13 spectacular views to seek out during your next Norwegian self drive tour
Are you planning a summer self-drive in Norway? There are several gorgeous opportunities to enjoy both stunning landscapes and jaw-dropping architecture along the way.
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8 days - Drive the spectacular National Tourist Route of Norway
The road from Tromsø via Sommarøy and Senja to Å in Lofoten can easily be rated as one of the most picturesque summer drives in all of Norway. The stretch is connecting numerous larger and smaller islands of the outer North Norwegian coast, and does not pass over any of mainland Norway. You could call it island-hopping by car. The drive includes two ferry crossings and several bridges and underwater tunnels.
The drive is slow, not only due to the narrow roads and the low speed limit, but mainly because of the many photo stops you are likely to make. Every bend in the road portrays another majestic fjord, fishing village, a white sandy beach or a spectacular mountain peak.
This road less travelled between Tromsø and Å can be taken during the northern summer months only, between early May and late August. We will provide you with a hire car, great accommodation and detailed route notes, and you set the pace for each day. The itinerary is perfectly suited for independent travel, and for families with children.
Accommodation is self-catering style, allowing you to save on expensive Norwegian restaurant meals. Pick up your groceries at the local store and prepare beautiful local meals yourself. We will supply you with a suggested shopping list and a handful of local North Norwegian recipes, which are easy to prepare. As a foreigner to Norway it is too easy to fall back on spaghetti bolognaise, so hopefully our notes will help you do better than that.
Car hire 8 days incl. unlimited mileage and CDW.
Please note: We have not included evening dinners (half-board) in our Norwegian countryside self-drive itineraries but in some spots, the hotel you are staying at may be the only option and/or highly recommended. Norwegian countryside hotels often have well known restaurants or intimate family run dining rooms that the hosts take great pride in. Considering the price of meals in Norway we have left this flexible in case you choose to self-cater. Please ask us for our recommendations as determined by your final itinerary. You do need to book ahead for these evening meals.
Arrive in the Arctic Capital of Tromsø where you will pick up your rental car. Drive from Tromsø approx. 60km across Kvaløya to Sommarøy on the outer coast of Northern Norway.
At Sommarøy check into a self-catering apartment, or upgrade to a large and comfortable cabin perched over the water. The views will keep you gazing out towards the sea, and the extended light evenings will invite you to tranquil walks along the foreshore and pristine white coral beaches.
An evening walk up the mountain on Hillesøy towards the sea is well worth it, and if you travel in late summer you may be lucky to find both wild blueberries and cloudberries.
Note; you may choose to add a few nights in Tromsø itself to savour the sights and attractions of the city. Ask us for options.
Take a morning ferry to the island of Senja - one of those places in Norway that sees very few visitors. This is mostly due to its dramatic and remote location on the Norwegian coast. On arrival on Senja we highly recommend a detour to Husøy, where the houses are wired down on a little island to avoid being blown away.
Driving further northwest Senia will offer views towards the Devil’s teeth mountain range, and the Oxhorn Mountains. The names themselves indicate the ruggedness of the scenery awaiting you. The road you are travelling is part of a project called the National Tourist Routes of Norway. The Norwegian road authority (Statens Vegvesen) has commissioned 50 architects to design various landmarks, rest stops and view points along chosen road stretches all over Norway. On this particular stretch across Senja you will see Tungeneset and Bergsbotn.
Your accommodation on Senja is in self-contained apartments overlooking the water and sheltered from the open seas of the Norwegian Sea.
We have scheduled an extra day in Hamn, so you can enjoy this remote location out towards the sea. Join a deep sea fishing excursion trying your luck for Atlantic cod, climb one of the surrounding peaks or just enjoy the day relaxing in Hamn.
Start early with the drive from Hamn via the village of Torsken (the Cod) to Gryllefjord where you will cross the fjord by ferry to Andenes on Andøya. You may be lucky and see whales and seals on the ferry trip.
On arrival at Andenes you will make your way south for the approx. 200km drive to Svolvær in the central part of the Lofoten Archipelago. Once again, the drive is stunning as mountain peaks rise from the ocean and more than thousand meters straight skyward.
On arrival in Svolvær you check into your own Rorbu (fisherman’s cottage) on stilts over the clear blue water. The cottages are once again self-contained with a bed & bathroom, lounge and kitchenette.
Spend the day in Svolvær and enjoy a sea eagle safari by boat and visit the narrow waters of the Trollfjord. You may also join a kayaking excursion or follow one of the many hiking trails in the area.
Continue further out in the Lofoten Archipelago to picture perfect Reine. On the way we strongly recommend a stop in the small fishing village of Nusfjord – perhaps for lunch. We can also highly recommend a stop in Flakstad. The Viking Museum is also well worth a visit for a great insight into the Viking culture.
Stay overnight in Reine, in your own self-contained Rorbu.
Make a morning visit to Å at the outer edge of the Lofoten Archipelago, or spend the day going even further out to the remote islands of Røst. If you are a birdwatcher you should definitely consider the trip out to Røst, where you have good chances of spotting sea eagles, puffins and numerous other sea birds.
We highly recommend a day trip to Værøy, which is Lofoten in a nutshell, with dramatic mountains, white sandy beaches, lush mountainsides and picturesque fishing stations.
Make the drive to Leknes Airport, or back to Svolvær where you can drop off your car either at the airport or in Svolvær town.
All prices listed are per person, based on two people sharing a room. 2023 prices are indicative due to the current uncertainty across Europe with increasing energy and volatile fuel costs.
Driving in Norway during the peak season (July - early August):
Europeans love driving in Norway and during the summer months, the more popular tourist roads becomes crowded with European vans. This can slow the roads down, as it can be difficult to pass these vans. Norwegian country roads are often quite narrow. Having said this, these roads are incredibly scenic and have lots of picnic & photo spots.
If you are going to be using ferries during your drive, depending on the size of the ferry, this might involve a wait to get on. The ferries are reliable and regular but you may need to arrive early to secure a spot in the line. On some of the ferries, we suggest considering catching a ferry outside of the peak times. Your accommodation hosts can help with suggestions for your following days travel with the most up to date local information.
Tromsø, also known as the Arctic Capital or the ‘Paris of the North’, is the gateway to the Arctic and Northern Norway. It has been awarded as a ‘Sustainable Destination’, which is the Nordic region’s only national labelling scheme for travel destinations. It is a “tool for sustainable development of businesses and destinations when it comes to the environment, the local community, the cultural heritage, and the economy” Nordic regions awarded this title are not perfect, but they are working collaboratively to achieve a long-term goal. These regions are evaluated every three years to ensure they continue to adhere to these standards.
When staying in Tromsø you will stay in a hotel renowned for its’ environmental efforts. The hotel is ISO 14001 certified (which is given to enterprises that have a high-quality environmental managing system for organizational performance), has launched plastic free initiatives in partnership with WWF, where possible is powered by renewable energy and are taking great strides to reduce water consumption and reduce the use of chemicals. Even though access to water is not an issue in Norway compared to other parts of the world, this hotel is conscious of the energy consumed for heating, and chemicals required for purification, so reduction makes up part of their overall environmental policy. In addition to this they provide sustainable, organic, fair-trade food, and only use sustainably produced palm oil. Your hosts also encourage guests to eat less meat and substitute this for plant-based alternatives.
Senja, your main location for this trip, is also going through the process of becoming an accredited ‘Sustainable Destination’. Visit Norway in recent years named your accommodation in Senja as one of the most attractive accommodations in Norway, and it’s not hard to see why. The beautiful location of the site, nestled in the wilderness high above the Arctic circle, offers a unique diversity and a deep experience in nature throughout the year. Your activities for your stay have been selected as low carbon options which allow our visitors to appreciate their time in nature, such as our Northern Lights snowshoeing walk through light-pollution free wilderness, or our guided wildlife boat safari to learn more about the wildlife of the region and support its conservation efforts.
Are you planning a summer self-drive in Norway? There are several gorgeous opportunities to enjoy both stunning landscapes and jaw-dropping architecture along the way.
Not only is the Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage a wonderful way to slowly enjoy Norwegian scenery and local produce, it is also a terrific way to learn more about Norway's fascinating history.
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Travel insurance is compulsory for all tours with 50 Degrees North. Please ensure that you have this organised as we will need to see proof of this upon issuing your tour documentation. Please contact us for a quote or visit http://www.suresave.net.au/
Written by Jayde Kincaid, who married a Norwegian, and was happily (albeit with some hesitation) introduced to a world of Norwegian every day food habits.
At 50 Degrees North, we want to encourage our travellers to try local Norwegian food & drink. This may seem difficult in Scandinavia in general without a large budget, and in particular Norway. Some of the more remote villages you might visit have limited restaurants or cafes, some of which can be pretty expensive. There is certainly no street food! One way to get about sampling local food is by self-catering. You will find plenty of friendly locals in the small town grocery stores and supermarkets who will be happy to help you picking out local ingredients. Just don’t be shy – ask! And, don’t rush – make your local small town shopping part of your holiday experience. Read the local notice boards, and enjoy an ice cream out the front when you have finished. It is what the locals do!
Note: Statoil cups - a good idea to save money as you drive around Norway: purcahse a Statoil (petrol station) metal cup and you get free refills of coffee, tea and hot chocolate at the Statoil stations.
Norway has an extensive range of grocery stores, and in most small villages you will find at least one, if not two or three grocery stores. However, they do have limited opening hours, and except for ‘Bunnpris’, they are all closed on Sundays. You will see the weekend hours shown in brackets on the store sign out front. If you are arriving in a larger town, we do suggest you stock up with some staples before you head out into the mountains or on a coastal drive.
A few tips:
• Plastic bags are NOK1-2 and you will always need to pack your own shopping.
• You can recycle your bottles and cans for a receipt that you can cash in. Recycling points are found in all stores.
• Alcohol sold in food stores (mainly beer and cider) is restricted by government regulation to certain hours. This varies slightly, but on weekdays alcohol sales stop at 8pm regardless and on Saturdays at 6pm. Outside these hours and on Sundays you can only buy alcohol in licensed restaurants or bars.
• Any alcohol over 4.7% can only be bought at special government controlled liquor store (Vinmonopolet). These are very rare in smaller remote towns and villages, so stock up before you leave the city.
Meatballs or “meatcakes’: these come in all shapes, sizes and quality. They are generally really tasty and a bit better than what you find at IKEA. Also pick up a packet of dried ready-made brown sauce that goes with them. Be on the look out for Lingonberry sauce/jam, or even fresh lingonberries that you can use to make a fresh sauce (little red circular berries). Don’t add too much sugar, they are served quite tart.
If you want to try to make this brown sauce yourself, buy some ‘brunost’ (brown cheese), the required creams and follow the recipe below.
Hotdogs: known as ‘pølse’ in Norwegian, hot dogs are abundant in Norway. Cheap and cheerful – pølse is THE fast food of Norway. They are sold at service stations, newsagents, corner stores and fast food outlets. Pølse come with a dazzling variety of toppings and bread. Some of the pølse highlights would be the bacon wrapped ones, sprinkled with dried onion, mustards and mayonnaise. You will also find them wrapped in waffles (mostly in and around Fredrikstad) or the Norwegian pancake, ‘lompe’.
Note: there are strict requirements by the Food Safety commission for traditional pølse to be of the highest quality and they have even set requirements for what types of ingredients are allowed.
Like Norwegian beer, you will find seasonal pølse – Christmas pølse (Julepølse) is obviously found only in the lead up to the celebrations.
If you are planning to eat Norwegian style, use boil pølse on the stove and add to meals with potatoes and stew.
Note; steer away from tinned cheap pølse and meatballs.
Fish cakes: these also come in lots of variation and are generally served with a white sauce and lots of parsley. The Norwegians also use a basic white sauce on broccoli with cheese on top. These fish cakes are often found in fish shops, fried or steamed, ready to eat. A great fast snack.
Reindeer: we strongly suggest you try reindeer meat when you are travelling in the far north. It generally comes frozen, so look for finely cut reindeer meat in the freezer section. It is a more expensive option, but absolutely delicious albeit quite gamey. Be sure to get mushrooms, a small amount of brown cheese and rømme (crème fraiche). Fry it all up in a pan - a bit like a beef stroganoff. Serve with boiled potatoes or rice.
Mushrooms: if you are travelling in the chanterelle harvest season (mid/late August), be sure to try them. They are the yellow mushroom found in autumn. Or better still, have a look around the pine forests and pick some. Be sure to image search them before you head out so you know what to pick. They are really delicious with the brown cheese sauce and reindeer.
Salmon, prawns & fish: always be on the look out for a chance to buy fresh fish. Yes, it is possible to smooth talk a fisherman at the harbour. Or look for the local fish-kiosk or fish-shop. Be on the look out for small signs pointing you in the direction of fresh fish sales – ‘reker’ (shrimps, not prawns) or ‘fersk fisk’ (fresh fish) are the words you need.
Norwegians are very proud of their shrimps – and of course completely justified. Their shrimps are small and tasty and harvested from the cool North Sea. Norwegians traditionally serve them with mayonnaise and lemon. Peel them and pop them on a fresh white slice of bread. Mayonnaise is layered on top with dill, pepper & salt.
Smoked Salmon: Norwegian smoked salmon is the best in the world hands down. Be sure to try all the different varieties you see – often, in larger supermarkets or delis, you can try before you buy.
Tubed ‘kaviar’ (caviar): this is a must try. It is cheap and perfect for the travellers pantry. This is what my husband craves like an Australian abroad would crave vegemite.
Norwegian pre-made dips and salads: the Norwegian supermarkets have a large range of premade salads and dips. They last quite a while and are good fillers for sandwiches. Our favourite are the cubed beetroot salad and the potato salads. They come in easy-to-carry and pack-up containers – perfect for picnics. Tubed mayonnaise is also handy for picnics.
‘Leverpostei’ (liver pate) in many variations can also be found in the supermarket. This pate is normally served on brown bread then topped with sliced red onions or sweet pickles. Protein rich and very tasty if you like pate – it is found on most Norwegian breakfast tables.
Yoghurt: now – this is an interesting one. Norwegian yoghurt comes in a variety of styles - some can be very runny, sour and low fat. There are varying names/codes for each sort. You might like to check with a local when you are buying yoghurt to be sure you are getting what you want. Some of the yoghurt comes as though it is milk, in normal milk cartons - sour runny yoghurt is NOT nice in your coffee.
Bread: the Norwegian supermarket bread generally comes un-cut. You can either cut it in the shop – ask for help the first time you do it. They have industrial bread cutting machines near the bakery section. The bread can be quite plain in the main supermarkets so be on the look out for boutique bakeries in the larger towns if you enjoy fancy bread. Also keep an eye out for the Norwegian flatbread, Lefse, which is similar to Mexican tortillas. Usually served with butter and sugar, sometimes cinnamon too. Occasionally made with potato.
Waffles: Norwegian waffle stalls are similar to the sausage sizzle or hot dog stand. It is the most common fundraising or community building food product. Don’t expect sickly sweet jams or whipped cream – you will find these fresh chewy waffles served with sour cream and home made tart berry jams. Never go past one!
Chocolate: we recommend that you try the ‘FREIA’ milk chocolate during your stay. It melts in your mouth.
Berries: if you travel in early autumn (mid/late August) this is berry season. Forest berries that is. Ask a local and head up into the hills or forest in search for berries. You may find; blueberries, lingonberries, rasberries and if you are up north or in the central mountains; the rare yellow cloudberries.
On a self-drive journey, always be on the look out for small farm shops or stands along the road. Things you cannot drive past:
Strawberries: if you are travelling in the strawberry season – you MUST try Norwegian strawberries. They are seriously amazing. Grown in the nutritious earth that has the chance to rejuvenate through a long winter.
_And if you go past a self-pick strawberry farm, put everything else on hold and enter! Norwegians wait all year for this event. _
New potatoes: be on the look out for new season potatoes – they are often sold in little stands beside the road. Often on an honesty basis; i.e. grab a bag and put the money in an allocated tin.
Basic Brown Cheese Recipe – can be used with meatballs, reindeer, with added mushrooms.
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 tablespoons flour
• 3⁄4 cup light cream
• 1⁄2 cup chicken broth (optional - just use water if you cannot find this)
• 1 cup shredded gjetost or brown goats cheese
• 3⁄4 cup rømme (crème fraiche)
• 2 tablespoons chopped parsley or 2 tablespoons fresh dill
Using the meat dish that has been browned off, remove as much oil from the pan as possible and blend in butter and flour. Remove from heat and blend in light cream. Add chicken broth, bring to boil, stirring and cooking until thickened. Mix in Gjetost cheese. Turn heat low.
Blend some of the sauce into the rømme (crème fraiche), then return all to sauce. Add chopped parsley or fresh dill.
Happy shopping and cooking!