On a road trip in southern Norway, first-time visitors will feel comfortable. With similar stores, customs and routines to those back home, things feel familiar. Another great thing: English is spoken by pretty much every Norwegian.
Norway is a long country, 1,600 km or 1,100 miles more or less from north to south, with incredibly good roads and a slow maximum speed limit of 80km/h (about 50mph). Getting anywhere by road takes time; speed limits and traffic rules are strictly enforced with savage fines for breaking them.
But it’s a perfect road trip country for midlifers who have left the rat race behind.
Anyway, with scenery so gorgeous, who wants to drive any faster?
In late June, we kept our travels to the southern part of the country. I guess winter would have its own charm. But for a road trip, summer is definitely the best time of year with long hours of daylight and (relatively) warm weather. From Oslo, our route took us west over the mountains to Bergen. From there, north to Ålesund (pronounced: ooh-leh-soont) and then on to our northernmost stop in Trondheim and back to Oslo, a total distance of around 1,500 Km or 930 miles.
The road from Oslo to Bergen crosses some spectacular mountain scenery with snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes, even in mid-summer. Bergen itself is a rather pretty place, sandwiched between mountains and fjords, and centered around the historic waterfront with buildings dating back to 14th century, still in daily use today.
The city is totally pedestrian-friendly with any number of restaurants and pubs. But be warned that eating out, and alcoholic drinks especially, is extremely expensive. We stayed in an Airbnb in the Måseskjæret district, within an easy walking distance of shops and the waterfront, allowing us to self-cater most of our meals and drinks.
Worth visiting is the fish market with its huge variety of sea creatures, including whale meat, which may not be to everybody’s taste. It’s also worthwhile taking some time to explore the narrow medieval alleyways in the Bryggen district with its numerous shops and coffee bars.
A road trip in southern Norway entails navigating many tunnels and ferry crossings.
Tunnels aren’t tolled but ferry crossings require payment. The further north you travel, the more expensive the cost of the crossings. But we paid our money and enjoyed the ever spectacular scenery between Bergen and Ålesund, which is in the centre of fjord country. Around every corner is an even better photo opportunity. So take your time and enjoy the drive. After all, isn’t being able to travel slowly one of the benefits of being a baby boomer?
Ålesund is just such a nice little town with awesome scenery and friendly citizens. This was my personal favourite stopover,
The easiest access to a viewpoint of the town is the Fjellstua on the Aksla hill at the edge of town. You can drive to the top or if you’re feeling energetic and then walk up the several hundred steps. The views are well worth the effort. A worthwhile hike is to the top of Sukkertoppen (the Sugar Top), which is a peak on the Western edge of town. It’s not a hard hike but a degree of fitness is required. Be prepared to be overtaken by fit locals jogging past on the way up.
Our northernmost stop, Trondheim, is a university city. Predictably, there are loads of students and young people about. It’s quite a big and busy place, actually Norway’s third largest city. After a few days on the road and the relative intimacy of Ålesund, the traffic and bustle take a bit of getting used. But the benefit is having more choices when it comes to shopping, eating out and accommodations.
The city is spread along the Nidelva River where it meets the Trondheim Fjord. The historic warehouses lining the riverfront make for some wonderful photo opportunities. As cities go, Trondheim is quite compact with everything within fairly easy walking distance, useful considering there is no Uber service in the city. We stayed in a hotel, the Scandic Bakklandet, located on the river at the edge of the central business district. This afforded us a nice change from self-catering. I have to say that it was a comfortable hotel and not outrageously priced at all.
Trondheim to Oslo
It’s a 450 Km (280 mile) trip from Trondheim to Oslo and at 80 km/h, it’s a long one. I’m not going to lie to you, it will take the whole day. The route we took ran pretty much down the centre of the country, leaving the Fjords not far out of Trondheim, then cutting through vast expanses of natural forest as far as the eye can see (which isn’t very far).
As you approach Olso, there are more farms and cultivated fields. Finally, the last 60 km or so of our road trip in southern Norway was on a proper highway, quite a change of pace after a week of country road driving.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Norway is a very safe country to visit with low crime and excellent facilities.
- For a road trip, the roads are fantastic with low speed limits and plenty of service facilities and stops along the way.
- Shopping in the main cities and towns is excellent but expensive.
- People are friendly and accommodating.
- Everybody speaks fluent English.
- The cost of eating out, and alcohol especially, is prohibitively expensive.
- Although Norway is one of Europe’s largest oil producers, the cost of fuel is very high. We hired a hybrid car, which offered a big saving on fuel costs.
- It’s a big country with quite long distances between main centres, so pace yourself when driving and take plenty of rest stops.
Be sure to get the whole scoop on Chris Corbet’s Norway Road Trip on A Travel Junkie.
All photo credits: Chris Corbet
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