Norway’s beautiful fjords are the things of legends! They, are reason in themselves alone, to visit this amazing country yet this being said, Norway is about so much more than its stunning fjords. There’s so much history, culture and a whole range of other idyllic natural sights worth seeing in Norway and one of the best ways to see truly experience all of this is by slowly visiting its West Coast.
The West Coast of course is home to the fjords so you can tick those off your list but it’s also home to some of the most scenic drives and train routes in the world. To that end, after multiple trips back to Norway’s ruggest West Coast, we’ve finally pulled together this 9 day itinerary for experiencing some of the best of Norway.
Also, you might be wondering – why 9 days? There’s reason behind this. If you plan your holidays from work very well, you can end up with not just the 5 days during the week off but the 4 days on either side of the week, leaving you with 9 day for your holidays and more time to see Norway properly (if, however, you don’t have 9 days and have just 1 week instead – start at Day 3…)
Here’s our 9 day itinerary for exploring Norway’s West Coast!
Fly into Stavanger. Depending on time you fly and arrive into the city, take some time to explore Stavanger. It’s a fairly compact city and is easily walkable so you should be able to see this in very little time.
Stay: Scandic Stavanger City Hotel (which, as the name suggests, is right in the city centre). It’s very central, new and within easy reach of the ferry stops which you’ll need to explore the fjords.
Early Morning: Take a cruise or a RIB boat tour through the Lysefjord. There are benefits to both – the cruise is slower and more structures which allows for better photos. The Rib is faster and more of a maverick experience (even though there is generally a defined route) – this of course gives you the chance to explore bits that you’d otherwise miss on the cruise. Whichever one you choose, you’ll be fine though as they both offer fantastic views of the fjords.
Late Afternoon (or Early evening in summer time): Hike up to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock). The hike isn’t too hard (I did it and I’m not much of a hiker so I’m pretty sure almost anyone can). The view of the Lysefjord from up here is spectacular and the rock itself is one Norwegian wonder that definitely needs to be seen.
Pick up a rental car and drive to Bergen. This is your big driving day but fret not, there’s A LOT of beautiful sights to see on this drive. The drive takes over 4 – 5 hours.
If you decide to start your journey in Bergen i.e. you skipped Stavanger, from the airport, take the airport bus to Festplassen. Your hotel (see below) will be about 5 minutes walk from this bus stop. You won’t need a car here just yet (that comes tomorrow) though you could get one or even just take a taxi (if you don’t wanna wait around or have enough people in your travelling party).
Once you arrive in Bergen, hit the town! Be sure to visit Bryggen – the amazing UNESCO World Heritage site in the middle of the city!
Also be sure to hike up (or take the funicular) right up to Floyen, especially on time for sunset – the view of the city from up here is amazing and at sunset, it’s nothing short of spectacular!
Stay: Basic Hotel Bergen. Recommended by the official folk at Visit Norway as it has a fantastic location in the city (Bergen is also quite a walkable city) and the hotel is 2 minutes away from lots of restaurants, bars and shops.
Must do: Get yourself a Bergen Card! It gives you free/discounted entrances to attraction, transportation and even discounts at some restaurants (which we used to go to Enhjørningen Fiskerestaurant, the historic fish restaurant in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bryggen in Bergen.
Remember: At some point in the afternoon, buy your tickets at the train station for your journey to Flåm on the amazing Flamsbana train journey.
Get up bring and early for the train journey. Your train is the NSB train going on the Bergen – Oslo line.
Route: Go from Bergen to Myrdal. At Myrdal, change for the train to Flam. (*Be sure to have your camera out for this journey as it’s pretty special!)
Once you’re checked in, take the bus departure to Stegastein viewpoint. This is one of the best view of the amazing Aurlandsfjord and Sognefjord – not to mention the surrounding mountains and dramatic landscape.
Return to Flam and head for lunch in Flåm at Toget Cafe. It’s not a special meal or anything but has a great view, decent food and is a great spot for your next exciting activity!
Go on the Fjord safari. This is done with a rib boat and is the best way to spot the wildlife in the fjord. Of all the Norwegian fjords we’ve visited thus far – this is where we found the most wildlife – we’re talking seals, porpoises… etc The Fjord safari people are based at the harbour and should be relatively easy to spot. Note – you can go quite fast on these boats and so it will get cold which is why you will get thermal suits, gloves… etc provided with your fjord safari trip but it’s definitely recommended to wear warm clothes and shoes under the suit.
Stay: Check in at the Fretheim hotel… it’s the best in the area and one of the most convenient places to be based.
Dinner: Dine at Fretheim Hotel (partly out of laziness but mostly because the food here is actually really good!)
Head over to the Aegir Brewery & Pub – its a fun experience to have in the area and we recommend trying the beer tasting option here!
Spend a morning exploring Flam on foot – this will take you mere minutes – it’s fairly small!
Head back to Bergen. Route is Flam – Myrdal – Bergen. It’s pretty straightforward and the exact reverse of the journey on your way out. Also great for making up for those photos you didn’t get to take on your way out.
Fly to Ålesund. Transfer to the airport. Your Bergen Card gives you free travel on the airport shuttle bus (or you could take a taxi back – up to you).
Arrival Ålesund airport from Bergen. Pick up your rental car – you’ll need it for the next few days. Before going to Alesund town centre, head over to the Alnes Lighthouse. It’s a distraction stop but a much-welcome one as you get to explore pretty little Norwegian villages, with classic Nordic houses, which you’d otherwise have missed.
Dinner: You’ve got lots of choice here so I’ll let you figure this one out. 😉
Stay: Clarion Collection Hotel Bryggen is pretty good and very wallet friendly! You get breakfast, afternoon waffles (not quite lunch but enough to keep hunger at bay) and dinner, all included in your stay. Scandic Hotels is also a pretty good option (we lucked out on a room with an amazing view) alas, this once does not come with meals automatically included.
Visit Fjellstua/Mount Aksla Viewpoint and walk the 418 steps to the top. You’ll be rewarded with the very best view in (and of) Alesund! (If you’re feeling really lazy though – take a taxi to the top and do the walk down instead).
Weather permitting, hop aboard a Wildlife Sea Safari (RIB boat) to the bird island Runde and visit the seal colony. Runde is particularly great because this is home to puffins!
Head for lunch when you come back to Ålesund. Invit Espressobar has some amazing fresh salad (they’re really good) and one knock-your-socks-off chocolate cake that you won’t forget in a hurry.
Visit Atlanterhavsparken – Ålesund Aquarium. If possible, try to make it for the diving show where these gigantic fish pretty much go crazy around the diver feeding them. The fish are actually from the fjords and the aquarium links right into the fjord.
Pop down to the Art Nouveau Centre. When you’re in the area, be sure to pop into Trankokeriet Antikk – the local antiques shop. Even if you’re not into antiques or shopping on your holiday, this place is still gonna be worth your time as you’ll find pretty much everything and anything under the sun here – and at very reasonable prices too (that’s the best part really – there’s no fun in finding something you want, just to realise that its far to expensive – so trust me, this place will keep you very happy indeed).
Late Afternoon/Early Evening:
Go on a walk around Alesund. In what seems to be emerging as a pattern here, Alesund is actually very walkable (even more so than Bergen or Stavanger) so go exploring this picturesque matchbox town and see what delights await you.
General rule of thumb for the next few days:
1. You drive your car onto ferries which act like bridges over fjords, which is a key part of why your road trip is possible across the West coast.
2. Always leave extra time on top of the recommended journey time. On any driving journey or ferry ride, you’ll definitely want to stop to take photos so make sure you have your camera handy too!
3. Don’t stay in your car when crossing, head up to the viewing platform – the view on these crossings are pretty fantastic!
4.) Get yourself a Sat-Nav. It’s fairly easy to navigate the drive but you don’t want to spend valuable sightseeing time on extra driving because you got lost on your way so spare yourself the hassle. You can also download the maps on your phone (sometimes for free) before you leave.
Check out of your hotel. Hop into your car and leave Alesund for Solavågen where you will be catching a ferry to cross the fjords (you can drive your car onto the ferry so . The drive is approximately 30 mins but leave a little time extra just in case you want to stop to take photos.
Take the ferry from Solavågen to Festøy. The ferry runs every 30 minutes and you can buy tickets on board.
Once you cross on the ferry to Festoy, continue driving to Ørsta – it takes about 40 minutes). From Ørsta drive to Sæbø – this takes about 30 min). I know it sounds strange to say drive from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ and then to ‘Point C’ instead of just saying drive from ‘Point A to Point C’ but when you get there, you’ll see why you need to head to Ørsta first and then to Sæbø. Oh and by the way, you’ll also want your camera out for this bit!
Stop for lunch somewhere along the way. The places you’ll be driving through aren’t major tourist hot spots so you can let your guard down as you’re bound to find delicious Norwegian food in most restaurants on your way.
From Sæbø take the ferry to Leknes across the beautiful Hjørundfjord surrounded by the Sunnmøre alps. The ferry runs at: 11.10, 12.45, 13.45, 14.45, 16.30. and you can buy ticket on board the ferry.
Once you cross over to Leknes, finish off your drive with a short 10 minutes drive from Leknes to Øye.
In Øye we recommend hiking or cycling if you’re that way inclined (that’s what the locals recommend). There’s a nice hike to the little village Urke. We had a car (and are fairly lazy city folk) so we decided to drive instead, which takes me to my next point…
Drive the stunning Norangsdalen valley – this place is absolutely spectacular and a sight worth the trip alone! Stop by the Lyngstøyvatnet lake to see the houses under water. The valley was flooded ages ago and houses are now under water.
Stay: At the historic Hotel Union Øye, home to Royalty and dignitaries for generations!
Dinner: Also at the Hotel Union Øye – you don’t have much choice here but don’t let that stop you – the food here is actually really REALLY good!
Leave Hotel Union Øye and drive through the Norangsdalen valley to Hellesylt. It takes approximately 40 minutes non-stop driving to Hellesylt but if you didn’t get to explore the full length of the Norangsdalen valley, add on some extra time for photos. Also, try to leave the hotel early, the next bit of your day is an exciting one and you want to maximise it as much as possible!
Take the ferry from Hellesylt to Geiranger. This ferry is unlike many of the other ferry journeys you’ll have taken so far as it’s a ferry through the UNESCO World Heritage Geirangerfjord and as a result, travels slower so you can appreciate the sheer beauty of the fjords. You also get a guide explaining the different sites as you go through the fjords so sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Stay: The hotel with the best view of the Fjord is without a doubt Hotel Utsikten (you have an amazing view even from your bed). It’s even got a view-point outside that’s perfect for photos. It is however a lot more retro inside, like stepping back in time into old Norway – which can be a good thing of course but if you’re into more mordern designs, the Grande Fjord hotel is probably right up your street.
After you’ve checked in, take a drive up to Dalsnibba, one of Europe’s highest viewpoints and one with an amazing view of not just the fjords but the surrounding dramatic landscape. There will be lots of reasons to stop here (e.g. the view of Djupvatnet lake) so do leave a fair bit of time here.
Lunch time – we just popped down to the local hotdog stand to try this popular Nordic delight (I’d been craving one for a while) but there’s a lot of choice here so you won’t be stuck for choice here.
Explore the fjords some more after lunch either via kayaking through it with a tour guide (little side note though – it’s harder to do this when its windy) or via a Rib Boat tour. It was too windy when we visited to kayak and so we went for the rib boat option instead (which was absolutely fantastic)! You take either tours from the Tourist Office down by the harbour. Like before, remember to wear clothes suitable for kayaking on the fjord or for the rib boat tour.
On your return, spend a little while in town exploring it and getting any souvenirs you might want.
Take a hike to Storseterfossen waterfall – a waterfall you can walk behind. To get here, you can drive to Westerås and hike from there. The drive takes around 4 minutes (barely any time whatsoever) or you can leave the car and start hiking from Hotel Utsikten.
Once you’re done with the hike – head off for dinner anywhere you’d like! 🙂 This is also an opportunity to explore the town at night so feel free to make your evening plans as you go along…
Leave Geiranger for Eidsdal (it takes around 45 mins non-stop), via the Eagles Road (there are two roads here – this one and the one that you took yesterday to Dalsnibba).
Be sure to stop at the viewpoint with view to the Geirangerfjord (you won’t miss it).
From Eisdal, take the ferry to Linge. It’s a frequent ferry and you can buy the ticket on board. There might be queues and hence a bit of waiting for the ferry so be there well ahead of departure time (we didn’t have to queue when we visited but seeing as you have a flight to catch, you don’t want to be late).
From Linge, carry on driving to Ålesund airport – this takes approximately 1.5 hours non-stop but do take time to stop off for lunch on your way to the airport.
Drop off your rental car at Ålesund airport and head off home with a camera full of travel memories and an appreciation for the sheer beauty that is Norway! Chances are that you’ll even already start plotting your return to Norway to explore even more amazing part of it… e.g. Trollstunga (which is reachable from Alesund or even the amazing Juvet hotel).
Sidebar: The total drive (non-stop) from Geiranger to Ålesund is approximately around a 2.5 hours drive so be sure to leave enough time to enjoy it properly (and to catch your flight back home on-time).