Oh my gosh, Becky…where do I even begin?! This Scandinavian vacation is hands down one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever been on. It started off with 8 days in Norway, followed by 4 in Copenhagen, and 3 in Iceland. Instead of cramming everything into one post (that would be absolutely RIDICULOUS), I thought I’d seperate them out by country. First up- Norway!
Norway, Norway, Norway, I love you Norway. I felt so at peace in this country and for so many reasons. 1. I was with incredible humans 2. I love the mountains and 3. I love the mountains. Mark and I decided right away when planning our European adventure that we wanted our trip to be an active one. Norway was a no brainer because the mountains and fjords are epic. Mark and I have a really good friend from high school, Lars, who lives in Bergen and grew up on the western coast of Norway in a town called Stordal (he was an exchange student). We always talked about visiting him because his hiking/outdoor photos are amazing. Turns out, Lars was able to take a full week off to join us in exploring Norway. We even got to stay at his parent’s house. It was great to be with a native to the country because they know the ins and out and are able to show you the real lay of the land! #KeepingUpWithTheNorwegians
We spent 8 total days in Norway. 3 were in Bergen and 5 were in the region of Sunnmøre. We had to make the executive decision that during this trip we would NOT visit Oslo or Lofoten Islands due to time. Both Oslo and Lofoten are places I want to go one day. Looks like I’ll just have to go back!
Mark and I flew Icelandair from Chicago to Bergen. It was a 5.5 hour flight to Reykjavik and then another 2 hours to Bergen. Luckily we had no delays and our travels were pretty seamless. We stayed with Lars and his amazing girlfriend Solfrid in Bergen for 3 nights. They have an adorable 1 bedroom condo right in the heart of the city that is 10 minutes from just about everything. Lars and Sol both walk EVERYWHERE (to work, the grocery store, the gym, etc.), which is really awesome. We pretty much had 3 full days in Bergen. We wanted to experience both the touristy Bergen and the off the beaten path Bergen. Lars took us on 3 different <AMAZING> hikes (see below) and we also spent a lot of time walking around the city. They even let us tag along on a night out with their friends, which was SO FUN.
Fløyen – This is the most classic/touristy hike in Bergen. If you are in Bergen you HAVE to do this hike because the view of the city is amazing. I would say it is an easy/moderate hike (it’s uphill the entire way up) that will take you anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour. A lot of the locals do this hike as their workout and it was about a 5 minute walk from Lars’ condo in DT Bergen!
Stoltzen/Floyvarden – This hike starts at the same place as Fløyen, but you turn off to go a different direction. We went from Stoltzen to Floyvarden and in total it took us around 3 hours. Along the way we saw an amazing lake, which is up in the mountain as well as a cabin. It started off pretty steep and then once we were up in the mountains it flattened out a bit. We really enjoyed this hike minus the fact it was misting the entire time. The view at the top was spectacular and there was pretty much only locals on the trail.
Sandviksbatteriet – Say that 3 times fast 😛 I told Lars I like when hikes were straight up hill and difficult. This one didn’t disappoint. This hike started off really great, until we took a wrong turn on a poorly marked trail which literally lead us to scaling a mountain. It was supposed to take us about 40 minutes to get to the top, but because of our wrong turn, things got a little out of hand. REAL LIFE CROSSFIT. I would consider the hike “we did,” vigorous. Compared to the other Bergen hikes, this one was more foresty and rockier. The top was awesome. It’s an old bunker built by the Germans during WW2.
I loved hiking in Bergen! I especially loved saying hi to every person we passed on the trail (because this is what I do in the states when I’m hiking) and getting NO RESPONSE. Lars thought it was hilarious that I said hi to everyone because apparently it’s not a thing to do in Norway. People don’t greet each other if they’re strangers! Now that’s just STRANGE.
Bergen City Stuff
Walked around Shopping District + Soft-Serve Ice Cream: Since we were in a metropolitan city, it’s just custom to check out the local shopping district. While the boys watched some sports, Sol took me out into DT Bergen to check out some of the local shopping. Twas AMAZING. I am an ice cream girl, so whenever I’m in a new city I give myself the excuse that I NEED TO TRY THEIR ICE CREAM. They do soft-serve like a boss in Bergen.
Pub Quiz at Finnegans: This is what we did the night we landed in Bergen. Drinks are extremely expensive in Norway, so it’s custom to pre-game and then go out for 1 drink. Sol and I split a giant cinder and the boys got local beers while we participated in a pub quiz, which just so happened to be in English!
Drinks at No Stress + Shuffleboard at Barkollektiv: It was really fun to go “out out” in Bergen. Because drinks are so expensive out (we’re talking like $12 for a cheap beer), we pre-gamed it at home before heading to No Stress for a few drinks. Their menu was AWESOME. I ordered a frozen GREEN mojito. After No Stress we hopped over to Barkollektiv to play shuffleboard. I had never played before, but turns out I’m pretty good…just saying 😀 One thing that is really nice about going out in Bergen is that EVERYONE speaks English.
Norwegian Waffles at Bar Barista: Lin went to Norway last year and she said that I HAD TO GET WAFFLES AT BAR BARISTA. Well, we did and it was great! I ordered the PB&J waffle, cuz duh. What’s so good about a Norwegian waffle? They’re shaped like a heart!
After our 3 days in Bergen, Lars, Mark, and I jumped in the car and we headed north. 3 ferries and 7 hours later, we made it to Sjøholt, Norway, where Lars’ parents live.
Words cannot explain how beautiful the western coast of Norway is. I would kill to wake up every morning and sit on my porch overlooking the fjord. SWOON. Sjøholt is about 40 minutes from Ålesund (the closest airport) and relatively close to Geiranger, one of the most famous fjords in Norway. It’s in the PERFECT place to hike, kayak, fish, and explore! Sjøholt has just over 1,000 inhabitants and guess what? THEY HAVE A CROSSFIT BOX. Lars’ parents are both members and workout there 3 days a week! Speaking of Lars’ parents, Lars Sr. and Evy were such a joy to stay with. Lars Sr. had just come home from Reindeer hunting (he got one!) and I got to cook with Evy. They live right on the mountain side and their porch overlooks the fjord. Beautiful is an understatement. Sjøholt was our home base for 5 days. We both stayed in the area and took day trips to nearby towns.
NOTE: The day we left for Sjøholt, I woke up with a terrible sore throat/cold, which lasted over a week. I was borderline feverish for the majority of the time and had really low energy, which unfortunately had us alter a few of our plans. No worries, we still had an amazing time! I drank tea and ate honey like it was my job.
Verahornet – I would have to say that this was my favorite Norway hike out of all of them. It was challenging (about a 60 minute hike in total), but for the best of reasons —> THE VIEW AT THE TOP WAS UNREAL. It was also special in that Lars’ childhood exchange student, Eric, was in town and he came with us as well. Eric grew up in Alaska, but goes to school now in Norway and is really into both the outdoors and photography. Him and his girlfriend Marta came with us, which made the hike even better. These awesome photos are a la Eric
Hovsnakken – This hike was literally in Lars’ childhood home’s backyard! Lars asked us what kind of hike we wanted and I replied with “STRAIGHT UP HILL.” I like all kinds of hikes, but I was in the mood for a challenge! This was day #3 of my sickness and unfortunately we got halfway there and I made the guys turn around. This hike was truly straight up hill and extremely difficult, and I was worried I was going to pass out. My heart rate was through the roof and I was dizzy. Nonetheless, we still got a good 45 minute hike in and my booty was burning. We didn’t make it to the top, so no beautiful view.
Geiranger was such a fun day trip from Sjøholt. We drove about 45 minutes and then took an hour ferry from Hellesylt through the fjords! The ferry was one of the best parts, too. It was another beautiful day, so we were able to get some breathtaking photos. If any of you have ever seen The Wave, Geiranger is where it takes place!
The first thing we did when we got to Geiranger was find a place to eat. Geirangerfjord is a very popular tourist destination for cruise ships. On the day we went, there were 2 cruise ships docked in the water. It’s not that big of a town and was packed with the addition of tourists!
Fish and beer at Posten Brassiere: One of Lars’ brothers suggested we eat at Posten Brassiere, so that is what we did. I figured there was no better place to order a fish dish than this one. I ordered the halibut and paired it with a pilsner from the Geiranger Brewery. It was my favorite meal out of the ENTIRE trip. So colorful and just perfect.
After lunch it was TIME TO HIKE.
Storseterfossen Waterfall Hike – We love waterfalls and waterfalls love us! We drove up the mountainside to Vestros, where we started the hike. In total this hike was about an hour both ways and I would consider it moderate. For the amount of people in Geiranger, I would say that this hike was pretty quite. We did pass a handful of people, but I think the physical activity of hiking turns a lot of tourists off. Fine by me! The end of this hike was SO COOL. We got to walk behind the Storseterfossen Waterfall, which was really cool!
Drove to the top of Dalsnibba- This was the last thing we did in Geiranger. We drove 13 miles up the mountain side, so that we could have THE MOST AMAZING VIEW of the fjord. Confession: I get SUPER car sick, so this drive was actually the worst thing of my life…HOWEVER, the view was completely worth it. Again- we got super lucky with weather and were able to see the entire fjord with just a few clouds. The top of Dalsnibba was pretty busy because lots of tour buses take people up especially when it’s nice out! Not only was the view worth it, but the drive up was pretty spectacular. We passed multiple glaciers and mountain lakes. SO COOL.
My overall impressions of Norway were just WOW. These photos do not do this country justice. It’s an absolutely breathtaking place and I WILL BE BACK. We got really really lucky when it came to weather. Out of the 8 days we were in Norway, some how we got ALL sunshine minus our travel day. Solfrid said that it had rained every day in July but 3, so as you can see we got extremely lucky! I guess that’s the only downfall about Norway. There are so many amazing places to hike and be outdoors, but the weather doesn’t cooperate very much. I’m sure I still would haves strapped on my hiking boots, thrown on my rain jacket and gone outside 😀