OUR ROUTE: 54 days and 11.989 km and over 100h of driving through the cold Norway.
Hello campers, vanlifers and adventurers out there!
I had traveled from the northern point of Norway to Bergen, one of the southern part by sea a few years ago, so I already had an idea of what I was going to find in Norway. In fact, it was by then when I promised myself to be back, but in winter. How did we pick this route? I never pick anything. I know a few things very clear and go from there. Like I didn’t want to be in cities or as less as possible, I like to be isolated in nature and wanted to spend as much time as possible in Lofoten Islands and spend time with whales. That was all. Every night we would look in the map for the next place to stop.
Where we went through, our fave restaurants, little tips, facts, thoughts and a few camping spots. Take in account that we don’t like sleeping in camping places so we went just to fill up water, have showers, wash clothes and charge our batteries. Less than 15% of the nights we spent at camping grounds, and also note that we did sleep in between the following places.
And this is how the adventure started –if nothing is said, we slept out in the streets or the woods-:
We flew with Norwegian Air from Barcelona to Oslo airport with Ginger. All of the staff were absolutely amazing with Ginger and very professional. We booked an Airbnb for 1 night until we picked up the camper van: Olgar, a Citroen C25 from 1987, 6meters long and 2,5 tones. Until we made our camper ready for the adventure (basically buying food) we walked through the streets of Oslo for a few days. I had been in Oslo before and if the camper had not been there I wouldn’t have spent the days there. My honest opinion, Oslo is just another European city, nothing else. Moreover, we found Oslo the most strict place not allowing dogs basically anywhere, bars, coffees, malls, …nowhere. Our advice if you have to be in Oslo for a few days, get the ferry to Hovedøya Island, and the dogs are allowed. Also, on the bright side, we found the best pizzas at Tranen at Waldermar Thranes gate 70, at a very good price.
Slept in the street all days.
Hardangervidda National Park
This National Park is between Oslo and Bergen, so if you are driving that route you better stop at it. At the Skinnarbu visitors center there is an exceptional interactive exhibition about the reindeers and the arctic foxes that you shouldn’t miss. Also, they will provide you with tons of information and maps on the different hikes of the park and what to do. A thing I learnt in this adventure is that there are almost no wild reindeers (90% of existing reindeers are DOMESTIC and although they roam free in the wild, they actually belong to the Sami people), but the few wild reindeers that exist are in the very South of Norway and this national park is the one with major numbers of them. So if you want to see them, the only reindeer in the wild, come here.
Hardangervidda is also a refuge for the Arctic fox. It is a very different landscape compared with other parts of Norway because this NP is a plateau, in fact, one of the biggest ones of Europe. Beautiful landscapes, easy hikes and extremely huge park, the largest in Norway, so very easy to be just by yourself if you are willing to.
Slept in Skinnarbu NP
Odda is a tiny town just before Bergen. Odda was not a stop on the route but the sun was setting and we couldn’t make it in time for Bergen so we decided to stay overnight. What a surprise! A tiny little town with gorgeous views! Also, Odda is the place where you start the trek to he famous Trolltunga – although we didn’t do it-
To arrive to Bergen you will need to take a ferry from Jondal – they depart every hour, lasts 20min and costs 17€-
Slept in the street by the sea.
Bergen was Norway’s capital and an important seaport surrounded by hills and fjords. This heritage remains in a few old streets with the preserved wooden houses of Bryggen, now protected by Unesco. A beautiful old tiny city by the sea, full of art, heritage and terrible weather. That is for me the description of Bergen. And yes, it rains all the time! They have the maximum of 26 days of non-stop rain. On the bright side, there is an awesome Italian restaurant, Ruccola Cafe & Restaurant at Vetrlidsallmenningen 7 which will make you day brighter 😉
Also, if you are traveling with your dog, keep in mind the Starbucks in Bergen if you ask with a big smile will allow you in.
Slept in the Bergen motorhome place: 20€ x 24h
If you are going from Bergen towards Jotunheimen NP make sure you are going through Tyin E53, and the best time? Sunset! Just do it! Nothing else than water, cabins, solitude and the most crazy skies.
Slept in the middle of nowhere.
Jotunheimen National Park
The awe! of Norway with more than 270 summits over 2000m above sea level inside the park. Jotunheimen is one of the most, if not the most, spectacular wilderness destinations in Norway, with the most spectacular hike! The Besseggen, being the most popular hike in Norway.
A very cool and not as long hike is to the Vettisfossen waterfall, the highest free-falling waterfall in the world with 275m.
Slept in Utladalen campsite 25€ x 24h, very good free wifi, 10 cents for 5min hot water shower, very nice and very warm owner-
Dovrefjell National Park
The place to see the musk oxen, the ancestral arctic mammal, that has been on the snowy wastes since the days of the woolly mammoth. This NP is one of the only places in Europe to see them in the WILD! The musk oxen were reintroduced in the 20th century and actually there are around 250 of them roaming the park. Don’t get close to them, never closer than 300m.
Don’t miss the amazing Snohetta Viewpoint! A very different building looking as a massive container in the middle of nowhere made by timber and mirrored glass. Located in the best location, offers outstanding views of Mt. Snohetta, from where if you are lucky you can even see the musk oxen from it. The dogs are not allowed inside the building.
Slept in the middle of nowhere.
What a beautiful city. Full of tiny little streets, the channel and its warehouses houses over the water –in summer you can kayak along the Nidelven River as I did few years ago- , big park,..
Don’t miss the Nidaros Cathedral! This cathedral is Scandinavia’s largest medieval building, and the northernmost Gothic structure in Europe. Build in 1153. The altar sits over the original grave of St. Olav.
The old bridge is a beauty and the perfect place to get the famous photo of the riverside warehouses.
Ginger loved all surrounding areas of Kristiansten Fort, which is basically an old fort with awesome large gardens around. The fort is open whenever the flag is raised.
We had lunch at Egon as they allowed us to have Ginger in the terrace, yummy food.
*motorhome place –so close to town, with water and electricity. 200NOK x 24h-
*closed Storsand Gärd campsite –creepy if you arrive at night time in winter as we did, as it is just open in summer, but it has the greatest location. Keep in mind all the facilities will be closed-
The only reason we stopped in Bodo was to take the ferry to the Lofoten Islands. We stayed a full day here preparing our stay in the Islands. During the day and a half we were in Bodo we had terrible weather so didn’t see much part of it more than the malls, a dog shop and the visitors center to get the schedule of the ferries.
If you are taking the ferry to the Islands you will have to line up the car around 2h in advance, and the dog has to remain in the car the whole time or there also are little kennels to leave the dogs at. We decided to leave Ginger in the camper as she was familiar with it. The ferry ride is about 4h and you better have a very strong stomach. Make sure there are no storms or heavy winds coming. If there is I would suggest driving up to the islands or you will have THE WORST ride ever. Camper van to 6m + driver 80€, passenger 22€.
The place to look for me, if I were to disappear. Four islands connected by tunnels and road bridges. Old fishing cabins, I heard once they say “Lofoten is like Norway but on steroids” and so true. You will never forget them; they rise to the sky like some spiky sea dragon. Lofoten was always the destination of our adventure, where we wanted to explore every inch of it, and that is what we did. We stayed on these little islands almost 4 weeks J There is just one road and we drove it from start to end, slowly, to take everything in.
The weather in Lofoten is even worst than everywhere else, changing in minutes from super windy, to sunny, to snowing, to sleet. But it is that magical that the truth is that you don’t even care.
Good food – go to Arctic Surf, they have the best Ginger and Carrot Soup and the well known cinnamon roll-; crazy landscapes -Reine, Hamnoy, or any turn of the islands; the best whale watching from Andenes -the best tour operator ever Hvalsafari (www.whalesafari.com) with over an hour of educational presentation before going out to watch whales, we saw 2 sperm whales and had delicious soup on board, remote white sand beaches – Haukland beach; spectacular northern lights, surf on arctic waters, … and I could go on and on and on.
*Moskenes camping – open all year around although in winter the owners are not there and you will have to call them once you arrive. Night 30€, tokens for washer/dryer 4€, showers/hot water included (the only one we found included), wifi but not working-
*Lofoten Bobilcamping -closed in winter, very nice location-
*Sandsletta Camping -open all year around, big campsite, good showers, not good wifi, next to a little lake, 250NOK per night-
*all the other nights slept in beaches, or middle of nowhere
Don’t worry; I will do a blog post just on the Lofoten Islands 😉
The capital of the Arctic! A little city with an Arctic atmosphere linked to the mainland by a crazy bridge. In previous centuries the town was a center for seal hunting, trapping and fishing and a launch pad for several arctic expeditions. For many people, the reason to get to Tromso is to chase the northern lights and other winter activities like dog and reindeer sledding and whale watching among others. About the northern lights, it is true everyone we met said that Tromso had spectacular northern lights if not the most. To be honest I was not very expectant after seeing the most awesome ones in the remotes beaches of Lofoten. But as soon the sunsets and the light goes Tromso is magic! The craziest northern lights I have ever seen, the ones made me cry and laugh out loud. Maybe because its northern location? I don’t know. There are a lot of different spots to see the northern lights, basically anywhere away from the city lights. My favorite? 1) From the top of the cable car 500 above sea level where there is also a very cool restaurant.
About the activities, I was happy to hunt the auroras by myself, and although I am not a defender of activities with wild or domestic animals in it I like to find out about them. I spent few days researching which activity was a good one in terms of animal welfare and finally found a Sami family who still herded the reindeers in the traditional way, that means that the reindeers are free in the woods all year around until winter when they bring them back close to Tromso as it is the most difficult moment for the animals: struggle to find food, females at the end of pregnancy and giving birth and tons of predators. They allow visitors to spend the morning with them feeding them and after it will be a Sami cultural talk with traditional food too. Everyone in the activity was extremely nice but: there was no actual educational talk about the status of the reindeers; they referred to their reindeers as wild not as domestic; and they do reindeer sledding which I don’t really understand who would want to be dragged by reindeers walking 0.5 km/h. Make absolutely no sense to me.
*Please, regarding activities with animals when we travel, research, be responsible. The animals are not in this world to entertain us. Don’t do it for the photo*
Don’t miss the Arctic cathedral, even seeing it from outside it is such a contrast with everything else –it is before crossing the bridge to the city-. I personally wanted to see the Polar Museum but unfortunately didn’t have time for it.
A great coffee where you can take your dog if you ask the owner? The Art Café with the best food ever. Broccoli soup YUM!
Abisko National Park
This is in Sweden. Abisko National Park is absolutely gorgeous, so if you are going up to Norway or going down if you go through it it won’t disappoint you.
Slept on the border of the National Park
Facts & Thoughts & Things done different
- Dogs are not allowed almost anywhere in Norway being by far Oslo the more strict.
- Dogs are allowed in public transport and ferries
- If you want to see WILD reindeers go to Hardangervidda National Park
- If you want to see Musk oxen go to Dovrefjell National Park
- Best Northen lights – Lofoten Islands & Tromso
- Northern lights – if you want to catch them, go in winter, if you go in summer, there is the midnight sun, which basically means it never gets dark, and you won’t be able to see the auroras
- How to shoot northern lights: remember to get a tripod, open the diaphragm as much as your camera is able to, ISO around from 700-1500 and shutter speed between 6-12 seconds. If you have a remote shutter control much better. That is a good start!
- Whales – definitely from Andenes with Hvalsafari (www.whalesafari.com)
- The highways in Norway are one lane and full of hairpin turns, you won’t drive fast
- There are no physical toll passes so you will need a toll pass, if you don’t have any, you can do it through a website
- If you drive with studded tires into Oslo you have to pay a tiny fee as they damage the pavement more than the standard tires. You can do that through the website too
- If you need to fill up your water tank of your camper van you can fill, of course at campsites, but also at petrol stations and if you are very nice you can just knock on someones door, as we did, an they will be more than happy to help
- It is law to drive with your lights on at ALL times
- You will find gas bottles at every petrol station, even vending machines of them
- In Norway there is the right to roam, that means that you can sleep absolutely everywhere if it is not private neither if you are not allowing others to go through. Paradise for campers and vans.
- The sun never sets in summer, and in winter will be no sun rising up the horizon, which they call polar nights
- Be ready for the longest tunnels ever, even some of 50km long
- Those with big campers, be careful with the winds, they are totally crazy!
To be honest, if I could go back in time, I would just do the north as we spent so much time in our old camper van crossing the country first to go to Bergen, and then driving up. We spent over 100h driving and at some point was quite exhausting feeling that that was our main activity. When we arrived to Tromso after almost a month an a half of travels through Norway we were way too tired we didn’t have enough energy to drive to Senja, which was on the plan since day one. An other thing I was dying for and didn’t find the energy was to go up north from Tromso to go see the killer whales.
Our adventure was definitely a challenge in so many ways and as I say I would love to go back in time and change some things I also say I love being out of the comfort zone and I got what I asked for. Growth from being outside of your comfort. And that is always the best gift. So always grateful.
and remember to follow our wild adventures on Instagram @nomad.dog
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