Now that our 6-week Norwegian adventure has come to an end it’s time to review our Norway bucket list. Are you planning on traveling to the land of rugged cliffs and thundering waterfalls anytime soon? (Yes, go, go, GO!!!!) Then you might find some inspiration in this list of things every nature enthusiast traveling to the north must absolutely try during their stay in this magical wild land!
- Visit Norway’s fjords
If you’d ask us, there’s only one way to go when in Norway: West! Norway’s coastline, formed by the forces of the glacier era long, long ago, has a wild beauty to it that’s hard to compete with. Mountains filled with pine and fern, alternated by patches of steep bare rock where boulders have given way to erosion and gravity, ending in a sea that may be emerald or a dark grey – depending on the skies overhead.
Traveling Norway’s fjords most of the time means to be stuck on a narrow road with a rocky slope to your left and a river-like sea to your right. And while this might make travel a little hazardous at times when driving a 2,5m wide vehicle like our Brutus, a drive along Norway’s coast guarantees spectacular views for the entire trip!When you’re in a rush to get from A to B, though, this environment is not for you. Driving fifty kilometers around a fjord to get to the nearest supermarket is no exception, and when on a budget extra care should be taken to avoid expensive ferry transits or toll tunnels. But really, why would anyone be in a rush to speed through such a magnificent landscape?
- Explore a mountain plateau
While you’re at it driving west, chances are you will cross one of these bad boys. Whether it’s the infamous Hardangervidda or the highlands of Oppland, you might want to stop for a bit to soak in these alien surroundings. Views of rock, brush and ice literally go as far as the eye can see,
accompanied by blazing winds and a desolate stillness (if not interrupted by the dozen other campers that are looking to experience that northern highland feel).Mountain plateaus are the perfect place to hike off trail relatively safe and easy. There’s no worrying about ravines or getting squashed by loose boulders and you’ll see a bear coming at you from miles away. (Yes folks, Scandinavia is a dangerous place for the ignorant and stupid… Or maybe just for everyone; wild nature tends to have that raw edge of riskiness).But seriously, hiking highlands is a piece of cake compared to off-roading in other places, so if you’re up for some off-trail fun you might as well try it here!
- Waterfall showers
Combine melting glaciers and a shit ton of rain, and you get a vast amount of water collecting in those mountains that has really only one way to go: down. Time and time again we have been amazed by the enormous amounts of water that relentlessly rush down to reunite with the sea down below. Gigantic mountain lakes are constantly being refreshed – a waterfall filling it at one end and spilling over a cliff at the other. Still waters can turn into a rumbling mass of white spray over the stretch of less than a meter. You wouldn’t want to be flushed down with one of these but what you DO want… is for them to flush down on you! There’s no rain showerhead or day at the spa that can compete with the thrill of washing away a day of sweat and dirt (yes, let’s just keep pretending we actually shower daily (or read the ugly truth about RVlife here)) under a beautiful waterfall. Cause that’s the thing with waterfalls; have you ever seen an ugly one…?!
- Drink glacier water
All that water making its way down in creeks and streams and rivers and waterfalls partially has its origin on one of Norway’s many glaciers. Even though nearly all water sources here are very clean and perfectly drinkable, having a taste of pure glacier water sure is worth the hike. Ice cold, rich in minerals and a taste better than a bottle of Evian! Plus, come to think of it, you’re drinking water that has been frozen for decades, if not centuries. Isn’t that cool?
- Hike above the clouds
Crossing this one off should be easy when going for that sip of glacier water. Taken into account Norway’s foggy days with clouds hanging just above sea level, it could be real easy to cheat on this one, but that would be cheating yourself out of an awesome experience. Norway’s mountain ridges in southern and central areas are relatively low ( often below 2000 metres in height), but that doesn’t mean the view is any less spectacular. Maybe it’s because the surrounding peaks approximate the same height, maybe it’s the outsight on snowy caps and outstretched glaciers. I’m not sure where the magic happens but we’ve never had such majestic views as we did at the edge of the Grovabreen glacier, looking out over countless mountaintops in a million hues of blue and grey.
- Catch your own meal
To be able to (legally) fish in lakes and rivers throughout Scandinavia one needs a fishing permit – or actually a few dozen of them, because each district has their own and many waters are private property. But the sea is free for all to fish in, and luckily Norway’s fjords are filled with life! Foraging for seafood we’ve found crab, starfish, whelks, limpets, mussels and a ton of seaweed. I named the crab Fred, after which we bonded and I saw no other option than to set him free, the mussels turned out to be inedible for the wonderful reason they where full of pearls, and the seaweed…. well, try googling for ‘edible seaweed’ and let me know if you find the perfect manual! The whelks were delicious though, and we enjoyed several meals of very fresh mackerel, sea trout, cod, pollack and coalfish. Norway’s fjords are a fisher’s paradise!
- Moose spotting
When we were road tripping Scandinavia two years ago during our honeymoon we promised ourselves we would get one of those cheesy moose bumper stickers once we had spotted one for real, and only then! However much we squinted our eyes – scanning dense forest for a shadow of something big, we saw no such thing the entire trip and had to make do with a huge ass paw print in the mud. And then this year, right after we passed the Norwegian border: a moose casually crossing the road! Moose aren’t the prettiest of creatures -we’ve spotted a wolf and a fox that were honestly a lot more enticing to look at- but they are BIG as hell so kind of majestic. And they earn you a sticker.
- Whale spotting
You don’t have to go all the way north to spot whales and seals and puffins. Or at least so we have been told. While we did see a pod of dolphins swimming up and down the Hjorundfjorden in Bjorke, that’s about as exotic as it gets regarding our experiences with sea creatures.
Or is it? At that very same spot we saw a tremendously large shadow underneath the surface creating sets of waves rolling across the sea. Maybe it was just the wind and a deceitful shade of light. Or maybe we did see an orca whale after all? All we can say is this: carve out some time to sit and stare at the sea. You might be surprised of what wild encounters will enfold!
- Collecting herbs and berries
The west coast of Norway has a rich mix of landscapes, ranging from sandy and rocky beaches to green valleys hugged in by mossy mountain slopes filled with pine and deciduous forest, ending in bare peaks and bushy highlands. Due to this variety in environment, many different plants have their habitat in each layer of the landscape. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries grow in abundance, as well as red currants and blueberries. We encourage you to take a plant encyclopedia of some form with you, to identify all the different kinds of herbs, mushrooms and fruits that are suitable for consumption. We’ve found plenty and dried some to use in teas or for medicinal purposes, but also baked some pretty tasty cakes and cookies, like this red currant pie!
- Do something touristy
Like buying a moose bumper sticker. If you want to go all in tourist-crazy, I’d recommend the one with two of them that are -as I heard some UK women say- ‘doing the nasty’. Real classy!
You could also opt to visit one of Norway’s most Instagram worthy landmarks, like casually dangling your legs off the edge of Trolltunga (actually being pretty close to Odda, but we opted for a much more desolate hike here to Fossasetevatnet – paradise on earth!).
It may be clear we are no fans of collective walks on worn out paths. As tends to happen with beautiful places, once they get known to a broader public, the endless stream of admirers will often put a place at risk to literally be loved to death. Nature may be tough, but for us this is where the magic ends.
Having said all that, some places simply need visiting. So, every once in a while, we fall for a well written brochure promising us the most beautiful hike with breathtaking scenery (like… literally). For Norway, this was Husedalen valley with its breathtakingly beautiful – yes, it has to be acknowledged! – series of waterfalls.
Crowded places mostly have a good reason to be just that. So, have your pick of any well-known hikes and sites – they are probably all beautiful – but don’t forget to also wander where nature’s still wild. You won’t regret it!
- Dance in the rainYes I know, we all love sunshine and blue skies. But trust us when we say you haven’t experienced Norway fully if you didn’t go on a rainy hike. Or have seen the fjords turn dark grey. Or complete mountains disappear in fog. The weather in Norway can be both unpredictable and very location dependent, and that is exactly the charm of a wild country like this. It adds a little raw edge and that feeling of being at the mercy of natural forces so much bigger than us tiny humans. Don’t worry though, Norway is absolutely stunning rain OR shine!
- Survive a Norwegian winter
As for ‘experiencing Norway fully’, we would absolutely love to see this landscape covered in snow and ice someday. In winter time the days are short and the nights are long, if not infinite. Lakes and rivers and waterfalls frozen, a blanket of snow covering all that once was green. Temperatures can drop to as low as -20°C, but as the Nores say; there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. You must be some kind of tough to survive here year-round and we are opting for a warmer place this year, but oh man, what a sight it must be…
If we haven’t convinced you yet; Norway is absolutely awesome and should no doubt go on your travel bucket list. There’s something about this country that opens your eyes to how wild the earth still is in some places. How pieces of nature untouched by the hand of men have a certain magic to it, nurturing the soul and touching a primal force within you that no other place will.
As for us, we will definitely return to complete that bucket list!