It’s mid-june when we head north with the camper van we rented for two weeks. We’ve been planning an active holiday in Sweden and Norway, far away from the crowds. The Scandinavian landscape varies, from large forest areas with untamed waterfalls to rugged mountain terrain with shimmering lakes. The more we go north, the rougher the landscape becomes. In this blog post, I will tell you something more about our travel itinerary and the must see-stops along the way.
Our travel itinerary
Once we arrive in Denmark, we have to cross two bridges. The first one is the Great Belt Bridge, followed by the Øresund Bridge, which is connecting Copenhagen to Malmö in Sweden. The price for crossing these bridges depends on the vehicle you’re driving with. After spending a few days at the Swedish west coast and making a detour in the Värmland region, we come across the Norwegian border. Before heading tot the the fjord region in the west of the country, we make a few stops in the province of Telemark. To return back home, we take the ferry in Kristiansand, in the very south of Norway. We completed this roadtrip in about two weeks, but I can highly recommend to take a little more time if you can.
The Bohuslän Archipelago in Sweden
Take at least a few days to discover the Bohuslän archipelago, the rugged coastline stretching from the Swedish town of Gothenburg to the Norwegian border. There is a vibrant atmosphere in the fishing villages along the Swedish west coast, especially in the summer months. Locals settle into their wooden summer houses, while tourists and wanderers stroll through the streets, in search for tasty seafood. Below, I’ve listed the villages you definitely should visit.
Klädesholmen, also known as ‘the herring island’, is our first stop in Bohuslän. In the past, there must have been a lot of activity on the island. People lived from the herring canning industry back than. The existence of the herring factories gradually declined, but the memories of these golden years will never fade. Foodies can go to ‘Salt & Sill‘, a renowned restaurant (and floatinghotel), serving traditional Bohuslän dishes with herring.
Smögen is one of the most picturesque fishing villages along the Swedish west coast. Throughout the years, the village has become a hotspot for photographers and tourists but luckily, in June it is still very quiet. I fully understand why it has become so popular, though. I mean, look at the colorful boathouses standing along the wooden pier. The ‘Smögenbryggan’ pier is about 600 meters long and runs all the way to the old fishing port, where multiple restaurants and bars are located. We decide to eat fresh mussels in ‘Göstas Fiskekrog‘, which can be highly recommended.
Less known is the village of Resö, about an hour drive from Smögen. It is the southern gateway to the Kosterhavet National Park, Sweden´s first marine national park. You can have a fine meal in ‘Lexö På Resö‘, the restaurant in the picturesque fishing harbor. To get an awesome view over the archipelago, you just have to crawl over the rocks behind the restaurant.
Before crossing the Norwegian border, we stay at Camp Grinsby (in Årjäng) for a few nights. This is a large campsite by the Stora Bör lake, with 75 campspots and 6 holiday homes. Camp Grinsby is owned by Staf Coppens, who works for flemish television, and his wife Monique van der Velden, a famous figure skater from the Netherlands. At the time or our arrival, it’s pretty calm at the campsite so we get the possibility to place the camper van right by the lake side. Once you have settled, you can hike around in the surrounding woods or you can rent a boat / canoe to explore one of the (80!) islands.
The Heddal stave church in Norway
In the Middle Ages, wooden stave churches were common in Northern Europe. Today, only 28 of them remain. The most impressive one is definitely the Heddal stave church in the Telemark county. This church – entirely made of wood – is an outstanding example of traditional architecture in Norway. A visit to Heddal stave church (or one of the other remaining stave churches) is a must-do during your roadtrip through Norway, especially if you are fascinated by the past just like me.
Gaustatoppen (1883 meters) is the highest mountain in the Telemark region in Norway. Inside the mountain, there is a funicular railway which goes all the way up to the top at a steep angle of nearly 40 degrees. The ‘Gaustabanen‘ railway was originally built in the 1950s as a secret military facility. It opened up to public in 2010, so tourists can enjoy the view from the top. It is said that on a clear day, you can see 1/6 of the Norwegian mainland (!).
HIKING TIP. You can go to the top of the mountain with the Gaustabanen and return to the base station by foot (or vice versa). It’s a short, but quite challenging hike because of the steepness and the many loose rocks along the way. So, please watch your step. The total distance of this hike is about 5 kilometers.
The Sognefjord area
Norway’s rocky coastline is home to the most beautiful fjords in the world. These long, narrow inlets with steep sides were once created by a glacier. They are filled with ocean water and reach far inland. The Sognefjord is the largest and deepest fjord in Norway. It has several tributaries, including the Aurlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord.
The picturesque village of Flåm, at the end of the Aurlandsfjord, is perhaps one of the most famous places in Fjord Norway. In the main season, large cruise ships arrive in the port. Although I’m not a big fan of busy tourist attractions, the tiny village attracts me. Especially because of the Flåm Railway (Flåmsbana). The train ride from Flåm to Myrdal is on my bucketlist for a long time, as it is often described as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. The train ride is quite expensive, but I just don’t want to miss it. You have to decide for yourself whether you want to spend the money on it or not. Eventually, you can buy a one-way ticket to Myrdal and return to Flåm by bike or by foot (the distance is about 20 kilometers).
HIKING TIP. In Bakka, a small hamlet alongside the Nærøyfjord, you’re back isolated from the tourist crowds. A rocky pathway splits off the paved road, leading to the Rimstigen viewpoint located 725 m above the Nærøyfjord. The pathway is only 2-3 kilometers long, but is really steep and because of that, quite demanding. Generally, it will take about 2 hours to reach the viewpoint. On your way up, you will also see the Tuftefossen waterfall.
Folgefonna National Park
If you want to experience an adventurous hiking day in Norway, you should definitely visit the Folgefonna national park in the west of the country. The whole area is dominated by glaciers, offering visitors unique and dramatic sceneries. One of the entrances to the Folgefonna national park is the paying parking lot in Buar, near Odda (price is 185 NOK). From there on, you can hike all the way up to the foot of the Buarbreen glacier. Prepare yourself for a spectacular hike, involving ladders and ropes (climbing material isn’t necessary though). I can imagine it’s a fun thing to do when you’re travelling with (some older) kids too.
Please note that it is absolutely forbidden to step on the glacier. You can book guided glacier tours if you want to do so. Another hiking trail starting from the parking lot in Buar is the one to the Reinanuten viewpoint, offering an extensive view over the large ice masses.
My husband and I both live and work close to Brussels, which means the big city life is never far away. That’s why we mainly want to focus on nature during our roadtrip through Sweden and Norway and we haven’t included cities like Oslo and Bergen in our travel program. Kristiansand, a city located on the southern coast of Norway, is an exception though. Here, we will take the ferry to go back to Denmark. As the Fjord Line ferry leaves in the afternoon, we have some time left in the morning to explore the city itself. Make sure to take a walk through Posebyen, Kristiansand’s old town. Also the old fishing port (fiskebrygga) and the Christiansholm Fortress are popular places to pass by.
Some practical information
- If you want to rent a motorhome, ask yourself some questions to determine which type of vehicle best suits your needs and wishes. How many places to sleep do you need? Crosswise vs lengthwise bed? Camper van vs larger motorhome? We went to the Van Company (in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium) to get professional advice about this and ended up with the Pössl Trenta 640, a compact camper van with a lenth of 6.36 m. Good to know: the campers offered by the Van Company are fully equipped with kitchen essentials and other camping stuff, such as a camping table and chairs, toilet fluid, …
- In Scandinavia, it’s allowed to camp in the wilderniss and to stand free with your motorhome. Of course, you have to make sure you don’t disturb the local residents. Don’t park your camper on private property or at places with a camping ban, for example, and stay at least 150 meters away from houses. We’ve used the Park4night app, which provides a handy overview of campsites.
- In Sweden and Norway, people pay with a local currency (SEK/NOK), not with euros. We had collected money from the bank in advance, but it turned out this wasn’t really necessary. You can pay with your credit card almost everywhere.
This blog post was not sponsored. It is a personal travel story of Isabel, owner of this blog.