We had such a good time on our solo trip to Iceland last summer that when it came time to plan our annual vacation sans kids, we decided to forego the beach and try another chilly but beautiful location-Norway! I will say that Norway would be a super fun family vacation, and the city of Bergen is especially family friendly. However, we had a great time doing things that we can’t normally do with our little ones in tow (hiking up a mountain, speed boat on the fjords, driving aimlessly from one cute village to the next, etc). It was a fun adventure that we really enjoyed.
We flew into Bergen late Tuesday evening just in time to see the beautiful midnight sun. Since we got in so late, we stayed at the nearby airport hotel and on Wednesday we picked up our rental car and headed out to visit the fjords. We were expecting a scenic drive and although there was some of that, there were mostly tunnels. So many tunnels! We made a couple of pit stops along the way at the Dale sweater factory, a random, pretty waterfall, and the lookout point from the Stalheim Hotel. Our check-in was not until 5 pm, so we enjoyed taking our time and even had time for a short hike near the hotel.
We made one last stop in the tiny village of Underdal, which has far more goat inhabitants than people and is “famous” for its goat cheese. We bought some yummy cheese and looked for the goats, but they were all hiding out from the passing rain showers.
Then it was finally time to check into our little cabin we found on VRBO in Gudvangen, a tiny village whose name means “God’s Place.” Definitely easy to see why! The views were just stunning.
We ate at the only restaurant in town, which was surprisingly decent and had a low key evening so we could gear up for the next adventure filled day.
First on our agenda the next day was a drive up the twisty, turny, narrow road to the Stegastein view point. The ride up was a bit scary, but the views were totally worth it!
We had read about Utternes farm on Tripadvisor and it sounded like a unique little place that offered farm cooked meals, but unfortunately it was closed for the season. We decided to drive out that way anyway to see the old farm buildings and we had fun taking a quick look around.
Our final stop for the rest of the day was the small village of Flam, famous for its railway up the mountains. After reading a ton about it, we decided to give it a miss because it sounded like it gets super packed and despite the wonderful scenery, the experience itself seemed quite touristy. Since we didn’t do it, I’m obviously not sure exactly how it was, but seeing the hordes of tour groups waiting for the train when we got into town confirmed for me that we had made the right decision.
Instead of the train, we had lunch at the market and sampled some tasty beers at the Aegir Bryggeri brewery. Then we ventured out on a lovely hike to a waterfall where we had a great view of the town and said hi to some sheep just hanging out on the hill.
Then it was finally time for the highlight of our day, a 2-hour speed boat tour on the fjords with Fjord Safari. We got all bundled up (despite the fact that it wasn’t that cold out, once you got going fast out on the water, it was definitely nice to have all the gear!) and headed out with our informative guide. He told us lots of information and folklore about different points along the fjord from a viking graveyard to a story about mountains that were “really” a giant troll. We even got to see porpoises several times along the way. We highly enjoyed this tour and were very glad we opted to see the fjords from a small speedboat versus a large ferry boat. It was so peaceful and really gives you a perspective of just how vast the fjord system is.
On our last day on the fjords we knew we wanted to do a big hike and thanks to the power of the interwebs, I stumbled upon a gorgeous photo of a viewpoint not far from us on the border of the Jotunheimen National Park. I found the photos on Instagram and a lovely Norwegian girl gave me the info about how to find the trail. I loved the idea that the hike was “off the beaten path,” but we wound up getting a bit more than we bargained for! We basically hiked up a mountain, and 20 minutes in it started alternating between light rain and mist and didn’t stop until we were on our way down. The trail was intense and as we got closer to the top we had to look for cairns, which are essentially stacks of rocks, to mark the trail…and then we found snow at the top. Lots of snow. So here we are in the rain, in our light jackets walking through snow fields and scrambling over rocks. We got almost to the very top and then the snow was deep and the rain was coming harder…so Lukasz went up almost all the way and reported that the view was hazy and foggy anyway, so we turned back. The whole time we encountered only two other hikers and it felt like we were in another world. On the way down, the tiny streambed we had been following had turned into a small waterfall that we basically followed down. When we got to the bottom we were soaked and exhausted, and alternated between talking about how awesome it was and how there were points where we thought we might not make it back down in one piece! Yikes! Afterwards, we came to find out that in Norway, August is considered to be THE hiking month. Yes, apparently there’s only one month when conditions are great for hiking. Live and learn.
On our way home it started pouring and we were so glad that we weren’t stuck somewhere up on the mountain! We stopped in the small town of Laerdal on the way and stumbled on a random local festival. It was such a cute town and we were hoping to find some dinner, but there weren’t many options so we called it a night at our place with some frozen pizzas and local beer.
The next morning it was time for us to leave the fjords, but the sun finally came out so we got a glimpse of the place in sunshine. Gorgeous!
I’m so glad we had the chance to explore the beautiful fjords of Norway. I’d love to visit some of the farther flung places on the fjords like Alesund or hike the Trolltunga…maybe someday we will be back!
I’ll recap our weekend in Bergen in the next post…