Every time I told someone that I was going to Norway they would say something like: “Oh that’s amazing! It’s a beautiful country”. But then, when I’d add that I would be camping: “Are you serious? You are going to freeze to death!” Well, I survived, lived to tell the tale, and had a freaking amazing time. This short guide, along with photos of our road trip, might give you a better idea of the land that has inspired The North in “Game of Thrones” (according to me 😀 ) and its outstanding natural beauty.
I am writing this in the car between Voss and Flam, as we drive on a narrow winding road, circumnavigating the mountains. Below us a river gushes near bright green meadows, sprinkled with red wooden homes and white lambs, all of this nestled under snowy peaks. I’ve never thought of Norway as a dream destination and didn’t even read anything about it before I left. I was going just to see my good friend who has been living there for years and thought that if we managed to see something on the side it would be a nice bonus, but had zero expectations. I guess that a lack of expectations is how everything truly good begins.
When my fellow travelers came to pick me up in Bergen with a rental car, they hadn’t designed a strict plan either. We just knew that we had to reach Trondheim, where they live, in four days to see the National Day celebrations on May 17th.
We wanted to sleep in the wild, not in camps, which is pretty simple in Norway. You can pitch your tent anywhere, as long as there are no houses around. But even if there are, most home-owners would be happy to let you enjoy a fjord from their backyard.
Not only did I not freeze to death, I also got a tan!
I had bought a pair of merino wool leggings for this trip, as well as a winter thermal shirt. My friend brought me a winter jacket, a sleeping back, and a home-knitted pair of woolen socks. With a cashmere sweater, layered over my thermal wear, I felt perfect in the night and the days were so warm and sunny (apparently we were lucky) that I even burned a bit. It seems logical but still – the closer you are to sea level, the less the cold bites. A camp fire and a bottle of wine are always good solutions as well. And if someone has a guitar, as we did, the low temperatures are completely forgotten.
The Spots We Chose
As with any camping trip, we tried to pitch our tent near drinking water. Luckily, that’s pretty easy in Norway – there are small streams and huge, roaring waterfalls at every step. Even though I was a bit reluctant at first, it’s safe to drink from them, as long as there are no houses around. The people I was with had done it many times and we had no problems at all.
The first night after they picked up from the airport we slept in the most magical place – right next to the fjord and a small dock, which we used for sunbathing, cooking, and just passing a bottle of wine around, while the lit camp wood crackled and warmed our backs. Near us there was an abandoned house. Though exploring it was a thrill, we all fell asleep with the faint memory of some horror film where you get dragged out the tent by the feet, in the middle of the night, to have your eyeballs turned into stew.
Waterfalls and Scenic Roads
It seems that the best way to see Norway is by car. Most places we drove through were looked life photoshopped postcards and the rest stops made it easy to chill and enjoy for a bit. I feel like it’s important to note how public toilets in Norway are nicer than the bathrooms in some hotels I’ve slept at, around the world, which seems indicative of the country as a whole.
One of the most beautiful places we saw was the Skjervsfossen Waterfall. We had a little picnic right where the river falls dramatically from the steep cliff, roaring and steaming. The sun rays and water droplets formed two perfect rainbows over the waterfall and I could stay there for hours, completely hypnotized by this unbelievable beauty. Only the unicorns were missing!
Keep in mind though that driving takes longer than planned because the roads wind against steep mountains and even on bigger once the speed limit is 90km/h. There are also many tunnels, dug straight through the mountains, with the largest one being 27 km. In fact, it’s the longest car tunnel and being beautifully lit in some sections makes it interesting. They’ve done this mostly for practical reasons – to keep drivers alert in this otherwise dark and monotonous environment.
Driving in Norway, you’ll go through many tunnels and some of them are so long that it’s spring on one side and winter on the other. Literally!
With an RV
If you can afford it, this would probably be an even better way to travel around Norway. The RV camps are everywhere and are well maintained, as it can be expected from Norway. #vanlife is a popular sport among the elderly Norwegians, some of whom have crazy luxurious RVs and get to see the wonders of their country, while being cozy and comfortable.
My friend who lives in Norway had told me about the wooden cabins in the forest, where she often goes. They are popular both among international students and locals. Unlike mountain lodges in Bulgaria, in Norway no groundskeeper is permanently located in the cabin, there’s also no running water or electricity. The cabin where we stayed is maintained by a student organization and you get the keys from them, before leaving town. There is chopped wood there, for cooking and feeding the fireplace, but you must replace whatever you have used. It is also forbidden to leave any trash up there.
The cabin might have not had electricity, but a night spent in candlelight, with acoustic guitar music, and a fire-baked pizza is better than any lightbulb. Many of the cabins have fire-powered saunas, and ours did as well. Taking a quick dip in the freezing lake outside of the sauna makes for a thrilling contrast. When I’m home in Sofia, I try to go to the sauna once or twice per week, but doing it in nature was a completely different experience. You connect with your body, your mind, and the peace of the forest.
How Much Does It Cost?
We were 5 and rented a car from Nabobil. Which is like Airbnb but for wheels. The rent, gas, road taxes, camping fee (where we had to sleep one of the nights), and the rent for the cabin, where we ended our journey, amounted to about 100 euros per person. Pretty good, compared to Norwegian standards, everything that we saw and the amount of travel we did.
You can see all of our stops on here.
Are you now syked for your own Norwegian trip? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
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