orway, Norway, oh how beautiful art thou? The scenery of Norway instantly draws my thoughts to Lord of the Rings and the rolling green hills and jagged mountain peaks of New Zealand.? With its spellbinding fjords, dozens of wonderful national parks, northern lights and midnight sun, Norway is the country you want to put on your top list of countries to visit.
Norway is probably one of the most backpacking friendly countries in the world. It is super safe, travelling in Norway is easy and the locals are super friendly. The biggest attraction of Norway is its nature and visiting nature is always free its just a matter of getting there. Something that’s great to do but most people forget about is surfing in Norway. Once again, the scenery is just magical and though it may be cold the crowds are almost non-existent compared to surfing in California or surfing in Hawaii.
This is your ultimate Norway travel guide. Read through top to bottom or use the shortcuts below if you wan to skip ahead.
When to visit
Regardless of which season you are visiting Norway in; you are in for a treat. In the summers you will be surrounded by lush green nature, you´ll hear the roaring waterfalls and rivers cascading down between the high mountain peaks. You will be able to hike and swim and enjoy a cold beer with your toes dangling in the water. The winters never cease to disappoint. If you are looking for something exotic, something out of this world, make sure to take a trip to Norway during the winter. The winters are like taken straight from a fairytale. With the frozen lakes, glistening snow-covered mountains and bucket list-worthy aurora lights, it is hard to beat the Norwegian winter experience.
If you want to go when Norway is at its warmest, you should go in July/August. It gives you the best chances of camping and saving money on accommodation and it will be the best time to go hiking. It will also be peak season, so unless you´re willing to cut down on the comfort, be prepared that prices will be higher than during the rest of the year.
Regardless of when you go backpacking through Norway- be prepared that the temperatures can change fast regardless of the season. At all times you have to be prepared for rain, sun, snow, hail and wind, all in one day.
Well, there is no easy way to say this, so I´ll just put it out there. Norway is expensive. It will most likely break the bank more than any other country you plan to visit. If it´s your first visit here it might come as a bit of a chock, but don´t despair! Being the second most expensive country in the world it takes a bit of planning, but it is definitely possible to travel to Norway on a budget. And if nothing else, it is so breathtakingly beautiful, that it will be worth every Norwegian krone (local currency) that you´ll spend. I calculated with an average spend of 50 Euro per day and it was still tight. Minimize the days you spend in the city and maximize the days you hike and camp and it will be easier to keep the costs down. This of course require you to already have the gear that you need for camping and hiking.
Norway is a vast country and luckily, if you´re on a tight schedule, there are usually cheap domestic flights. You will miss part of the majestic sights passing through the windows of other means of transportation, but if you´re in a hurry, you´re in a hurry. Make sure to plan ahead to get the cheapest tickets.
Renting a car if you´re traveling alone through Norway is not really a budget option. However, if you´re travelling together with someone, I highly recommend renting a car since a Norway road trip is a great way to see the country.. You will have the luxury of being on the road and the flexibility to drive wherever and whenever you want to go. And most importantly, two tickets with any other means of transportation will most likely be more expensive than renting a car. Travelling from North to South will take you some time, so it is not for the ones on a tight schedule. If you are travelling by car, consider renting an electric car, as you´ll be exempted from road tolls if you do so.
Public transport in Norway doesn´t come cheap and trains are no exception. However, at this link you can find “mini price tickets” and it really makes a difference. The mini price tickets are available if you book anywhere from 90 days to one day in advance. Traveling by train in Norway is comfortable, the trains are in great condition and usually have wi-fi. More than anything it cuts your travel time and gives you the opportunity to devour in the beautiful landscapes of the country.
The bus is a great alternative to other public transportation. The buses in Norway, just like the trains, are comfortable and have wi-fi. While some routes might make your stomach turn and churn, the buses also reach more remote places than the trains.
Use Nor-Way or to find the cheapest tickets.
Hitch-hiking in Norway is surprisingly easy and I also felt very safe doing it. Norway is one of the safest countries in the world, but of course, you should be wary when hitchhiking. While it is safe, I wouldn´t do it alone but hitchhiking is a good alternative if you want to save money and meet locals. The locals that stop usually have great stories to tell and sometimes they also provide you with local produce.
All cities in Norway are walkable. But not only are they walkable, it is also an absolute delight to walk around the cities of Norway. They are all so quaint. If you get out from the cities to explore more about Norway, visit a national park, the fjords or anywhere ells in nature, well then walking is your only option when you reach your destination.
Food and alcohol
Norway has amazing food. It might differ a lot from what you are used to, but wow! Mouthwatering seafood, rustic cheeses, farm-produced charcuterie, local wine and beer you name it. It is all there. And it is all pretty expensive. I found that sometimes the prices of eating in a restaurant are similar to the price if you would make a homecooked meal. This is especially true if you choose to make lunch your main meal, as the restaurants usually have much lower prices on their lunch menu. The same goes for pizza and shawarma. While it might not be the most Norwegian food you can think of, it fills you up for around 10 Euros. Unless you´re really planning on the living of off instant noodles, you might as well mix it up. Get groceries in the local supermarket some days and treat yourself to restaurant food on others. The price will be pretty much the same, so why not? Usually, most restaurants serve complimentary bread baskets and water is always for free.
Buy your groceries at REMA 1000 or Kiwi, as these are the cheapest supermarkets. If you plan on drinking alcohol, be prepared it will set you back, regardless of if it´s in a restaurant or from a shop.
A good thing to know about alcohol is that you can only buy it until 8 pm on weekdays, 6 pm on Saturdays and Sundays is a no-go. So make sure to plan your festivities!
You have plenty of accommodation options in Norway.
My personal favorite – camping. In Norway, you have the freedom to roam. This means you can walk basically anywhere, and you may also put up your tent, or sleep under the stars anywhere in the countryside, forests or mountains, as long as you keep at least 150 meters away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin. Different rules may apply in national parks as well as on beaches. Just remember that even in the summer the temperatures can become pretty cold, so pack appropriate gear.
The Norwegian Trekking Association keeps around 550 traditional, wood cabins all over the country. The cabins vary in size and prices and hosts anything between 1 to 220 people. There are hostel-like cabins and there are cabins that make you feel like you are alone on a mountain top.
Hostels, Airbnb and Hotels
Like in any other country you will find plenty of options for Hostels, Airbnb and Hotels all over Norway. The hostels keep the good standard and lots of them give you the opportunity to cook and meet people from all over the world.
As in many other countries, couch surfing is a good alternative when you´re travelling on a budget. Norwegians are super friendly and couch surfing will give you the opportunity to make local friends and keeping down your costs in an otherwise expensive destination.
Most cities offer city passes that give you discounts on everything from transportation to museums to food and shopping. In most countries, I do find that the city passes gives you great value, but in Norway, I would say the city passes are only worth it if you plan on staying a long time in each city or if you are really good at planning. I recommend you skip it, pay for the things you want and enjoy the things that are free!
Top things to do
1. The Northern Lights
It is one of the most beautiful things I ever saw in my life. The sky is lit up with colors of green, pink, and blue – all dancing together like veils. It is one of the most beautiful things you will witness, but it takes some planning and some luck. You have two options, go to Norway, and hope for the best or go on a guided tour. The tours basically give you a “Northern Lights” guarantee.
Another once in a lifetime, stunning experience is the Fjords of Norway. The Fjords are formations of ocean water between cliffs caused by the glacier and Norway has thousands of them. Most of the fjords are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You will witness the wildlife, numerous waterfalls running down steep mountainsides that end in the clear, blue water, pulpit rocks and cliffs and an everchanging landscape. The Norwegian fjords can be found all the way from northern Norway to Southern Norway and are easily reached from basically wherever you are. You absolutely need to see these natural wonders.
It is more or less impossible to travel to Norway without passing through the bustling city but yet so picturesque capital of Norway – Oslo.
My favourite area in Oslo is Grünerløkka. Grünerløkka is a quirky neighborhood with local independent shops, second-hand stores, and bookshops. You can easily spend days in this area. But I recommend checking out all of Oslo, as it is an amazing city.
When in Oslo don´t miss out on having a cold beer or some freshly caught shrimps on Akker Brygge, the true Oslo experience.
Not into cities? Nature is never far away in Norway. It is easy to make day trips everywhere and keep Oslo as your base for hiking, biking, boating, skiing, or camping.
4. Lofoten Islands
With its picture-perfect nature, small fishing villages, steep hiking trails and the freshest seafood you can think of Lofoten is the perfect destination when in Norway. It might be the most beautiful landscape in Norway to be honest. Keep this in mind when reading further.
Lofoten is amazing but unpredictable. If weather changes are not for you, then Lofoten is not. The weather can change drastically every ten minutes.
Lofoten is also hands down one of the best places in the world to go cold-water surfing. It offers excellent waves and incredible wildlife. The waves in the summer are ideal for beginners, while the professionals tend to come in autumn and winter.
The islands can´t hold a lot of visitors so it is best to book your accommodation in advance and I would recommend the cabins of DNT or Airbnb to get the most authentic experience.
Bergen is a true gateway to the fjords. It is also one of my favorite cities in the whole world. It is filled with cobblestone streets and colorful ancient buildings. It is surrounded by high mountains and blue fjords. Here you can mix hikes up to the two most famous mountain viewpoints, Mount Fløyen and Mount Ulriken with quirky second-hand shopping, bars or delicious home-baked cakes at the cafés. You can make road trips to the forest for a few days hike. You will also reach nature easily in a one-day hike. Even if you are not a hiker, you will reach stunning views with the funicular train “Fløyen”.
I highly recommend a visit to the Daily Pot – a cute vegetarian restaurant, located in an even cuter pink house, with a small, but a super-delicious choice of soups and fresh food. Don´t miss out on their heavenly cheesecake! After all their motto is “healthy isn´t always boring”.
6. Briksdal Glacier
Briksdal Glacier is part of the Jostedal Glacier national park set attractively between roaring waterfalls and high peaks. From 1200 meters the glacier dives down into the beautiful Briksdalen Valley. You can visit Briksdalen valley by foot or catch a ride with one of the “Troll cars” up to the glacier. Briksdal provides many beautiful hiking possibilities. The most popular walk is the 3 km trail from the Mountain Lodge to Briksdal Glacier. At the end of the glacier, you will find many colorful farms with delicious local produce and plenty of waterfalls nestled in between the lush vegetation.
7. Jotunheimen National Park
Jotunheimen National Park is nature at its peak. Flow with the rivers, listen to the waterfalls, climb one of the 250 mountain tops, camp or glamp, watch the exotic wildlife and meet other travelers around a campfire. Being known as the “Home of the Giants” with the largest concentration of mountains higher than 2,000m in Northern Europe, Jotunheimen is a dream destination for any hiking, mountaineering or photography enthusiast. The National Park is also home to several enormous glaciers and boasts scenery rarely found elsewhere. There are several different levels of difficulty for the hiking trails available and the park offers something for everyone.
8. Kayaking Nærøyfjord
Nærøyfjord is the world’s narrowest fjord and UNESCO Site and yet I have the feeling that not many people know about this hidden gem. If you visit Norway during April – September make sure to set aside 1-3 days for an experience of a lifetime as you paddle down the Nærøyfjord. I highly recommend Nordic Venture.
for this adventure. They offer half-day to three-day tours, where you also get the chance to include some alpine hiking as well as camping in the wild. Our guide Jordan took care of everything from gear to navigation, delicious food and tents and sleeping bags. All you have to do is to show up, strap into your kayak and soak up the scenery for a few days.
9. Stavanger and Lysefjord
Stavanger is an old town and really has it all. Everything from an interesting history to welcoming atmosphere and jaw-dropping landscapes. It is also the gateway to one of the most popular hikes in Norway – the Pulpit Rock, part of Lysefjord. It is a moderate 4-hour hike and something you shouldn´t miss on your Norway trip. Another must-do day trip from Stavanger is Kjeragbolten. It is a strenuous but breathtakingly beautiful hike of almost six hours ending with the Instagram-popular giant boulder wedged in a mountain crevasse.
When in Stavanger make sure not to miss out on Old Stavanger. Old Stavanger is like a picture from a story book with old, pebbled streets, and cute wooden houses. It´s a great part of the city for strolling, enjoying a coffee or just soaking in the Norwegian vibes.
Yes, Norway is mostly all about nature. But if there is one place in the world, where there is sunlight 24/7 in the summer. This literally means that the city never sleeps and it is a place for a 24-hour party and experiencing the midnight sun. And in the winter it is one of the best places to catch the Northern Lights. Another popular activity in Tromsø is dog sledging and cross-country skiing. Regardless of whether you choose to go here for the 24-hour parties or the post-card perfect fjords, skiing or aurora lights, I can guarantee you that you´ll be neither bored nor disappointed!
- Take into account that Norway is more expensive than you want it to be and, considering that, it will still be more expensive than you expect it to be. Truth!
- Remember that credit card is king. Cash is rarely used and in most places, it is not even possible to pay with cash. So bring an extra credit card, just in case one would get lost.
- Bring your own water bottle for free refills everywhere.
- Norwegians spend a lot of time outdoors and so should you. As the weather and temperatures change quickly, be prepared and pack accordingly.
- Norwegian salmon might be the best in the world, so even if it doesn´t come cheap, make sure to try it at least once. I can guarantee you it will be nothing like the salmon that you are used to.
- If you´re heading out in nature, make sure to bring food and water as there won´t be any places to buy supplies.
- Feel safe. Norway is one of the safest countries in the world. Keep your wits about you and use common sense and you should be able to feel safe in most places.
- Norway is not only safe but also clean. Please keep it that way and leave no trace.
- Make sure to get travel insurance before leaving on your trip. Being a safe and clean country doesn´t protect you from the costs that come when something actually happens. The costs in the second most expensive country in the world are much much higher than what I even dare to guess, making it even more important to make sure you´re well covered, should an accident occur.
- As you are backpacking, I recommend that you bring a small, lightweight backpack for day trips and shorter hikes, you will be thankful for this later.
Which tip would you say offer the best experience in Norway? Let me know in the comments below.
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