Thoughts of Scandinavian countries conjure images of fjords, rugged terrain, and perhaps snow. But taking a deep dive into Norway with a road trip showed so much of the country’s natural beauty that casual visitors that arrive by plane or cruise ships may not see.
We chose Oslo as our starting point and drove west to the coast and then north to the Lofoten Islands jutting into the Norwegian Sea. Not only were we treated to stunning views that we had only seen in pictures, but we also enjoyed the interactions with the people of towns and fishing villages along the way. And we took advantage of the abundant opportunities for hiking and other outdoor activities.
Norway Road Trip Route: Oslo to the Lofoten Islands
|Driving Time||48 hours|
Our journey began when we flew from Paris to the Oslo Gardermoen Airport. We picked up our car for the trip – a Volvo XC40 SUV – at the Sixt counter in the airport. An SUV is perfect for long road trips, and we were planning to put a lot of mileage on our rental car. We started on the western coast of Norway and then journeyed north to do some island hopping through stunning scenery.
Driving the Volvo XC40 through the woods of Norway
Stop 1: Taking in the View at Preikestolen
This cliff Preikestolen overlooking a fjord translates to “Pulpit Rock” and makes for some phenomenal photos. This is not a well-kept secret and you will likely see many other tourists visiting this spot that rises 604 meters above the Lysefjorden. The appeal of the cliff stems from its large, flat top. You will need to hike nearly 4 miles each way from the Preikestolen Fjellstue mountain lodge up a moderately demanding incline. At the top, you will be rewarded with scenic views and you can wave at the boats passing far below.
Stop 2: Gazing at the pure water of Lovatnet
The color of Lovatnet explains why it’s worth a stop on your road trip, and why it’s one of our favorite lakes in Norway. Drive along the water’s edge and take in the blue-green waters with mountains rising on both sides. The pure crystalline water in the lake comes down from two glaciers in the mountains. While there are two small villages nearby, there are also very nice campgrounds located at the lake that might be a better bet in warmer months. And who wouldn’t want to wake up near water like this?
A view of Lovatnet lake with fjords rising around it
Stop 3: Island hopping along the Atlantic Ocean Road
Looking at the Atlanterhavsveien, or Atlantic Road, on a map, it appears to float over the water. We had seen pictures of this road many times on Instagram, so it was amazing seeing it with our own eyes. The reason this 5.2-mile-long section of County Road 64 is so famous is because it connects several small islands with the mainland, hopping between them via causeways, viaducts, and bridges.
Stop 4: Village life at Geiranger
This town on the western edge of Norway in Møre og Romsdal county is home to so many natural wonders. It is very popular for tourists to see the Geirangerfjorden – a branch of the large Storfjorden – and also the waterfalls like the Seven Sisters. Geiranger is located directly on County Road 63 and you will come across a lookout with great views over the fjord. And because of its popularity, there are several accommodations located in and around the town.
Fjords in Norway
Stop 5: At the top of the world looking down from Mardalsfossen
Mardalsfossen was one of our absolute favorite spots (perhaps even from all the trips we’ve taken). Cascading from 705 meters, it’s one of the 10 highest waterfalls in Europe. You can find it in the municipality of Nesset in Møre og Romsdal.
The Mardalsfossen waterfall is one of the 10 highest in Europe
Stop 6: Taking in the distinctive Lofoten Islands
The islands that make up Lofoten are an archipelago – a large stretch of grouped islands – and one of the more “traditional” districts in Norway. Lofoten is known for its distinctive scenery and towering mountains. The mountain range is beautifully encased by open sea and sheltered by bays, beaches, and untouched lands. My favorite spot had to be around Reine, where there were some beautiful places to hike and amazing scenery, with small fishing villages under triangularly shaped fjords. Really, it was one of the more spectacular places that I’ve seen in a while.
A fishing village near Reine
Stop 7: Finishing with an island mountain hike
Our last stop took us to the second-largest island in Norway, Senja. We enjoyed one final hike up the Segla mountain to get a scenic view over the fjords and villages nearby.
A view from Helvetestinden, near Bunes beach in Lofoten, Norway
As you can see, we loved Norway and found it to be a great travel destination, whether with family or friends. However, it’s particularly rewarding for outdoor enthusiasts. Because Norway is an expensive country compared to others in Europe, we mostly stayed at campgrounds. We did a lot of driving and at the end of the day, it was nice to have a shower, enjoy some warm food, and connect to Wi-Fi. Lastly, these were some of our favorite parts of Norway.
The Food: It would be hard to list the best places to eat as the local produce and dishes are unique. We tried brown cheese for the first time and found it delicious. Also, be sure to try fresh salmon as well as all the other Nordic fish.
The People: Those we encountered in Norway were very happy folk. The gap between rich and poor in the country is the smallest in the developed world. They top the leagues in everything from welfare to gender equality.
The Buildings: The colors of the houses are also something special, the most common color being red, afterward yellow and white. It was amazing to see so many of these little cabins amongst the gigantic breath-taking landscapes.
About the Travelers
Yann Bervas is a French photographer who often works and travels with Giulia. You can find him on Instagram at @yann__b
Andrea enjoys exploring different countries and eating all of their foods, especially if they’re spicy.