A Tour de Norse

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Old Viking boat in Oslo. Picture: Caroline Hurry
Caroline Hurry
Caroline Hurry

A road trip around the land of Vikings, mischievous trolls, and rugged natural scenery provides much balm for the soul

From June to August, the slow Norwegian sun casts a magic spell over the cinematic landscape of glorious fjords, waterfalls, mountains, forests, remote farmhouses, and wooden churches dating back hundreds of years; all best explored by road.

An old wooden church in Lillehammer. Picture: Caroline Hurry

My husband and I hired a Skoda Superb that featured brollies tucked in the doors, a dashboard TV, a GPS that reminded you to take your cell phone when you left, plus a cubby hole with temperature settings to heat or chill snacks; all of which proved to be useful.

Trolls seen along Oslo’s Karl Johans Gate, Norway’s longest pedestrian street. Picture: Peter Berg-Munch

Since Norway is eye-wateringly expensive – think R500 for a pizza or R180 for a beer – we filled a cooler box with our favourite foods and wines; later consumed al fresco amid soul-cleansing scenery, or surreptitiously on hotel balconies, at a fraction of restaurant prices.

The bridges at Swinesund separating Sweden from Norway

We set off from Copenhagen, took the Helsingør ferry to Helsingborg in Sweden and beetled up the E6 along the West Coast passing Halmstad and Gothenburg, before crossing the Svinesund Bridge into Norway.

Pastoral scenes in the municipality of Øyer, famous for the pine-covered slopes and lakes. Picture: Peter Berg-Munch

While the maximum speed of the Skoda Superb is 205km/h, the speed limit in Norway and Sweden is 90km/h and if there’s one thing Scandinavians love, it’s strict adherence to the rules. I’ve seen wheel barrows handled with more zip but so steep are the traffic fines here, that my husband, who normally floors the accelerator, hit the slow cruise control, giving us ample opportunity to take in the spectacular surrounds.

The Amerikanlinjen hotel in Oslo’s city centre. Picture: Peter Berg-Munch

Just over an hour after crossing the Svinesund Bridge, we drove into Oslo, Norway’s vibrant capital at the tip of the Oslofjord, surrounded by wooded hills, and checked into the Amerikanlinjen hotel around the corner from Karl Johans Gate, Norway’s longest pedestrian street lined with shops, cafes, clubs and coffee bars.

Caroline in front of the Oslo Opera House across the water.

We strolled along the 9 km long Harbour Promenade, a pivotal part of Oslo’s new “Fjord City”, starting at Sørenga, a popular spot among the locals who lap up the summer warmth with live music, ice creams, and a seawater pool. There’s a 300-metre tunnel that provides access to the Akerselva river, and you can also see the Oslo Opera House across the water.

Coffee bar in Oslo’s Karl Johans Gate . PIcture: Caroline Hurry

After inspecting the prices of the drinks around here, my husband and I scuttled back to our cooler box and toasted each other with a bottle of white from a Danish supermarket.

A farmer strolls down the road in Lillehammer. Picture: Peter Berg-Munch

From Oslo, we headed in a north easterly direction for Lillehammer and onto Hafjell in the municipality of Øyer, famous for the pine-covered slopes, lakes, and valleys of the soaring Øyerfjellet mountain range where waterfalls plunge like vertical rivers.

Wildflowers overlooking Lillehammer in Norway. Picture: Caroline Hurry

Above a squiggle of precipitous bends along a toll road is Hafjell, a village that ‒ like nearby Lillehammer and Gudbrandsdalen ‒ hosted the Winter Olympics.

A grass roofed wooden farmhouse in the the municipality of Øyer. Picture: Peter Berg-Munch

Here we stayed at the Pellestova Hotel in an area perfect for cycling and hiking amid the healing beauty of lichen, lakes, and wooden farmhouses where wildflowers grow from roofs amid bucolic sheep-filled meadows and the winsome sound of clanking cowbells.

An abandoned wooden boat next to a lake in Lillehammer. Picture: Peter Berg-Munch

Two days later, we set off in a south westerly direction for Larvik, famous for its beaches, Bøkeskogen forest, natural mineral water springs, and Norway’s biggest spa at the FarrisBad hotel straddling beach and town.

View from our balcony in the Farrisbad Hotel in Larvik, overlooking the beach. Picture: Caroline Hurry

We spent a blissful afternoon exploring saunas with sea views; ice baths, and pools that massaged your feet. Later that evening, we ate a salmon dinner on our balcony overlooking the beach filled with wheeling seagulls and holidaymakers.

View of Larvik from the ferry. Picture: Peter Berg-Munch

Early the next morning we caught the ferry from Larvik to Jutland in the north of Denmark to continue our road trip from there.

  • I flew to Copenhagen courtesy of British Airways, which also offers daily flights to Oslo and Stockholm from Johannesburg via London.