CAR FERRY CROSSING THE HARDANGER FJORD, NORWAY
Not long ago Norway was Scandinavia’s poor relation: too far north, too mountainous, too snowy, with a western coastline too rugged, wet, foggy, and treacherous to handle major shipping or attract tourism. Then, in the 1960s major North Sea oil fields were discovered just offshore, and everything changed. Now Norway is Scandinavia’s biggest attraction: its cities centers of culture & gastronomy; its art & literature world class; its west coast fjords & mountains World Heritage Sites; its traditional foods, once subsistence sustenance, now relished as gourmet.
TRADITIONAL NORWAY IS RE-ENACTED DAILY AT MAIHAUGEN OPEN-AIR MUSEUM, LILLEHAMMER
But traditional Norway runs deep. Scratch Norway’s surface and you will find the old Norway at fingernail depth, if you know where to look. Home At First’s program lets you experience modern Norway and find traditional Norway. And, with options for travel by rail, car, boat, and air, you get to discover the geographic wonders of Norway on your terms and at your preferred touring pace.
Home At First Lodging Locations in Norway:
8 CLASSIC Locations:
Home At First Classic Lodging Locations across scenic southern Norway:
• OSLO & ITS REGION
• HARDANGER PLATEAU
• HARDANGER FJORD
• SOGNE FJORD
• SANDANE & NORDFJORD
• BERGEN & ITS REGION
• STAVANGER & LYSEFJORD
• KRISTIANSAND & THE FAR SOUTH
NOTE: Except where noted, Classic À La Carte Pricing Applies to these Classic Lodging Locations in Norway.
5 ReQUEST Locations:
Special Request Lodging Locations Elsewhere in Norway:
• LILLEHAMMER & L. MJØSA
• ÅLESUND & GEIRANGER FJORD
• LOFOTEN ISLANDS
• TROMSØ & THE ARCTIC
NOTE: Custom-Pricing Applies to all Lodging & Transportation elements of these Special Request Locations in Norway.
Oslo & its Region
Oslo — the Norwegian capital founded by Viking kings 1,000 years ago, and modern home to one-third of Norway’s population — is still home to Norway’s royal family, as well as to the Nobel Peace Prize,
Exploring friendly, walkable Oslo leads to a park in the center of the main boulevard by Parliament, another crowned with the Royal Palace, another displaying world-class art, and still another built around a world-class ski jump.
DRAGON BOAT, VIKING SHIP MUSEUM, OSLO, NORWAY
Many of Oslo’s top attractions are spread around the city’s extensive harbor area at the top of the Oslo Fjord. Pedestrians move freely around the harbor, stopping to climb the roof at Oslo’s modern Opera House, to inspect the armaments at Akershus Fortress, for a selfie in front of the iconic City Hall, or to visit museums by the City Hall (art & Peace Prize) or cross-harbor in neighboring Bygdøy (Viking ship, Kon Tiki, polar exploration, & Norwegian history).
‘MADONNA’ AT THE EDVARD MUNCH MUSEUM, OSLO — CURRENTLY REACHABLE BY METRO BUT SOON RELOCATING TO GRAND NEW QUARTERS ON OSLO’S HARBOR.
Not all Oslo attractions are easily reached on foot. Fortunately, Oslo has a fine public transit system, with metro, trams, ferries, buses, and trains. The Oslo Pass — supplied to visitors staying at least 3 days in Oslo — is valid for most public transport and entry fees to museums and other attractions.
Home At First offers lodgings in fine hotels in at least 3 areas of Oslo, including one in an elegant neighborhood a short walk to the palace and the magnificent Vigeland sculptures in Frogner Park.
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors staying 3 nights or longer receive the Oslo Pass valid for city buses, metro, trams, certain ferries, and on the Oslo Airport train, as well as free or reduced entries for many attractions. We do not recommend car rental for visitors to Oslo.
Bergen & its Region
Bergen — Norway’s second city offers the best of Norway’s west coast and perhaps of all of Norway in one location — a friendly, walkable city center with history, scenery, culture, food, & art, Its historic Bryggen harbor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and photogenic center attracting shoppers, diners, and people watchers.
BERGEN’S BRYGGEN HARBOR: ALWAYS BUSY ON LAND & ON THE WATER
Bergen is a prime start or end point for visiting several magnificent fjords by boat, car, or train. Visitors can begin or end their visits to Norway at Bergen’s international airport.
NOTE: Arriving or departing Bergen using international or domestic flights, and/or using the passenger ferry services connecting Bergen with Stavanger, Ålesund, Trondheim or other Norwegian and international ports are extra cost transport options.
Home At First offers lodgings in fine hotels in Bergen. All are short walks to the Bryggen harbor, and one is quite close to the city’s train station.
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors to Bergen will find having a rental car impractical to use and expensive to park. We advise guests to drop off or pick-up rental cars upon arriving or departing Bergen by car.
Mountains & Fjords
Hardanger, Sogne, Nord — between Oslo and Bergen is a landscape so monumental portions have been awarded World Heritage status. Rising steadily — and at times precipitously — the mountainous landscape climbs 1¼ miles to glaciated peaks. This is the backbone of Norway: rugged, sparsely populated, and starkly beautiful.
HARDANGERVIDDA NATIONAL PARK: HIKING, SKIING, REINDEER, & MOOSE.
Europe’s largest alpine plateau, the Hardangervidda, covers 2,500 square miles of this region at an average altitude of 3,600′, and is incorporated as Norway’s largest national park, with few human habitations but plentiful moose and large herds of reindeer. With excellent hiking, climbing, and cross-country skiing, the Hardanger Plateau is a favorite playground for Norwegians.
THE FRIGHTENING ‘TROLL’S TONGUE’ HIGH ABOVE THE HARDANGER FJORD.
Photo © Scott Sporleder/Matador Network/www.fjordnorway.com
Along the west coast long, parallel fjords invade the mountainous interior from the North Sea. Norway’s two longest fjords — the Hardanger Fjord and the Sogne Fjord — extend more than 100 miles inland from their sea mouths near Bergen. A third — the Nordfjord — some miles north of the Sogne Fjord, extends 66 miles inland.
Car ferry crossing the Hardanger Fjord. Ferries are important links connecting main roads in FJORD COUNTRY.
These three classic Norwegian fjords offer surprising scenes of ocean-going cruise ships flanked by near vertical mountain walls, colorful villages hugging small inlets, dramatic waterfalls plummeting from the heights to sea level, and car ferries connecting isolated sections of roadway.
AN ARRIVING TRAIN PASSES THE RAILWAY MUSEUM AT FLåM HAVING JUST DESCENDED 3,200′ FROM MYRDAL TO THE SOGNE FJORD. HERE AT FLåM MANY PASSENGERS WILL BOARD FJORD BOATS TO CRUISE THE SOGNE AND PERHAPS CONTINUE TO BERGEN.
The Hardangervidda Plateau can be explored by car or train originating in Oslo or Bergen. A car is necessary to explore the Nordfjord and the Hardanger Fjord. However, the Sogne Fjord may be explored by a combination of train & passenger boat, or train, boat, and bus, as well as by car. Home At First can put together the ideal itinerary for your interests using your preferred transportation modes.
a home at first destination village on the sogne fjord. visitors arrive by rental car or by ferry from flÅm or bergen.
Photo © www.fjordnorway.com
Home At First offers lodgings in classic Norwegian inns and hotels in the Hardanger Plateau region and in traditional Norwegian villages on the Hardanger Fjord, Sogne Fjord, and Nordfjord.
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors traveling between Oslo and Bergen via the Hardanger Plateau and the Sogne Fjord have the option of travel by rental car or by a combination of rail and boat. Visitors wishing to explore the Hardanger Fjord or Nordfjord regions can only do so by rental car.
WESTERN SOUTH NORWAY
Stavanger & its Region
Stavanger was the primary 19th century emigration point for Norwegian-Americans. Today the city is an ideal touring base for Norway’s southwest coast fjord region. Stavanger has excellent genealogical resources for visitors researching their ancestry.
WATERFRONT RESTAURANT at STAVANGER’S lively VåGEN HARBOR. home at first’S HOTEL LODGINGS ARE CLOSE by.
Stavanger’s harbor is a major port serving the North Sea oil fields. The very walkable, attractive waterfront region is home to excellent restaurants, shops, a quaint old town, and a traditional outdoor market,
Stavanger is the departure point for cruises up the scenic Lysefjord and hiking excursions to the famous Pulpit Rock fjord overlook.
FROM STAVANGER EXPERIENCE THE LYSEFJORD AT SEA LEVEL BY BOAT OR from up to 3,500′ ABOVE THE FJORD ON FOOT.
Fjord Norway / Mattias Fredriksson
Visitors can travel to Stavanger by rental car, or by train from Oslo or Kristiansand. Home At First lodgings in Stavanger are in hotels in the city’s central Vågen harbor district.
NOTE: Arriving or departing Stavanger using international or domestic flights, and/or using the passenger ferry service connecting Stavanger with Bergen (5-6 hrs journey time) are extra cost transport options.
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors may want to travel to/from Stavanger by rental car, but visitors do not need a car rental in the city.
FAR SOUTHERN NORWAY
Kristiansand & its Region
Southernmost Norway is a favored summer vacationland to Norwegians, who love its charming coastal fishing villages and the traditional farms & villages of its rugged interior.
Lillesand, a traditional fishing town of wooden houses — many from the 17th to 19th centuries — wrapped around a protected harbor. Lillesand offers swimming, strolling, fishing, boating, and fine dining in authentic Norwegian surroundings ideal for a relaxing holiday.
Home At First’s lodging in Lillesand is a small, traditional inn on the harbor, known for its excellent restaurant.
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors staying in Lillesand must have a rental car, which will also prove useful for exploring the coast and interior of the region.
LILLESAND INN ON THE HARBOR
Almost at Norway’s southern tip is the small city of Kristiansand (pop. 93,000), the region’s historic cultural center with a sizeable old town of wooden houses. Its port maintains regular ferry connections with northern Jutland, Denmark, across the Skagerrak straits (3.5 hrs journey time). Kristiansand offers a parade of Norwegian history — from prehistoric through World War II — in a busy, prosperous small city with excellent public swimming facilities, and plentiful shopping and dining opportunities.
KRISTIANSAND’S CITY HALL PLAZA WITH A STATUE OF KING HAAKON VII, WHO REIGNED from EXILE in ENGLAND DURING THE NAZI OCCUPATION OF NORWAY.
Home At First’s lodgings in Kristiansand are small hotels by the harbor, within short walking distance of the old town and other popular attraction.
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors staying in Kristiansand can arrive by train from Oslo or Stavanger, or can travel by a rental car, which will be useful for exploring the historic coast and rugged interior of Southern Norway.
NOTE: Arriving or departing Kristiansand using international or domestic flights, and/or using the passenger ferry service connecting Hirtshals, Denmark, with Kristiansand (3.5 hrs journey time) are extra cost transport options.
SPECIAL REQUEST DESTINATIONS IN NORWAY
Home At First can arrange lodging (usually hotels or historic inns) and appropriate transportation for any of five custom-priced, special-request Norwegian regions. These special-request Norwegian destinations can be visited independently or in combination with any other Scandinavian regions:
• Lillehammer & Lake Mjøsa
• Ålesund & Geiranger Fjord
• Lofoten Islands
• Tromsø & the Arctic
SPECIAL REQUEST LocationS
Lillehammer & the Lake Mjøsa Region
INLAND NORWAY NORTH OF OSLO
The small city of Lillehammer (pop. 28,000) gained international attention as the site of the 1994 Winter Olympics. The attractive city draws athletes to its Olympic ski jump, cross-country tracks, and regional ski slopes. Lillehammer’s Norwegian Olympic Museum is part of the Maihaugen open air living museum which puts traditional rural Norway on display.
SUMMER SKI-JUMPING AT LILLESAND’S OLYMPIC HILL.
At the northern end of Norway’s largest lake, Lake Mjøsa, Lillehammer is some 120 miles north of Oslo — about 2 hours travel by car; 2¼ hours by train.
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors to Lillehammer & Lake Mjøsa will find rental cars necessary for efficient exploration of the region.
SPECIAL REQUEST LocationS
Ålesund & the Geiranger Fjord
COASTAL NORWAY BETWEEN BERGEN & TRONDHEIM
The city of Ålesund (pop. 67,000) sits on a narrow peninsula jutting into the North Sea, surrounded by a close-knit archipelago. The city is Norway’s largest fishing port as well as a harbor for commercial shipping and North Sea oil. Its island-like setting and its legacy architecture make it one of Norway’s most attractive cities. Its proximity to the Geiranger Fjord World Heritage Site — accessed by car & passenger ferry — make Ålesund a popular visit stop mid-way between Bergen & Trondheim.
ÅLESUND’S PENINSULAR SETTING ON THE NORTH SEA
Photo © Terje Rakke/Nordic Life AS/www.fjordnorway.com
Ålesund is not quite 8 hours from Oslo by train & bus via the scenic Rauma Railway Line. Ålesund is 7.5 hrs by car from Bergen and about 5.5 hrs by car from Trondheim (or about 7 hrs via the remarkably scenic Atlantic Ocean Road).
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors to Ålesund & the Geiranger Fjord region — even those arriving by train/bus or boat — will find rental cars necessary for efficient exploration of the region.
SPECIAL REQUEST Location
COASTAL NORWAY BETWEEN ÅLESUND & LOFOTEN ISLANDS
Trondheim (pop. 205,000) is Norway’s third largest city, and the historic capital of Viking Norway. It is located on the broad Trondheim Fjord at the mouth of the Nidelva River. Despite its northern latitude, Trondheim’s climate is relatively moderate, being dominated by the warmer ocean rather than the colder inland temperatures.
Prominent in the city center is Trondheim’s 950-year-old Nidaros Cathedral is Europe’s northernmost medieval Gothic cathedral. The city has several museums, including an important modern art museum, an open-air museum, a science museum, and a rock/pop music museum. Cafés, shops and boutiques are scattered across the city, which has a lively, youthful feel.
SUNSET IN TRONDHEIM
Foap Photo © VisitNorway.com
Trondheim is a transportation center, with a busy harbor, northern Norway’s largest airport, and railway service from Oslo and to points north.
Trondheim is not quite 7-8 hours from Oslo by train or 1-2 hours by air. Trondheim is also at the junction of major road routes: northeast from Ålesund (under 6 hrs); north from Oslo (about 7 hrs); and east from Sundsvall, coastal central Sweden (about 6 hrs).
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors to Trondheim arriving by train, plane, or boat will find city buses an efficient and inexpensive means of seeing the city. Those stopping at Trondheim with rental cars will find rental cars useful for exploration of the region.
SPECIAL REQUEST LocationS
The Lofoten Islands
ARCTIC COASTAL NORWAY BETWEEN TRONDHEIM & TROMSØ
In a country renowned for its scenic spectacle, the Lofoten Islands may be unsurpassed. The remote archipelago extends some 200 miles southwest from the Norwegian mainland near Narvik. A panoply of precipitous peaks, placid bays, and pristine fishing villages on a string of arctic islands: travel pearls connected by a chain of road bridges, Lofoten invites exploration by car. But Lofoten is not easy to get to, and its accommodations can be spartan, if welcoming.
THE AURORA BOREALIS DANCES OVER THE
LOFOTEN ISLANDS OF NORTHERN NORWAY.
Photo © Johny Goerend / brandnorway.no
Driving to Lofoten from southern Norway is far and time-consuming (about 20 hrs drive time) and only recommended for those looking for a challenging road trip of marathon proportions. While it is possible to take the train from Sweden to Narvik and continue onto Lofoten by rental car, the train journey requires a full day. We recommend flying to Lofoten from southern Norway. The few non-stop flights take about 2.5 hrs from Oslo. At the arrival airport you will need to pick-up a rental car to continue the journey to your lodgings: another 1-5 hours.
Is a visit to the Lofoten Islands worth the trouble and expense? There’s a reason spectacular images of Lofoten appear so frequently on travel calendars. If you decide to go, remember that the success of your adventure will be more than a little dependent on the weather you encounter on this arctic archipelago in the Norwegian Sea well north of Iceland.
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors coming to the Lofoten Islands by train, plane, or boat will need rental cars for exploration of the region.
SPECIAL REQUEST LocationS
Tromsø & the Arctic
ARCTIC NORWAY NEAR THE TOP OF MAINLAND EUROPE
Tromsø (pop. 65,000) is Norway’s largest far-northern city, and 3rd most populous arctic city in the world. Built on two islands and the Norwegian mainland, Tromsø’s deep-water port location is warmed by the Gulf Stream. Like much of coastal Norway, Tromsø’s climate is relatively mild given its extreme northern latitude. Being well above the Arctic Circle, Tromsø experiences midnight sun for fully two months (mid-May through mid-July) each year, and “polar night” from late-November through mid-January, a time when the Northern Lights are often visible above the city.
TROMSø’S LANDMARK ARCTIC CATHEDRAL
Tromsø was once the frontier of Norway with Sámi territory (Lappland) and Russia, and had been an important German stronghold during World War II. The city has long been a base for arctic expeditions. Today, Tromsø is important as Norway’s largest fishing port and as an arctic research center. The city is the regional cultural center for far northern Norway.
TROMSø EXPERIENCES 2 MONTHS OF MIDNIGHT SUN
Driving to Tromsø from Lofoten is possible in about 7 hours, and a little over 3 hours from Narvik. Flying from Lofoten (Leknes) takes 50min, but there are few flights. Flight time is about 2hrs from Oslo or from Bergen, Driving to the famous Ice Hotel near Kiruna, Sweden, (Swedish Lappland) takes under 6hrs. All of these journey times assume decent weather conditions. However, travelers are advised that travel in the far north of Scandinavia can be adversely affected by extreme weather conditions and the vast wilderness.
We recommend flying to Tromsø from southern Norway. The few non-stop flights take about 2 hrs from Oslo. At the arrival airport you will need to pick-up a rental car to continue the journey to your lodgings: another 15 minutes.
TRANSPORTATION NOTE: Visitors to Tromsø arriving by plane or boat will find city buses an efficient and inexpensive means of seeing the city. Those stopping at Tromsø with rental cars will find rental cars useful for exploration of the region.