My travel to Norway has been one of the best experiences I have lived and I will never forget. Visiting the wildest Norway had been in my head for many years. It was one of the trips I had dreamed about all my life. I could even say that it became an obsession since I was 15 years old. I saw that documentary of the Norwegian Fjords, which left me speechless.
I did not stop until I got it, and now, I can say that I have fulfilled some of my dreams. My trip to Norway was in the winter. It is the ideal time to see the northern lights. Is it too cold in winter? True, but it is necessary to enjoy landscapes dyed in white and nights with indigo-colored skies. The northern lights need very specific conditions and specifically in Lofoten or Vesteralen, the islands that I visit, have a very special microclimate. The average temperature is around 0 degrees, so they make it the perfect destination for a mini winter vacation.
At last, I was able to visit the Scandinavian country and tour Norway. Was it enough? Of course not. You never have enough time to visit one of the most beautiful countries in the world, sculpted in stone and ice by the Viking gods. But yes, I traveled the 14 days in Norway to the fullest. Therefore, in this Norway Travel Guide, I tell you in more detail, as was my trip through Norway.
Norway is indescribable. There are no words that can express so much beauty together. Norway is synonymous with pure nature. It is synonymous with freedom, distance, darkness and endless sunsets. Norway is life, strength, fjords, valleys, and water (in all its forms), with giant glaciers, mirror lakes, and vertiginous waterfalls.
You can imagine it, you can tell it, you can see photos or videos, even read about this Scandinavian country, but nothing is comparable to being able to feel it. Setting foot in Norway and breathing as deep as you can is obligatory. Before you know it, in a blink of an eye, Norway will take your breath away with its landscapes of vertigo.
Norway is not to be missed. And I did not! Before telling you everything I saw, and what our Norwegian Fjords itinerary was, I would like to tell you more about Norway. Norway is a very big country. So much so, that from end to end, there is about 2300 km, linking by road the towns of Kristiansand (South-West), with Vardo (Northeast). Norway is a very expensive country. The standard of living of the Norwegians and their salaries are very high and everything goes accordingly. In fact, I think it is the most expensive country I have been in so far.
As I only had little time, I started reading different travel blogs, and travelers forums. I find a lot of the necessary information to establish our route plan. The first thing to do when thinking of traveling to Norway is to decide what I want to visit: the south, with its cities and fjords, or the north, with its midnight sun or its northern lights.
I had marked the key points that I wanted to see like Stavanger, Preikestolen, Kjerag or Kjeragbolten, the fjord of light, Lysefjord, the sword monument Sverd I Fjell, Folgefonna Glacier, Odda, Bergen, Flam, Norway's prettiest and narrowest fjord, Naeroyfjord, among others. In any case, I went from Oslo to Trondheim seeing nature, cities, museums and wooden churches, walking through glaciers and navigating fjords.
But the farthest point remained. There where trees do not grow, where the road twists between impossible cliffs and even the sun hide for months in winter. The north of the north was to tread, the polar distance far north of the Arctic Circle. That could only mean an epic journey. A memorable trip in which I did not want anyone by my side. A pilgrimage to the northernmost highway where every kilometer was one more step towards a lunar landscape, so desolate and wild that one can not believe that there is life there.
This is the chronicle of the trip to the North Cape. At the highest latitude that a man can reach driving in continental Europe. The chronicle of more than 5,000 km on impossible roads. The arrival at 71 10' 21". To one of the ends of the world.
In addition to the Norwegian Lonely Planet Guide, and travel blogs, one of the most complete pages I found and that helped us prepare our route plan, was the official website of the Norwegian Tourism Office. After soaking up all this information and fighting with the clock, to give time to see as much as possible of Norway, the travel plan was prepared.
I squeeze my trips to the fullest. There is nothing of loitering in bed and lose a morning at the hotel. I get up early, take the backpack and do not return until dinner time. I always try that. My trips are very balanced, in terms of things to do and see. So I always try to make a mix of nature and city, culture, gastronomy, folklore and fun (night), when the trip allows it.
Day 1 - Oslo
Literally running around the terminal, I arrived in time to take the flight to Oslo-Rygge. I had many alternatives to travel the more than 2,000 km that separate the Rygge airport from the North Cape. But my intention was to feel the country, walk it from end to end and feel how the latitude indicated by my GPS was increasing very little by little. I want to savor every degree, every minute and every second. So I left aside the plane, the train, and other exotic alternatives and opted for the car.
A car would be one of the most faithful travel companions I could ever imagine. It served me as a restaurant, as a hotel, as a dormitory, as a discotheque and a refuge. I planned a tour of the Scandinavian peninsula from south to north and back. They were more than 5,000 kilometers on single lane roads, and more than 1,500 kilometers below freezing temperatures, within the Arctic Circle. But it was achieved.
I leave Oslo, which was not the first goal of my trip. As I would have consumed a few precious hours I needed to drive, so I just land at the tiny airport, take the car and head north. My first destination was the Atlanterhavsvegen or Atlantic Road. Specifically, a section of it, 8 kilometers, between the towns of Molde and Kristiansund, has earned the title of the most beautiful road in the world according to the English newspaper The Guardian. It has been voted the most magnificent Norwegian civil engineering work of the entire 20th century.
The road is long. They are almost 600 kilometers, and almost all by road. Only the first kilometers are the highway. So the trip was scheduled to last 8 hours. It was already 6:30 pm, so I decided to find a hotel on the way, rest, and get there the next day.
The first thing that catches my attention, as it has also happened to me in other European countries, is the order and meticulousness with which Norwegians circulate. People absolutely respect the speed limits, without exceeding at any time even by one kilometer per hour. The road ahead was difficult, so I had to make constant overtaking during the trip. It was dark so I could not see the landscape that I was encountering.
After more than 4 hours of driving, and after the intense day I had lived, I decided to look for a hotel around where I was. It was more than 22 hours, and the task was impossible, at least for a reasonable price and at an adequate distance. I stop, then, in a rest area in the vicinity of Dombas. The night was cold, around 0 degrees, but the sky was clear and the moon did not obstruct the vision of the stars.
I hope to see the northern lights, but that night it did not appear. The back seat of my car became, then, my first hotel in Norway. Next, to where I stop, I see some public restrooms where I am also struck by their cleanliness, and, above all, the absence of writings/graffiti of any kind.
Norway is one of the safest countries in the world. Some statistics place it as the safest in the world, and that reassures. I sleep 8 hours, engine on and doors do not block. I still wake up at night, but with the peace of mind that everything is going well.
Day 2 - Ostersund
And so it is. Encouraged, fresh and happy to see the light of day soon, I set out on the Atlantic road. I drink a watery coffee in a roadside bar, where the only customers, who must have been hunters, look at me curiously. I had that feeling in general throughout Norway. The character of the people, in general, is distant, cold, little given to the smile. The opinion of a Swedish, several days later, confirmed it to me.
I continue the journey through mountains and rivers of transparent waters, in which each curve brought me an even more idyllic image of this country. The dim light of dawn cast the shadow of the mountains on the river, which in turn reflected the trees that grew on its banks. And I was driving non-stop, recreating myself in such beauty. The distance is decreasing, and the GPS gives me two alternatives. I have to take a two-hour detour through a fjord or take a ferry between two towns and shorten an hour and a half.
Of course, I opt for the latter and, while waiting for the ferry, which incessantly covers the way back and forth, I enter a kind of grocery store-cafeteria in which what surprises me most is a fruit slush machine. I choose a watery coffee they have in a thermos and for which they charge 220 Norwegian crowns. After getting off at the next town, the road to the Atlantic highway is not much.
Now I am climbing the twisted bridge I had seen several times in successive videos. The driving is very pleasant. The calm Atlantic Ocean, together with a sun timidly appears among the clouds that illuminate its waters. The mountains that surround the fjord, offers a beautiful image. I walk the road 2 times in each direction, taking pictures and videos. A path nearby enabled to travel the road in parallel, offers me a good point to take some more photos. In addition, it serves as a platform for the many fishermen who (not this day) usually pile up there.
The day was cool, but the temperature allowed for walks. I try to immerse myself in the magnetism and beauty of this corner of the Atlantic. It happens to be the second most visited place in Norway, according to its tourism page. I was lucky to be practically alone, enjoying even more of the moment. It's time to continue my way. It was about 15 o'clock when I write on my GPS the words that I wanted to introduce so much: Nordkapp. The journey was almost 1,900 km across Sweden and part of Finland, so I still had a lot to do. Road and more road, then.
I started the pilgrimage to the North Cape. I drive practically non-stop from Molde to a Swedish city called Ostersund. The road is exhausting, despite the scarcity of traffic. It was about 500 km and I chose this city simply because it was there, on my way. Located in the geographical center of Sweden, on the banks of the 5th largest lake in the country, the Storsjon, it has certainly, nothing interesting. It has not even managed to host any of the winter Olympic games.
It was my first night in Sweden, and I hoped to confirm the myth of Swedish women, famous for being tall, blonde, and beautiful. But instead, the hotel receptionist is a young boy and extraordinarily effeminate. That is, he had an extraordinary pen. Educated, but distant, he gives me the keys and I lay down exhausted.
Day 3 - Lappajarvi
After a tour of this city the next morning, I begin to wonder where the hell the Swedes are that everyone seems to be talking about. I only see short ladies, many of them brunettes and all of them without any charm. The city lacks life, traffic, and movement. The closest thing to something alive are the people who move on the street with skis in the background. Yes, I saw this in Sweden several times. Skiers walk down the street with the skis on and the sticks in hands. A curious image.
Ostersund lacked a soul but had the beauty of the lake on whose banks it stands. If it is necessary to make a summary of the country, I would define it as the country of lakes and pines. I traveled more than half of the country, from south to north, and the landscape was a magical beauty. There were hundreds of crystal clear lakes, immense forests that reached far beyond where our eyes went. There were islands within lakes, beaches lacustrine sand, endless lines between pines. And all with the winter sun as the masterful partner for this picture.
However, my eyes get used to this idyllic image as soon as the twenty-ninth lake appears before me. Lovely landscape, yes, but monotonous. At least to have to drive 1000 km through this country.
My goal that day was to arrive in Finland and find some indicator on the road marking the beginning of the Arctic Circle. However, that day I will always remember it for something I did not expect to find so soon, so suddenly and so amazingly. But everything in its time.
When I was already on the 65th parallel, my impatient glances at the GPS were frustrating. Each meridian degree equals 111 km, but of course, the road zigzags, and my course was slight to the east. So I was afraid to reach the polar circle at night and not be able to take pictures. After almost two hours, I reach 66, and a little later, I see a sign on the road: POLCIRKELN, NAPAPIIRI, ARCTIC CIRCLE, CERCLE POLAIRE, POLARKREIS, next to a silhouette of the province of Norrbotten.
My GPS tells me that I'm on the 66th parallel 33' 11", approximately 31 meters further south of 66º 33' 45", but with the indication, it's worth it. A few meters further south of the sign, a ball of the world and some abandoned buildings that served as a cafeteria and recreation area speak of a time when people stopped at that latitude as a playground. I appreciate that desolation since it impregnates even more magic at the moment. I was entering one of the roughest and most difficult areas of the planet and abandoned buildings were the best welcome.
I keep driving and I see reindeer crossing the road and they force me to stop several times. When it is already dark, I stop in the last town before the border with Finland. Its name makes me smile: Pajala. A pizza, and, a few kilometers later, I approached a bridge that acts as a border between the two countries.
In Finland, it is one hour longer than in Sweden, which is why I call the hotel where I would stay for the night to advise that my arrival time was 10:30 pm instead of 9:30 pm I had planned. The town where I spent the night has the unpronounceable name of Lappajarvi. But, taking a straight line, about 20 kilometers from the town, it unexpectedly happens what I had not imagined.
At about 30 degrees above the horizon, a gray arc begins to form that crosses the entire sky, from side to side. I thought at first that it could be a cloud because it seemed too strange that the sky was so clear. Suddenly, that gray bow begins to expand and make strange movements, swinging from side to side and then I understand everything.
I stop the car, turn off the lights, and the show makes me goosebumps. It was the Aurora Borealis. That bow changes color and begins to turn green. It is an intense green, like neon, that expands and contracts, that spirals and turns white again, and then green, in a dance that lasts 5 minutes, or maybe much less. But at that moment the time had stopped for me.
The silence that surrounded me, the darkness of the road, the fact of being somewhere in the north of the Scandinavian peninsula in the middle of the night, gave it a magic even more special that fits that moment that I can never forget.
The hotel consists of several independent cabins, made of wood, with a sauna next to a lake. The owners explain to me that I must enter it at 80 degrees of temperature, and then even more when I enter a hole made in the surface of the frozen lake. It's the Finnish sauna. The place is idyllic, and the night is perfect. After a day of high solar activity and a clear sky at night, the probability of seeing aurora borealis is much higher. And so it was. I managed to witness two more a short time later.
Whoever reads this blog and has been able to see one, knows what I mean when I say it is the most incredible show I have ever seen or can imagine. Who has not done it, I advise you to leave everything and go north, wherever you are, and enjoy this phenomenon. One will see the planet from then on in another way. There would be a small feeling, understanding how innocent we are to think that we dominate the universe.