Camping. Cruise. Backpacking. Hostels. Hiking. Road-trip. Airline losing your bag. Missing international flight.
That pretty much sums up my 2 weeks in Scandinavia. I think that post this trip, I went from level 3 to level 15 in travel experience. I spent a night in a cruise, a train, a railway platform and an airport. I missed a flight and an airline misplaced my bag. I did an awesome road-trip with friends and I backpacked solo. And oh! I spent my birthday hiking.
I visited Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland) and Estonia during the summer of 2015. The plan was to spend the initial few days in Norway with my friends and then continue the rest of the trip solo. My rough itinerary was: 6-7 days in Norway (I was recommended to spend most of the time in Norway- it’s gorgeous wherever you go), 1-2 days in Helsinki, 1-2 days in Stockholm and fly out from Copenhagen. So basically, it was more of a Norway trip with some time through other Scandinavian capital cities.
Norway is beautiful. Period. You are treated to amazing views. Just everywhere. Norway is known for spectacular fjords. As a quick guide, some of the famous fjords (from north to south) are- Geirangerfjord, Sognefjord, Hardangerfjord (Trolltunga hike), Lysefjord (the famous pulpit rock hike and Kjeragboltn hike). The views also change as you move from north to south with increasing greenery in the southern fjords during the summer.
I landed in Oslo and was picked up by my friends to head out to Sognefjord (we didn’t have a defined plan and were in the true road trip spirit). We passed through some truly surrealistic places (I felt like I was transported to another planet) and ended up getting a cabin near Gudvangen (a city near Sognefjord). Waking up to lush green view, we headed to Stalheim to visit a waterfall. From Stalheim, we went to Gudvangen which is on the shore of the fjord.
From Gudvangen, there were 2 ferries we could take- a short one to Flam and a 3 hr ferry to somewhere up north (I think near Leikanger). All ferries in Norway have the capacity to transport vehicles along with the people. We took the long ride starting from Gudvangen which has the narrowest fjord in the world innovatively named Naeroyfjord. The visual treats continued throughout the journey. After disembarking, we continued our trip in search of a camp ground and finally pitched our tent in front of a spectacular view.
We passed over Vik, a small town with photogenic views, the next morning and spent another night at another campground. The next day, it was time to say goodbye to my friends and end my road trip. I left for Bergen from Gudvangen via train. Bergen is the second largest city in Norway after Oslo. However, Bergen was just my stop-over as my final destination was Stavanger. There are buses from Bergen that go to Stavanger. From Stavanger, I wanted to do 2 hikes- Preikestolen (Pulpit rock hike and one of the most popular hikes in Norway) and Kjeragbolten.
I left Norway taking a flight from Stavanger to Helsinki. The next phase of my journey was through the Scandinavian capitals of Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen. Each city was unique in its own way and very pretty. From Helsinki, there was a 1 hr ferry ride to Talinn, capital of Estonia that is starkly cheaper than the Scandinavian countries. I saw people traveling to Talinn from Helsinki for the sole purpose of partying and bringing craters of alcohol back. I made a day trip to Talinn and I found it to have more character than Helsinki. I also made a wonderful friend who showed me around the old town and some local cuisine.
After spending a couple more days in Helsinki, I took an overnight cruise to Stockholm. Even for a last minute, weekend booking, I got a sea-view cabin for ~200 Euros. Given this was my first cruise, I felt like I stepped into Titanic 🙂
Stockholm is probably the prettiest city among the Scandinavian capitals. The charming old town (Gamla stan) standing in contrast to the modern skyscrapers, the waterways and the architecture together created a dream city. Also given that Stockholm is one of the top innovation hubs in the world, this city ranks among the top in my list to live in 🙂
I headed to Copenhagen- my final destination for the trip via an overnight train. Weirdly, this little mermaid appeared to be the most popular and photographed site. I am still trying to figure out the reason.
I couldn’t spend much time in Copenhagen as work was calling but I had a truly fun Scandinavian trip. Given its cost, you won’t find many hostels or the usual student crowd you expect in Eurotrips. The high quality of life is fairly visible and don’t expect stores or restaurants to be open beyond 6-8 pm. Grab your food and supplies during the day 🙂 I hope you do find the time to visit the land of vikings.