Traveller's Guide: Coastal Norway

In the first of our four-part series on Nordic escapes, produced in association with Lonely Planet, Miles Roddis follows the fjords

In many ways Norway is its coastline. If you were to follow its every crinkle and crease, you would cover some 15,000 miles from the lighthouse at Lindesnes Fyr, the country's most southerly point, all the way up to North Cape, mainland Europe's most northerly point, as far as Kirkenes, which nudges the frontier with Russia. Above the Arctic Circle, it's daylight around the clock at the moment, and the coastal lands look their best, basking in the brief northern summer.

Like Sir Antony Gormley's splendid Havmannen (Man of the Sea) statue, for ever up to its knees in water off Mo i Rana, the people of Norway have long looked to the sea. For many living in the north, a boat journey was until recently the most convenient – often the only – means of travel. And for centuries before salmon farming became a major source of national wealth, the sea brought sustenance from the bountiful shoals of herring and, especially, cod, which was exported to Catholic Mediterranean countries in the form of bacalao, dried and salted. Much later, thanks to smart mid-19th century marketing, cod-liver oil became the natural cold antidote of choice.

Shrimps, halibut and Arctic char, hauled from the coastal seas of the far north, counterbalance the Norwegians' eccentric passion for hot dogs that are available everywhere and dressed with lashings of tomato sauce and mustard. For guaranteed gastronomic delight in Oslo, indulge yourself with the Chef's Menu (NOK900/£90) at Feinschmecker (00 47 22 12 93 80; More modestly, the menu at Bergen's Pingvinen (00 47 55 60 46 46; is rich in traditional Norwegian dishes (dinner around NOK500/£50).

The sea laps at the waterfront of every one of the country's few cities (only six have more than 100,000 inhabitants), including Oslo. In addition to its top restaurants, Norway's laid-back capital has galleries and museums that compete with Europe's best and – rare in many Norwegian cities – an animated nightlife.

Norway nowadays faces out to sea for a different reason – to the offshore rigs that pump oil and gas, the source of Norway's exceptional wealth. But, if you discount Stavanger, and Hammerfest, the latest, gas-fuelled boom town, you're rarely aware of such industry.

The southern beaches attract Norwegian holidaymakers by the thousand, but the season is short and early. Regional centres such as Bergen, Trondheim, Alesund and Tromso, are rarely crowded and a delight to stroll around. Leave them behind and, chances are, you'll drive for miles without seeing another vehicle.

For many, Norway means "fjords". The sheer loveliness of these deeply incised inlets, often bordered by sheer cliffs, usually as calm as any lake and sparsely populated, takes the breath away. The western fjords are stunning, but they are almost matched for beauty – and surpassed in solitude – by the islands scattered along the coast from north of Trondheim to Bodo, north of the Arctic Circle. If you want to cover much of this vast coastline, a car is essential. For an active holiday exploring a small area, the coast is ideal for cycling and many tourist offices rent out bikes and cycle equipment.

Nordic Visitor (0800 066 4730; offers a 10-day self-drive "Majestic Highlights of Norway" package from £1,063pp including car hire and accommodation, but not flights. Nordic Experience (01206 708 888; also has self-drive packages, including an 11-day "Three Fjord Odyssey" for £1,995pp, which includes car hire, accommodation and flights from Gatwick to Bergen (return from Alesund).

Coastal Route

More than 12,000 low islands, skerries and islets stipple the sea beside Norway's Kystriksveien, or Coastal Route, 390 miles of breathtaking scenery between Namsos and Bodo. Most travellers heading for the North Cape and Norway's far north dash up the Arctic Highway (E6). Those who like to linger hug the coast, detour to an island or two and short-cut with a couple of relaxing ferry- or express boat-rides across fjords or between islands. There's little land-based public transport outside the school year so you'll need your own car or, for true independence, a bike.

Highlights include the vast Svartisen glacier, which sweeps almost to the shore, Saltstraumen, reputed to be the world's most vigorous whirlpool, and the remote island of Vega, just south of the Arctic Circle. At this Unesco World Heritage site, women still harvest down from the breasts of migratory eider ducks for confecting the softest of quilts. For an excellent online planning resource, consult


By far the most convenient way to travel along coastal Norway is aboard the Hurtigruten coastal ferry, whether for a short hop or by taking a mini-cruise. Hurtigruten (020 3393 4057;, literally, "the fast route", is a wonderful, flexible way to explore. This unique fleet of passenger-cum-freight ships first sailed more than a century ago. Then, its main function was to supply small coastal towns and villages that had no other access. Nowadays, tourists provide most of the passengers.

Year round, 11 ships work their way up and down the coast from Bergen to Kirkenes, beside the Barents Sea, six days' sailing and more than 1,500 miles away. They offer a daily service to more than 30 ports.

In summer, one-way travel from Bergen to Kirkenes costs from NOK11,855 (£1,189), and Bergen-Trondheim from NOK3,360 (£336), both with cabin (you're obliged to take a cabin if you're on board overnight). Winter sailings – with the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights – can cost less than half these rates.

The fjords

The city of Bergen (00 47 5555 2010; with its timber-clad dwellings, steep cobbled streets, museums and galleries, itself merits a couple of days. It's also perfectly positioned for exploring Norway's western, most sensational fjords. Sognefjord, Norway's deepest and the world's longest ice-free fjord, slashes far inland. From its eastern end, shoot the slim, groomed fingers of Aurlandsfjord and Naeroyfjord, smaller but equally spectacular.

Fjord Tours (00 47 815 68 222; runs a "Norway in a Nutshell" trip from NOK1,145 (£115), a one-day tour by coach, train (including the dramatic Flam mountain railway), and boat along Naeroyfjord. It also organises a similar tour to Hardangerfjord, south of Bergen. Further north, you can do your own thing and take the regular commercial ferry from Geiranger to Hellesylt for NOK160 per person (£16) or NOK320 (£32) per car including driver to cruise beneath the spurting waterfalls and sheer cliffs that tower over Geirangerfjord.

Atlantic Ocean Road

Every one of the 48 miles of coastal road connecting the cities of Molde and Kristiansund is spectacular. But the mere five miles that constitute the Atlantic Ocean Road will leave you gasping. Here, as the ocean breezes buffet, eight steep, sinuous bridges link the lonely islets beneath. Bucking and curving like sea serpents, they're perhaps at their best when autumn storms rage while the waves pound and boil beneath. From their heights, fisherfolk dangle a speculative line, hoping to haul in a fat cod and cheat the seals that, in season, gambol in the waters below. Elsewhere, cyclists catch their breath and motorists enjoy a photoshoot at the route's four panoramic lay-bys. You can choose either Molde or Kristiansund, both active fishing communities, as your base. More attractively, make your starting point the bijou Art Nouveau town of Alesund, 44 miles south of Molde.

Travel essentials

Staying there

In Bergen, Det Hanseatiske Hotel (00 47 55 30 48 00;, in a wharf-side, former trading house, has doubles from NOK1,490 (£149) B&B. Preserving much of the original timber, it's an appealing blend of the historic and contemporary.

Alesund's boutique Hotel Brosundet (00 47 70 11 45 00;, is a sensitively converted ex-warehouse. Wood abounds and bedrooms are large, comfortable and tastefully furnished. Doubles start at NOK1,330 (£133).

In Molde, Rica Seilet Hotel (00 47 71 11 40 00; juts out into the sound like a huge silver sail. Bedrooms all have large picture windows and views are ever more spectacular the higher you go. Doubles including breakfast start at NOK1,245 (£125).

Getting there

Norwegian (0843 3780 888; flies from Gatwick to Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and Stavanger. SAS (0871 226 7760; and BA (0844 493 0787; fly to Oslo from Heathrow. EasyJet (0843 104 5000; flies from Gatwick to Bergen, and Ryanair (0871 246 0000; from Stansted to Haugesund. P&O (0843 374 0111;, Fred Olsen (01473 742 424; and Saga (0800 096 0074; offer cruises of coastal Norway.

More information

Lonely Planet's guide to Norway (fifth edition) costs £13.99 and is available at

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Guru Careers: Brand Manager / Marketing Campaign Manager

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Brand Manager / Marketing Campaign Manager is req...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future