Dramatic landscapes, mountains with stunning fjords, lakes mirroring colorful wooden houses and to top it all the stunning aurora borealis. Norway and Sweden were full of these beautiful surprises literally everywhere and as far as the eye could see. But when asked how I would describe these places – I was somehow always at a loss for words to describe the beauty. The normal words of such as “beautiful”, “stunning”, “gorgeous” and the likes are somehow insufficient to describe what you feel for this landscape. Traveling here we finally understood why these countries and its people are repeatedly voted as the happiest countries and people in the world.
We (me, my sister, KJ, and brother-in-law, KK) recently spent two weeks here – 10 days in Norway and 5 in Sweden and loved every minute of our stay. We were really lucky with the weather (it was sunny throughout in early October and we didn’t get any rain) and we managed to cover everything that we had hoped to see and do during the trip. Our main objective to visit in October was to try and chase the aurora borealis (our dream since many many years) and kept 5 days between Tromso and Abisko (you need to go as north as possible for this). Next we wanted to explore a significant part of the Norwegian countryside so we decided to drive (with breaks) from Oslo to Bergen. And after Abisko the main city for flying out of Sweden was Stockholm, so we decided to end the trip at Stockholm.
We had a fantastic trip and managed to see the diversity of the Norwegian and Swedish landscapes, tried some of their unique experiences, the local deserts, interacted with locals (everyone here speaks good English) and so much more. In many places the onset of autumn just added to the beauty of the place with gorgeous colors of red, yellow, rust and gold.
While I will write detailed posts on each day and place etc, I am sharing our broad trip itinerary with you today –
Day 1 – Landing and exploring Oslo
I landed in Oslo and joined my travelling companions KJ and KK (they had flown into Oslo directly from Dubai and had landed a day earlier than me). Since I just had half a day here and the weather was nice and sunny, we spent the day just walking around Oslo exploring its picturesque lanes, old houses, the area around Karl Johans Gate, photographing views from Akershus Castle and Fortress and enjoying an awesome cup of coffee at every possible opportunity.
Oslo was quite a surprise as it’s unlike any other city I have been in. Despite being a city it gives you an impression of a big cool town with loads of open and green spaces, no high rises and a mix of old and new architecture.
Day 2 – Driving from Oslo to Kristiansand
On this trip we wanted to spend a lot more time in the countryside and left Oslo the next day to start our southward drive. We picked up our rental car from the airport (as there were a lot more options available from there) from a really friendly Avis staff member.
We drove along the coast predominantly on highway E18 and saw the gorgeous Norwegian countryside, the colorful houses, blue autumn skies with beautiful artwork of clouds, green fields extending far into the horizon, the narrow winding roads etc etc.
Enroute we took a quick detour and stopped at the picturesque white town of Risor. Though a lot of the town was closed we loved the feel the place, the white houses, the small lighthouse, small cafes etc.
We reached Kristiansand in the evening and just walked around the area Baneheia.
Day 3 – Driving from Kristiansand to Stavanger
We left Kristiansand in the morning and drove along E39 for Stavanger. The drive was beautiful again alongside hills, rivers, fjords and enroute we stopped at the southernmost point in Norway at the Lindesnes Fyr (Lighthouse). The lighthouse is closed on Monday and Tuesday, hence we couldn’t see it from inside, but the surrounding area was beautiful and there were even remains of a German WW2 fort.
We reached Stavanger in the evening and spent the evening walking around the old town and its streets.
Day 4 – Day trip to Preikestolen / Pulpit Rock –
From Stavanger, there are two popular hiking points – Preikestolen / Pulpit Rock and Kjerag Hike and Kjeragbolten but we decided to go for the shorter and slightly easier one i.e. the pulpit rock.
This ride was particularly special as for the first time ever we drove our car on a ferry and the ferry transported us and our car from one side to the other. The views on both side of the fjords were stunning and the drive around Ryfylke was just like out of a perfect picture postcard.
We parked our car at the base and started the hike up for Preikestolen. The entire hike was tiring yet filled with beautiful views of surrounding hills, lakes, waterfalls and the final view of the Lysefjord was stunning. Totally worth the leg breaking climb 🙂
Day 5 – Driving from Stavanger to Bergen
There are two routes for this drive but we decided to take the shorter route as it was just KK driving and we didn’t have a back-up driver. By now we were amazed at the diversity of the landscape in Norway. We had been driving for 4 days now and the drive each day was beautiful and unique in its own way. The drive along each landscape was different and we stopped multiple times every time to click pictures.
We reached Bergen in later afternoon and after driving on the highway for so long were a bit stumped driving inside the city. There are numerous one ways here and the city is hilly in many places. We finally returned our car to Avis here and were back to exploring the city and surrounding areas on foot and on public transport.
Day 6 & 7 – Bergen
We loved Bergen, as it’s a colorful vibrant city meant to wander in aimlessly and to just keep soaking in the sights and stumbling upon hidden treasures. We spent two days in a sunny Bergen just walking around the old town, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bryggen and the many quaint neighborhoods and shops. Each lane was unique in its own way and seemed to project a distinct character.
We spent a beautiful day on the Mount Floyen. We took a funicular up the hill and enjoyed the beautiful views of the city below. We then walked around some of the walking trails around here and enjoyed other beautiful views of the city and the forests in autumn colors.
We also did a quick trip to see the unique architecture of the Fantoft Stave Church, but unfortunately it only opens in the summer.
Day 8, 9 and 10 – Tromso
We flew from Bergen to Tromso and for the first time in our trip were welcomed by cloudy skies. Our main reason for visiting Tromso was chasing the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights. We booked a tour for one night and were supremely lucky to see the lights on our first trip itself.
We also spent one day in Tromso exploring its lanes and the two famous and really good museums – the Polaria and the Polar Museum. Next to the Polaria building is the seal hunting vessel called Polstjerna.
Day 11 – Driving from Tromso to Abisko
While planning the trip we had added Abisko to the itinerary as it said to have low cloud cover all year round and hence high chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Also we had wanted a quick laid back doing nothing break. Originally we had planned to travel from Tromso to Abisko by bus and train. However by the time we went to book the train tickets, they were all sold out. So the only option available to us then was to drive from Tromso to Abisko. We picked up our rental car from Hertz in Tromso and drove through yet another really different landscape. Everything around here was more brown than green, there was some snow at the tops of the hills and the lakes already showing a thin layer of ice. We stopped at Narvik for lunch and then crossed over into Sweden. Post Narvik the drive took on another color all together. The land was more rocky, hardly green and no habitation for miles all together.
We reached our hostel in the evening and decided to just relax and enjoy the views of the lake from our window. And though we kept a short vigil for the lights we didn’t see anything due to the heavy cloud cover.
Day 12 – Abisko
We spent the day here exploring some beautiful trails all around here and enjoying the views of the lake and a rainbow. We walked upto the Lake Tornetrask, then to a local Sami village, a canyon, etc. The best part here is you can just walk around anywhere here and enjoy the beauty and solitude of the place.
In the night, despite a heavy cloud cover, we saw a short display of the northern lights and I must say the enthusiasm and awe was the same as the first time we saw them.
Day 13 – Flight to Stockholm and Day 14 & 15 in Stockholm
On day 13 we drove to Kiruna and took a flight for Stockholm. We spent 2.5 beautiful days here walking around Gamla Stan (the old town), eating the Swedish deserts and coffee, reading reactions on Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm :), etc etc. I also went for a ghost walk here and discovered many of Stockholm’s ancient secrets especially about sudden disappearances and mysterious deaths. After Norway, Sweden also seemed much cheaper so we shopped for gifts for everyone back at home and also for some super yummy homemade melt in the mouth caramel. This was my second visit here so the city also felt a bit familiar and I had a happy time showing some parts of it to KK and KJ.
I spent my last day here in Djurgarden. I first visited the Vasa Musuem and loved it and then spent the day just walking around and capturing the gorgeous colors of autmn all around. Also had a really nice vegan lunch and then walked all the way back to Gamla Stan.
I have many more stories to share and will start writing detailed place and day wise blog posts. So do keep following my blog for many more fun stories, photographs and adventures in Norway and Sweden.