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8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

Doylestown, PA
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8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

My husband and I are very soon traveling to Norway from the U.S. for the first time - Arriving at the Oslo Airport (Gardermoen) on Saturday, June 29 and departing Sunday, July 7 from Bergen Airport. My husband has business in Sandefjord for a day and a half (Monday night and all day Tuesday), so we need to take the train there on Monday afternoon. Then first thing Wednesday morning we can head to the western fjord area. We want to get a fabulous glimpse of Norway's scenery. I have been reading many of the posts on TA, as well as reading the Rick Steves Norway book.

We do not typically like to spend much time in museums or in big cities-other than walking around the major sites/parks, nor do we do much shopping. We love walking in scenic areas, hiking, exploring charming smaller towns/off the beaten path, and taking photography. Our travel style is casual and our accommodations at hotels should be on the nicer side (but do not have to be luxury), with private bath, quiet room. 800-1500 NOK per night for the room would be an acceptable range for hotel, including breakfast. Could go a little higher for 2 nights if you want to recommend a special place.

We will NOT have a car, and want to rely on trains and ferries (and an occasional bus, if needed).

We definitely want to spend several days in the fjord area and can definitely get off the Norway in a Nutshell rut. Sounds like Balestrand may be a good place from what I've read.

Dates we will be in Norway are Saturday, June 29th until Sunday morning, July 7th.

Here's what we've got so far:

- Saturday, June 29th ...arrive at Oslo Airport (OSL) and go to a hotel (need hotel recommendations). Should we just stay at a hotel by the airport and get some sleep, or should we travel into Oslo or similar to start our exploring? Since we're not huge fans of big cities should we train to some other place instead of Oslo?

- Sunday, June 30th....WHOLE DAY open ...what should we see/where should we stay?

Should we see at least a few sights in Oslo?? (Bygdoy looked like a possibility. Should we stay over there???)

Or should we continue further south from Oslo and start heading towards Sandefjord, IF there are charming places to see...

- Monday, July 1....arrive in Sandefjord by mid afternoon. Staying at the Rica Park Hotel there for 2 nights. Anything special I should see during the whole day on Tuesday, July 2nd, while my husband is in meetings in Sandefjord?. Any ideas are most welcome.

- Wednesday, July 3...leave Sandefjord early morning and take the scenic train in the direction of Bergen (Nutshell Train, at least to Flam?). We'd like to stay at a hotel in a charming town and stay there for 2-3 nights and do day trips from there.

- Thursday, July 4...day trip of hiking/ferries/scenery

- Friday, July 5...day trip of hiking/ferries/scenery

- Saturday, July 6...??Ferry to Bergen. Then we want to stay at a hotel very close to the Bergen Airport as our flight the next morning is VERY early. Any recommendations?

I know I've asked lots of questions, and am certainly willing to get your input on just a few of the items as you see fit.

Sure looking forward to exploring!

Oslo
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1. Re: 8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

Note that ferries in western fjords usually mean fjord crossings at the most narrow point. So most transport on fjords are now car ferries that function as part of the road across the fjord. There is also a small number of express catamarans notably in Sogn og Fjordane county. There is only one rail line (Oslo to Bergen with short branch to Flåm). So if you want to rely on public transport you must carefully read bus schedules and maps.

Oslo, Norway
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2. Re: 8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

Oslo is really the most interesting place between Oslo Airport and Sandefjord, I would recommend that you stay there from Saturday till Monday. Even if you don't like museums there's plenty of other things to see and do to fill 2 days. Check the official tourist web site for ideas: http://www.visitoslo.com/en/ and TA hotel reviews for hotel tips. If you want to stay outside the center, Holmenkollen Park Hotel Rica is an option.

Sandefjord is a pleasant, but not particularly interesting town. I recommend the sculpture park at Midtåsen: http://www.visitsandefjord.com/en

On the Sognefjord Aurland and Balestrand are both nice places to stay for a few days and easy to reach with public transport.

Harstad, Norway
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for Bergen, Norway
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3. Re: 8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

If you do not like big cities and are looking for somewhere charming, skip Oslo and go to Bergen by plane from Oslo airport.. Take a flight back to Sandefjord, flights are direct and very reasonable.

Business completed, you can go by train from Sandefjord to Flåm.

Getting from Flåm to Balestrand you need to cross the fjord by boat. The crossing takes 1,5 hours and the boat leaves at 15.30 so you need to arrive in Flåm in time for the boat. Kviknes is the best hotel in Balestrand.

The passenger express catamaran is the easiest way to get from Balestrand to Bergen.

There is only one hotel at Bergen airport.

Charmouth, United...
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4. Re: 8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

Bergen is very busy in summer and often crowded with cruise ship visitors so IMO would feel more like a big city than Oslo at that time. Oslo will be relatively quiet during the Norwegian holiday period. Half a day in Bergen at the end of your trip is enough to see the central sights, but I'd recommend spending the night in town and taking an early bus or taxi to the airport. Spending the evening at the top of Floibanen would be nice in the evening light after the crowds have gone .

If Oslo is too big for you, take a boat to one of the islands in the Oslo fjord which are idyllic on a fine summer's day.

Otherwise I'd agree with the other posters.

Harstad, Norway
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5. Re: 8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

Cruise passengers tend to crowd Bryggen and about as far as the fish market and the Funicular. These places can easily be avoided till the afternoon when the ships leave. Three ships in on June 30th and one leave early, so not the busiest of days. Fløybanen funicular in the afternoon and hike back is perfect.

Doylestown, PA
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6. Re: 8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

Is the train route from Sandefjord to Flam the same train as the one from Oslo to Flam? I have read the comments about how beautiful the Oslo-Bergen train route is and don't want to miss that unless the other one is so very much the same scenery/route.

Harstad, Norway
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7. Re: 8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

Yes, it is more or less the same. You change trains at Drammen for the Bergen Railway. The more scenic parts are after Drammen.

Doylestown, PA
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8. Re: 8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

Excellent input from all of you. So appreciated.

Here are a few follow up questions:

1) If we want to take a multiple-hour hike one or both of the days before we go onto Bryggen (Bergen) would you recommend we stay in Balestrand or Aurland? Which one might have more scenic hike options?

2) And of the Oslo islands do you want to recommend one over another?

3) Which fjord cruise should we be sure to not miss (if we jump off the NIAN sequence). Can we arrange that from either Balestrand or Aurland - separately from our train tickets

4) Will we enjoy splurging on first class train tickets?

Doylestown, PA
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9. Re: 8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

Thanks for clarifying the train question from Sandefjord. Seems like it just makes more sense to route ourselves to Flam from Sandefjord vs. going all the way back into Oslo.

Harstad, Norway
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10. Re: 8-days in Norway...need help with itinerary

1) Aurlandsdalen has the most beautiful hikes, but they are more or less full day hikes, so it depends what you are looking for,

www.aurlandsdalen.com/product_info.php…

Balestrand is ideal for shorter hikes.

3) Depends on where you end up staying. If you do the boat Flåm-Balestrand-Bergen, yet another boat trip might be too much. In Balestrand you have the opportunity to take a boat trip on the Fjærlandsfjord - most convenient if you are staying there. If you stay in Aurland, the Nærøyfjord boat trip is the best.