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Maintaining a rational perspective with international travel
There’s no doubt that Coronavirus has caused disruption and inconvenience to individuals and to the authorities in affected areas, but I would like to reassure travellers with a calm and rational assessment of the facts.
Uncertainty about the virus in its early weeks has bred fear, which is being heightened by the barrage of news headlines and amplified by social media. The situation now is that it is rare to read balanced information.
World Expeditions Travel Group has been operating adventures across the globe for 45 years and, during that time, we have experienced and overcome many adversities. We have well-developed and tested risk strategies for these very occurrences.
Coronavirus outbreak is the latest challenge and we do not see any reason for travellers to panic. We advocate continuing with travel plans as we are doing with our own staff travel programme.
As with travel at any time, there are risks of infection from a virus. At no time are we able to guarantee you will not become ill during your travels with World Expeditions Travel Group or, indeed, in your daily life at home. Weighing up the risks of travel is a personal decision and we encourage you to investigate the facts to come to an informed decision about the risks.
According to the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:
"Everyone should know the symptoms – for most people, it starts with a fever and a dry cough, not a runny nose. Most people will have mild disease and get better without needing any special care."
We develop robust risk strategies based on multiple sources, primarily:
We encourage you to visit both websites. With respect to corona virus, mainland China, Iran and 11 towns in Northern Italy and two pockets of South Korea remain the only four countries for which the FCO has increased the advisory to Advise against all but essential travel or Advise against all travel.
Johns Hopkins University in the US has a map with helpful facts
about global cases of the virus.
We make regular updates to the travel advisory section of our own website and I encourage you to check it
on our partner company World Expeditions.
I would also remind you that a typical World Expeditions Travel Group holiday is one in which you’ll be immersed in the natural landscape and generally off the beaten track, where the chance of catching any virus is far lower than in most urban environments.
I do advise departing travellers, including staff who are travelling both now and in the future, to take extra precautions in washing your hands regularly and following NHS guidelines related to COVID-19
In conclusion, I would like to assure you that your safety – and that of all our travellers - has always been at the core of everything we do. I acknowledge that any new health outbreak that is widely covered by the media will cause concern and I encourage you to maintain a rational perspective and continue with what you do daily and what you love to do on your holidays.
There’s something very calming about walking beside a lake. The stillness of the water, and the views to the hills or mountains rising up from the far side of the lake can give a wonderful sense of space. And whether in the UK or Europe, lakeside towns and villages are often some of the most picturesque you’ll come across.
We offer a number of walks that include significant stretches of beautiful lakeside walking – here are a few of our favourites.
The Italian lakes are stunning – beautiful blue ribbons of water carving their way through majestic mountains, with classic coastal towns and villas dotted along the shores. Lake Como is one of the most famous, and has been a popular destination since the days of the Romans. As well as ancient Roman villas, the lake boasts grand hotels built for wealthy European and American tourists during the Victorian era.
Our trip starts in Como, and includes several walks that take you to some of the most attractive towns and villages on the lake’s shores, offering plenty of opportunities to drink in the magnificent views and sample the delicious food and wine.
Find out more about Lake Como Rambling here.
Undoubtedly the best way to enjoy Cumbria’s breath-taking natural beauty and refreshingly clear air is at a leisurely pace walking the Cumbria Way.
This tour provides an excellent introduction to the charms of English Lakeland, England’s most mountainous area, and one if its most beautiful regions. Walking is unquestionably the best way to see this celebrated landscape, hailed over the years by the likes of poets, authors and painters. Wordsworth, Tennyson, Arthur Ramson, Beatrix Potter and Wainwright have all left their mark.
Starting in Ulverston and finishing in Keswick, the walk takes in views of Lakes Coniston and Derwentwater, as well as Langdale and Borrowdale, two of the area’s prettiest valleys.
Find out more about walking the Cumbria Way here.
Welcome to beautiful Upper Austria in the hinterland of Mozart’s city of Salzburg. The beauty of the area embraced by the Dachstein Mountains and the Hallstattersee is truly inspirational. There are people who claim that once you have walked here you will have experienced the best ‘typical’ alpine hiking in Europe.
After a few days in the mountains you’ll descend to the waters of Lake Hallstattersee, and the ancient, picture-perfect lakeside town of Hallstatt. From here you’ll be able to explore the fascinating local area, and swim in the lake if the weather is warm enough.
Find out more about the trip here.
The Wicklow Way is Ireland's oldest waymarked trail, pioneered by a famous hill walker, J.B Malone over 40 years ago and reveals some of Irelands finest views - Powerscourt Waterfall, Luggala, Loch Dan, Glenmalure and historical Glendalough.
The Wicklow Way explores unspoilt trails, remote scenery, lakes, glacial valleys, forests and gentle farmland – before finishing in the famous city of Dublin. Along the way, you’ll pass through the spectacular Glendalough valley, with views of the two lakes that sit at the bottom of the valley.
Photo: Magdalena Smolnicka
We offer 7-day and 9-day versions of the Wicklow Way.
Loch Ness hardly needs an introduction – Scotland’s second largest loch stretches for 23 miles along the Great Glen, which links Fort William in the south to Inverness in the north, and contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
Whilst walking the great Glen Way, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of Loch Ness, as well the other lochs, and the majestic surrounding mountains, including, of course, Ben Nevis itself, the UK’s highest peak. Along the way, you’ll be treated by famous Scottish hospitality, and traditional food.
Read more about walking the Great Glen Way here.
Not technically lakes, the Fjords are great coastal grooves, gouged out by retreating glaciers from the last ice-age. What they definitely are though, is spectacular – providing a breath-taking walking experience that will live with you forever. There are a wide range of walks to take in the highlands, which lead you right up onto the glaciers edge; it is even possible to go out onto the ice to take an excursion. There are also the lusher walks down into the pastoral settings of the Flam and Aurland Valleys. These are furnished with forests, farmsteads, cascades and churches.
You’ll also visit Sognefjord, the longest fjord in the world.
Find out more about walking in the Fjordland here.
One of our self-guided cycling holidays, this trip takes you through the heart of the Scottish Highlands, which have long been a favoured destination for cyclists and walkers keen to experience the mountain peaks, shimmering lochs and pretty glens. Along the way, you’ll visit beautiful lochs Tay and Earn, as well as the River Tay and the peaceful lochside towns of Kenmore, Lochearnhead and Killin.
En route there are opportunities to take a forest walk or visit one of the many castles and ancient monuments to be found along the way.
Find out more about cycling the Lochs and Bens.
There’s nothing quite like walking in the mountains to reconnect yourself with nature. The majesty and vastness of a mountain landscape helps to remind us of our place in the world, and many people who spend a holiday amongst the magnificent peaks often describe it as a life-changing experience.
Although some mountain walking routes sit towards the challenging end of the spectrum, you certainly don’t need to be a mountaineer to take them on.
Here are a few of our favourite mountain walks in Europe.
The region around Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe (4,810m/15,780ft), is home to some of the best alpine walking and trekking in Europe, providing walkers with an opportunity to sample the culture and flavour of the three different countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. Our trekking holidays around Mont Blanc are dominated throughout by views of the highest peaks in the Alps. The traverse of the high passes takes you beneath spectacular glaciers and at other times you pass through picture-perfect Alpine villages and summer meadows.
Read more about the Tour du Mont Blanc.
You may also like: The Alpine Pass Route, The Wildstrubel Circuit, The Bernese Oberland & Reichenbach Falls, The Haute Route.
The Dolomites are like no other mountains in Europe. The Dolomite peaks are gigantic, chiselled monuments to the powerful forces of glacial erosion. Continuous sheer cliffs flank most of the peaks. Although not exceptionally high (the highest peak is Marmolada at 3,342m), they are amongst the most striking of all European mountains, coloured in weathered hues of rose, yellow, white and grey and rising in steep spires of fantastic form. Below lie bright green meadows alive with wild flowers all summer.
Read more about Walking in the Dolomites.
You may also like: Dolomites Guided Walk
The mountains form the backbone of this rugged island. Interesting and varied long distance footpaths cross the mountains from east to west. Based on old mule tracks and ancient routes of transhumance, these routes traditionally connected mountain villages with each other and with high level pastures. Crossing intermediate ridges and following forested valleys, they take the walker into the heart of the mountains, past tumbling rivers, mixed woodland and through attractive villages.
Read more about Corsica: Mountains & Sea
You may also like: A Saunter in Sardinia
This tour is a good choice for a summer hike, in a fascinating and generally quiet mountain region that is well off the beaten tracks of the higher Pyrenees. The route is truly spectacular in places, taking in some of the finest landscapes in Spain on the fringes of the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park. You cross two passes of over 2,000m, which are normally free of snow by mid-June. On the way are forests, plateaus, terraced hillsides, charming villages, deep canyons and broad valleys.
Read more about Alto Aragon: The Spanish Pyrenees
You may also like: Mountains to the Mediterranean
Cyprus is an island of natural beauty in a region with an abundance of ancient and modern civilisations and cultures. Away from the cosmopolitan towns and beach resorts you will find large areas of natural, unspoilt countryside. Rugged, conifer-clad mountains, woodland, orchards and vineyards are interspersed with tranquil, timeless villages. The Troodos Mountains cover much of the southern and western part of the country and this walk takes you from walking in the high mountains down to the coast, starting from an altitude of about 1,100m.
Read more about The Troodos Mountains and Akamas – available as an 8-day or 11-day trip
You may also like: Zagoria – The Secret Villages
Claimed by some to be the most popular long distance trail in the British Isles, The West Highland Way follows a national trail through some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscapes. Starting at the village of Drymen just outside Glasgow, it includes Loch Lomond, valley routes through the mountains round Crianlarich and open heather moorland across the Rannoch Moor wilderness area. It passes close to somber Glencoe, and finishes at Fort William near the foot of Ben Nevis (Britain's highest peak, which can be readily ascended by experienced clients if they choose to spend an extra day).
Read more about The West Highland Way – available as an 8-day or 10-day trip
You may also like: The Great Glen Way, The Pennine Way
The beauty of the area embraced by the Dachstein Mountains and the Hallstattersee is truly inspirational - especially in the crisp, stable weather that this region often acquires during the period of this tour. There are people who claim that once you have walked here you will have experienced the best alpine hiking in Europe. The lower slopes of alpine pasture are dotted with picturesque lakes and villages including gorgeous Halstatt, whilst the high triangular mountaintops are smothered with glacial ice.
Read more about The Austrian Lake District & Dachstein Alps
You may also like: The Fjordland in Norway.
Contact our team by email or phone to discuss your wishes.
Christmas is just around the corner, and we hope your plans for the festive season are coming along nicely. As well as enjoying this special time with friends and family, Christmas is also the perfect time to start making your holiday plans for next year – but what’s on your wish list for 2019? Here, we pick out a few of our trips that might help you decide – but there are hundreds more trips to choose from on our website. In the meantime, have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
Whichever trip you choose, Sherpa Expeditions can help to make your 2019 a very memorable year.
Tick off a classic UK walk
Coast to Coast
This classic Coast to Coast walking route, stretching from the east to west of the UK, was originated and described by Alfred Wainwright, author of a well-known series of mountain-walking guide books on the Lake District. The walk starts on the Irish Sea coast of Cumbria near the huge red sandstone cliffs of St. Bees Head. You cross three National Parks before reaching the North Sea at the pretty fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the rocky coastline of the North York Moors. Sherpa Expeditions offers a range of guided and self guided Coast to Coast walks, ranging from 15 to 18 days for the entire route, and with shorter sections available.
Other trips that fit the bill…
The West Highland Way
Cornwall: The South West Coast Path
Take on a challenge
The Pennine Way
A mountain journey across the backbone of England, The Pennine Way became the very first British National Trail in 1965. It is a long, 268 mile (429 km) hike from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. It crosses some of the finest upland landscapes in England, from the Peak District, through the Yorkshire Dales, across the North Pennines and over Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, through the Cheviots and down into Scotland. Its sheer length makes it the perfect for those seeking a challenge – although you can also choose to do just the southern or northern sections.
Other trips that fit the bill…
The Tour du Mont Blanc
Alto Aragon : The Spanish Pyrenees
Try a Scandinavian adventure
This trip is the ideal introduction into the magic of Norwegian walking; it is undertaken from several centres using easy transportation on trains and boats in between. From Oslo or Bergen you travel by rail to some of the wildest, most spectacular, classic “picture postcard” settings within the realms of Norwegian mountain and fjordland. The retreating glaciers from the last ice age once overwhelmed and molded this landscape, gouging out the great coastal grooves which, with post glacial rising sea levels, have become the fjords.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Sweden: Hiking Stockholm and Beyond
Soak up some sun
Classic Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is the quintessential Italian holiday, with stunning scenery and mouth-watering food. Pastel coloured fishing villages are perched on the staggering cliff side overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean Sea with some outstanding walks to experience this destination. There is no better way to immerse in this jaw dropping Italian coastline than hiking the Amalfi Coast to explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you're a sun worshipper, you'll love the warmth and colours of this beautiful part of Italy.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Majorca: Sierras and Monasteries
Rambling in the Luberon
Enjoy a food and wine lover’s paradise
Hidden Treasures of the Dordogne
Everyone’s idea of what constitutes great food is different, but there’s no doubting that classic French food and wine is up there with the best. The food from the Dordogne features dishes that embody most people’s idea of classic French cuisine – this is the land of truffles, magret de canard and rich, dark wines. However, there’s much more to the Dordogne than just the amazing food and wine – beautiful medieval villages, lush, green, wooded hills and even caves all add to this lovely walking tour. (8 and 10 day trips available).
Other trips that fit the bill…
Medieval France: Tarn & Aveyron
Burgundy Vineyard Trails
Keep cool in the forest
King Ludwig’s Way
For those that like some trees to shade them from the heat of the summer sun, this lovely, fascinating walk offers some very enjoyable stretches through the beech forests of Bavaria. The route passes two of Bavaria's most scenic lakes and through charming villages of geranium bedecked chalets with typical onion shaped church spires. The walk ends at King Ludwig’s spectacular fairy tale castle at Neuschwanstein.
Other trips that fit the bill…
Austrian Lake District and the Dachstein Alps
This is just a tiny selection of the trips available, but we hope it provides some inspiration. You can search all of our holidays here.
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.
Or if you like to be among the firsts to hear about the latest On Track Q&A destination, sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.
“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.
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