The experience of going far north to the land of the Midnight Sun, Norway, can leave you mesmerized with spectacular landscapes characterized by fjords, coastal beauty, Hanseatic heritage and spectacular hikes to the most breathtaking sights. All this and many more makes Norway a country that offers so much to an outdoor aficionado like me. In fact, the entire Nordic region comprising of Norway, Sweden and Finland offers everything what an outdoor enthusiast would love.
The visit to Norway was my first solo back packing trip and it took considerable research and planning to craft an exhaustive itinerary.
THE ADVENTURE BEGINS
The first stop was Oslo, an enthralling city with 700,000 people which is also the most expensive in the world. On reaching Oslo central station, I was absolutely an alien looking for directions to my hostel. This was my first-ever experience of staying in a dormitory accommodation, with fellow travelers from all around the world sharing their travel experiences.
With only a day to experience Oslo, I went to the popular Karl Johans Street downtown, extending from the central station all the way to the Royal Palace. The high point was admiring the monolithic unclothed 121 sculptures of Gustav Vigeland at the Vigelands National park.
Enroute Oslo to Bergen
I took an early morning train called Norway in a nutshell, the train ride which you most certainly do not want to miss! The 6-7 hours scenic train ride takes you through one of the most amazing landscape which Norway offers. I reached Bergen, which is called the Gateway to the Fjords. This city on the south-western coast is known for Bryggen or vibrantly coloured wooden houses.
Bryggens by the Harbour in Bergen
Here, a short but famous cruise marks the start of the journey to the longest and deepest fjord in the world - the Sognefjord.
Longest and Deepest Fjord in the World - The mighty Sognefjord
You reach Flåm, a village in Flåmsdalen, at the inner end of the Aurlandsfjorden which is a branch of Sognefjorden. Then you take a train ride which gives you the most unimaginable scenery, including snow-covered mountain tops and waterfalls.
One of the World's Scenic Train Ride Flam - Myrdal
The Flåm Railway is one of the world's steepest train rides and close to 80% of its tracks run through a rise of 55%. The tunnel which spirals in and out of the mountain is an engineering marvel. The 20 km-long train ride takes you from the high mountains down to the fjord.
Flam Station - Where the pier and the Station Meet MAGICAL EXPERIENCE
I reached Voss, which sits in a location surrounded by snow-capped mountains, forests, lakes and fast flowing white water rivers with stave churches. My hostel was nicely nestled in the midst of the vast expanse of the green lake. The next stop was Bergen, to take a flight to Bodø. Located on the unsheltered peninsula in the Norwegian Sea, Bodø is one of Norway's windiest cities.
Despite its location just north of the Arctic Circle, Bodø features an oceanic climate. The ultimate goal was to reach the much-awaited destination of the trip, the Lofoten Islands and the ferry which starts in the wee hours to the first port of call in Lofoten called Moskenes and then to Å. This is the last town through which runs the National Tourist Route Lofoten, so people call it the "end of Norway". It houses the curious Stockfish Museum and a bakery built in 1844.
Bodo to Lofoten - The most amazing ferry ride in the wee hours
If you are here in the summers, you can experience the midnight sun - endless nights when the sun does not set below the horizon. This helps you cover so much ground with a lot of time at your disposal. If you are here in winters, it's a perfect place to experience The Northern Lights which is an experience of a lifetime.
Another place in the Lofoten Islands which will leave you mesmerized is the picturesque fishing village Reine Fjord. I t is the destination of choice for nature lovers and hikers.
Reine Fjord - Lofoten
You can't miss this - The awesome Rorbuer
After Lofoten, the bus journey from Leknes to Svolvaer, all the way to Narvik, was an undulating one. Narvik, the ice-free port, has been a strategic one for iron ore exports from the Swedish town called Kiruna. It's also known for alpine skiing with a view to die for.
The stage was now set for the climax, an epic 22-hour train journey from Narvik to Stockholm. The ride passes through the Lapland region and through Riksgränsen, the Norway-Sweden border, where the entire colour and the landscape wears a different look. This journey marks an excellent opportunity to see Sweden by train from top to bottom.
The train goes all the way up to Malmo which I was told is only a 45-minute drive away from Copenhagen. My stop was still the beautiful city of Stockholm. This trip of a lifetime eventually ended in Helsinki.
Best time to visit - All year round, though the summer months from June- August, when the sun is shining bright, gives you more day travel time
How to reach - Finn Air goes to Oslo via Helsinki (You may want explore Helsinki for a day or two)
How much time do I need? - At least 2-3 weeks or more depending on what you prefer to explore
Cities that you must not miss - Oslo, Bergen, Voss, Stavanger, Allesund, Tromso, Lofoten Islands
Major Attractions - Sognefjord, Geiranger Fjord , Norway in a Nutshell, Oslo- Bergen by Train, Pulpit Rock, The Great Atlantic Ocean Road (The Trollstigen Road), Flam Railway, Hurtigruten, North Cape - the northernmost you can get in a car
Where to Stay - There are various options available from camp sites and scenic backpacker hostels to Bed and Breakfast and budget accomodation.
How to travel within Norway - Bus, trains, ferries, flights and self-drive
(Suresh Srinivasan is an avid solo backpacker based out of New Delhi. He loves exploring the scenic parts of the world and has travelled to 25 countries since 2005. A corporate marketing professional, he is also a seasoned marathoner, health food freak and photography enthusiast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)