Outdoor Exploration in Norway: Lofoten, Bergen, Flam & Oslo

Advisor - Kelsey Casey
Curated By

Kelsey Casey

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  • Norway

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • International Travel

  • Off-the-Beaten-Path Travel

  • Hiking

  • Mountains

  • Outdoors

Red houses next to mountain and body of water with cloudy skies during daytime
Curator’s statement

One of the world's most beautiful countries, home to picturesque fjords, glaciers, mountains and archipelagos, Norway is a place I'll dream about revisiting time and time again. Beyond the great outdoors that make this country a year-round destination for travelers, hikers, bikers and skiers, the art, culture, gastronomy and history prove that Norway has so much to offer.

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Where to stay

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Holmen Lofoten

A seasonal hotel with a rustic feel located on a mountainous island in Sørvågen with a farm-to-table restaurant and cabins.

Hattvika Lodge

Newly rebuilt fisherman cottages—which date back to the 1870s—located in the idyllic fishing village of Ballstad, an ideal landing place for exploring the Lofoten Islands.

Bergen Børs Hotel

Luxury hotel in Bergen with a classic style and on-site art gallery located in an old stock exchange.

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Days 1 - 3: Lofoten Islands

Body of water next to mountain and red buildings with cloudy skies

If you're in search of visiting the Microsoft Windows 10 desktop screensavers like me, then you're in the right place. The Lofoten Islands feel like a world in and of themselves, spanning across the waters of the Norwegian Sea, far above the Arctic Circle. This rugged, wilderness outpost offers a jaw-dropping landscape of towering mountains, deep fjords that give way to visiting Orca pods, and long, surf-swept beaches. Fly into Leknes via Wildroe Airlines, rent a car and drive down the craggy coast to the town of Reine, your launchpad for adventure these next three days. 

Where to stay in the Lofoten Islands

Hattvika Lodge: Book a newly rebuilt fishermen cottage and enjoy the harbour of Hattvika while relaxing in modern comfort. The hotel has a number of adventurous activities to choose from for guests, including sea kayaking with a guide, hiking, stand-up paddling, year-round photo tours, fishing tours, surfing, diving, and rib-boat tours. 

Reine Rorbuer: A modern take on the traditional fishing hut located in the center of Reine, all cabins, or 'Rorbuer' as they are called, have their own bathroom and nearly all have fully equipped kitchens for those who wants to prepare their own freshly caught fish. 

Holmen: A family-run property that's home to a food program that taps into local innovative chefs, blacksmiths, artisans, and cocktail enthusiasts. Holmen is an outpost of sustainable luxury within the wild Artic Circle. 

Places to eat in the Lofoten Islands

Himmel og Havn: We visited this restaurant the first night we were in the Lofoten Islands and loved our meal! It’s by no means anything fancy, but a great place right on the harbor, across from Hattvika Lodge, and a local hangout spot.

Gammelbua Restaurant: Offers dishes made of local fresh fish and meat, based on seasonality.

Bringen Cafe: Best coffee in town with delicious pastries and a great patio.

Maren Anna: A pearl in Sørvågen harbor on your way to Å. Great seafood in an elevated space on the pier.

Bakeriet Å: Traditional bakery in the town of Å, known for their cardamom rolls.

Things to do in Lofoten Islands

Kayak in Reine with Reine Adventure. You may even see an orca (or two!)

Hike the Reinebringen. This viewpoint is one the biggest on all the Islands—a steep scramble to an epic panorama of Reinefjorden and the Lofoten Wall. Reinebringen is only 448 meters high but the hike is essentially straight up, sometimes slippery, and challenging overall (leave plenty of time to enjoy the views at the top).

Arctic surf at one of the many beautiful beaches.

Days 4-5: Bergen

White red and yellow buildings next to body of water and mountain with cloudy skies

Bergen is Norway's second largest city and a hub for culture, outdoor adventure, and mountainside retreats. You can roam through living history in this modern city, before continuing on to explore the wildest and loveliest fjords of Norway.

Lodging in Bergen

Bergen Bors Hotel: Located in an old stock exchange building, Bergen Bors is in prime location within the city center and has an on-site bar with fantastic local beer options. 

Opus XVI: Once a historic bank, this hotel is a luxurious home away from home. It has 65 modern rooms and suites and a grandiose lobby with marble columns and high ceilings.

Places to eat in Bergen

Veranda 1877: Venture here and sit on the patio for new Nordic tapas-style snacks and drinks.

Lysverket: Opened by four Per Se alums and serving up daily tasting menus. The restaurant also offers snacks like spiced nuts and dill pickle chips alongside Norwegian takes on classic cocktails. This place is a must!

Pingvinen: This hangout has a loyal following who appreciates special service and traditional food, like a typical Norwegian stew. Considered one of the city’s best gastropubs.

Daily Pot: Small cafe with delicious coffee, sandwiches and soups.

Bien Centro: Great Neopolitan pizza in the heart of the city. Tastes like the pizza in Italy!

Things to do in Bergen

Explore Bryggen, the old wharf of Bergen.

Fish & Flower Market: Visit this small, bustling market, which is partially enclosed with unique restaurants and shops.

For a panoramic view of the fjords, sea and the city, take the Floibanen funicular to the top of Mount Floyen, one of the city’s most iconic attractions. For the more adventurous, you can also hike to the top or rent a mountain bike for the trek.

Sail around the Bergen Harbor: We chose to take a two-hour guided sightseeing and fjord cruise on a comfortable sailing boat (max.12 people). This gave us an opportunity to view and experience Bergen from the sea.

Days 6-8: Flam

Snowy mountains and green valley with cloudy skies during daytime

At the innermost bank of the Aurlandsfjord, surrounded by steep mountains, waterfalls and narrow valleys, you’ll find the small village of Flåm. Good transport connections make Flåm easy to reach by train, boat, bus or car and in the spring and summer months, you will see large cruise ships gliding in the Sognefjord with their course set for Flåm harbour. We took the train from Bergen to Myrdal, then Myrdal to Flåm via the Flåmsbana railway. Flåmsbana (the Flåm Railway) has been repeatedly named the world’s most incredible train journey. The ride takes you to the fjord by way of rivers cutting through deep ravines, waterfalls cascading down the sides of steep, snow-capped mountains, and mountain farms clinging dizzily to steep hillsides.

Lodging in Flam

Fretheim Fjordhytter. This place is absolutely stunning and worth the price tag, particularly because Flåm is a bit of a tourist destination, but we felt very far removed from the scene staying in our cabin. Since there are only four high quality, self catering cottages, you must book well in advance (at least six months is advised). Each cottage/cabin has three bedrooms with accommodation for up to 6 persons. On the ground floor, there is a lounge room/kitchen area with a fantastic view of the fjord and surrounding mountains. We spent our evenings curled up on the couch staring out at the beautiful fjord and midnight sun. The cottage also includes a rowing boat with a small outboard motor, which we used for nightly cruises along the fjord. 

Places to eat in Flam

Ægir Brewery and Pub: Quaint, rustic brewery inside the Flamsbrygga hotel.

Flam Bakery: Flåm Bakery offers visitors and locals delicious freshly baked pastries all year round. Enjoy homemade breads, pastries, sandwiches, ice cream and coffee. You will find the bakery next to the station building.

Things to do in Flam

Explore the Naeroyfjord. The Nærøyfjord is the narrowest and best known of the many arms of the Sognefjord. It is also included in the renowned UNESCO World Heritage List. With its steep mountainsides, hanging valleys, towering peaks, snowfields, waterfalls and small hamlets, this fjord is perhaps the most outstanding natural attraction in Norway.

Visit the Stegastein Viewpoint, which gives you a panoramic view of the Aurlandsfjord. The platform that juts 98 feet out from the side of the mountain has gained distinctions for its unique architecture. It is recommended to book a bus to this viewpoint through the Flåm Visitor Center, as the road is extremely dangerous alongside the mountain.

Visit Undredal to see a quaint village nestled in a valley.

Take a three-hour kayak tour with Njord Sea Kayaking.

Hike Aurlandsdalen Valley, specifically Østerbø to Vassbygdi, which took us six hours and is 20 km. This section of the valley is famous and is full of breathtaking views. Take the earliest bus from Flåm, tickets may be purchased on the bus, to Østerbø. Make sure you pack a lunch that you can enjoy halfway through your hike on the river. The trail path is extremely well-marked, but it should be noted that shortly after you start, the path will split and you will have to choose between hiking to Bjørnestigen, which is known to be steep and challenging, but rewarding, or hiking along the river, which we chose since it was known to be the easier option of the two. The path will end at Vassbygdi, where you can catch the bus back to Flåm.

Take a three-hour Fjord Safari to see the Aurlandfjord and Naeroyfjord with a local guide.

Take a bus to Aurland, which is a small town next to Flåm. Sit at a local cafe, like Marianne Bakery & Cafe, and do a quick scenic hike.

Days 9-10: Oslo

Cityscape with cloudy skies during daytime

The country’s largest city is a cosmopolitan hub with an abundance of world-class architecture, museums, restaurants and shopping. A day and a half was plenty of time for us to explore Oslo. Get here directly from Flåm by train. 

Lodging in Oslo

The Thief Hotel: Situated in the trendy, waterfront design district of Tjuvholmen, The Thief is a prime destination for celebrities, creatives, and contemporary art lovers alike.

Hotel Continental: Oslo's premier grand hotel for over a century. It's prime location right in the city center makes it a top pick for those visiting the city. 

Amerikalinjen: This trendy, new kid on the block offers glitzy, retro-inspired convening spaces and a central location within a historic site. 

Places to eat in Oslo

Maaemo: Oslo's three-Michelin-starred eatery.

bass Oslo: This is a small restaurant that pushes the edge with its meal preparation

Mathallen Food Hall: Indoor food market with more than 30 specialty shops, cafés and eateries that offer high-quality products from Norwegian small-scale producers as well as special foreign imports.

Ostebutikken: This tiny, but high-quality cheese shop and eatery is squeezed in between popular bars in the Grünerløkka area.

Cafe Sara: Super cozy, old restaurant recommended by the locals.

Fuglen: Worth a visit for elegant Scandi decor alone, but also does a great cup of coffee before turning into a cocktail bar by night.

Talor & Jorgen: Here you’ll find great beats, excellent banter and tasty coffee brewed by lovely people alongside handmade doughnuts that they make fresh everyday.

Tim Wendelboe: This espresso bar, coffee roaster and bean community spins around its creator and owner. Tim Wendelboe is considered an international guru in the field of squeezing the best out of every bean.

Things to do in Oslo

Explore the different neighborhoods by foot! Grunerlokka is a trendy neighborhood that we loved and the Tjuvholmen/Aker Brygge area, known for its cutting-edge architecture, is home to the modern Astrup Fearnley Museum.

As far as shopping goes, the capital of Norway offers plenty to keep the keen shopper happy, with everything from the latest international trends to modern Norwegian designs and local handicrafts. The main shopping areas in Oslo are the city center around Karl Johans gate, Bogstadveien and Hegdehaugsveien in Majorstuen, Frogner with Bygdøy Allé, and Grünerløkka.

Frogner Park: Huge, beautiful park with lots of Norwegian sculptures.

Take a ferry to the Bygdoy Peninsula, home to five impressive museums that provide a glimpse into Norwegian history. 

Visit the National Gallery to see Edvard Munch's Madonna and The Scream paintings.

Need to Know

For more adventure travel inspo, check out my guide to Maine: 7-Day Scenic Road Trip Across Coastal Maine and my guide to Iceland: 8-Day Road Trip Itinerary around Iceland's Ring Road.