Tip #1: Bring warm clothes, even if you’re there in the summer, good hiking shoes, and a raincoat/windbreaker.
Tip #2: Buy your food at the grocery store rather than eating out. On average, a bowl of fish soup seemed to be about USD $10.
Tip #3: You can travel on the Hurtigruten ferry without needing a cabin. Apparently you can just show up, it’s affordable, and many people sleep in the lounges on board.
I spent 10 days exploring Norway in July on my first ever solo trip, and I loved it! For anyone who enjoys the outdoors, Norway is a great place to be. The mountains are beautiful and have trails for everyone from beginners to advanced hikers. And camping on public land is free!
When I was planning my trip out, I had a hard time finding information on itineraries and places to go. Here is what I did:
Day 1: I arrived in Olso at around 8:30 a.m. and caught a 10:45 flight from there to Bodø, a city in the North of the country, within the Arctic circle. My main purpose for going to Bodø was that its from the port there that the ferry to Moskenes, in the Lofoten Islands, departs. Bodø was a lovely place to spend a day and night. I couchsurfed here (another first) and the person I stayed with showed me around, took me to some spots where I got my fist glimpse of the stunning Norwegian landscape from the ground and later took me and 2 other surfers staying with her to her friends BBQ and out to a karaoke bar. It was a busy, exhausting less-than-24-hours that I spent there, and I loved it!
Day 2: I won’t lie, day 1 kind of ran into day 2 as I didn’t actually hit a sofa until about 4 or 5 in the morning. From Bodø I took the 10:15 a.m. ferry to Moskenes. The ferry ride is about 3 hours, provides views of little islands, is very comfortable with plenty on indoor seating. For those of you who want to sit outside, bring warm clothes! Also, they have lawn chairs stacked outside, grab one and if you want to be protected from the wind and some of the cold, set it up directly in front of the windows to the inside cabin. These spots go fast, so you have to be quick.
I did not pack appropriately, and while I was freezing and wishing I had brought by winter coat rather than my fall coat, the locals were sunbathing. I really don’t think I could handled the winter there.
The different names on the schedule (Landegode and Værøy) are the names of the boats, not places.
I arrived in Mosekenes at around 1:30 p.m. and after talking to a few people who told me that my destination, Å (oh-ah), was just around the other side of the bend, decided to walk. This was not the best decision I’ve ever made. There is a bus that goes from Moskenes to Å, and I would recommend taking it. If you don’t want to do that, hitchhiking is an option, I just discovered that I don’t have the patience for it. It’s a long walk from Moskenes to Å with a backpack.
I eventually made it to my hostel, Lofoten Vandrerhjem Å, which I would recommend, dropped my stuff, and found a small mountain/hill to climb just around the corner.
I spent some time exploring the area before returning to the hostel. I met some other travelers and that night we went to the rocks by the water, had a drink, relaxed, watched a seal playing the water and spotted some Orcas going by a bit further out. Did I mention that it doesn’t get dark in this area during this part of the year? At one point, I though it was about 5:30 p.m. only to check the clock and find that it was actually 10:30 p.m. and that was as dark as it got all night.
Days 3 & 4: Both of these days were spent hiking. On day 3 I hiked the area near where I was staying with another solo traveler I met and headed over to Reine in the afternoon. Unfortunately, this day was a bit rainy & overcast, not the best day to go to Reine, which was one of the places that initially drew me to Lofoten. Day 4 was spent hiking around with new friends and relaxing.
Also, if you happen to go to this place, it’s all fairly touristy, but small enough and pretty enough not to be annoying. In this area, there is a bakery that makes cinnamon rolls and fresh bread in the mornings. It’s amazing and affordable, and runs out quickly, so if you want some, you need to be up and ready to eat by 9/9:30.
Day 5: I took the 2:00 p.m. ferry back to Moskenes and caught a flight to Bergen. I made the mistake of not booking this leg of my journey until I was already in Lofoten and ended up paying twice as much as I would have if I had book earlier and getting stuck with a late flight with a layover in Oslo. Everyone I talked to warned me not to fly with Norwegian Air, unfortunately by this point there wasn’t really another option and I would come to find out why I was being warned.
My flight from Bodø was delayed which made me late for my connection in Oslo and led to my bag being left behind. I get that these things happen, however it was the disorganization and general unhelpfulness of the airline that made things even more frustrating. When I landed and realized my bag was missing, they couldn’t tell me anything about where it was or when I would be getting it back. I ended up getting it back late the next day, which wasn’t too bad.
From the airport, I took the bus into the Fish Market area to meet the girl I was to be couchsurfing with. It was around midnight by the time I got there and after waiting for 45 minutes without seeing her, I left and went to the Bergen YMCA Hostel (highly recommend) for the night.
Day 6: I went to the airport in the morning to see about my bag, which was pointless as they still didn’t know anything. Consequently, I went shopping as I felt too grody to be in the same clothes any longer, despite having a shower at the hostel. For anyone whose tall and has trouble finding pants that are long enough, that is not a problem in Norway. It was actually one of the least painful shopping trips I’ve ever taken, though it wasn’t exactly budged for either. Still, totally worth it.
From there, I took the cable car up Mount Ulriken, grabbed some lunch, and spent most of the day hiking. You can also opt to hike up the mountain, I didn’t go with this option because I didn’t have appropriate clothing (still missing) or the best shoes for this. There are a lot of people who go up Mount Ulriken, but once you’re up there and away from the restaurant/where the cable car drops off, it doesn’t feel crowded at all. There is plenty of space to be on your own. I would definitely recommend going up there. The views of the city below are phenomenal and it’s a beautiful place that had me wanting to lose myself in the mountains.
Later, I met up with my couchsurfing host, made dinner, and crashed.
Day 7: Was spent in Bergen. My host was nice enough to show me around Bergen. We explored Bryggen, part of the historic district, and where I would recommend buying any souvenirs you want. This is where artists have little shops and you can find some neat things that aren’t all mass-produced tourist crap. Don’t wait to get to Oslo, they don’t have the same type of area, at least not that I could find.
We found a cute cafe, had lunch, and further explored the city even though it was a yucky, rainy day. This was my last day in Bergen and while I could have spent more time hiking, I think 2 days was sufficient.
Day 8: I left Bergen at 8:00 a.m. for my Norway in a Nutshell Tour of the Sognefjord, which started a long day of travel and sightseeing. For the most part, I really enjoyed this tour and appreciated that I didn’t have to figure tickets and times out for myself. Norway in a Nutshell isn’t a guided tour, but they provide you with an itinerary and all the tickets you need, which is quite convenient.
If you go to Norway, a fjord tour is a must. The scenery is spectacular and unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else. Despite the cold and the wind, I spent most of the 5.5 hours in the front of the ferry with my camera and a few other people.
At the end of the fjord tour, we stopped in Flåm, which I wasn’t thrilled by. It’s a complete tourist trap with a short hiking trail, some places to eat, and not much else. I was there for 2.5 hours which was way too long and the only part of the package I wasn’t at all happy with.
From Flåm, I took the train to Myrdal. This trail was also a tourist thing, but the views were pretty amazing, so still worth it. From Myrdal, I caught the train to Oslo, which is about a 5 hour ride. The scenery from Myrdal to Oslo was diverse, at one point I felt like I was in the arctic, and gorgeous. Norway really is one of the most naturally beautiful countries I’ve ever been to.
I arrived in Oslo pretty late and made my way from there to the Oslo Youth Hostel Haraldsheim. While this hostel was clean enough, the staff were not friendly (bordering on rude) and several times I got locked out of my room because my key card stopped working and needed to be reset.
Day 9: There are some islands off of Oslo that are a short ferry ride away. I went to Hovedøya, explored the old monastery ruins, hiked around, and just enjoyed being outside on a gorgeous day.
In the afternoon, I went to the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. I took a boat tour that can be purchased in the port, but unless you have the Oslo pass, I would recommend just taking the bus to the museums. I was confused and thought you had to take a boat, but that is absolutely not true. Regarding the Oslo pass, this is only really worth it if you are going to 3 or more museums in a day, otherwise look at the cost of where you want to go and decide if it’s better to just buy your tickets. For me, the Oslo pass wasn’t worth it, but someone had also given me a transportation card that was good until I left.
The Viking Ship Museum is small and doesn’t require a lot of time, unless you’re really into Viking ships. I spent significantly more time at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, which is quite expansive and has indoor and outdoor sections. I had initially wanted to visit the Borgun stave church, which didn’t fit into my plans well, but the stave church at this museum was neat.
As a note, there is a place near the central station that has awesome Turkish food, which is also more affordable than anything else I came across. It’s a tiny little shop with only outdoor seating, but I highly recommend it. It’s called Dronning’s Kebab.
Day 10: I explored Oslo some more. One of my favorite places in Oslo is Vigeland Park. It’s free to explore, thought you do have to pay for the museum if you choose to go in, full of flowers, mostly roses, and some really interesting sculptures. I spent most of my day walking around here and would have stayed longer if I hadn’t become desperately hungry.
I headed from there towards the palace which is on a main shopping/eating street, walked around, had a glass of wine (not recommended) and went back to the Turkish shop for some food before heading to Akershus Fortress to explore that old fort for a while.
Later that day, I headed to the Nobel Peace Center. I got there about 15 minutes before closing and ended up not going in the museum part of it, which I was disappointed to miss, but I did hit up the shop.
And that’s it. I left early the next day, but hope to go back in the winter and head to Tromsø at some point to see the Northern Lights. Norway in the summer really is wonderful and doesn’t seem to sleep much. The constant light makes the experience a bit different than I imagine it would be in the winter and really helped keep me going as it completely threw off my internal clock.
For anyone considering going, I highly recommend it, especially in you enjoy the outdoors. One thing I would like to do is take the Hurtigruten (ferry) for a few days. I learned while I was there that you can just show up at the boat and ride without needing a cabin and there are lounges where you sleep. It’s apparently really affordable, but not advertised on the website.
It’s a rather expensive place to travel, but it is doable on a reasonable budget (tips coming later).