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To give you a deeper understanding of our cycling and walking holidays in Europe, we like to introduce you to our new On Track feature. Today is the first in a series of quick Q&A’s on a specific trip in our offer. We conducted this inaugural Q&A with resident guide John who was in Norway earlier this month where he hiked the routes of our The Fjordland walking trip. We describe this Norway hiking trip as
"A wide-ranging introduction to trekking in Norway, featuring a range of walks of different standards, in differential scenery".
Get a better understanding of The Fjordland walking trip and what you may expect of walking in Norway via the below questions and answers.
#1 What is special about hiking in Norway?
I think you could say there is a frontier, wild feeling to hiking in Norway. The scenery can be bleak and beautiful in places with expansive vistas over distant lakes. There are tracks of forest and then you find the fjords with the most dramatic scenery imaginable.
#2 To what other region in the world can you compare the Norwegian landscape?
Norway has aspects that are similar to Sweden of course, but it can also be similar to parts of Scotland and Iceland. There are moderate fells and glacial features. Norway has the same geology to parts of the Scottish Highlands and let’s face it, similar weather - southern Norway is on quite the same latitude as Northern Scotland.
#3 Doesn’t this Norwegian climate prevent good trekking possibilities?
Norwegian weather is frontal and fickle, it can do anything at these latitudes, there is great trekking here but you should be prepared with your clothing (good shells and layering) and have a positive attitude. The weather changes all the time. All being well, there should be enough walks of different standards in our package to enable you to cope with the vagaries of weather, as well as other things to do!
The walking remains dramatic in all different types of weather.
#4 Will we encounter other walkers on this trip?
It depends whether it is the weekend and where you are. On most of the walks in my week in July, I have seen between 5 and 12 people, it isn't a lot. Maybe on the more tourist oriented routes like from Myrdal to Flam you would see a few dozen, but mostly on bikes.
Most Norwegians have good English and although it is worth having a phrase book, generally the people speak our English language very freely... like the Dutch or Danes.
#5 Are there enough places on the route for a drink or a snack?
On the walks, there are very few places where you can buy refreshments and some of the huts are unmanned. There are a couple of cafes on a couple of the routes. These are quite charming; one is for example in an old farm and another used to be a railwayman's house. A lot of the emphasis when walking in Norway is on the self-reliant experience.
#6 What 3 items should I pack for a Norway hiking trip?
- Walking poles... a great help on snow patches and long steep descents.
- Shell clothing including gaiters... you need to be waterproof as much as possible
- Duty free... save yourself a fortune on drinks.
We hope this information has indeed answered some of the questions you may have had. If you have other queries, please get in touch with John and the Sherpa team via phone or email.
Did you like this Q&A and would you like to get similar details of one of our other active Europe holidays? We’d be happy for you to tell us about your suggestions.
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“We have been enthusiastic expeditioners for more than 30 years” say Australians Kerry Mather and Lachlan McCaw. Last summer they embarked on our Fjordland walking holiday in Norway with their daughter Darcie. In recent years they undertook a wide variety of walking throughout Australia including mountains, coastal areas and the remote arid interior of Western Australia. Living in the south-west of Western Australia they regularly take the opportunity to explore sections of the Bibbulmun Track. They didn’t stick to Australia: “Our overseas walking exploits have included an extended trek from Kashmir into Ladakh, the Milford Track in the South Island of New Zealand, and multi-day walks in the Pyrenees and Dinaric Alps of central Bosnia,” says Lachlan. Their 20-year-old daughter accompanied them on the Norway walking holiday and really enjoyed the experience of a tour like this as well.
Why did you choose to walk in the Fjordlands in Norway?
Our travel plans included visiting friends in Denmark, exploring southern Norway and Sweden, and spending time in Finland for a professional conference. Past experience has confirmed that including a challenging outdoor activity in our travel schedule adds greatly to the enjoyment and understanding of the country that we are visiting. Western Norway is renowned for stunning scenery of mountains and fjords, and the opportunity to stand on the summit of a sub-arctic mountain and gaze across glaciers and icefields was a strong drawcard. The Sherpa Expeditions Fjordland self-guided walking holiday offered a variety of walking experiences with interesting accommodation venues linked conveniently by public transport.
“The long mid-summer days in the Norwegian mountains were a special treat.”
How did you prepare for this Norway walking holiday?
The travel pack provided by Sherpa Expeditions was informative and a useful guide as to what to expect during the walk and the level of fitness required. The walk is graded as moderate to challenging and we found this to be an accurate description of the terrain, track conditions and weather. Our daily life activity program includes regular swimming, walking and moderate cycling and this ensured we had a good level of fitness to enjoy the walk. The trip did include some relatively long days on mountain tracks.
What was your favourite destination in the Fjordland?
There were so many beautiful places on our Norway walking holiday that it’s hard to pick a favourite. We relished the challenge of walking from Finse up to the summit of St Paul’s peak (1700 m) across deep hard-packed snow. The view from the summit was spectacular, made all the more atmospheric by an icy arctic wind and snow flurries. Our reward at the end of this (summer) day was hot chocolate and dinner in the warm and comfortable hotel at Finse! We loved the cosy library overseen by a solemn reindeer head mounted on the wall. The following day we walked 21 km from Myrdal to Flam down the beautiful Flam valley, basking in warm sunshine. The steep and rugged Aurland valley provided a stunning setting for the final day of walking. Our visit to the isolated stone Sinjarheim farmlet perched high above the river made this last day even more interesting.
“The award for the most innovative dish would go to…”
What about the food and drinks in Norway?
All the hotels offered an excellent buffet breakfast which prepared us well for active days in the mountains. Evening meals provided at the hotels were of a uniformly high standard, well presented and tasty. Wine is expensive in Norway, but beer, cider and lunch supplies can be purchased at reasonable cost from small supermarkets in most of the villages used for overnight stays. The award for the most innovative dish would go to the chefs at the Vestlia Resort in Geilo who prepared a luscious dessert of pannacotta, fresh berries and cream served on a traditional slate roof tile!
What was your biggest surprise on this walking holiday?
While at Aurland we took a shuttle bus up to the Stegastein lookout. It’s located high up on the side of the valley and offers stunning views of the fjord and town below. It’s well worth the visit. The long mid summer days in the Norwegian mountains were a special treat.
What aspect of walking in Norway did you find most challenging?
Heavy spring snowfalls in 2015 resulted in one of deepest snow packs for several decades. This meant that the higher elevation walks were across continuous snow cover. Routes were generally well marked and easy to follow, but boots and snow gaiters were essential to keep our feet dry and comfortable.
The track from Osterbo to Vassbygdi traverses rugged gorge country and is steep and challenging in places, but well within the capabilities of fit and well-prepared walkers.
In several places we encountered small waterfalls and had to zip up our waterproof jackets and run the gauntlet through a shower of icy water on this walking holiday in Norway.
“The travel pack provided by Sherpa Expeditions was informative and a useful guide as to what to expect during the walk and the level of fitness required.”
Our walking holiday to Norway’s Fjordland departs on any day you like during the European summer months from July until September. To learn more about the walk that the Mather-McCaw family took, have a look at the full description of The Fjordland Walk here, or as always, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or write an email to our team of travel experts in the London office.
The Fjordland in Norway is a fantastic area to visit in the summer months of July-September. The area is dotted with traditional villages, glaciers, some fantastic peaks up to 1900m, and of course the fjords with dramatic views that Norway is so well-known for. But summer in this Scandinavian country can also look very different...! Here's some stunning images of some of the sights you'll pass on our walking trip in Norway.
>> Handsome town houses of the prosperous Norwegian old village of Aurland. Lovely and quiet to wonder through on a summer’s afternoon. The town honours
deer by a statue in the town's centre, there is a small museum and of course cafes with freshly brewed coffee to start your day's walk.
>> At the end of the cruise from Flam to Gudvangen you spill out the boat to an area where local Vikings are doing carvings in wood.
>> Approaching Aurland by the ferry, the Sognefjord stretches out in glassy beauty to a bend where it meets a back wall of huge mountains. We normally stay in a nice and friendly hotel just a street back from the waterfront.
>> The Sognefjord has lots of boat sheds from where the locals can go out fishing.
>> Nesbo is a tiny hamlet on the Aurland gorge walk between Østerbø and Vassbygdi. Crossing a tiny bridge, one walks into the farm which is suspended from the side of the gorge. It is the ideal time for sandwiches.
>> Geilojordet is a street of traditional and old housing from around the area. Most of these old Norwegian houses that were saved, were moved and reassembled piece by piece in this street - usually because new developments threatened them. Some date from the 1600s. The villagers sometimes hold cultural events on the grass in front of the houses.
>> Hardangervidda Plateau. It is summer, but the plateau is still covered with snow and of course glaciers. This is close to the town of Finse and the big boulders have been brought down by glaciers from somewhere else. Notice the little green tent in between the boulders? When researching our self-guided walking trip the hotel was closed, so we had to overnight in this tent. Although somewhat cold at the time, it was beautiful waking up to peaceful Norway in the morning!
>> A footpath sign directing you up through the ‘Priest hole.’ This walk is perhaps the best walk you can do in the Geilo area on a clear day and gives you the opportunity to climb the Prestholskarvet (1863m). A climb of some six hundred metres on at times steep and loose terrain, up to the great Hallingskarvet plateau with some truly fantastic views.
>> I am not sure of the origin of these boulders on a farm at Skjerdal. Are they prehistoric siting stones? It is likely they were placed there by man in antiquity, but it is not so many thousand years ago that the Ice Age bit deep into the landscape of Norway.
>> Early summer landscape from the peak of Sankt Paul (1694m), although located in the heart of Norway, it's mischievously named after the London cathedral. In all honesty we think it doesn’t look anything like it, but the views with the clouds bellowing over the snow are dramatic.
>> Seagull eye view of Aurland from the ferry that goes from Flam in the Sognefjord. One of the World’s most dramatic locations?
If you like to experience the summer in Norway as well and want to see the spectacular landscapes, glaciers and charming Norwegian towns for yourself, our 8-day self-guided walking holiday to the Fjordland departs daily from mid-July until the end of September. For more information you can download the trip notes or get in touch with our team of experts.
Sherpa Expeditions traveller Chris Weiss shares his experiences in Norway, with his son Evan, on our Fjordland walking tour.
Why did you choose your trip?
My son has some Norwegian ancestry and lives in a part of the U.S. that is heavily populated by Norwegian immigrants (ya!). We've talked about traveling to Norway for a long time, but the logistic hurdles always seemed too overwhelming until we found Sherpa. We were looking for a rugged adventure in a cool climate where we would not have to carry all the equipment required to backpack. The Fjordland tour offered by Sherpa seemed ideal for us.
How did you prepare?
Sherpa was very helpful. The detailed logistical reference book that Sherpa provided prior to our trip answered almost every one of our questions. It included topographic maps, step-by-step hiking directions and provided the flexibility to choose a variety of hikes at each location. Although the maps provided by Sherpa were very adequate, we ended up buying the original Norwegian maps in Geilo which gave us a broader perspective of the tour.
Before the trip we watched the weather closely using internet resources and packed our clothing in anticipation of a wide range of predicted conditions. We're used to hiking in the Rocky Mountains and understand the need for lightweight, breathable clothing that can be layered for both summer and near-winter conditions on the same day hike. On our day hikes, we each carried 4-5 light weight upper layers and 3 lower layers that included a rain proof shell (and we used them all on more than one occasion). We've been stranded by weather in the outback before and always carry enough water, food, shelter and fire starters to make such an event tolerable if not comfortable. The trick is getting all this along with a hearty lunch all in a very small day pack!
What was the best part of your trip?
We loved so many parts of the trip, especially Finse and the Flam Valley. We chose to depart from the plan a bit and rented bicycles rather than walk the road through the Flam Gorge. I would recommend adding this option for anyone who enjoys the Fjordland adventure. The biking was beautiful and provided lots of time for stopping and enjoying lunch and the amazing views along the way, including the opportunity for several side trips. We also loved Aurland! The hike from Ostebo to Vassbygdi (out of Aurland) was a huge highlight. The next day, we added a kayak rental in Aurland from a very relaxed operation along the shore in town. The weather was so marvellous that we kayaked to the other side of the fjord and went cliff diving into the deep cool waters there.
...and the most challenging part?
The hike from Ostebo to Vassbygdi was marked as "challenging" in your logistic notes and it certainly was! At the same time, it was a huge highlight of our trip.
Your favourite destination?
Finse was stark and wonderful. The hikes to the north of the lodge are like nothing we've ever experienced. The contrast between the rock and the colourful mosses and lichens made the place seem unworldly. Our bike ride through the Flam Gorge was breathtaking. We plan to return there next March to ice climb the waterfalls and frozen seeps along the valley walls. Aurland was very sleepy and relaxing but the hikes from there were the best, so rugged and beautiful. We especially loved kayaking along the fjord opposite Aurland's shore, diving and swimming in the frigid waters at the base of 1000ft waterfalls there. We also chose to take the Express Ferry from Aurland to Bergen rather than return to Oslo through Flam and Myrdal. Doing so, we saw the entire length of the beautiful Sognefjord as a fitting end to our journey.
Best food and drink?
The food was great. The best were the wonderful roadside markets and the buffets in Geilo and Finse. The beer and wine was a bit too expensive for us and we were hiking too hard to partake in anything but a small taste of the local brew. The clear water that spills everywhere along the trails was clean and wonderful to taste (after we zapped it with a bit of UV light, just in case). Now, I should say that I was able to obtain an extremely rare bottle of Larsen's Arctic XO cognac in Oslo, the report for which must wait for this winter's holiday season.
Have you ever been on a Sherpa Expeditions walking or cycling holiday? If yes, send us your story and get £50 off your next trip...
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