Norway is up there as one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times before; twice to the North-West coast with work, and last September I took myself to Oslo for my birthday!
I’d never seen the country in spring but in May (umm, where has that time gone?!) I headed back to Land of the Fjords, Trolls and Vikings with some work colleagues to explore Norway in a little more sunlight!
We sailed southbound along the west coast from Tromsø to Bergen, before heading inland by train back to capital city Oslo.
I took about a billion photos (okay, 1200+) so it was tough to cut them down to one blog post’s worth. However, I did my best to narrow it down to the highlights of my trip!
We flew into Tromsø, which is Norway’s largest city above the Arctic Circle. I’ve only ever seen the city in the peak of winter so seeing it without a thick blanket of snow was was something new.
We only had a few hours here so spent most of our time wandering through the city streets and along the harbour front.
Though Tromsø is a large city by Norway’s standards, it’s feels pretty small and quaint to us Londoners.
Just north of The Arctic Circle is the Vesterålen archipelago. The area is best known for whale watching and though we were there at the wrong time of the year to see any of the gentle giants ourselves, it’s still a beautiful region to explore.
We took a bus tour (with a ferry crossing) of Vesterålen and Lofoten, travelling from Harstad to Sortland, where we explored towns, historic buildings, and beautiful beaches along the way.
Harstad is known as the Gateway to Vesterålen and Lofoten. It’s home to Trondenes Church, the northernmost medieval church in Norway.
We visited the church and the nearby Historical Centre, which features a museum of the region. Though the church and history of the area was interesting, it was the stunning landscapes that really captured my interest.
Our bus then headed south to the Lofoten Islands. It seems that around every corner in Norway, there’s a new stunning fjord to marvel over.
As we crossed the bridge over the Hinnøya Island, we stopped to take in the spectacular views of Kvæfjorden.
Soon after, we were pulling over to marvel at Gullesfjorden.
So. Flippin’. Beautiful.
I don’t remember the exact location of this next little stop but we visited some village ruins with more views of Gullesfjorden as a backdrop.
In Svolvaer the plan was to go sea eagle watching but unfortunately the weather put a dampener on that idea.
The stormy weather also meant that we couldn’t sail down the magnificent Trollfjord and as disappointing as that was, the fjord still looked pretty spectacular from afar, under cover of rain and mist.
Gimsøy is one of the Lofoten Islands known for its beautiful, white sandy beaches. It’s also famous for its Icelandic horses who take tourists on scenic rides around the island.
If I’m perfectly honest, I was really torn about this part of my trip. I’m still not 100% sure on my stance on horse riding from an animal rights point of view, however, I thought the best way to make up my mind may be to experience it for myself.
It drizzled the whole time we were riding but the scenery was still beautiful and the trail ride was peaceful. Because of the rain, I didn’t have my good camera with me so sadly my pics just cannot do the place justice. Imagine the below but 100 times more spectacular!
Though the animals were well looked after, I think I’ve decided that this was my last horse ride.
The Arctic Circle
Crossing the Arctic Circle is an oddly exciting experience given that the only visible clue that you’re crossing the “line” is the small statue of a globe on teensy Vikingen Island.
Shots of cod liver oil (known as a magical “cure-all”) were available for those who wanted to mark the occasion. Naturally, I passed.
That evening provided some more amazing mountain views.
The weather cleared by the time we reached Trondheim, Norway’s third-largest city.
We took a bus tour around the city and drove through gorgeous little streets with rows of coloured houses.
We then visited Nidaros Cathedral (Nidarosdomen), which is the world’s northernmost medieval cathedral and dates back to the 11th Century. Although there’s no photography allowed inside the building, I can attest to its beauty.
The building of the cathedral began way back in 1070, with the oldest remaining parts from the middle of the twelfth century. Over time the cathedral has suffered through several fires and been rebuilt and restored many times so although it is mostly built in the Gothic style, you can also see evidence of Romanesque design and Gothic Revival.
Just off the coast of Trondheim is Munkholmen, an island that is home to a former prison but it now a popular tourist destination with a cafe and small beach. Kind of bizarre but cool!
Exactly half-way between the northern and southern-most points of Norway is the pretty little town of Brønnøysund. I spent around an hour wandering the town with a guide, visiting the town’s ski jump (it’s a small climb the top for great views!), the church and the harbour front.
Brønnøysund Bridge connects the mainland with the little island of Torget. We sailed through the harbour and past gorgeous little houses.
Just after leaving the port of Brønnøysund, we sailed past Torghatten – a granite mountain with 20m by 30m hole right through the middle of it, formed during the last ice age. Local legend says that a jilted troll caused the hole by firing his arrow through it in anger.
The following day, we took an 11-hour bus ride from Kristiansund to Molde.
Our first main stop was on the island of Averøy, where we visited Kvernes Stave Church. The church dates from around 1300 AD and features beautifully decorated ceilings, walls and pews, and an intricate altarpiece.
About 20 steps away is the “new” Kvernes Church, built in 1893 after the local congregation outgrew the Stave Church.
It may not be quite as intricate or distinctive in design, yet still a lovely building.
Even if churches aren’t your thing, it’s worth visiting just for the views of the Kvernesfjord.
I swear, the fjords in Norway never get old.
The Atlantic Road
One of the most amazing parts of my trip was the journey along The Atlantic Road (or Atlanterhavsveien). This is another place where I just don’t think photos quite capture how special it is.
The Atlantic Road connects the island of Averøy to the Norwegian mainland. The road is just over 8km long and crosses a series of little islands and islets, connected by eight bridges.
We got off the bus at Eldhusøya island where there is a raised walkway around the little island with crazy views. The evening sky was putting on a pretty decent show for us too.
Once the Atlantic Road ends, the rest of the drive south to the town of Molde is through beautiful countryside, making for a nice change of pace.
Back on board, we arrived in Ålesund around 1am. Thankfully, Norway stays light almost all night at this time of year so we stayed up and still got to explore this pretty little Art Nouveau town.
I’d love to make it back some day to wander the streets in daylight.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of Bergen as we basically went straight from our ship to the train station for our train to Oslo.
Hopefully I’ll make it back someday to see more than just the port…
The Bergen Railway (Bergen – Oslo)
The train journey from Bergen to Oslo is around seven hours. Gross. Thank goodness it’s a scenic journey and that I was accompanied by good friends, a pack of cards, and a few beverages.
Though the scenery was hard to capture through the windows of a speeding train, I managed to snap a few okay shots of the little villages and the snow fields along the way.
We arrived in Oslo in the evening and had the following day to explore. As I previously visited the city in September, it was lovely to see it in the spring sunshine.
I retraced many of my steps from my first visit, guiding my friends to Oslo’s must-see sights including the Royal Palace, Aker Brygge, and Vigeland Park.
The Royal Palace
Oslo Opera House
Oslo Harbour and Aker Brygge
Norway seriously blows me away with every visit. Though I’m a massive fan of snow and I like cold weather, it was amazing to see the country in full spring bloom, with daylight at almost 24 hours a day.
Until next time, Norway!