Curious to anxious to ecstatic was the progression of the state of my mind as I got closer to the date of my flight to Norway. Read my previous blog for an abbreviated version of my experience in Norway. I was wrapping up my work until the last minute, oblivious to the fact that I was about to embark upon an endearing adventure. The reality hit me only after I saw the city immersed in the snow from up above as we geared up to land in one of the most beautiful Scandinavian countries.
Small cities nestled in the snow-clad mountains, sturdy glaciers, tiny houses on the majestic Fjords, frozen lakes, compelling views, and charming people combined with the glorious sight of Aurora Borealis sums up my unforgettable Norwegian experience. Norway has much more to offer than just the Northern Lights. Here’s a walk through some of my favorite things to do and experiences that you won’t want to miss!
Summer or Winter?
Personally, I think anytime during the year is a good time to visit Norway. I took a winter trip because I wanted to see the Northern Lights and that gave me an opportunity to see a very beautiful side of the country. It’s as lively, people are as active, the city is as lit as I would expect it to be during spring or summer. You will be inspired by seeing the people jog on the snowy footpath, enjoying drinks or dinner and conversation in a local bar while it is below freezing point, and amazed by the restaurants delivering food to your remote place of stay in the freezing weather.
Oslo city on foot
I spent a day exploring the city on foot. I had a late check-in, so I decided to get some coffee and walk around the city. Oslo being the capital is the biggest city in Norway and is more commercialized, fast-paced, has a large number of immigrant population. You can instantly notice the difference if you have visited the other cities in Norway. Storgata street in downtown is a busy street comprising of restaurants, shopping malls, coffee shops, cathedral, and falafels stand. You can spend an entire day exploring the area that also has Vigeland’s sculpture park, Viking ship museum and Akershus Fortress closeby.
Riding the Bergen Railway
Norway in a Nutshell tour was designed by the local experts to give you a true Nordic experience and is one of the most scenic train rides that you could take in the world. Bergen Rail leaves from Oslo station. From Oslo to Myrdal you are just warming up to the panoramic views of the frozen lakes, sturdy mountains laying still in their snowy blankets and endless views of the extensive landscapes. You then catch another train at Myrdal station to Flam for the Fjord cruise. From flam, the view just gets better with frozen waterfalls, tiny houses by the lake and the train riding through the tunnels. You can choose to ride Bergen Railway from Oslo to Bergen non-stop if you are not comfortable lugging around with your bags. Backpacking is the way to go if you are planning on doing this tour. We were dragging our bags from one train to the other and were exhausted by the end of the day, but it was totally worth it!
Cruise through the Fjords in Flam
Flam is a small village in southwestern Norway and is known for its fjords. We gorged on some crumble pie, pistachio cookies, and a hot coffee in Flam bakery while we waited for our Fjord Cruise. As we journeyed through the cruise, the reflection of the mountains in the mirror-calm water was inexplicable. After 2 hrs of what felt like a psychedelic experience, we left for our final destination, Bergen.
Hike Mt Ulriken and enjoy some Waffles with a hot toddy in Baunheyetten
Bergen is nestled between Mt Ulriken and Mt Floyen. We woke up to the beautiful view of the city right outside our hostel(Bergen Hostel, Montana). After a typical breakfast, we left for our hike to Mt Ulriken. Montana being a small town, people here hike the Baunheytten point on the mountain on weekends to enjoy some hot waffles and socialize with people from around the city/different countries. We succumbed to the temptation of pancakes, toddy and an opportunity to interact with the locals. The hike was small (2KM one way) but steep as hell. Hiking through the snow made the experience enjoyable and we were surprised with countless views of the city on our way. It took us an hour to get to the point after which we were welcomed into the tiny little warm cabin. One of the locals suggested we slide down on our way back, which sounded like a great idea. They gave us some of their unused trash bags that we hopped into and started sliding our way back. It was the scariest yet the most fun ride ever.
Wander the streets of Bergen
You haven’t truly experienced Bergen if you haven’t wandered the streets. Walk around the city center to see the UNESCO buildings, shop from the souvenir stores here, take a walk through the maze-like alleyways behind the buildings and grab some dinner at Lokalt and Lekkert. After you have satisfied your hunger, explore the cobbled streets brimming with quirky cafes serving some really amazing coffee, art galleries, record stores, restaurants, speakeasy bars, graffiti walls and artistic houses.
Soak in the sanctity of Tromso
Tromso became my instant favorite. Famously known as the Paris of the North, it’s a small city wrapped in snow, embellished with old wooden houses spread over the island looking absolutely pristine. As you approach Tromso, the sight of a small frozen land and glaciers surrounded by water is bewildering at first but as soon as you step out of the airport you feel like you are in the Garden of Eden. It definitely felt like nirvana, but the unforgiving weather snapped us out of it :p
Dog sledding in Tromso
We decided to go for Dog sledding on our second day. I was scared to drive the sled at first and wasn’t very sure if I could control the dogs despite very precise instructions. One of my friends who I was sledding with, motivated me into doing it. I went for it after a lot of persuasion and I am glad that I did. Sledding up and down through the slopes in between the mountains, through the dormant trees was a gripping experience and something that I would recommend everyone to try!
Sunset from Tromso Bridge
Tromso Bridge is one of the famous landmarks in the area and connects the city center on one side and Tromsdalen Mainland on the other. One evening after we were done with window shopping in the city center, I decided to take a walk on the bridge unaware of the fact that I would be surprised with a gorgeous sight of the sunset. I stood there and watched the setting sun create a magical streak of glittering light across the water.
Cable car ride to Mt Fjellheisen
Mt Fjellheisen is THE spot for a comprehensive view of the island. You could either take a cable car ride or hike the mountain. The cable car will cost you 190 NOK whereas a hike will cost you an hour of your time. Either way, the outcome is the most amazing view of the city and the Northern Lights. When you are done soaking every bit of it, warm up to some food, coffee or drinks in the cozy Fjellstua restaurant on the mountain. Their Baileys and Kahlua coffee was an absolute delight!
Northern Lights, It’s not really a chase!
As soon as we stepped outside the car in an open space that looked like a parking lot we could meagerly see the lights, which very soon painted the sky with vibrant colors. That’s how our magical night of witnessing this phenomenon commenced. We sat around the bonfire while the Northern Lights danced above us. It felt like exactly how I imagined, it left us with the feeling of ultimate gratification. We were staying in Tromso Camping at the foot of Mt Fjellheisen which is slightly away from the city lights. As we sat in our cabin, drinking on our last day in Tromso, we were distracted by the Northern Lights inviting us to join its own party! Twice in a day, we couldn’t get enough of it. As it was Spring equinox, March proved to be a perfect time to see the Northern lights.
For me, winter feels like a mystery, where you can feel the structure of the landscape and the loneliness of it. There’s an excitement in the calmness as it wraps its snowy arms around everything visible by the naked eye, but the whole story doesn’t show. Breaking the monotony and stepping out of your comfort zone opens a door to unexplored possibilities. The outcome is getting one step closer to knowing yourself better. Exploring this snow-covered paradise helped me in recognizing the uncharted love for winter. It’s definitely one of the places I would love to come back to.