Norway is the country that stole my heart in just one month.
In the summer of 2022, I drove all the way from Romania to Sweden. After spending a month in Stockholm, I began my first Norway trip in August, during which I explored the bottom half of the country (from Trondheim to Oslo). Here is my exact itinerary if you want to take a look (a 10-day itinerary for Norway).
After about two weeks, I went back to Sweden to chill for another month. Turns out 2-week road trips are exhausting. Anyway, in September, I decided to go back to Norway and see everything else there is to see because I loved it so much the first time. And this time around, I ended up doing a complete South to North (all the way to the North Cape – the Northernmost point in continental Europe).
After a few days in Norway, all I could think about was, “Wow, everywhere we go in Norway is absolutely stunning,” and I had no other words. I was out of words. My family was asking, “How is Norway?” and all I could grumble on was, “It’s so stunning; photos don’t do it justice. You have to come and see it with your own eyes.”
Since I considered this to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I want to break it down and explain the highlights but also the low points of this trip.
Visiting Norway in August
July and August are the busiest months in Norway. That’s when you get the warmest temperatures and the famous midnight sun (in the Artic Circle region). This means that most accommodations are either booked for months (the cheaper ones) or very expensive (this is particularly true in cities).
This was my first time in Norway, excepting a short layover I had in Oslo a few years ago.
I did everything with my own car, so this saved me a lot of money because I didn’t have to rent a car. I entered Norway coming from Östersund, Sweden, and the first stop was Trondheim. And I was immediately stroked by the beauty of the Trondheim fjord, which was the first fjord I’d ever seen. Looking back, I can way it’s a nice spot but doesn’t compare with what I saw later on.
The first day in Norway came as a shock as I was discovering the local prices for just about everything. Everything from the parking to the restaurants was considerably more expensive than in Sweden (I had already spent a month in Sweden at that point).
I spent the first night at a camping site right outside Trondheim, and it was lovely. I enjoyed the most magical sunrise at 4.30 AM. This is the camping site – Flakk Camping (website here and Google Maps here), and we booked it on the spot.
The next morning it was raining, and I quickly realized that it’s much more uncomfortable to be camping when everything around you is wet. And that’s how we got to stay at our first hotel in Norway. Believe it or not, Radisson Blue was one of the best options in Trondheim. It may sound excessive, but you tend to hate having all your clothes wet, no places to get warm, and a wet tent, so you look for comfort.
Depending on the day and location, you may decide to stay in a camping site to save some money, or stay in a hotel, if it’s a city or makes more sense for you (aka, you need to wash/dry clothes, you get sick, etc.).
The next day I got a parking ticket for exceeding the parking time by 1h. I got the ticket because I was too lazy to get up early that morning and go and move the car to a different parking spot. The parking ticket was 60 NOK, and I’m still waiting for it to be mailed to me in my country (6 months later).
After Trondheim, I visited some of the best places in Norway, including the Atlantic Road, Geiranger fjord, Flem, Bergen, Stavanger, Oslo. You may not realize this yet, but this is almost half of the country. I explained the entire itinerary I did in August in Norway in this blog post – 10 Days Itinerary for Norway.
Even though this was the perfect time to visit Norway, it’s important to be prepared and pack your essential travel gear with you. I’ll write a special blog post about it, but a raincoat and hiking shoes are an absolute must.
Pros of visiting Norway in the summer
- Warm weather. Theoretically, you can wild camp anywhere, as long as you respect the local rules (e.g., keep clean, don’t camp near houses)
- It’s comfortable to sleep in a tent, even if it’s raining (if you don’t mind getting wet).
- Long days. You have more time to explore and enjoy nature.
- Midnight sun. If you go up to the Artic Circle, you will experience the midnight sun in July.
- All attractions are open. Most places close after mid-August or by the end of September.
Cons of visiting Norway in the summer
- It’s the busiest season, and most places will be crowded
- You will not find free cabins in the camping
- It’s rainy all year long. If you’re lucky, you will get some beautiful sunny days in summer, but it’s mostly rainy.
- Smaller parking spots at popular places may be full, so you need to get there early to secure a spot. It happened to me at Pulpit rock (one of the famous hikes in Norway), and I had to come back some other time.
- You need to pre-book some hotel stays and ferries for popular places (at least a few days in advance).
Visiting Norway in September
After the August trip, I went back to Sweden for a month. It was a perfect time to relax, get back to work, and make a new plan for my second road trip in Norway.
This second time I had more experience and knew exactly what I wanted to do and how to do it.
The most important thing about Norway is to have a plan.
Norway is simply too expensive to visit without a plan. You can do it, but you will probably miss some places and experiences that need to be booked and planned in advance.
The two main reasons I wanted to make this second road trip in Norway were to do all three famous hikes in Norway and then drive to the North Cape.
Check out my exact itinerary for this trip – The most famous hikes in Norway. It’s simply the best itinerary out there, it’s already made for you, and it will save you a lot of time researching and planning this trip.
Other places I visited during this trip included Kristiansand, Bodo, Lofoten Islands, Tromso, and the North Cape. It was one of the most intense road trips I ever did. You cannot believe how long Norway is until you’ve driven from South to North.
My favorite moment was the first night we arrived on the Lofoten islands when we spent the night in a “rorbu”, a traditional type of house for fishermen, and we saw the Northern Lights dancing just above our heads for the first time. We stayed in Å, the very last village on the islands and the place with the shortest name in the world.
I reached the North Cape in Europe
Since it was already September 25, I booked on the spot a heated cabin in the last open camping site near the North Cape, in Skarsvåg. It felt like I’d reached the end of the world. It made me feel small but grateful to be alive. Reaching places not many have stepped on, fills me with motivation to do more and achieve more.
To be honest, I never thought about going to this extreme geographical point in Europe. But during our first road trip in Norway, we met a couple from Greece in the kitchen of a summer hostel in Molde, near the Atlantic Road. They drove all the way from Greece and said their goal was to drive up to the North Cape. They were a nice couple of true travelers, the kind of people that are humble about their travels but who had a special sparkle in their eyes that inspired you to travel more as well.
At the time, all I could say was, “wow, that’s a long way to drive to the North Cape.” And I wasn’t even aware that the North Cape was a destination in Norway. But the seed was planted, and not long after, I said to myself, “Maybe I should also visit the North Cape in September. With some luck, I’ll see the northern lights too.”
I initially planned to stay just one night near the North Cape. we arrived late in the evening since it’s a long drive to get there. It was cloudy that night, and I couldn’t see the Aurora. I checked the Aurora forecast the next morning, as I always did, to see the sky conditions for the next day. And it was a forecast that predicted a clear sky with 0% clouds for that night.
I walked to the reception and asked to stay for another night in the same cabin. Since it was September and they were getting ready to close the camping down in a few days, they had no other booking and let us stay for one more night.
And to this day, I’m extremely happy I did that. Because that night, I saw a beautiful Aurora and a perfectly clear sky full of stars. The Milky Way was visible to the naked eye. Seeing the Northern Lights at the North Cape was a magical end for the perfect road trip.
Going to remorse places is always a great way to uncover parts of you that you didn’t know existed. To craft thoughts, you weren’t thinking before. And to change perspective on life, goals, and achievements. Isn’t that the ultimate purpose of life?
I have so many tips to give you on this trip, but I’ll save them for another post. A complete Norway itinerary from South to North will soon be posted.
Pros of visiting Norway in September
- Less crowded places.
- More available hotels
- Cheaper hotels
- Much easier to find last-minute cabins in camping places
- Breathtaking autumn scenery. The best autumn foliage is in Norway.
- While the days are shorter, you still have plenty of time to explore
- You might see the Northern Lights
Cons of visiting Norway in September
- Colder weather. It’s also rainier.
- Not suitable for sleeping in a tent
- Some attractions are closed or close by the end of September
- Some ferries run fewer times per day.
- No crowds
The people and culture of Norway
Many Norway travel guides don’t mention the people and culture of Norway, but they should.
People in Norway
During my road trips in Norway, I discovered some of the friendliest and most genuine people in Europe.
Us, Latins, have this preconception that the people in Scandinavia are cold and not very friendly. But this doesn’t apply to Norwegians. They are open and friendly to foreigners while also respecting personal space. That’s why some may come across as cold, but they are only extremely considerate and polite.
I talked to people on tourist ferries, longer distance ferries, in queues on the road, at random viewpoints, on hikes, at camping sites, and at hotels. They all shaped my experience for the better. And gave us great pieces of advice on how to improve our Norway itinerary. Without them, my experience wouldn’t have been the same, and I am forever grateful.
That’s why I encourage you to talk to people, ask questions if you have any, and be open to having a conversation with a local. It will give you much more insight into their lifestyle and culture, more than I could ever explain.
Norwegian culture and lifestyle
Norwegians are friendly, want to make friends with you, are interested in your trip, willing to share tips with you, and share their stories. That’s not something I can say about their neighbors, the Swedes.
The Norwegian culture is all about enjoying life in nature, and living healthily and happily.
You’ll notice that everything built and sold in Norway has exceptional quality, and it’s one of the best you’ll find in the entire Europe. They live in a harsh natural environment, and building houses to last for centuries is simply part of their culture. There’s no room for shortcuts or dubious quality items, and that’s non-negotiable.
I believe this explains why everything is more expensive in Norway. It’s simply the normal price you pay for good food, good roads, and good housing.
I also appreciate that Norway is building around its natural beauty in a way that allows you to admire it, but not in a destructive way. Nature is always free, but the infrastructure can’t always be free.
Norway is full of camping sites, more than any other country in Europe. And that’s because almost everyone gets a month off from work in July or August and goes camping, hiking, fishing, or doing some other nature activity. Many families have small cabins in the middle of nowhere, which they use during summer.
It truly feels like a heaven for nature activities, and it invites you to enjoy it the same way they have been doing for years.
You can even find cabins in the natural parks that can be used for free to spend the night. They don’t have on-site staff, but they are in extremely good shape. You will have no running water or electricity, but you’ll find all you need to immerse yourself in this beautiful natural heaven.
The natural beauty of Norway
All my Norway blog posts are about the natural beauty of Norway. Everywhere you’ll go, you will see some stunning fjords, mountains, waterfalls, lakes, or glaciers. It’s a gigantic natural park that keeps you in a constant state of awe and makes you addicted and wanting more.
That’s why I can’t simply create a list of the most beautiful places in Norway because the entire country is breathtaking. I can make a list of the most popular places, but that doesn’t mean the rest is less beautiful or worthy of a visit.
So far, I’m really proud of my 10-day itinerary in Norway, which is a perfect road trip for your first trip to Norway. And if you have time, do these three famous hikes in Norway. Your mind will be blown away.
Note that visiting Norway should imply hiking, even if it’s a short hike. The trails are simply too stunning to skip this activity.
Would I visit Norway again?
Yes. I would spend every summer going on road trips in Norway.
Norway is the best road trip destination in Europe. It offers everything you would expect and so much more. If I had to write down one complaint about Norway, it would be the fact that this country is huge. Of course, this isn’t a real complaint, and being huge is the reason it has so much to offer. But that’s the magic of Norway.
If Norway wouldn’t be a frozen, dark pit of despair during winter months. Which is about 6 months per year. But more people, including myself, would move there permanently if this wasn’t the case.
Even so, Norway is home to a wide and diverse range of expats and immigrants from all corners of the world. Nature is stunning, the jobs treat you nicely, and the living standard is high.
Norway is truly heaven on Earth. The only thing is that it turns into a dark heaven for about half a year.