time visitors - Contents
There are a few things you need to know about our Norway itinerary.
First, we rented a car for the whole duration of our trip. We wanted to drive around Norway and access remote parts of the country where we could take pictures and fly our drone.
This was the best decision as, although there is fantastic public transport in Norway, we would have missed on a lot of scenic routes which we discovered by chance. We are certain that without a car we wouldn't have seen as many areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Second, most rental cars in Norway are of really good quality. During the first trip, we got a beautiful Hyundai Kona and on our second trip, in the Arctic circle, we got an automatic Focus. Both cars behaved really well on the roads. We noticed that most rentals are new cars with good mileage and in perfectly good condition.
Third, you should pack lunch in advance so you don't have to worry about food during your long drives. We had breakfast in the apartment/hotel, then lunch on the road, and we always finished with a hearty meal in the evening.
We purchased most of our groceries from the supermarket. You will probably do several day drives to remote areas where there are no shops or restaurants in the vicinity. So it's best to have some snacks and drinks with you.
Forth, it turned out to be mission impossible to be vegan in Norway, so we went vegetarian for the most duration of our trip. This made us realise that certain parts of the world don't go well with our dietary options. As such, we decided to be vegan at home but be a bit more flexible with our diet when we travel, and allow for vegetarian dishes
Fifth, our Norway itinerary made us fall in love with the country. A 2-hour drive transformed into a 10-hour journey full of stops, photography and laughter. Everything in Norway is beautiful. So be prepared to ditch some of the plans along the road and make room for new adventures on the road.
Day 1 - Oslo Airport to Lillehammer
We arrived in Oslo first thing in the morning. We organised for an early flight, because, unlike most Norway itineraries, we wanted to skip the big capital city and head straight for the forest.
Once we arrived, the fresh air welcomed us, then a warm airport which smelled like wood reiterated that we landed in Scandinavia. Oh, you cannot imagine how excited we were to be in Norway. We heard great things. We headed for the rental offices, picked our new Hyundai Kona and away we went.
The first impressions were incredible. Everything in Norway was green. The roads had strict speed limits, much lower than the rest of Europe. This was great for me, as it gave me time to get used to the new car. G was setting up the sat nav in the driver's seat so we can stop in a supermarket along the way, to ensure we have provisions for the night.
Our first stop was in a random supermarket called Kiwi. A few bits and bobs came down to an exorbitant amount of money, but hey, that's Norway alright: beautiful and expensive.
We continued our journey towards Lillehammer. We stayed in a cottage just on the left-hand hill overlooking the city and the ski slopes. The cottage was nicely tucked in the forest, with a few trails nearby where we could enjoy the fresh air. It was remote, exciting and beautiful. This was our dream for sure.
It was that night we fell in love with Norway and realised our trip is going to be simply legendary.
Day 2 - Lillehammer to Dombås
We stayed just one night in Lillehammer. The morning was fresh and a bit foggy with the tips of the evergreens slightly brushed by the haze. There was this deep silent, something we've missed for a long time. As much as we love cities and learning about new cultures, there is nothing better than a beautiful day in the mountains, where you can only hear your own heartbeat.
We left Lillehammer behind and headed towards Dombås. Now, we expected Dombås to be a little dull. We knew there is a National Park nearby, but from the pictures, it looked rugged, which is not our type of terrain we like to hike on. We love deep forests, rivers and mountains.
How wrong we were to even consider that any parts of Norway could be dull. The Dovrefjell–Sunndalsfjella National Park turned out to be our highlight in Norway. We drove along the Dovre National Park for several hours just to see the landscape. After a quick hike, we headed for our cottage located in Lesja.
Still relatively early, we jumped back in the car and went for a quick drive towards the Dovrefjell–Sunndalsfjella National Park. Again, we had no idea what to expect, but once we saw it, our jaws dropped. The foliage was at its prime in Norway and the empty long road took us deep into the rusty forests. It looked incredible. If we could recommend anything, it will be to spend more time in this area. There are several hiking opportunities and myriad of photographic points. As a nature photographer, you can literally spend a lifetime in this National Park and not run out of cool things to snap.
Day 3 - Dombås to Trondheim
From our little cottage in Dombås, we had to leave the National Park behind and head towards our first big city, Trondheim. This part of our Norway itinerary was not so great, as you will see why.
The drive itself was fabulous, with many stops and countless photo opportunities. We really loved it.
Before going to our apartment, we drove close to a nearby mountain located on the left side of the city and went for a long hike in the forest. We did around 4 hours in total and really enjoyed the peace and quiet. Towards the end of the hike, the path became quite busy, we assume with locals who were in need of a relaxing walk after a long day at work.
During the day, we realised that it will be better to stop at an electronics store to get a couple of external hard drives to ensure we don't lose any of our data. Sadly, just 10 minutes before we were meant to get to our apartment, we got into a mild accident. We were in a car park and someone reversed into us. Given that we never had any type of collision with our cars (let alone a rental) we didn't quite know what the approach is, so it took us around 1-2 hours to get through to our rental office, fill in all paperwork and ensure all is well.
Because of this, we had no time to actually explore the city. We were very happy that we stopped so much along the way, hiked and had our chance to take pictures. I guess this is our cue that we must visit Norway again and add Trondheim to our itinerary, to be able to finally discover this city.
Day 4 - Trondheim to Atlantic Road
From Trondheim, we started making our way towards the Atlantic Road. We knew it's going to be incredible and let me tell you, this drive didn't disappoint. We crossed the Atlantic Road twice during the first day and stopped several times along the way to take lots and lots of pictures. The wind was crazy and there were times I couldn't even stand as the wind will push me down. We were super disappointed as we wanted to fly our drone. Once we got to our apartment, we checked the weather forecast for the next morning: no wind. We decided to abandon the Atlantic Road for the evening, do some hiking instead and come back to fly our drone first thing in the morning.
We didn't get to hike too much as the weather turned sour and we got caught in a mega-storm. It reminded us of our home in the UK but we really loved it, rather than get upset by it. I'm not too sure why, but we embraced the rain and cold. Our apartment was not too far from a few supermarkets, so we went to buy a few fresh ingredients for dinner. We spent the evening chilling, cooking and enjoying some cosy time together in front of the fireplace.
The next morning, at first light, we went straight for the Atlantic Road to fly our drone. There was no wind whatsoever, so we got the footage we needed for our videos. It was worth the wait.
Day 5 - Atlantic Road to Valldal
This is where our Norway itinerary started getting even more impressive than before. The route to Valldal can be done two ways: you take the motorway and stick to the main road, or, you take the scenic route, via Trollstigen. Since we wanted to spend a bit longer on the road, we took the Trollstigen route. Let me tell you right now: there shouldn't be any other option, because, without a doubt, this was the most incredible road you can possibly imagine.
We got super lucky with the weather and flew our drone over the Trollstigen road. We hiked a little on that day as well. The road is insane: hairpin turns, incredible vistas and amazing steep roads. Just make sure you have the right tyres for the weather and drive slow and safe. It's not an easy drive but it's one to remember. Once you get to the top, you will be rewarded with some of the best views from about 1700 m high. You'll want to pinch yourself as it doesn't even look real.
After our long drive, we finally got to our hotel in Valldal. When we thought views can't get any better, we realised our hotel is by the water, with fabulous views of the fjords. We finished the evening with a hot meal and a bottle of wine in a glass restaurant with incredible vistas. Our Norway itinerary was getting better and better.
Day 6 - Valldal to Byrkjelo
From Valldall we started our drive towards Byrkjelo via the Ørnesvingen-eagle Road. We, of course, wanted to see Geiranger and the Geirangerfjord. The landscape is as insane as you'd imagine, but the road there was also a lot busier than other parts of Norway. It was obvious this is a well-known tourist attraction. Nevertheless, we wanted to experience it for ourselves and spent a couple of hours exploring it.
As we continued our drive towards higher and higher altitude, the rain started to slowly transform into snowflakes. In a matter of minutes, we went from green to a perfectly white landscape. Little we knew at the time that our car still had summer tyres. No matter, we truly enjoyed the drive. This place was remote, white and cold. We got out of the car a few times to take pictures and videos and couldn't believe it that from the sunny Valldal, we drove through pouring rain on the Ørnesvingen-eagle Road, and fluffy fresh snow deep in the mountains.
If there is one advise I can offer, is to forget the main motorways. Always venture on those incredible scenic routes: you will be rewarded with no traffic and the most dramatic landscape you can possibly imagine.
Day 7 - Byrkjelo to Jostedalsbreen National Park
Jostedalsbreen National Park has long been on our wish list. We read so much about these amazing glaciers located in Norway so we really wanted to allocate a full day to hike on one. The journey from Byrkjelo to Jostedalsbreen was stunning, although we couldn't get out of the car as much as we wanted due to the pouring rain. Nevertheless, we stopped in several places just to enjoy the fresh rain. Upon arrival, we made our way to the Nigardsbreen glacier. To get to the glacier, we took a small boat which rides back and forth between the glacier and the car park. The journey is less than 10 minutes. You can also walk if you prefer, but we were pressed for time as we had yet another glacier on the list.
The hike from the lake to the Nigardsbreen glacier itself took around 20 minutes. Close to the glacier you can take some pictures but should never venture further than the fence for your own safety... not without a guide anyway. We stopped and took some pictures and also got a chance to fly the drone. The views were just insane!
After the Nigardsbreen, we stopped at the hotel for a hot late lunch and a cup of coffee. We were actually excited to sleep for two nights in one place. We spoke to the lady at the hotel who recommended that we also do a hike to see another glacier closer than Nigardsbreen. We took the car and drove for about 20 minutes then hiked for an hour. This is not a hike you can find on google maps, you actually need a hiking map for it. Attached below is a picture of the route we took by car.
Once you reach the end of the road, there is a car park and you can clearly see the hiking path. Just follow it on a straight line all the way to the glacier. The glacier is much smaller than Nigardsbreen, but also more special as it's less known. We were the only people on this path. We enjoyed seeing something more off the beaten path and we are most excited we listened to our new friend from the Jostedal hotel reception.
Upon arrival back to the hotel, we got a hot meal, a glass of well-earned wine and slept like logs.
Day 8 - Styggevatnet
We met our guides at 10 am in the morning in front of the Nigardsbreen conservation centre. From there, we drove another 30 minutes or so towards Styggevatnet. At the morning meeting, we found out that winter already made its way to the Styggevatnet, and we should expect quite a lot of snow at the top.
To be fair, we didn't think it will be too much for us, but we soon had to stop driving up the mountains as the snow became too thick and our summer tyres finally started to show their inability to cope with the weather. We made our way through snow all the way to the top of the dam. Sadly, we also realised we prepared for a lot of rain and not for snow, as 30 minutes into the journey we were already freezing. We had waterproofs for rain but nothing which can keep the snow away from climbing into our shoes.
Once we arrived at the dam, we got onto a boat and made our way towards the face of the glacier. It looked incredible. I think no pictures can do it justice. We flew the drone from the boat just before the weather became really rainy and snowy. After a while, we managed to get off the boat and started our trek towards the glacier. To be fair, by that time we got really cold as we needed to walk in knee deep snow. Our socks were officially soaking wet and our waterproof boots did a fantastic job at keeping the melted snow in! So we didn't make it too far on the glacier, but far enough to be able to take some incredible pictures.
About 1,5 hours later, we found ourselves back in the comfort of our car. We were absolutely frozen, but luckily we had some spare socks and our New Balance shoes at the back of the car. Once we made it to the hotel, we hit the bed and slept for a couple of hours in the warmth.
In the evening, we did a bit of walking and hiking but nothing too strenuous as we were already relatively tired from the morning adventure.
Day 9 - Jostedalsbreen National Park to Vossevangen
Leaving the Jostedalsbreen National Park behind was a tough one. This area has more hiking trails than you can imagine, so it's literally our type of paradise. As we commenced our journey towards Voss, the weather also turned very rainy so we couldn't really stop for pictures or hikes. Once we arrived at our apartment in Voss, we made a huge dinner and tried to wait for the rain to stop but to no avail.
We put our waterproofs on and went for a walk around the area, then went to check the local stores in the town centre. It all looked so beautiful and peaceful. It was just so surreal to realise that everything in Norway looks just wonderful. You can't get tired of this country.
We got lucky with this apartment in Voss as it was the largest and the most beautiful with a massive American style kitchen and the walls were practically large windows with great views of the forest. So despite the rain, we had a great time cooking in that great kitchen, having a glass of wine and making conversation.
I think this is as good a time as any to mention the alcohol situation in Norway. You cannot purchase wine or spirits in Norway in a supermarket. In the UK, this is a given, you can literally get as many bottles of gin from your local as you want.
In Norway, you can only purchase beer or cider from the supermarkets and need to head to a shop called Vinmonopolet for your wine and liqueur. You must show ID for any purchase and you must note that these shops are quite hard to find and they are not open after 5 pm or during the weekend. Alcohol is also very expensive in Norway (a bottle of wine is around £70 in a restaurant) so if you want to enjoy a glass of red with your meal, make sure to plan accordingly. We discovered a wine which we absolutely adore called Matua. It's a New Zealand white from Marlborough which costs just £20 in shops in Norway and it's fantastic.
Day 10 - Vossevangen to Bergen
The trip from Vossevangen to Bergen was super short. We're talking about 3 hours or so with traffic. Bergen is a colourful city, but one which we really wanted to visit during our Norway itinerary. Since we didn't get the chance to explore Trondheim, we were very excited to finally see a Norwegian city with their main street, shops and restaurants.
In a way, Bergen reminded us of Bristol a little. It had so much to offer with so many interesting streets and houses, including its UNESCO Heritage Wharf. However, we realised that we much prefer nature in Norway and cities, although colourful and fun, are a lot less intriguing.
It was exciting to finally sit down in a Starbucks and order the same oat latte which we always get and it was fun to be spoiled for choices with so many restaurant options. But after a few hours, the excitement wore off and the mountains were calling our names.
This was a good exercise for us, as we finally understood the type of home we want to have. Definitely somewhere closer to nature, on the outskirts of a city.
Day 11 - Bergen to Geilo
From Bergen, we needed to start making our way back towards Oslo airport, but we decided to take it easy and still stop for one more night somewhere in-between. The journey from Bergen towards Geilo was unexpected. We actually thought the road will be fairly straight, regular and boring (if anything in Norway can be boring). But what do you know, we drove up to a very high altitude where there was a lot of snow!
Although it was fun to see snow again, it was also a bit nerve-wracking as our rental had summer tyres on it. So I had to drive super slow and careful, although this also enabled us to enjoy the landscape for longer.
Geilo was a great little place with enough shops to find something nice to cook for dinner. The views from the apartment were also amazing. We were lucky and got to see snowy Geilo, even though we visited late September.
Day 12 - Geilo to Oslo Airport (Flight to Tromsø)
Our last day before heading to the Oslo Airport was mainly spent on the road. We did a very light hike in the morning, then drove from Geilo to Oslo airport.
Once we got to the airport, we returned our rental and waited in the airport for a few hours before catching our flight to Tromsø. We've been wanting to visit the Arctic Circle for soooo long.
Day 13 - Tromsø City
The first day in the Arctic Circle was spent exploring the city of Tromsø. The main centre is very small so you can probably finish it all in a few hours. We had breakfast at Risø, went from shop to shop, explored its souvenir stores and had lunch at Bardus Bistro (which by the way, we very much recommend).
The evening was spent walking around the town, admiring some of the houses and enjoying some of the colourful landscape of the city. We didn't expect to like Tromsø as much as we did. It was a lot more vibrant than anticipated and it had a real cosy feel to it all.
In the very evening, we went to get our rental from the Herz offices and drove to a nearby supermarket to get some ingredients so we can cook something local for dinner.
We were already thinking about hunting for the Northern Lights that night. However, we checked this website and it showed that our best bet was to go hunting on the 1st of October. We started thinking about booking a tour, just to be sure that we have the chance to see them properly.
Day 14 - Lyngen Alps
We decided to take our car for a long ride and go towards the Lyngen Alps. The area is very well connected with good motorways and fantastic roads into the mountains. We checked our tyres and they were proper good winter tyres so no reason to shy away from the snow.
We started driving towards Sjursnes and then Nordkjosbotn. The whole journey took a lot longer than expected because we simply couldn't stop taking pictures. Imagine incredible mountains, glorious fjords and exceptional snowy peaks. Lush forests, rivers, mirror lakes and colourful houses: that was the Arctic Circle.
You can pick any route our of Tromsø and we can assure you that you can't go wrong. Everything is beautiful. Nature is at its prime, remote, untouched, incredible.
Day 15 - Aurora Spirit and Northern Lights
We loved our drive around the Lyngen Alps so much, that we decided to take another trip during the day. We wanted to drive towards Aurora Spirit, but first, we took a detour and drove to Jøvik. We thought from Jøvik we can continue our journey towards Lyngseidet but we realised (a bit too late) that the road literally ends in Jøvik.
So we had to retrace our steps and go all the way back, then go around the mountains and towards Lyngseidet. Sadly, this added a lot of time to our journey so we couldn't make it all the way to Aurora Spirit. Luckily, the road was insanely beautiful, so we didn't mind the added drive. We flew the drone on so many occasions, stopped to have a picnic and enjoyed the sound of silence.
Once we reached Lyngseidet we continued towards Svensby and beyond. Again, we enjoyed the landscape, you can't imagine how beautiful it is to drive in the middle of nowhere. It's easy to lose the sense of time. That's why we needed to rush back to Tromsø to make it on time for our Northern Lights tour.
We realised that we'd rather spend the day driving around the wilderness and allow someone else to drive us at night. So we decided to book a Northern Lights tour in the end, for the 1st of October as per the website's recommendation. It turned out to be a success as we spent another 6-7 hour, driving in search of the Aurora Borealis: and what a show that was.
We got to see the beautiful dance of the Northern Lights, a dream we both had for far too long. For this alone, we'd recommend you to visit Tromsø.
Day 16 - Flight home
Here we were just over 2 weeks later, getting ready to go home. We really didn't want to leave, didn't want to board that plane back to real life. Norway became our favourite country, and the place we want to move to. It's beautiful, remote, quiet and cold, yet it's also the most mesmerising place we've seen so far. There is something about Norway which made us feel at home, and throughout our travels, we only ever experienced this feeling in Tokyo, Japan.
Is this the beginning of a new era? Could Norway become our new favourite place on Earth? Very likely. And to see what we mean, we absolutely invite you to drive your way around Norway. We promise you won't regret it. There is only one other country which we loved as much as Norway, and that's Japan. The difference is that in Japan, our favourite city is Tokyo, whereby in Norway, we simply loved every single inch of this incredible country.