If you’ve decided to visit Norway by car, then this is the best Norway travel guide for you. Forget the agencies (they’re expensive) and what you read in other places. I’ve been to Norway, organized my own trip, drove South to North, and spent over 1 month in total in Norway, and I can guide you on where to go and what to see and also save money in the process.
The truth is that Norway is EXPENSIVE. It’s probably one of the most expensive places on the planet, and no matter how we put it, it will cost you a lot. But, because there is a huge but, this place is simply stunning, and as a travel blogger, I can say that I’m in love with Norway and I would go back anytime, even if it means I’ll never visit another new place, ever again.
And with that disclaimer out of the way, here’s everything you need to know about planning your trip to one of the best countries on Earth, the ultimate Norway travel guide.
Unlike other Norway travel guides and blogs that sound like a bored in-flight magazines, this guide is packed with practical tips, that you need to know before getting to this paradise. Ready? Ok, let’s dig in.
Logistics: How to get to Norway
The very first thing is to make your plan for your trip, and that includes the logistic of getting a car or making a plan on how to get around.
What you might not imagine just yet, is that Norway is a huge country. Before getting into this Norway travel guide, we need to set some realistic expectations. I spoke with some friends of mine, and they were asking me practical questions about logistics.
They all were wondering if they could get from one tourist attraction to another on the same day.
And the simple answer is no because you are probably thinking about some of the most popular locations which you saw online. And those places are just scattered all across this huge country.
That’s why I will stress out a lot about the huge distances that you will have to drive to complete your Norway itinerary.
The best way, without a doubt, to travel in Norway is by car. There are other options, but it doesn’t compare. If you want to see it all and get to all the breathtaking sightseeing locations, then you cannot do it without a car.
Some more popular places might have a shuttle, or there may be some touristic agencies that organize different trips, but that’s about it. Also, waiting for a bus, train, or shuttle would mean wasting valuable hours of the day, which is a luxury in Norway.
I say that because there is a lot to see in Norway, you will want to see as much as possible, and every extra day will cost you $$$, and you don’t want that.
Back to my original idea, driving is the best option to get around in Norway for the following reasons:
- You can create your own custom itinerary
- You cover much more ground in a day and get to see and experience more
- You can reach off-the-beaten-path locations in Norway (which are the most spectacular)
- Driving is the only way to experience the fjords. Any other transport will not do it any justice.
In case you want to know more about how I organized my trip, head over to my last blog called “I spent 1 month visiting Norway, and I fell in love”.
The best choice is to rent a car when you leave the city. You can find some good rental cars in Norway here.
You will probably be going to get to Norway by plane in one of the larger cities of Norway and then start driving and exploring through the country. Some of the best options for this are Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen, Trondheim, or Tromso.
However, you need to be strategic about choosing your starting point because the distances are huge, and the gas price is very expensive (unless you have an electric car). So for this, it all comes down to what you want to do and see, and what your priorities are. If you’re like me and don’t have a set time to finish your trip, then I recommend visiting all and starting from Oslo.
Otherwise, keep on reading.
Driving in Norway
After sorting out your transport, we can talk about the essential information you need from this Norway travel guide. Firstly, you need to learn a few essential tips about driving in Norway.
The first thing that you need to talk about are road tolls.
Norway has a superb network of roads, unlike anything you’ve seen anywhere else, but that comes at a cost. There are automatic road tolls everywhere.
For instance, to drive on certain roads or in the city, you will pass by these automatic road tolls, and it will read your car’s plates, and you’ll have to pay the fee sometime later. As you are not a resident of Norway, you will need to get the EPass24 app, create an account, and enter your car’s license there, as well as a card for payment.
I’ve searched online, and for us tourists travelling to Norway with our own car, this is the only option. It works, don’t worry. You can also go to their website and register there, but I advise you to also get the app, to make sure everything is ok.
Some roads in Norway are through tunnels, which also have an electronic toll, and others are connected by ferries.
Ferries in Norway
If you’ve never been on a ferry before or driven on a ferry before, your life is about to change.
A lot of the European roads around the fjords are connected through ferries. It’s simply cheaper to have ferries (or tunnels, as you’ll soon find out) than to build an open-air road. Sounds like another planet, I know, but this is Norway.
There’s no need to search for any of these ferries or special schedules or book them in advance (except for some very long ferries, e.g., Bodo). Google Maps app will simply get you to these ferries as this is often the fastest way and maybe the only way to continue your road trip in Norway. Once you get to a ferry terminal, you follow the signs. There are special lanes for cars and separate lanes for trucks. Just do what others are doing.
Some of these ferries have this electronic toll system installed, and you simply queue for the ferry, follow the instructions of the crew and get down at the other end.
Don’t worry if they don’t ask for anything; it’s either free or you will be charged on the EPass24 app. Other ferries do not have this system in place, and someone from the staff will scan your car’s license and then tell you how much you have to pay. This can happen before you board the ferry or after everyone has boarded. They will come to the driver’s window and ask you to pay. Everyone speaks perfect English. Payment is by card.
Best Scenic Drives in Norway
On my first 2-week trip to Norway, I had no idea what to expect and what are the best routes. I had some top places saved on my map, and that’s how I discovered Norway the first time. Little did I know that besides the stunning viewpoints and destinations, Norway is a land of road trips, and everywhere you go, you have to drive through a breathtaking scene that feels anything but real.
I am going to put some of them here in this Norway travel guide, so you know what to expect from this once-in-a-lifetime-road-trip:
- Atlantic Road: This 8.3-kilometer road connects several islands along the west coast of Norway and offers breathtaking views of the sea and mountains.
- Geiranger-Trollstigen National Tourist Route: This scenic drive takes you through the breathtaking fjords of western Norway, including the famous Geirangerfjord and the serpentine Trollstigen road.
- Sognefjellet National Tourist Route: This route takes you through the heart of the Norwegian mountains, passing by glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls.
- Rondane National Park: This scenic drive takes you through the picturesque Rondane National Park, home to Norway’s highest mountain range and many species of wildlife.
- Hardangervidda: This plateau offers a scenic drive through rolling hills, alpine meadows, and glaciers and is a popular spot for hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities.
- Stryn Sommerski: This scenic drive takes you through the mountains of western Norway, offering views of glaciers, lakes, and rolling hills.
But you don’t need to stress yourself about these roads too much because everywhere you will go, you will enjoy absolutely breathtaking views, and that’s not an overstatement. Also, since you are going to see some of these popular and must-see places in Norway, then there is no way you will not accidentally pass through one of these absolutely amazing places.
What to see in Norway?
There is so much to see in Norway, you have no idea. You’ll want to stay longer and see it all, but for now, I will just mention some of the top tourist destinations in Norway:
- Fjords of Western Norway: Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord are the fjords of western Norway that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Trust me, you will witness breathtaking scenery, stunning waterfalls, and unique history.
- Tromsø: Known as the “Gateway to the Arctic,” Tromsø is a city in northern Norway that is famous for its stunning natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor activities, including dog sledding and northern lights viewing.
- Bergen: Bergen is a charming coastal city known for its stunning scenery, rich history, and vibrant cultural scene. Also, this is one of the rainiest places in Europe, so prepare for that.
- Trondheim: Trondheim is a historic city in central Norway that is famous for its medieval architecture and rich cultural heritage. It is home to the largest cathedral in Scandinavia.
- Lofoten Islands: The Lofoten Islands are a group of islands off the coast of northern Norway that are known for their rugged beauty, stunning landscapes, and abundant wildlife. This place is unlike anything else you have ever seen.
Most popular outdoor activities in Norway
Norway is heaven on Earth if you find joy in spending time in nature. If that sounds like you (and your family), then pack all your best spots gear and prepare for the following:
- Hiking. This is the most abundant place in natural beauty that I’ve ever seen.
- Glacier climbing. There are multiple glaciers you’ll get to see in Norway. Some tourist centers organize trips ON glaciers. But beware, do not go by yourself, it can be extremely dangerous!
- Fishing. I don’t have many tips on this activity, but I’ve seen many fishermen, especially in the Lofoten Islands.
- Kayaking. You may rent kayaks in many campings.
- Skiing. A paradise for winter sports. And even in summer, you may find snow and be able to slide.
- Whale watching. I wanted to do it in September, but it was between seasons. This can be done on an adventure boat or expedition boat. Best place is from Tromso.
- Hunting for the Northern Lights. Visit Norway from September to April and you will be amazed.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, but these are the top things I can think of. To prepare for all these nature activities, pack sports gear, good hiking boots, and warm clothes if you visit past September.
While some of the sports may require some organization, you can hike almost everywhere in Norway. The internet only talks about a few popular hikes in Norway, but there are thousands, and not everyone agrees that Kjeragbolten or Trolltunga are the best ones.
Northern Lights in Norway
A Norway travel guide wouldn’t be complete without a section dedicated to this natural spectacle. When I think of Scandinavia, I think about those surreal dancing lights that can only be seen close to the poles. So what is this thing? If you have never seen it, prepare as your mind will be blown away.
The Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, is a natural phenomenon that requires a few crucial conditions to be seen by the naked eye. To see the Aurora, you need a clear sky (no clouds) and dark (that’s why it’s not visible during the summer months).
But the hassle is worth it because seeing the Northern Lights is a magical experience that many travelers dream of. And Norway is one of the best places in the world to witness this spectacle. Here are some essential things to know when planning your Northern Lights trip to Norway.
The best month to see the Northern Lights
The best month to see the Northern Lights in Norway is from September to April, with the peak season being from November to February. Many people are not aware that this phenomenon happens every day, but it is not visible due to poor conditions or light. However, I was in Norway in September, and it was just the right amount of cold (for a summer person) to withstand at 1 AM when the Aurora was dancing above my head.
So there is not just one best month to see the Northern Lights, but several. Many say that February is the best month, but that is not true. It is just the month with the clearest skies, and that offers the best chances to see it more.
But from September to April, the nights are long and dark, providing ideal conditions to view the Northern Lights. However, the weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to check the forecast and plan accordingly.
I used the following websites to try to
Do the Northern Lights come every night?
While the Northern Lights do appear almost every night, there is no guarantee that you will see them during your visit. And that’s mostly due to clouds. I wanted to make sure I got to see it while in the Arctic Circle, so drove all the way to Abisko, Sweden (from Lofoten Islands) to make sure I saw it. And still, no luck.
However, there are many things you can do to increase your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis. One of the most important things is to go to a location with minimal light pollution, away from the city lights. That’s why the entire internet praises Abisko as the best place to see the Northern Lights. However, I believe this is mostly a myth and should not plan a trip around this myth.
How to plan a trip to See the Northern Lights
To plan a trip to see the Northern Lights in Norway, it’s important to consider the time of year, location, and weather conditions.
Many travel companies offer Northern Lights tours, which include accommodation, transportation, and activities. But these are extremely overpriced offers, and I recommend that you plan your own trip.
You’ll need to research locations, weather conditions, and aurora activity to maximize your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.
Comparison of Norway and Finland as destinations for Northern Lights viewing
Norway and Finland are both popular destinations for Northern Lights viewing, but there are some key differences between the two countries.
Norway is known for its dramatic fjords and coastal landscapes, which provide a stunning backdrop for the Northern Lights. I much prefer to see the Aurora from Norway since you can choose from many beautiful locations, such as the Lofoten Islands, bigger cities such as Tromso or Bodo, or the wilderness of the North Cape.
Finland, on the other hand, is known for its wilderness forest areas, and the chance to view the Northern Lights is just that – you will get to see a night sky with nice dancing lights.
You may choose to spend the night in an igloo or glass-roofed cabin, but that comes at an extreme price, and you are not guaranteed that you will see the lights. That uncertainty is not worth the price, but the experience is nice, nevertheless.
Ultimately, the best destination depends on your preferences and travel style. Sitting and waiting for the lights to show up above me is not my kind of activity, but who knows, you might be lucky (or most probably wealthy).
Cost of Visiting Norway
Norway is expensive.
There’s no way around it. There’s always something going on, and the country is always beautiful and worth visiting. If you visit during summer, it’s mostly full of trailers and campers everywhere, and most cheap cabins are fully booked weeks in advance.
If you go to Norway during colder seasons, you can’t camp, and you will need accommodation. Campings close after September, and there are fewer options for hotels. But they might be slightly cheaper as the demand is a bit lower, but you will not get to do as many things during the day because it’s shorter. This means you will have to stay longer and spend the same amount or more.
The bigger costs of visiting Norway are gas and accommodation. You may also need to rent a car, and that’s also expensive.
As this is a Norway travel guide, I’ve come up with a few tips to save money during your Norway trip:
- Consider camping in a tent (during summer). It’s going to rain, but it’s not freezing.
- Plan your route in advance to help you save money on gas.
- Consider using an electric car. This may be a tip for the future, but Norway is already in the future, there are some free charging stations, free parking spots for electric vehicles, and other perks.
- Visit Norway between seasons – April, May or September. Fewer crowds mean cheaper hotels.
- Cook all your meals. Pack some cooking tools in your car.
Mobile Apps for Norway
Usually, I don’t use many apps besides Google Maps and Waze when going on road trips. However, I do want to recommend some useful apps in this Norway travel guide:
- Weather app – YR.no (this is the website, but search for the app on your mobile device). It provides accurate hourly forecasts on all locations in Scandinavia, including villages. It might be a useful tool, especially when you’re trying to locate the clear skies for seeing the Northern Lights.
- Road toll app – https://www.epass24.com/
- Mountain trails – UT app. This app has all mountain trails in Norway, and it might be worth having in on your mobile for all your hikes.
- Aurora websites – Seeing the Northern Lights doesn’t happen that often. I recommend checking out the following websites to know what your chances are:
https://www.gi.alaska.edu/monitors/aurora-forecast (aurora activity and level)
https://arcticcampers.no/aurora-forecast/ (Check for clear skies)
Norway travel guide: Is Norway a great travel destination?
YES. You’ll be surprised to discover an amazing infrastructure for all tourist spots. It’s extremely common to find serviced bathrooms in remote places, parking lots, well-designed pathways and walks, well-marked trails, and apps for the weather conditions.
Everything you can think of and more you’ll find in Norway.
The thing is that Norway seems like a remote place that isn’t quite made for humans. And some parts of Norway will feel just like that. But that did not stop the local authorities from building one of the greatest tourist places in Europe.
Norway has a difficult landscape, which makes it impossible to build roads to create connections between different parts of the country. But where there are no roads are some of the longers mountain tunnels and ferry rides in the world. I cannot stop myself from admiring the great infrastructure of Norway. There’re no words to describe this place. You simply need to go and visit Norway.