Driving from Oslo to Stavanger to Bergen and back to Oslo on Norway’s ultra-scenic roads is an experience you won’t soon forget! Prepare for some beautiful Scandinavian cities, old wooden churches, fjords, waterfalls and Viking ships. Here is how to do it.
Day 1: Oslo
Try to arrive early in Oslo to have the rest of the day for some sightseeing. A nice and original hotel in central Oslo that I can recommend is Hotel Guldsmeden. If you rent a car from day 1, there is a QPark nearby (expensive) or you can park in the street if you find a spot. Walk to the new and very modern district of Aker Brygge with a lot of restaurants on the seafront (quite touristy though). Continue to the impressive Opera House, new and modern as well. Then turn towards Oslo’s main railway station (Oslo sentralstasjon) on your left and walk up the Karl Johans street, Oslo’s main shopping street. At the end arises the Royal Palace (Kongelige Slott) and its surrounding park. First night in Oslo.
The region called Lapland stretches out across 3 countries (Finland, Sweden and Norway) and is quite different in each of those countries. From rugged mountain landscapes and treeless tundra in its western and northern parts, Lapland becomes hilly and covered by endless taiga towards the south (and suprisingly much colder in winter, as inland is way colder than the efficiently Gulf Stream-heated coastline). It’s one of the very few easily accessible and fairly populated places on Earth above the Arctic Circle (which geographically marks the limit of the globe’s arctic area where the sun doesn’t set and doesn’t rise for at least one day during the year, a phenomenon also known as midnight sun and polar night). The further you go north, the longer these periods last (for example at North Cape, the sun doesn’t set at all from May 13th to July 29th and doesn’t rise at all from November 18th to January 23rd). Lapland also is one of the best places on Earth together with Iceland to chase the amazing northern lights.
Circling the scenic island in a week is feasible. You just need careful and efficient planning, long time ahead of your trip. A lot of driving is also involved. Best season to visit Iceland is summer (July-August) but it’s also high season. Hotels and guesthouses can be fully booked months in advance (even over a year in some cases)… Prepare to pay big bucks if you want decently comfortable accommodation, no luxurious resorts here but luxurious price tags (the Scandinavian way…). To get the best of your Icelandic trip, you will also need torent a 4WD vehicle, as many roads in the highlands (marked as F-roads) are simply forbidden to 2WD vehicles (some of them are more or less accessible with standard vehicles, but you won’t be covered by the insurance in case of a problem if you decide to go despite the interdiction!). Also note that in June (and possibly even in early July) some roads can still be completely closed depending on how bad the previous winter has or hasn’t been. To be sure, plan your trip for late July or August (the downside being less daylight and darker nights). Renting any vehicle in Iceland is pricey (extra insurances are required because of the hazardous road conditions plus possible sand and/or ash blasts that can severely damage cars) and renting an SUV is very pricey. But again, it’s the only way of seeing every corner of the island (most of them being totally worth the price). Thepickytraveller doesn’t recommend renting a vehicle from Sixt, as they are located away from the terminal building and their customer service never replied to complaints regarding a malfunctioning A/C…