Author Topic: Norway with an Iceland Stopover  (Read 3922 times)

Offline saw50st8

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Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« on: August 17, 2022, 10:57:24 AM »
With 4 kids away at camp and a recent big birthday, my husband and I decided to visit Norway. Our criteria was:

1) Good weather (for us that meant not hot)
2) A destination that I wouldn't want necessarily want to take a family trip to
3) Nothing too strenuous - I injured my foot and couldn't walk while we were planning. It had to be a destination where the itinerary was flexible enough if my foot wasn't fully healed.
4) A place on my bucket list (it's pretty long, so this one is easy)

We decided to go to Norway and visit the fjords.

We flew on Iceland Air from EWR to BGO via KEF and then returned OSL to EWR via KEF. Iceland Air was great overall. Transferring flights in Iceland is easy and the airport was really clean.

Day 1:

As we were driving to the airport to catch our flight (EWR – KEF, KEF – BGO), we got a text message that our connecting flight was delayed. That meant we now had 8 hours between flights. I was in Iceland 12 years ago and loved it, my husband had never been there. I quickly googled “6 hours in Iceland” and found a basic tour itinerary. Car rental prices were crazy ($500 USD for the day) so we decided to ask at the counter when we landed.

When we got to Iceland, we stopped at Hertz and asked if they had any car rental deals. They told us that anything automatic was a 4WD and cost $500/day but if we went to the hotel right outside, there was a car rental place that she had worked at and if we told them that she sent us, they would give us a good deal. We stopped in at Go Car rental, told them that we needed the car for 6 hours and they gave us a car for $250 USD; it was still pricey but worth every penny.

We opted to skip Reykjavik and stick with the Reykjanes Peninsula. The Blue Lagoon was sold out for the day. Our first stop was Bridge Between the Continents. It’s a small walking bridge that crosses two techtonic plates. 

 


Next up was Reykjanesviti lighthouse. We didn’t climb to the top of the hill to get closer to the lighthouse. There are lots of birds, wildflowers and nice views of the ocean. 





Right nearby, is the Gunnhuver hot springs. You can get up close and personal with spouting hot water and steam. Yes, that's me in the steam. 








After Gunnhuver, we drove to Seltun Geothermal area. The mud pools were active but didn’t have billowing steam like Gunnhuver. There’s a small loop trail to walk.





After Seltun, we drove to Hafnarfjörður. We stopped in at the free Hafnarfjörður Museum to learn about life in the village. Then we headed up to the nearby park, said to be the home of elves and dwarves (we didn’t spot any unfortunately), and finished the day with a walk along the waters edge. We returned the car to the airport unscathed with plenty of time to catch our flight to Bergen.











BGO airport is about an hour away from the city. There are regular trains and buses from the airport to Bergen, but we opted to take a cab. We stayed at the Bergen Moxy overnight. The hotel is clean, new, and has automatic sensors everywhere.  If you wake up in the middle of the night and walk, lights under the bed illuminate your path. The location is adequate but is not right in Central Bergen and has nice views at the back.







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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2022, 12:42:52 AM »
More to come? I've missed your trip reports.
44/50, 46/63

Offline saw50st8

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2022, 07:16:29 AM »
More to come? I've missed your trip reports.

Yes! I'll post the whole trip.

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2022, 07:38:17 AM »
This is gonna be noice!
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Offline saw50st8

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2022, 07:46:51 AM »
Day 2:

 

It was lightly raining all morning. We picked up our rental car in town because it saved hundreds of dollars; prices at the airport were double and we were coming into Bergen anyway. Most of the cars available are hybrid and all tolls/ferries are billed directly to the car rental company. We rented from Hertz and had a good experience.

 

We had planned to do a self-guided walking tour of the Bergen Wharf area the day before, but because of the delayed flight, we didn’t have time.  We briefly drove around town – it looked like a very charming town to spend a few hours.





Then we drove to Steinsdalsfossen Waterfall. It’s a nice waterfall right off the road where you can walk behind the waterfall. There is plenty of parking and a souvenir shop right there.








Next stop - Skjervsfossen Waterfall. There is only one handicapped accessible spot at the bottom of the waterfall. There is parking at the top, but it gets congested. There are beautiful bathrooms with a glass wall – the first of many bathrooms with beautiful views. We walked the first few levels but did not walk all the way to the bottom. It was a great place to stop for lunch - there are picnic tables, garbage cans, and the beautiful bathrooms.














Then we drove to Bordalsgjelet Gorge – it’s a quick walk into the gorge to see a nice gorge with flowing. water. Do not take the gate right at the road – take the other gate a little bit up the road. There’s parking on the side of the gravel road.

 



We arrived in Flam and took a 15:20 Ferry. We booked this in advance and highly recommend pre-booking. This sells out. This is a beautiful ferry ride through the fjords. It passes by villages, waterfalls, and beautiful nature.  Everything looks like a postcard. Once the ferry landed in Gudvangen, we took the bus back to Flam (also pre-booked). There is a large free parking lot, souvenir shops, and cafes.  There is also a small grocery store right there.














We stayed at the Brekke Gard Apartment and Hostels. It was clean, close by (5 minute drive is a stretch), and had a microwave. We stayed in a private building. It had a very low doorway, a nice loft area for sleeping and a living room / dining room / kitchen combination. The bathroom was in a different building, as was the microwave. It was adequate for our needs. The setting is beautiful - you can see a nearby waterfall from the property. We had looked at staying at the (much more expensive) hotel overlooking the fjord but it was sold out for the night we needed.




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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2022, 08:56:50 AM »
Day 3:
 

Our morning started with a scenic train ride from Flam to Myrdal. This is basically a tourist train and should be booked in advance. We asked the conductor which side to sit on, and he recommended the right side of the train (great advice!). The train winds through the mountains and has spectacular views. The train stops near the top of the mountain where you can get out to view a beautiful roaring waterfall. We were lucky and some art students were performing at the old power station adjacent to the waterfall. This is one of the items people usually see in the Norway in a Nutshell tour. At Myrdal, people switch to the Oslo train – we took the train back down to Flam.
















Once back in Flam, we meandered through the Railway museum – it’s free, with a  little bit of history of the area and the train. It doesn’t take very long. It was perfect between the end of our train ride and our bus ride to the Stegastein Viewpoint.




 

Next, we took a bus to the Stegastein Viewpoint.  We debated driving up to the viewpoint ourselves but I used google maps to look at the roads and the road to the viewpoint was a narrow 1 lane road with traffic in both direction on steep curves going up a mountain. We decided a bus made the most sense and were happy with that decision. The way the road works is that at strategic intervals there are small pullouts for cars to pull over to let traffic in the other direction go ahead. You need to look from pullout to pullout to see if a vehicle is coming. If you are not careful, one person will need to backup to allow the other to pass.

 

The viewpoint is beautiful. There is a wooden platform that extends out off the road, with beautiful, wide views of the fjord area and villages below. There are nice bathrooms that have views of the fjord as well. Someone in Norway decided that bathrooms with a view would become a thing.

















 

We were going to stop at Otternes Bygdetun, which has abandoned farm buildings to walk through, but decided to continue forward instead. We drove through the longest tunnel in the world, just shy of 25 km.  Our next stop was  Norsk Villakssenter, currently under construction. They had a little information about the salmon and local fish and a small art gallery.  It’s not worth a stop until they fully renovate. We continued on to the car ferry.




 

Car ferries are part of the experience! You drive onto the ferry, the ferry shuttles you across and then you drive off. While on the ferry, you can get out of your car, go to get a snack at the snack bar, or use the bathroom.

 







Our next stop for the day was the Norwegian Glacier Museum. This was a nice modern museum and discusses glaciers and the climate in Norway. If you are not a fan of climate change discussions, skip this museum. The mirror in the bathroom roared to life (seriously, Norway bathrooms are interesting).

 




The last stop for the day was the Boyabreen Glacier. We parked near the restaurant and walked the short trek to the glacier and lake. Even in the pouring rain, the view was breathtaking. It was a very easy way to see a glacier.

 



That night we stayed at the Lunde Turiststasjon in room in the main building with a private bedroom, kitchen, and living room. There was a microwave in the kitchen. It was clean and right off the road.

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2022, 06:11:41 PM »
Very very nice trip report so far.

Question: seems like on day 2 you left your car behind to take the bus. Why is that?

Offline saw50st8

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2022, 10:08:05 PM »
Very very nice trip report so far.

Question: seems like on day 2 you left your car behind to take the bus. Why is that?

The drive to the viewpoint is really challenging. It is exceptionally narrow, winding curves, sheep walking all over the place, not enough room for two cars (literally - there are some small wider spaces to let cars pass), and few parking spots. The bus wasn't very expensive for the two of use ($35/pp) and I was happy to have someone else do the driving for that leg of the trip.

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2022, 10:55:00 PM »
Day 4:

 
If I hadn’t injured my foot, we would have gone on a glacier walk in Skei. Unfortunately, I was still injured enough to not risk a long walk on a glacier.  Instead, we drove to Olden to hike to the Briksdalsbreen Glacier. The trail starts near the Briksdalsbre Lodge. There is parking just before the hill to the lodge and you can pay at the lodge. Bathrooms cost money here.  The hike to glacier is beautiful – you pass by an incredible water full, a beautiful stream, rocks, foliage and flora. The hike IS VERY STEEP. It is largely paved and the other parts are pretty smooth. You can also get a ride up in a small vehicle. I’d recommend the hike unless you can’t handle it. At the top, you can view the glacier and stick your hands in the glacial lake.

 












After the hike, we drove to the Loen Skylift. The skylift is right off the main road. There was a lot of fog at that time, so the employees showed us the live view of the top of the mountain. Since the visibility was basically zero, we opted not to go up. They did have free, clean bathrooms to use.

 






Next, we drove towards Geiranger. The drive down to Geiranger is one of the most beautiful sections of road that we drove on. The drive starts high up and you can see icy lakes and rocky topography. There is limited vegetation. As you drive further, you get lower and see beautiful greenery and views of the fjords. There are many, many pullouts on this road and you’ll want to stop at many of them. We stopped  at Breiddalen Valley Viewpoint (beautiful glacial lake), Flydalsjuvet viewpoint (waterfall and Geiranger views from high up) and many others. The road is very steep and curvy but has a lane in each direction. This was my favorite drive.  Along this road was the turnoff to Dalsnibba, which we did on the way out.
















When we arrived in Geiranger, we parked on the street and went to Fossevandring. It’s a roaring waterfall with wooden stairs to climb down. You can park at the top and walk down or at the bottom and walk up. If I were to go back, I’d park at the bottom near the marina and then walk up, rather than parking twice. Parking can be tight and challenging because it’s a small, hilly town with lots of tourists.

 





After the waterfall, we drove and parked at the marina. We wandered through some souvenir shops and then boarded a 5pm cruise through the fjord. The cruise passed by the main waterfalls and towns throughout the fjord and has beautiful views. Another popular way to see the fjord is by kayaking, but those tours leave earlier in the day.




 



We checked into our Hotel – Havila Hotel Geiranger. The hotel is a classy, old style (somewhat dated) hotel. The rooms were clean and more modern than the lobby area. The real selling point to this hotel is that it is on the fjord and right at the marina. There are real keys, easy to access stairs, and no sensors that we could see. It would be a great place to spend Shabbat. There is also a grocery store right outside the hotel.











 

Fun fact: Geiranger doesn’t have sunlight 3 months out of the year if you live in the city center. If you live in one of the farms higher on the mountain, they only lose sun for one month. Talking to the hotel staff about their experience living in Geiranger put an interesting perspective on what we were seeing.

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2022, 11:14:01 PM »
Great pictures and detailed report!

Offline saw50st8

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2022, 07:31:38 AM »
Day 5/6:

 We left Geiranger early in the morning, retracing our steps back up the mountain. We drove up to the Dalsnibba Skywalk –  it’s the highest fjord viewpoint in Europe by road. It is a toll road and you can pay at the booth at the base of the turnout. The road is steep and curvy but very doable. It’s a new road so it is wide enough for two vehicles. Full size buses go up all the time, as do these really tiny cars that you can rent to drive around the area (see photo below - they are really, really tiny). At the top, you get great views of Geiranger and the whole area.












 

After Dalsnibba, we drove towards Billingen Seterpensjonat. When you get to the turnoff, there is a parking lot just before you get to the waterfall. The waterfall is the most incredible color of green/blue. There are easy hiking trails alongside it. It was well worth the stop. We would have stayed longer, but we had to get to our next stop which was a timed tour.

 



Next we drove to see an ice cave in Jotenheim National park. I had seen some information about a bus from the nearby town, but didn’t think too much about it. The first half of the drive up was a normal mountain road. Once you hit the toll road portion, it get very steep, very narrow and very curvy. It was the most terrifying ride of the trip. There are no guard rails anywhere. The road is one and a half lanes wide for two vehicles at the edge of a cliff. It felt like we were going to fall off.  We made it safely to the top, paid for the toll road, and checked in for the ice cave tour. It snowed when we were at the top.






Klimapark 2469 is a carved ice cave. The tour starts with a walk on a boardwalk and the guide discusses the flora, fauna, glacier and information about the area. We found it very informative and interesting. Then you walk inside the ice cave and see the carved formations. It was a really interesting experience and I’m glad that we went, but if we would have done the glacier walk in Skei, we would have cut this out and that would have been fine.




















 

After the ice cave, we drove slowly down the mountain and stopped in Lom. The village of Lom has a published  walking tour and we followed it. It isn’t too exciting, but was nice enough  – their main attraction is an old Church, which we walked by but did not go inside.  We picked up fresh salmon, disposable BBQ and fresh fruits and vegetables at the grocery store before driving to the farm where we stayed for Shabbat.







We stayed at Storrvik, a small farm right off the road with a beautiful view of the water. The cabins were old style cabins with a green roof, but built with more modern amenities. The cabin we stayed in had a small kitchen (small fridge with no light, a sink, and electric burners) with a table, an attached living room, a modern bathroom, two bedrooms and a porch. The cabin was comfortable and charming with picturesque views. The farm was a great place to walk around; there are horses, sheep, birds, and dogs around. The internet wasn’t working well when we were there, but that didn’t matter to us. Overall, the place was quiet and comfortable. Shabbat started late and ended early Sunday morning; we made havdala when we woke up.















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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2022, 09:37:31 AM »
Still rated excellent this trip report.
Those mini bottles of Kedem are a must for Shabbos 😁

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2022, 09:58:05 AM »
Thanks for the lovely trip report and breaking it down so nicely.

@OP would love to see rough cost breakdown for your trip. It’s a great time to visit Norway with the strong USD and inflation not having it Norway like it has hit the US.
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Offline saw50st8

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2022, 05:47:28 AM »
Day 7:

 

Sunday morning, we checked out of the cabin and drove to the Knight’s Leap. This was a quick stop to see a beautiful narrow gorge. It is a short walk from the parking lot to the gorge.

 





Our next stop was to the Helvete Pot holes. Helvete Pot Holes are an interesting geologic formation that you climb down to and walk through. This wasn’t an easy hike – you are walking over and down boulders with limited railings, across wet rocks, and up ladders. It was a great hike though, both scenic and interesting. This hike does cost money; they take credit cards at the entrance and have a clean bathroom.


          













We drove down to Lillehammer. Lillehammer was the first “big city” we had seen since Bergen (population of just under 300,000) and felt enormous in comparison with all the small towns we had driven through. It has a population of just over 20,000 people which is less than the town I currently live in.




Maihaugen Open-Air Museum, which has lots of old buildings from around Norway. You can look at old farm houses from various centuries, old fishing structures, and even a section of newer homes – 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s all the way up to the 90s. It was a beautiful place to walk around but had limited explanations beyond “This is a farmhouse from the 1850s” or whatnot. I would have liked to learn more. Within the Maihaugen building, there is the Norwegian Olympic Museum. This isn’t a must see but was a nice museum about the Olympics. The Olympic portion takes less than an hour to get through; the open air museum took us 2.5 hours.

 



















We said goodbye to Lillehammer and drove to “Tolvsteinsringen" (The Twelve-Stone Ring) in Moelv. It looks like a miniature Stonehenge and is just off the road. There is a sign explaining the area. Our last stop was Sunset Bench in Hamar to walk along the water.







We drove to the Moxy Oslo hotel. This hotel (free with points!) worked perfectly for us. It is on the northern end of Oslo, outside the city. The hotel is new and was empty since there was no convention going on at the time. They upgraded us to a beautiful suite. The hotel includes breakfast. All the rooms are off the main entry building and you need a key to swipe in to access the hotel room area.

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2022, 07:10:34 AM »
Day 8:

 

We drove to Oslo, about 20 minutes south of where we stayed. We debated parking in downtown Oslo and then taking the tourist ferry across to the museums, but we ended up driving straight to the Fram Museum and parking in the nearby lot. The Fram Museum was a great choice – it talked about arctic exploration focusing on Norwegian ships. You can board two ships and go down inside. The back of the museum is on the water and has great views and lots of birds.













 

After the museum, we drove to downtown Oslo to see the changing of the guard. We aren’t 100% sure but we think many of the streets are only drivable by public buses. It was really confusing. We ended up parking near the Akershus Fortress and walking about a mile. The city was super clean and we even saw a municipal worker cleaning a traffic light.




 

The changing of the guard was fun to see – it is no Buckingham Palace but you could see everything pretty easily. If you miss the big show, there are still guards moving around with very precise movements all day long.  After the changing of the guard, we got online to get a tour of the palace. I usually book in advance, but we weren’t 100% sure of our schedule so we waited in line to purchase tickets. The way that day of tickets work is that they don’t sell the tickets until the people with reservations check in. So you need to wait until the tour time before they decide how many people to allow. We were closed out of the first tour and waited for the next tour, which was only in Norwegian. They had a detailed write up so we could follow along and that worked out well. I’d still recommend booking in advance if you could. There are lockers right when you get inside and you have to put all your bags inside. No pictures are allowed inside the Palace. After the tour, we walked around the outside gardens.







 

On our way back, we walked by the building that hosts the Nobel Peace prize ceremony – the exterior of the building has some word carved pictures depicting Norwegian folk tales.   





Next, we stopped at Akershus Fortress, a medieval castle and fortress. You can walk around the grounds but cannot walk inside the castle.

 



About parking: parking in Norway is done via app or by using kiosks around the parking lot. We picked a lot and paid for parking. Apparently, there are two lots adjacent to each other and we paid at the wrong machine so we got a huge ticket. We are attempting to fight it but I’m assuming that we will have to pay for it.

 

We debated going on an evening cruise but decided to pass. We also skipped Frogner Park. We drove back to our hotel. Oslo was a nice city but it isn’t a place that I would specifically want to go back to. Many people skip Oslo all together.

 

Day 9:

 

Our last morning in Norway, we stopped off at the SAS museum at the airport, with plenty of free parking outside. It was a fun place to see the evolution of SAS airplanes. We had about 15 minutes in the museum and that was enough unless you want to read everything. Then we flew home uneventfully.





 

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #15 on: August 26, 2022, 07:26:04 AM »
Thanks for the lovely trip report and breaking it down so nicely.

@OP would love to see rough cost breakdown for your trip. It’s a great time to visit Norway with the strong USD and inflation not having it Norway like it has hit the US.

Flights with Iceland Air with luggage was around $500 pp.

Car rental was $650 USD for a small hybrid SUV. We saved around $400 by picking up the car in Bergen (city) instead of at the airport. Gas was really expensive (around $10/gallon) but because it was a hybrid, we spent about $150 on gas for the week.

Moxy Hotels were both 20k Marriott points per night.

Brekke Gard Hostel was $115/night.

Lund Turistajon was $120/night.

Havila Hotel Geiranger was $250/night.

Sgard Storvik was $175/night.

There are not many major chains in the countryside, so there aren't a lot of points hotels book. We used booking.com to book all the reservations except for the Moxy.

Food wasn't crazy - we just bought fruits, vegetables, fresh raw salmon, and yogurt and bread from the kosher list. I don't remember the cost, but it was similar prices to what I see in regular non-sale groceries in the US.

Coffee was expensive - it was basically $4/cup everywhere, the cups were small and the coffee mediocre.

Tours and ticket prices seemed in-line for my expectations. The Flam Railway was $65/pp. The fjord boat ride and bus back was $70/pp. The Stegastein viewpoint bus was $35/pp. The fjord cruise in Geiranger was $55/pp.

Is there anything specific you are looking for?

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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #16 on: August 26, 2022, 08:03:52 AM »
Lovely TR and thanks for the costs breakdown, super informative and presented in a clear and easy-to-read manner.
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Re: Norway with an Iceland Stopover
« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2022, 11:12:09 AM »
Interesting, it's as if a deflation is going on.
Used to that for that price you'd barely get something that you could place that you could use as a stable.

Again, excellent trip report.