Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.

Norway: Land of Mountain & Fjord

Kjøsnesfjorden, Jølstravatn, Jølster, Sogn og Fjordane, Sunnfjord, Norway

The trigger for my creation of this collection of places to look on the web for information of places to explore in Norway was a leaflet that came inserted in a walking magazine from a while ago that I recently found again. That brochure was aiming to sell Norway as a walking wonderland and subsequent investigations have revealed it to be much more than that again.

Any brochure or website trying to lure visitors to the area being promoted will have glossy photos showing the best side of what is on offer but there seems to be an embarrassment of riches in Norway's case and enormous variety too. In fact, there's enough to keep one going for a lifetime and I have found that just reading about it all just eats up hour after hour.

Norway very rightly is highly regarded for its buckled countryside and indented coastline. The latter is so intricate that it makes Scotland's Atlantic coast look simple in comparison while the former dwarfs that home nation's hillier parts.

For a long time, I had left Norway unvisited but that changed during a long weekend in August 2016 when I got to spend some time around Oslo and Bergen. There was a long train ride between both cities too as well as a walk around both together with a hike around Bergen's nearby hills.

That only scratched the surface and the trip could have done with an extra day around Oslo and another one around Bergen. Other possibilities like Lysefjord near Stavanger and the Lofoten Islands beckon too. What you see from what you find below is that even those delights are just a tiny fraction of what is to be found there.

Explore Before You Go

While web searches can reveal accommodation providers like Top of Norway, Sitla Hotel, Kliningberg Hotel, or Bessegen, there always is a place for a more general survey and that is where these websites have a role. Be aware that there is plenty to peruse here and most have English language versions while those that do not can be made useful using a web translation service like Google Translate. You can read guidebooks and magazine feature articles too but these should help get things booked and organised.

Visit Norway

When learning more about a country that is new to you, there is a need to start somewhere and this looks like a good port of call for getting to know the place. You'll find the usual needs satisfied such as places to see, things to do, places to stay and getting about. Given its comprehensive nature, you could find yourself spending quite some time here.

Visit Oslo

Possibly the first place that many will visit on a first trip to another country is its capital city and I must admit to doing this on a few occasions. One thing that I have discovered about Oslo is that it has lakes and woods aplenty on its northern doorstep and Oslo Fjord is on its southern one, complete with a variety of islands. There are other attractions too but these make a good start for planning a stroll about the place.

Norwegian Trekking Association

This apparently is Norway's largest outdoor activities organisation and is now into its third calendar century. As well as sharing useful information on the practicalities of exploring Norwegian countryside, the organisation also runs cabins where you can stay overnight and offers guided treks. They also have a number of subsites like that for Lysefjord hiking or Preikestolen Mountain Lodge so their usefulness cannot overstated. Becoming a member adds advantages when it comes to making use of their many facilities.

Environment

Along with the usual environmental management matters, you will also find mention of outdoor activities and that is how it makes this list. Useful information includes details of Norway's generous countryside access laws for activities such as walking. Hunting features too though there has been a shift away from that in recent years.

The word "fjell"should possess a certain ring of familiarity to any visitor to Cumbria and other parts of the north of England where many a hill is called a fell. That's no accident because the English word came from Old Norse in a time when the "Northmen" were all over the area. So, these websites are promoting many of Norway's high places and height is the operative term because we are talking about altitudes much in excess of anything in Britain and Ireland. After all, summits do exceed 2000 metres above sea level over there. The first entry on the list is the hub of a network that includes the others that follow it.

Given that the country gave the word "fjord" to the world, you'd expect it to have some of its own and there are loads by the looks of things. It almost feels as if it has as many them as Scotland has islands though the reality is that there may even be more than that again. Correspondingly, there are many websites promoting their respective attractions so I decided to bundle them together and the majority are part of a network with the first on list as its hub.

Trøndelag

One look at the website should be enough to convince you that they aren't trying to attract passive tourists who pass through admiring the sights. Words like active and involvement appear in the spiel. This is Norway's geographical midpoint and there are seven national parks nearby. Between all that, there should be enough to do.

Heading to the north of Norway takes you into the Arctic Circle where the midnight sun and northern lights are phenomena that are part of the area's identity. It's not all ice-covered frozen wilderness because the influence of the Gulf Stream is still to be felt even at these latitudes. That may also explain the existence of the indigenous Sami and their reindeer herds too. Still, there are parts that feel like outpost bathed in cold blue light with stark stony scenery surrounding them. Those icy fastnesses are there too but it all sounds to me like a land of striking contrasts.

Travel Planning

In some areas, there is a finer line between public transport and tourist excursion services than in others. That comment applies especially to ferry operators but bus, coach and train companies can be involved too as you should find on the Fjord Tours or Norway Green Tours websites. An ever growing selection of these can be found in this listing so you can decide when to forsake the use of a car when exploring some stunning countryside.

Such is its length and its topography that internal air travel is a necessity for getting around Norway during a short stay. It is when you see the journey times of express coach and train services that you realise exactly how long this narrow country stretches. Overnight travel abounds together with all day journeys.

Norwegian

This low fares airline has been around since the early 1990's when it started operating domestic flights in the west of the country. They still operate domestic flights in Norway today and their network now includes destinations around Europe with Manchester, my nearest airport, being among them.

Widerøe

While the company operates some flights from Aberdeen, Copenhagen and Gothenburg (Sweden), Norwegian domestic flights mainly are its lot. Though there have been some service reductions like the dropping of the Newcastle to Stavanger route, the number of destinations extending along the length of Norway is impressive and worth knowing for they get you near a variety of fjords and into the north of the country where you find delights like the Lofoten islands.

Avinor

This is the operator of many if not all of Norway's airports and the country's domestic air travel network is vital because of its geography; a narrow mountainous profile is not one that is that easy to get around by land. For instance, it easier to fly between Bergen and Stavanger than get between them by land or sea and travel times between Bergen and Oslo are so much reduced. Usefully, each airport gets its own section of the website with departure and arrival times listed along with other information on practicalities.

Flybussen.no

It is all very well to have a good air travel network but you first need to get to airport. While Oslo's Gardermoen airport gets a train service and Bergen is supposed to get linked to the city's tram network in 2017, buses and taxis are an option that works for these and other airports. As it happens, Flybussen serve both Oslo and Bergen as well as Arendal, Bardufoss, Harstad, Haugesund, Narvik, Sortland, Stavanger, Tromsø and Trondheim. Tickets can be booked via the website so this is not just about getting timetable information, useful though that is, and you can buy tickets on the buses if you want.

NOR-WAY Bussekspress

This express coach operator has a network that extends across Norway that includes Kystbussen, a regular service between Bergen and Stavanger that both hugs the coastline and makes use of ferry crossings as it does so. That is not its only service for quite a few start out from Oslo and there is one that runs overnight between Bergen and Trondheim.

In Norway, many bus companies not only run normal scheduled bus and coach services but also have special services for tourists. That is reflected in the list that you see here and is very apparent from the websites of Boreal, Pelle's Reiser and Tide. The first of these even has a satellite website called Pulpit Rock Tours so you can see how important sightseers and hikers are to their respective businesses. What you will notice is a tendency for tourist services to be heavily promoted while details of normal bus services are left to contracting county councils so these are included on the list too.

NSB

Norway's state railway company runs trains over tracks owned and maintained by another state company, Bane NOR. As well as serving commuter routes as well as linking Oslo's Gardermoen airport with the city that it serves, their trains also pass through some pretty stunning countryside.

Given that journey times can be lengthy in comparison with air travel times, it is just as well that the countryside is attractive. For instance, you can fly from Oslo to Bergen in around an hour while the train takes six to seven hours to do the same journey. However, it is what you see out the train window that is the attraction here and getting enjoy to so much scenery at one sitting cannot be overlooked. Day tours offer other possibilities and there are a number of options along the railway between Oslo, Myrdal, Voss and Bergen from which to choose.

Hurtigruten

The mainstay of this shipping firm's operations are sailings along Norway's coastline between Bergen and Kirkenes. That allows for opportunities to sample Norway's indented coastline that include a cruise lasting twelve days and there are shorter possibilities than that, depending on where you are based. Their excursions also cover other polar locations like Iceland, Greenland, Spitsbergen and even Antarctica. If you wish to sample a lot scenery in a more relaxing way, then this could be an enticing possibility.

Such is the nature of Norway's coastline that ferry companies abound and they share another characteristic with their bus operating counterparts. They too provide additional services for tourists and it is these that you may see prominently displayed on website home pages. Fjord cruises and other similar types of excursions are on offer. It means that many of their more regular services see you being directing to contracting county councils for information, much like what bus companies also do.

Rutebok.no

This Norway's counterpart to Britain's Traveline so that makes it a good port of call for multi-modal travel planning. Naturally, there is an associated app too for when you are out and about while on a visit to the country.

Each of these organisations manages public transport around their particular area. Some of them include that information within their own names while others are not so obvious. For instance, Kolumbus serves Stavanger and other parts of Rogaland while Skyss is the counterpart for Bergen and other parts of Hordaland. Oslo and Akershus are served by Ruter so this too gets its place on the list.

Part of their remit naturally is the provision of public transport information so there are journey planners and real time trackers on websites. The modes include buses, trams, trains and ferries so timetable information and route maps are part of the offer. The matter of tickets and travelcards also appears and there are helpful smartphone apps to be found. Transport information is available by phone too and 177 is the number for this.