Things to Do in Norway – Trip West CoastFjords & Cities 12 Days
One of the most breathtaking nature experiences in the world is a trip along the Norwegian West Coast. It is a 2000 km drive in Norway across narrow fjords, rocky coastline and amazingly beautiful landscape, along tricky hairpin roads and through snowcapped mountains to arrive at spectacular coastal cities with exciting things to see and do.
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 13 SEP 2020
With a bit of planning you will be able to cover and do all the best things in Norway on a West Coast trip: stunningly deep fjords, impressive cascades, summer snow, wildlife, scenic hikes and alluring cities.
Your Norway West Coast road trip will start out in Bergen and end in the Arctic City of Tromsø, far to the north. There are multiple ways to arrive at Bergen: by plane, by ferry or by car. In case you fly into Bergen (via Oslo), you will need to rent a car on arrival since this will be necessary for your West Coast itinerary.
The Norway trip described is an 11-day itinerary along the West Coast. We have reserved the 12th day of your Norway trip to extend your stay in one of the sites / cities along the coast – depending on your preference. This will give you the opportunity to squeeze in an extra hike, an attractive day tour or more sightseeing of your choice!
You will arrive in Bergen, one of the real picturesque coastal cities in Southern Norway, renowned for its large number of rainy days. However, it needn’t be so – with a bit of luck you can also happen to be there in nice, sunny weather – this is of course when the city presents itself from its best side!
Stroll around along the waterfront and visit the famous and vibrant Fish Market with a multitude of enticing fresh fish. It is open on most days and one of the definite must-sees in Bergen. You may be tempted by the fresh seafood to have lunch here!
Afterwards, explore Bryggen, the old colourful wharf dating back to the Middle Ages. This is an iconic landmark in Bergen and a significant part of the cultural heritage.
Bryggen consists of a large number of UNESCO World Heritage wooden houses, which are colourful Hanseatic buildings in the historic harbour. They were constructed from around 1350, when the Hanseatic League established a trading market here in Bergen for the stockfish coming from the Lofoten Islands. The thriving Bergen trading place was one of four ‘Hanseatic offices’ abroad.
Due to multiple fires throughout the last centuries, medieval Bryggen has been reconstructed several times, the last major reconstruction was in 1702.
In the afternoon you may walk up to Skansen and the former fire station, Skansen Brannstasjon, from 1903, and afterwards take the funicular for a spectacular ride across the mountainside of Mount Fløien.
From where the funicular ends, you can set out on one of the hiking trails for a special experience with magnificent views of the Bergen area.
You will be leaving Bergen early in the morning, today heading towards Flåm and a branch of Sognefjorden, Aurlandsfjorden. This is one of the absolutely stunning and unique narrow fjords with steep mountainsides plunging right into it. Sognefjorden is often described as one of the top fjords in Norway, since not many fjords in the country can beat the scenic views here!
If you arrive early enough at Flåm, you will take the Flåm Railway, Flåmsbanen, up to Myrdal in the mountains – through a wealth of tunnels. The ride is known as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. It is also one of the steepest gauge railway lines existing, and during the ride the gradient is most of the time 5.5%!
Renowned for its stunning scenery, the mountain village is a favourite destination among tourists, who do the train ride up here as part of the Norway in a nutshell roundtrip, also including Bergen. Unlike what you maybe think when you start out in Flåm, the weather up here can be real harsh, and you may be surprised by deep snow – even in summer.
Along Sognefjorden you will, in stark contrast to Myrdal, notice the very mild climate, which exists due to the Gulf Stream. On the sloping hillsides of the valley you will surprisingly see cultivation of fruits and vegetables. Fruit plantations appear here and there along the deep fjord. Cherries, apricots, strawberries, potatoes… this is Norway’s fertile land!
If you are up to it in the afternoon, you may look for a hike here. For instance you can hike the Stegastein (650 m above Aurlandsfjorden) at Aurlandsvangen, which will give you a gorgeous view of the valley. However, be ready for some difficult mountain driving to reach the point of departure!
Aurlandsvangen also features a nice sandy fjord beach, so if the weather is nice, you can enjoy a dip here before or after your hike!
After a good night’s sleep in Flåm or Aurlandsvangen you are ready to continue your Norway trip. Today you will move a bit into the country to explore a couple of glaciers that have been there since the Ice Age. Very conveniently, a few of them are located all close to the road.
Lærdalstunnellen is the 25 km long tunnel you will now be driving through to reach the dramatic glacier-formed landscape between Fjærland and Skei. On the way you will cross the fjord by car ferry.
At Fjærland, if you have time, you may also consider visiting the Norwegian Glacier Museum.
Your first glacier stop will be Supphellebreen at Fjærdal, one of the less known glaciers in Norway. It is easily accessible from the main road, making it the perfect choice of a glacier along the way today.
Supphellebreen is one of the numerous glacial outlets from the largest glacier in Europe, Jostedalsbreen. It is fed by ice and snow falling from the larger Flatbreen, located above.
Situated only 60 m above sea level, it is the lowest glacier in Europe south of the Arctic Circle. On site you will see a series of photos confirming that it has unfortunately melted and shrunk quite a lot during the last years. Around the Little Ice Age (1740-1750) it supposedly reached its maximum, where the front of the glacier was about 800 m further down in the valley!
Ice from the glacier was actually used for the podium of the winter Olympics in 1994 in Lillehammer.
Next, you will continue a few kilometres to arrive at the glacier Bøyabreen, which, like Supphellebreen, is another branch of Jostedalsbreen. It is in general more known than Supphellebreen, and the glacier site even features a restaurant. It extends down to 150 m elevation and is one of the fastest moving glaciers in Norway with a speed of 2 metres per day!
Moreover, it is quite fascinating to view the moraine landscape here around the glaciers. In particular, notice the bluish water in the lakes and streams in the area. It originates from the compressed glacier ice melting (from the last Ice Age, or the last Little Ice Age).
Stay for the night in a hotel in the glacier region, before moving on to one of the other spectacular fjords in Norway on Day 4.
After yesterday’s cascades, snow and ice, you will now continue up to Geiranger. It is the insanely beautiful fjord with the insanely tricky Geiranger mountain road and Trollstigen road leading down to the town and fjord from one or the other side…. (if you are not into this kind of driving, you may consider skipping Geiranger and go directly to Ålesund!).
The Geirangerfjord is one of the fjords in Norway on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It surprises with high mountains of outstanding beauty and impressive waterfalls such as De Syv Søstre (The Seven Sisters) and Brudesløret (The Bridal Veil). Along the fjord you will find a number of abandoned farms.
In Geiranger, take a fjord cruise and enjoy one of the true highlights in Norway! You can also go kayaking or by RIB boat – the options are numerous! It is really one of the must-see and must-experience fjords in Norway on your trip, before moving on to one of the real spectacular cities a little bit further north!
Today you will reach one of the most architechturally interesting cities on your trip along the West Coast in Norway! Ålesund is famous for its Art Nouveau houses standing side by side along the streets.
Around 1900 a large fire ravaged the city and devastated a vast number of houses. It was just at the time that a new architectural style, the Art Nouveau, also known as Jugenstil or Modern Style, became popular in Europe, and as a result the reconstruction of the city in the years 1904-1907 followed the design and principles of the new style. As a consequence Ålesund became one of the most complete Art Nouveau cities in Europe!
Go for a stroll in central Ålesund to experience the picturesque, stylish houses. Turrets, spires and ornamented building façades all dominate the central streets.
You may also visit the Art Nouveau centre Jugendstilsenteret & KUBE, located inside the characteristic pharmacy, Svaneapoteket, from 1907.
Continue along Skateflukaia and Kongens Gate over the bridge Hellebroa from where you have a scenic canal view. Wherever you look, you will have stunning Art Nouveau houses within sight.
Norway Fjords and Cities
Along Molovegen Ålesund’s old wooden warehouses and fisherman’s houses are still preserved, today in several cases converted into cosy cafés or small museums.
Afterwards, ascend the 418 steps in Byparken to reach the iconic and panoramic view of Ålesund and its row of islands reaching out into the sea! It is definitely worth the effort, and you can pause to catch your breath at some of the panoramic lookouts, Byrampen or Strykejernet, on the way to the top!
The Atlantic Road, Atlanterhavsvegen, is one of the real famous stretches of road along the West Coast in Norway. You will cross a couple of fjords (by car ferry) and drive through Molde, before the awesome sequence of bridges across the sea are in view.
If you have an extra day, you can consider staying overnight in the fjord city Molde, known for its jazz festival, as well as outstanding panoramic views. At the Varden viewpoint you can enjoy the sight of all 222 mountain peaks!
The Atlantic Road is an extremely scenic drive over the seven bridges and you should make some stops on the various islets to enjoy the spectacular views. There is also a trail on one of the islets which takes you a bit up for a spectacular panoramic view of the seascape and the Atlantic Road.
Throughout history the cod and herring fishing industry combined with farming was traditionally the foundation of the small coastal community here. With time a considerable fish export was developed in this part of the region. Therefore, in 1909, plans for a railway through the area were launched. However, the idea was soon abandoned, and instead a road connection was projected. It was not an easy project due to extreme weather conditions and the rough sea, and the construction took six years before it was finally completed in 1989.
Driving over the bridges, you will see a combination of lush coastal landscapes, moorland and rocky outcrops reaching out into the sea.
From here you will continue northwards, and towards the evening you will arrive in Trondheim, the fourth largest urban area in Norway.
Go for an evening stroll in Trondheim city centre and discover the scenic old storehouses on the embankment of the Nidelva River. Notice the extraordinary old wooden town bridge, Gamle Bybro, connecting the two riverbanks.
In the morning of Day 7 you will go on exploring Trondheim, one of the vibrant cities in Norway having a fascinating history as well as a modern centre with all kinds of shops, restaurant options and attractive cafés.
The city was founded in 997 as a trading post, and it became Norway’s capital during the Viking Age. Later, from 1152, the northerly city became the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Nidaros. In 1537 it then changed to be the seat of the Lutheran Diocese of Nidaros.
Must-sees in Trondheim are the eye-catching Gothic Nidaros Cathedral from 1070 and the Archbishop’s Palace. The Cathedral is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world and it has been an important Christian pilgrimage site throughout many centuries. It is also the coronation church of a number of Norwegian kings with King Haakon VII being the last monarch crowned here in 1906.
Strolling around in Trondheim centre, you will also pass the impressive Stiftsgården from 1774, which is the remarkable royal residence in Trondheim.
After your morning sightseeing in Trondheim, it is now time to go on and you will continue towards Mosjøen, the oldest town in the Helgeland region. It is also the gateway to Sandnessjøen in the west, Brønnøysund in the south and Mo i Rana in the north. Mosjøen is renowned for the street Sjøgata, which is a stretch of 19th-century colourful wooden houses and their piers.
It is a long drive today, and you will probably reach Mo i Rana (late) in the evening. Mo i Rana is a convenient location to stay for the night on your way northwards. There is not much to do in this Northern Norwegian industrial town, so you will just stop here for a good night’s sleep.
Today you will drive along Saltfjellet – Svartisen National Park which is also an amazing 2500-year old glacier area and one of the largest mountainous regions in Norway. However, you will not head for any glaciers here today, but instead stop at Polarsirkelsentret, the Arctic Circle Centre, which is the marking of the polar circle, located just off the main road.
The Sami people have hunted here for centuries and you can find many traces from the Sami culture and their heritage in the mountains, among other things primitive cabins. As reindeer herdsmen they have for centuries stayed in the area looking after their reindeer. You can still find their trails across the mountains.
The Arctic Circle Centre, located 650 metres above sea level, marks the border to the Arctic. Here you can enjoy a show ‘Welcome to the Arctic’, with images and music from the region. There is an Arctic post office with its own Arctic Circle postmark, and an Arctic Circle certificate is also available. You may also visit the shop with loads of products related to the Arctic and Northern Norway, some more touristic than others!
Afterwards, go for a walk in the Arctic landscape to explore the monuments and cairns. In fact, there are thousands of cairns constructed by visitors and travelers in the area – it is really impressive!
Finally, you will leave the Arctic Circle and head towards Bodø, the oldest town in the Nordland county. After a couple of day of driving inland in Norway, you will again approach the West Coast and its cities and fjords.
On the way, you may agree to a small detour to the renowned Saltstraumen slightly south of Bodø.
Saltstraumen is a wondrous natural phenomenon, namely the world’s strongest tidal current, having existed for about two to three thousand years. The maelstrom occurs with the tidal waters and is strongest when the water flows in and out of the narrow strait at its maximum speed. It changes direction every six hours and creates whirlpools which are as much as 10 metres in diameter and reach 4-5 metres down below the surface.
The site is highly popular and you can bring a packed lunch or some coffee to the picturesque surroundings overlooking the maelstrom.
It is now time to continue to Bodø, where you will be staying for the night.
Once in Bodø, go for a stroll along the harbour and discover the city. It is a lovely place with a good vibe, but it can be a bit windy, so take appropriate clothing. Since the UpNorth Festival in 2015, the city features some creative pieces of street art – look out for them!
The surroundings are also breathtaking. You can also, either today – if you have time – or maybe rather tomorrow morning, try the newer hiking trail, a 2-kilometre Sherpa staircase, opened in 2016 by Norway’s Queen Sonja, leading up to Keiservarden, from where you can enjoy the stunning views of Bodø.
If you had more ‘extra days’ on your trip, you could also choose to extend your stay in this part of Norway and take a ferry from Bodø to the Lofoten Islands.
After some more morning sightseeing in Bodø, or maybe the hike to Keiservarden lookout, you will hit the road again towards Narvik.
Narvik is situated in the heart of a stunning landscape. If you take the 8-minute ride by cable car up Narvikfjellet, you will reach a lookout with an absolutely panoramic view of Narvik. There is also a restaurant on site.
The Narvik region played an important role in the Second World War. You may like to visit the War Museum, giving insight into the biggest battle in the North Atlantic taking place in 1940-45. The museum also features an exhibition on peace, war and human rights.
Another attraction in Narvik is the Ofoten Railway from 1902, opened to transport iron ore from Kiruna in Sweden to Narvik Harbour. This railway construction was the northernmost and one of the most challenging railway projects in the world. Today, the railway line is mainly used by tourists to make a scenic trip along the fjords in this part of Norway, across the mountains to the Swedish border. Near Narvik you will also pass the wreckage of a WWII German destroyer. If you extend your stay with one more day in Narvik, you may consider jumping on the train bound for Katterat Station! Read more about this special train trip in Norway here.
You will drive the last distance of your Norway West Coast trip from Narvik to Tromsø, one of the most spectacular cities in Norway with a picture-postcard location at scenic mountains and fjords.
On your first day in Tromsø you may take Fjellheisen to the top of the Fløya mountain for real spectacular views of Tromsø city on the other side of the sound. If you are adequately fit, you may also opt to hike the Sherpa steps one way to the cable car station or Fjellstua.
For the rest of the afternoon – or if you skip the mountain tour, you will stroll around in central Tromsø, visit the world’s northernmost protestant cathedral, the architecturally spectacular Public Library and the old Skansen, constructed by Haakon Haakonsson from the 1200s. Also the northernmost aquarium, Polaria, is worthy of a visit to experience Arctic marine life.
In the evening you may cross Tromsø Bridge again and go to the triangular-looking Arctic Cathedral, Ishavskatedralen from 1965, on the other side. With a bit of luck you may be able to attend a midnight concert here – either a Midnight Sun Concert in summer or a Northern Lights Concert in winter.
On your last day in Tromsø and the last day of your Norway West Coast trip, you will explore Tromsø’s surroundings. Either you will have a sea experience setting out on a fjord cruise, a RIB boat tour, or maybe whale watching, or you will drive out to the island Kvaløya to enjoy the beautiful coastal surroundings with the possibility of viewing reindeer on the island.
Afterwards, you may want to visit the Polar Museum, full of exciting polar expedition history and insight into the life of famous polar explorers such as Roald Amundsen. You will also learn about Arctic hunting and the life as a trapper.
In winter you may want to go on an evening tour to chase the Northern Lights, and in summer you can opt to go to the Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden to experience some of the special Arctic plants.
Read more about 2 days in Tromsø.
We have reserved an extra day for extending your stay at one of the sites of your trip, according to preference. You may want to stay an extra night in either Flåm, the glacier area, Geiranger or one of the cities Molde, Trondheim or Narvik to be able to include extra hikes or day tours, and explore these places in Norway more in depth.
Check out the Comfort Hotel Xpress Tromsø in the heart of Tromsø:
Eco-certified hotel in central Tromsø close to the Polar Experience Center and the Hurtigruten Terminal. Some rooms offer a sea view. Convenient 24-hour lobby shop where you can buy breakfast items and snacks.
Check the price / book
Check out the Enter City Hotel:
Centrally located hotel near Storgata pedestrian street and just 200 m from Tromsø Cathedral. Near the Polar Museum and the Polaria Aquarium. Rooms have a fully equipped kitchen or kitchenette.
Check the price / book
Located just 15 minutes’ walk from Karl Johans Gate. The hotel features spacious rooms, bright decor and a lobby bar with a small garden.
Check the price / book
Located in central Oslo just 300 m from Karl Johans Gate. Aker Brygge is just 14 minutes’ walk away. The hotel features stylish rooms and offers luggage storage.
Check the price / book
Pin ‘Things to do in Norway – Trip West Coast, Fjords and Cities’!
Have you considered what you will do in the (unlikely) event of something unforeseen happening? Do you need a travel insurance? Click here to get a quote and buy your travel insurance.
Have you checked if you need a visa for your trip? Click here to check and apply for a visa.
GET MORE INSPIRATION
Featured image for ‘Things to Do in Norway – Trip West Coast, Fjords & Cities 12 Days’ article © Travel In Culture
‘Things to do in Norway Fjords Trip Cities’