Sweden/Norway /Lofoten - From Norway in the middle of nowhere
This won’t just be a single insider tip in a country travel report but in actual fact a large travel report insider tip. For us a vacation was always sun, beach, warm weather and the sea. Nothing of the above we associated with Norway. Too cold, too wet and not much summer feeling. How wrong we were! Because we were on the lookout for a cheap way to enjoy a long vacation for not much money we somewhat struggled to find a good deal. This travel adventure actually comprises of two holidays as we were repeat offenders. It all started when I chatted with my uncle on the phone who has seen quite a lot in his time. He has been to more than 60 countries and told me we must go to the Lofoten Islands which was one of the most beautiful places he had been to. At first glance Norway looked expensive as well as accommodation and flights. For our first holiday we were quite lucky that a friend lent us his Mercedes Vito. We paid nothing to this! Once again thanks Burhan!! The second time the vehicle was no longer available as it had been sent around the world in parts so we needed to devise a plan B. That had the name Sixt. We rented a Peugeot Expert. That is a delivery vehicle. The van cost 1,100 € for a month plus petro. We had a canoe that we wanted to take with us but no roof rack. It seemed like only Thule offered them and without ordering and paying a further 200 € they wouldn’t be available. So we headed to the DIY store and brought metal bars which were actually intended for use as cabinet systems or racks as they actually have slits.
In addition to this we purchased a big bag of cable ties and foam roller with a hole in the center. There is a grey area regarding roof racks which does allow you to make your own. The only condition is that the goods have to be securely fastened. We pulled the canoe tightly with a lashing strap and the metal bars were fixed with a number of cable ties. The roof remained undamaged and it held wonderfully.
There are a couple of things you should always have with you when travelling in a van or delivery vehicle in Norway. Here a short list of the items that we really did need: pocket knife incl. bottle opener, fishing equipment with different baits/harpoons, plastic cover for rain protection and a tent to set up in front of the vehicle. Snorkeling equipment & wetsuit, lamp with battery, wet toilet paper, cutlery and pan set that fit in each other, gas cooker and gas for refilling, warm clothes/summer clothes, dustbin bags and clothes line (can be hung up easily in the vehicle with all the eyelets), car jack, ax, bread knife with jags, camera, binoculars, alcohol, map & good navigation system, candles, boxes for food, salt/pepper, garlic, oil – for fish, aluminum foil, insect spray, music, sun cream, mini grill (tray with grill), lighter & coal.
We drove via Denmark to Sweden without really having a plan or a set route. A destination had been agreed which were the Lofoten Islands. Towards every evening we looked for a nice place in order to spend the night. In Norway and Sweden you have the public right of access that means you can stay anywhere you like free of charge. There is only the requirement to keep a distance to residential properties so nobody is disturbed. The two countries are so huge that it is really no difficulty to find a secluded place. We started on our journey in August as this is the core summer time in Sweden and in Norway on some days the temperature reached beyond the 30 degrees with the contrast being just above zero at higher altitudes. In Sweden you will find a lovely place around every corner. The lakes are beautiful, like a picture and full of fish. You should head to Sweden or Norway without your fishing equipment. Eating a freshly caught fish every evening at the fireplace is a special experience. If you want to learn how to prepare a fish for cooking then browse through YouTube that have an array of instruction videos on offer. It was quite striking that is was quite a while until we caught a glimpse of land animals. We poked our nose around every bush and weren’t able to discover anything.
More towards the south of Norway you will come across moose that will suddenly appear in front of you. Incredible animals. Equally impressive are the reindeer with huge antlers. If you quietly sneak towards them you can observe them for a while. Those who like to snorkel should take a wet suit with a 5 mm thickness and with hood, flippers and diving goggles. Many places offer crystal-clear water in all tones of blue. You can take a plunge in the water but the further north you go the colder the water is. We would like to recommend a longer hiking tour in Norway to the (Preacher's Pulpit). The tour is a challenge and you should wear sturdy footwear. The view itself is breathtaking. The hiking routes are excellent and you will come across tourists but it is not that bad in September. Away from the designated hiking routes you can enjoy a Robinson Crusoe experience. The ascent for less trained climbers like us it took around 3 hours with a small picnic. You should plan enough time for the descent. When wet the ground can be quite slippery but thanks to bushes and trees achievable. On our trip we went with flip flops to the polar circle what was quite a crazy feeling.
The polar circle has moved further of the last centuries which can be seen there and is an impressive sight. Here we saw our first reindeers and not just a couple but in actual fact a complete herd :)
Before heading off to Norway you should register online for the vehicle pass. http://www.autopass.no/de/zahlung-fur-besucher In Norway there are number of checkpoints where you can’t pay with cash. If you forget to do it then it is not a problem to register after your vacation. For our first vacation we forgot but ahead of our second one we registered. In case you travel across the country then you should also calculate possible ferry costs. They are not that expensive (mostly around 30€) but can add up. Vesteralen Then we finally made it to the top at Vestaralen. We wanted to do a whale safari and not miss out on the beautiful landscape. This is really a good option as there are even less people around than on the Lofoten. The views were just stunning. But instead of words take a browse through the photos :) We took part in the whale safari in Andenes which is something we highly recommend. Whale safaris are also offered from Lofoten but the boats travel longer and reach the same position. We did a tour in a small boat with about 10 people. You were seated like in saddles with a leg left and right. In September it is quite easy to get on a tour without having to make a reservation. If you want to make sure you get on a boat then make a booking over the phone. If you don’t see a whale then you can go out again. But that doesn’t happen that often. Just before we came orcas were spotted directly off the coast. The best time to see orcas is between November and February as they swim all the way into the port. Here we were also able to observe many sperm whales. There was even a new one which we were allowed to name. With whale watchers all animals are registered and named in order to document their behavior and reproduction. We were able to match and recognize the animals from their fins. We christened the whale with the name Fjordi. This is how we named and Indonesian baby and a whale in Norway which is quite cool. Our guide explained in detail what the whales were up to when they swim pass by Andenes. We were provided with much information about the different species and their behavior before the actual tour started. Everybody was provided with a life jacket and a stylish suit offering protection against water and cold. The tour lasted about 3 ½ hours. It was a bit misty and it was a pleasant feeling to be warm. Over headphones we were able to hear the clicking and were able to ascertain where the whales were. It was a really crazy moment when a whale catches breath next to you for the first time. Mostly the animals stay at the surface for about half a minute before submerging again. At the end of the tour we got warm soup and you were able to buy photos of whales in case you didn’t have the right lens with you on the day. There a group of different provider of whale safaris locally offering tours. We would definitely choose one of the smaller boats from Sea Safari Andenes. http://www.seasafariandenes.no.
Those who travel later (November - February) you will still be able to see polar lights. It might be a bit too early in September. We drifted over the following 14 days and we drove further at our leisure. We were easily able to find wonderful places to park on Vestaralen and the Lofoten which all offered something unique. There were a number of camping sites that had shower facilities and if not you had to cope with it. We ate like kings. From mussels all the way to an array of tasty fish. If we fancied some ravioli we just opened a tine and created a snug warm dish on our gas cooker. The eyes aren’t used to looking that far and we occasionally had to blink to assure ourselves that the remoteness is really there. Around every corner you could find splendid beaches and incredible vastness. Some beaches comprised solely of corals and was home tos mall hermit crabs. After sunbathing at the beach and enjoyed a relaxing time you could watch the small shell houses passing by. It is always worth going to the tip of the islands (offshoots of the islands).
These are very small islands off the coast which we went to occasionally with the canoe. Most islands are uninhabited which makes the adventure heart beat that bit faster. We recommend a pop-up tent. We tried to set up a large tent for two hours whilst being hungry. That was really no fun. There is really nothing that we can’t recommend on the Lofoten with the exception of staying overnight in a dried fish hall. The small was more than slightly overpowering. Whilst going down south we came across many small white sandy beaches. When it looked like Jurassic Park we stopped immediately and had a paddle with the canoe. On many occasion dolphins came close to us.
In Norway we discovered my new favorite animal. A comb jelly. I was completely flabbergasted by the array of colors it exhibits. It is the best what I have ever seen. It is actually not a proper jelly fish. Wiki offers an article on this animal https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ctenophora.
The illustrations are from Andriy Vynogradov
It is not surprising that so many fairy-tale films are shot in Norway and Sweden. Anybody who spends a vacation here will feel like they are in a fairy-tale. But you have to be the type for it. I like to have long fingernails but this is a proper adventure holiday where you have to get your hands dirty when digging or preparing a fish. By the way the ax very much saved us as we drove over a tree trunk with the vehicle. In such moments one learns how a jack works and it is no help when you are trying to lower the car down. This vacation really brought us together as a couple. Ben had said to a friend that if we don’t end up at each other throats and am willing to go through with this then I would be the right one. It was an incredibly great feeling of freedom to lie on the left side of the vehicle with the jack raised. I used many photos from the vacation as a Christmas present because they were just so special moments.
If somebody is still looking for a present – a great idea! On the way back the last night we took the car ferry from Bergen to Denmark which we booked over our smartphones. It was a great feeling to snug into white sheets after such a long time in the vehicle. One has so much time to think and unwind making this type of vacation something everybody should experience. Sweden did not get as much coverage in this post but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t beautiful but Norway is just that bit more enthralling. In-between we treated ourselves to an overnight stay because the place was so splendid. We unfortunately don’t have the address but we can give you the phone number.
Should you require any recommendations or suggestions when putting your plans together then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Be enchanted and discard all prejudices. Our friends frequently say how lovely it looks but question whether it can be a lot of fun spending 4 weeks in a vehicle with cold water and the bush becoming your toilet. That is not really our kind of holiday. We can tell you it was great fun and gave us many pleasurable moments!!! The second vacation cost for nearly 4 weeks including food as self catering option, rented vehicle and petrol around 2,400 €. There everything was in the total price even the ice-cream and the whale safari. We will give this vacation a clear grade 1 if you can do without luxury.
As they would say Takk og farvel
Madeleine & Benjamin