Magnificent, stunning, breathtaking, incredible - one will quickly run out of superlative adjectives to describe Norway. After spending two weeks in this glorious country, I now know if Gods were to live on Earth, they would probably live in Norway.
It took me too long to get there and ever since my return I am constantly asking myself “Why did I wait so long to make this trip?”
The picture above epitomizes Norway for me. Big open empty spaces, hills, mountains, lakes and a lone red cottage in the middle. This is the image of Norway I have always carried in my head. My imaginative mind creating stories about the people living there, their routine and their lives. I craved to experience Norway first hand. So to say I was very excited about this trip would be a mild understatement.
Nature lovers will be in constant awe of the dramatic variety of contrasting landscapes this country offers and everyone will be dazzled by Norway’s different faces. But Norway is not only for nature lovers. On the contrary, Norway’s rich heritage provides an exceptional escape into the world of the Vikings and the Sami. Norway is the home of Edvard Munch, the Nobel Peace Prize and the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. So, whether you appreciate art, admire culture or rave about sports, you will be sure to find it all in Norway. I did and I have not even seen the whole country yet!
Let me take you on a virtual trip through Norway and hopefully I can entice you to immediately book your next vacation to God’s country!
From the very beginning we knew that the only way to really experience Norway would be on the road. We started with a few ideas but in the end found that renting a camper and traveling with our own “home on wheels” the most feasible means to cover the ambitious tour we had planned. For the first time in my life I was able to take the proverbial “kitchen sink” with me.
The camper was a medium sized luxury model with everything from a small bathroom to a kitchen corner, dinning table and enough beds to sleep 4 (6 if one really wanted to). With the camper nicely packed we set off and headed to Hirthals, Denmark, where we got on the ferry the following afternoon to Kristiansand, Norway. Traveling with a 7 year old boy in a camper is an adventure on it’s own, add to that ferries carrying trucks, fancy cars and more campers we knew Soeren would be thrilled. Luckily Soeren is a master in keeping himself busy and the long hours of driving did not daze him at the least.
For those in Europe who do choose to travel with a camper, I recommend to really look and compare prices in your home country for best value. Initially we wanted to fly into Oslo and rent a camper from here, hoping to save up on driving time through Germany and Denmark. However, this proved to be twice as expensive as renting one here, including all the gas money.
Talking about money: if you are planning a vacation in Norway be prepared to dig a little deeper into your pockets. Despite the claim of a current advertising campaign for a store that “Not everything is expensive in Norway!” plastered on large posters across Oslo in several languages, Norway is expensive in comparison to most other European countries. So plan your vacation budget more generously. I lost the appetite for my delicious soft serve when I realized I paid €3 for it!
The trip from Hirthals to Kristiansand is a three hour ferry ride. For me it was perfect to take up one of my favorite hobbies, people watching and eavesdropping on conversations. Being able to speak a few languages always comes handy for this. Tom used the time to catch up on some much needed sleep, as he did most of the driving, and Soeren was busy exploring the ship.
Upon arrival in Kristiansand we were excited to make our way to our first stop in Norway - Mandal.
The route from Kristiansand to Mandal on the E 39 probably does not represent the most spectacular of Norwegian landscapes. Although it is very near to the sea, one would not really know it on the road, as the route takes you through dense forests and countless crystal clear lakes surrounded by hills and mountains. Nonetheless, I could feel my excitement building up and it gave me a good taste of what to come. Every time I let out a squeal of joy and begged for Tom to stop so I could take pictures, he would wisely inform me to wait “This is just the beginning. Save memory space on your chip!”
Tom who has visited Norway knew what to expect on part of our route, was a great guide and advisor.
Mandal is Norways southernmost town with approx. 14,400 residents. It was only a short one night stay for us, but I was glad we arrived at the camping place early enough to enjoy a stroll through the town.
Mandal is the perfect combination of a transparent town dotted with clean white houses and fine kilometer long sandy beaches.
Although the Sjosanden is the most popular beach in Norway, I found it rather crowded and noisy. Instead we made our way to the Furulunden Park, which is a gorgeous nature park with pine and birch trees. Just behind the park we found lovely, almost deserted sandy bays surrounded by smooth slabs of granite.
The pretty little town of Mandal is divided by the river Madalselva and our camping place was idyllically situated directly opposite the river.
You need to remember I have been brought up in hotels and albeit once for a short weekend with a girlfriend, I have never been camping. So I was not really sure what to expect from this type of arrangement. I was pleasantly surprised. Although Tom called us “snob campers” because of the camper (and not a tent), I was very happy. In comparison to other campers we saw on our trip I certainly did not feel like a snob.
The camping place we had chosen was an adorable one run by Anne Sofie and Kristian Sandnes. I had contacted them prior to our departure and was excited to meet them in person. They welcomed us warmly and even made sure we got best places in their kitchen for the match between Argentina and Germany (even if it was for the last few minutes of the match)! Sandnes Camping is about 2.5 kilometers from the city center of Mandal and one can easily stroll along the river to the town, taking in the lovely view. It was perfect.
We did not have much time to discover all that Mandal offers as after a good night’s sleep (I slept like a baby) and a wonderful breakfast sitting outside our camper overlooking the river, we headed off towards Stavangar.
Telephone: +47 38 26 51 51
Mandal Tourist Information
Telephone: +47 38 27 83 00
Stavangar and Preikestolen
Our actual destination was the Preikestolen and decided to stopover en route in Stavanger. There are two routes that will take you to Stavanger.
The inland route takes you from Flekkefjord to Stavanger over the E 39 and is approx. 130 kilometers. The coastal route along the RV 44 although longer (approx. 150 kilometers) and time-consuming was recommended to us by friends and various travel guides for it’s scenic landscapes and views. However, we decided to take the inland route and were by no means disappointed.
The landscape was interestingly diversified with exceptional jagged cliffs up to 500m high, luscious green pastures and many beautiful lakes and rivers, just waiting for us to dive in. It was a beautiful day and we decided to stop and take a dip - my first in a Norwegian fjord!
Stavanger is Norways oil metropolis and lies on the Boknafjord. As we had half a day we picked out two or three points of interest we really wanted to see.
Stavangar, in comparison to the rest of what we experienced in Norway, had an extremely busy pace, even on a Sunday! The city is expanding tremendously and one can really feel the power. I was keen to get to the harbor and the quaint older part of the town, looking for a quiet stroll along the narrow and pretty streets, where the houses were colorfully decorated with summer flowers.
The harbor was incredibly alive with tourists, music and several events taking place. I was rather disappointed that a huge cruise liner docked at the harbor was spoiling the view. However, it did provide an interesting picture against the small houses in the city.
If you are traveling with kids from 6 and above I would really recommend going to the Stavanger Petroleum Museum. An elaborately built museum focusing on the topic of oil and it’s production in the North Sea. The museum has great true to scale models where kids can actually work with them hands-on.
Stavangar Petroleum Museum
Kjeringholmen 4004 Stavanger
Telephone: +47 51 93 93 00
Tickets: 9 Euro
After about half a day in Stavangar we carried on to our camping place, east from Stavangar at the Preikestolen. We chose the Preikestolen Camping place due to it’s location. The next day we had planned a long hiking and climbing trip up to the Preikestolen and wanted to get an early start.
The Preikestolen is a must on everyones list visiting Norway. While it is not the highest mountain, it certainly is the most famous. After Tom showed me the pictures of his trip several years ago it was a must on the list.
A 600m vertical wall directly into the Lysefjord with a stunning view as a reward - that was motivation enough for me. There are two ways one can experience the Preikestolen. Either by boat, which sets off from Stavangar and takes you right to the foot of the Preikestolen or on foot, which will take you right to the peak of the Preikestolen.
We wanted the view and had planned to climb/hike up to the mountain. Tom was certain that the climb up was something both Soeren and I would manage. However, as the new day rolled in so did the dark clouds and plenty of rain. We waited did some grocery shopping and waited some more.
In the end we decided to just do it. Packing ourselves in our warm rain gear and hiking boots, carrying a small picnic in our backpacks and my camera equipment we set off for the day.
The climb up to the Preikestolen begins at the parking lot. On the whole it’s not a very long journey - about 4 kilometers but plan about 2 hours for the climb. The parking lot is at about 270 meters above sea level and Preikestolen is at 600 meters so there is a 330 height difference you will be covering.
Make sure you wear sturdy and good hiking boots for the climb up. As you can presume from the height difference there is a bit of a climb. The boots should also be water resistance as there are parts of the climb where you literally have to walk across small waterfalls. After seeing a lady trying to manage the climb in pink ballerinas and a handbag I not only had a good laugh but also told Tom that I do not want to hear a word about being the exotic bird at all the camping places with my beauty case!
A good idea would be to also pack some water, a snack and maybe even some dry clothes.
Finding a path was definitely not a problem. They are very clearly marked with big red T’s. The path varies from gravel, rocky and wooden paths. On the way up we were able to take short breaks on the gorgeous plateaus, where even though the weather was not the most ideal, I still found certain eerie beauty in the surroundings.
I recommend to start the day quite early. We started at 10 AM and were fairly happy that there were not many people. This is Norway major tourist attraction and we were expecting quite a crowd. On our way down we were greeted by the crowd.
Preikestolen - translated means the Pulpit. While my pictures unfortunately do not show it, the mountain looks like a pulpit. Wikipedia has some good pictures of the Preikestolen on a perfect day. Mine have a different charm - slightly eerie - slightly mystical.
The peak of rock itself is roughly 25 x 25 meters and should one dare to stand on the edge of it (Tom did by sliding on his stomach to the edge - I was dying and panicking) the drop is a 600m vertical one. I presume on clear days one would get a stunning view of the Lysefjord. The path itself, which leads up to Preikestolen is also very scenic, especially the last part when we got the first glimpse of the Lysefjord in between clear patches.
We enjoyed our picnic on the plateau despite the thick clouds hanging around our heads and a very dull sky. As it began to get crowded we began our descend. On the way down I realized it was much more difficult and rather slippery. For some this proved to be rather dangerous, probably ending the vacation for them.
Finally back at the camping place, showered and wearing dry, warm clothes Soeren and I were exhilarated. The Preikestolen Camping place is very professionally run. Fairly large but surprisingly peaceful. Funnily as we sat down to dinner the evening sun greeted us from behind the clouds. The service was great and we could even order fresh bread rolls for our breakfasts. There is a lovely play area and trampoline to keep the kids busy and the little Bistro offers snacks, ice cream and other Norwegian sweet treats.
Preikestolen vn 97
Telephone: +47 48 19 39 50
I was looking forward to this part of our trip the most, reading up a great deal on the region around the Hardanger and Sor fjord and it promised to be a breathtaking ride. We had planned a type of hop-on-hop-off tour, where we had mapped-out a set route and would decide on where to stop and what to see according to what caught our fancies and our breaths.
Weather-wise, although a bit better than the previous day, it was still a bit dull with a light drizzle. Sometimes the sky would clear up and let in the glowing warmth of the sun through, illuminating the mesmerizing landscape around us in natures vivid colors.
The famous Hardangerfjord is one of Norways most popular tourist attractions and boasts of panoramic routes and romantic little towns scattered along the fjords. This incredibly scenic region offers virtually every kind of natural landscape available in the country, from stunning waterways, apple and cherry orchards, and hiking trails, to mountain plateaus and glaciers.
Our route took us straight from the Preikestolen along the winding RV 13 straight into the Odda Valley in the Hardanger region. Our first stop was the dramatic and extraordinary Latefossen. The Latefossen tumbles about 165 m into a forceful and nebulous pair of dual cascades. The camera was set to click on overtime!
We carried on along the RV 13 and passed Odda, where we only stopped to tank and drink a quick cup of coffee. Being a modern industry town it did not appeal to us. What we were looking forward to was the route along the Sorfjord, a side branch of the Hardangerfjord. It also is the most picturesque route especially in early Spring, when the luscious cherry, pear and apple trees growing in numerous orchards alongside the hills bloom in full glory.
In July the trees are a rich dark green, where the cherry trees are heavy with sweet red fruit and strawberries and raspberries are ready for plucking. Vendors selling the fruit on the street sides tempted us to stop and indulge. Strawberries have never tasted to sweet and delicious. Due to the long sun hours and the mild climate the fruits develop slowly and take on a wonderful intense flavor. This area is one of the main fruit suppliers for Norway, no wonder it is called the Orchard of Norway.
Our route was spectacular. On one side the fruitful orchards and on the other side the Folgefonna, a formidable glacier peaking out from just behind the chain of mountains.
We finally reached Lofthus our stopover for the night. Lofthus is simply gorgeous. This is where the the fruit trees grow all the way up the steep hills and the view across the fjord is of the majestic chain of snow topped mountains and the glacier.
Our camping place was situated just on one of these hills right in the middle of a cherry and pear orchard. This was my idea of a “room with a view” We parked the camper facing the fjord and mountains, holding our breaths at the mesmerizing grandeur of the panorama in front of us.
We spent the afternoon relaxing, strolling the streets and orchards and picking cherries from the trees at the camping place. We were allowed to indulge in as many as we could eat and carry. The three of us enjoyed one of the best afternoons laughing, joking and simply taking in the sun and scenes.
The next day we considered staying a little longer but Bergen was calling and after a breakfast of fresh bread rolls, eggs, sausage and yogurt with fresh cherries we continued with our tour.
From Lofthus we headed to Kinsarvik where the ferry took us across the Sorfjord to Utne, where we continued along the small touristic scenic route to Jondal and the foot of the glacier Folgefonna.
The Folgefonna is Norways third largest glacier and a favorite ski region almost all year round. Yes even in the summer! From June to October winter sport lovers can click into their skis and zoom down the slopes. In the summer a special treat as the long days, where the sun sets at 11 PM, offers a once in a lifetime experience. From Jondal we took the ferry to Norheimsund and onto towards Bergen.
Helleland, 5781 Lofthus
Telehone: +47 53 66 13 64
There are many online travel guides that will help you plan your trip to Norway. I personally found Visit Norway the best and most comprehensive with beautiful photos and exciting videos. The folks from Visit Norway are also on Twitter where they were very prompt in answering all my queries. You'll also find them on Facebook and they regularly add helpful tips and information.
Thank you to the team of Visit Norway for all your great help, advice and tips.
Part one of the tour ends here. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far and that I was able to give you a insight of what an incredible experience this was. Next week Part two will take us to Bergen, Sognefjord, Nigardsbreen, Oslo and Kragero. Look forward to it.
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