Norway is a country that in my mind is quite idealised; a country of sparkling blue fjords, thick and lush pine-filled forests, rugged rock faces that touch the sky, and idyllic wooden cabins dispersed in the middle of long and empty wildernesses. Previously, I had hiked hut to hut in the beautiful yet barren Hardangervidda National Park. On this trip, I was thrilled to be driving west — to where the fjords deepen and peaks become covered in snow; to where roads are long and empty and nature dominates the landscapes.
Our five day roadtrip took us from Oslo one Friday evening, north towards the northern edge of the Hardangervidda National Park. From there we drove west towards Eidfjord and then onward to Bergen. After Bergen, we wound our way down to Folgefonna National Park where we did the famous Trolltunga hike, and from there headed towards Rjukan for a final night in the wild before heading back to Oslo.
If you have five days in Norway, I’d highly recommend doing a roadtrip similar to ours. Every corner revealed a new and awe-inspiring view, and every night found us sleeping somewhere entirely unique; from a cabin in a valley where looming granite walls could be seen outside the window, to a tent in the snow surrounded by freezing mountains. I’m sure it would take a lifetime to visit all of Norway, but this little corner we explored gave us a wonderful taste of the diversity, wildness and nature that the country has to offer.
It was pouring down with rain when we left Oslo, one Friday afternoon in May. The windscreen wipers swung back and forth uncontrollably as rain hammered on the glass of our hire car windows. But inside we listened to the soft tones of Lucy Rose while eating cinnamon buns, leaving the city and heading further into the Norwegian wilderness. We were first headed north up the eastern side of the Hardangervidda National Park, where we would then join the number seven and head west towards Bergen. I knew that mountain roads and pine-filled forests awaited us, but right now all we could see was a thick layer of fog hanging suspended over the landscape.
But, there is often a great surprise awaiting after rainfall, and for us it was the breathtaking scene in the photo below. Clouds danced between layers of pine trees on the hillside; a scene that was changing constantly and naturally as rain subsided and gave way to a dash of blue sky and sunlight. Imagine living in that little white house, I thought. Imagine being consumed by nature’s powers and charms each day. Imagine waking up and diving into the silky, glacial water; feeling the earth between your toes on a bed of moss and pine needles; feeling the wind batter your cheeks or the sun warm your hair as you poke your head out the window each morning. I was already falling for Norway.
As we continued heading north, we found ourselves driving into a snowstorm as we crossed the northern edge of the Hardangervidda. Visibility was minimal and snow packed higher and higher at the side of the road. We made it out the car for around five minutes, before my fingers froze and my socks became sodden. I hadn’t quite expected so much snow when I packed for this trip... As we came out the other side, we drove through the beautiful Voringfoss as light began to fade, and found somewhere simple but cosy to stay in Ovre Eidfjord, abandoning our original plan to camp in the rain.
In the morning, we headed back to Voringfossen to do a hike through the gorge to the famous waterfall. The gorge was breathtaking; with high rock walls cascading up into the sky, an abundance of flora, and a unique yellow moss that covered the rocks (and complemented my new Lowe Alpine bag very well!). The hike ended right at the base of the gushing waterfall.
We headed back to the car along the old road, and then whizzed towards Ovre Eidfjord where Harvey had spotted a mountain road he wanted to explore. Moody skies and looming peaks created a picture of beauty from our windscreen. We then drove cross-country down winding roads and through tiny towns towards Bergen. As we headed west, the sun finally came out and made the fjords a sparkling blue on our journey. We ended the day with a wander around the city of Bergen, where we were staying for the night, and a delicious meal of Norwegian-style tapas at a restaurant called Bien Basar.
We woke up early, keen to explore some of Bergen before hitting the road again. We decided to head for a morning hike up Mt Fløyen, a small peak just on the edge of the city. We followed forest tracks upwards for around an hour, with beautiful views looking down on Bergen’s colourful buildings and breathtaking fjords. Once at the top, we decided to take the cable car down and found a cosy cafe at the base called Det Lille Kaffe Kompaniet where we enjoyed a coffee down an idyllic alleyway while listening to the church bells chime. We then bought ourselves some delicious cinammon buns from Godt Brød and ate them in the morning sunshine at the harbour before hitting the road again.
Today’s drive took us through some of the most beautiful valleys; lush green fields and swaying wild flower; little, rickety cabins and long empty roads. Rural Norwegian living at its finest. At Gjerdmundsen, we boarded a large car ferry crossing over to Årsnes in the Folgefonna National Park. The ferry journey was stunning, just 15 minutes crossing a deep blue fjord, surrounded by snowy peaks and green hills. We ate a Norwegain pølse on the top deck, before driving onwards into the Folgefonna National Park.
One of the most memorable parts of the trip was doing an overnight hike to Trolltunga. We loaded tent and sleeping bags and heading out at 7pm to make as much of the 14km journey to Trolltunga before dusk. We ended up hiking in an almost white-our, trudging through ankle deep snow in May and pitching our tent amidst freezing hills. For the full story of our trip to Trolltunga, look out for my next blogpost and video from Norway. There were simply too many photos to fit in one post!
With weary legs and tired heads after our overnight trip to Trolltunga, we decided to drive the majority of the journey back to Oslo before my flight the next day. Of course, the drive was beautiful and we stopped numerous times to photograph snow-capped peaks and wide open landscapes. It’s hard to stop yourself from pulling over every mile; the scenery in Norway is ever-changing and utterly stunning around every corner.
We ended our final evening in Norway setting up our bivvy bags in a beautiful forest just outside Rjukan. With the fjord at our toes, a campfire ablaze, and pasta cooking. For me, it was a time to contemplate a lot of things, an evening that stirred some deep emotions I had been trying to avoid on this trip. The setting was beautiful and my heart, in many ways, felt content; but grief can overcome in any moment, and in any location. In a way, I am grateful that I took the opportunity to shed tears about my brother and father in this beautiful setting. My reality is messy and beautiful and tragic, and I will embrace it.
Our final morning in Norway was probably my favourite of the whole trip. We awoke to sunlight on our faces, the smell of pine all around, and a calm reflection of forested hills on the sparkling fjord. Breakfast was toasted bread, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and cups of tea were flowing as we lay in the sun, dipped our toes in the water, and enjoyed peace in the air, freshness on our faces, and nature’s charms. It was nice to take time to just be; to relax and to feel wilderness in our bodies.
The way I approach most of my trips is to simply go with the flow, with a few set destinations or bookings here and there. That is exactly how we embarked on this trip; with a vague idea of where we wanted to go, and a hotel booking in Bergen, but the rest allowed us freedom to roam and travel as we please. Both Harvey and I agreed that this trip was practically perfect. Despite not always having a plan, we ended up in some of the most beautiful locations we had ever seen; we found cosy cafes, delicious cinnamon buns, beautiful campsites and incredible roads.
Perhaps, that is all of Norway. A deep wilderness perfectly suited to nature-lovers like ourselves. No view can leave you disappointed; no hike is average; no day is dull. I suppose I’ll just have to head back and see more of the country to decide for sure.