We rented a camper-van with Cabin Campers and off we went on a 5 day road trip in West and South Norway. Here are our tips and itinerary (with map).
We have been trying to travel as much as possible inside Norway, and what best way to do it than with a Camper-van.
We rented the Camper-van from Cabin Campers and off we went on a 5 day road trip, starting and ending in Oslo, and driving mostly through West and South of Norway.
To be honest, we didn't have a clear plan of where to go when we started this trip. That is also one big reason why we wanted to travel "with our house on our backs", so we could decide where to go and what to visit along the way.
The truth is, although it was end of May, which is supposed to be the start of summer in Norway, the weather was not the best. So our plan was to follow the sun and see where that would lead us.
Since we already knew most of the southern coast (blog post HERE), and quite a lot of the interior part of Telemark (blog post HERE) from previous trips, we decided to concentrate our trip around Folgefonna national park and the Stavanger coast line.
Because of this, we drove quite a lot (4 to 5 hours strait) on our first and last day so we could have more time in the areas we were more interested in visiting. But if you have more than 5 days, then I totally recommend adding more stops along the road we took in Telemark and on the southern road.
Click HERE for the map with pins
We decided to rent the van with Cabin Campers firstly because they have the coolest decorated interiors. Like the name says, the vans are built and decorated to look and feel like a little cabin on wheels.
Some other reasons why Cabin Campers where ideal to us are, the van has a full equipped kitchen with a stove, a fridge and a sink with a tap with water. The van also comes with everything you need included, like the bed sheets, kitchen utensils, etc.
And maybe the most important reason of all, it was the perfect size vehicle!
It was small enough so that it was easy to drive, park and didn't need to pay extra costs in tools and boat tickets (it is under 6 meters long), but still big enough that we could live comfortably inside, with a nice sized bed, a table and a kitchen.
It was my first time traveling on a camper-van and I absolutely loved it! We even talked about buying one for ourselves!
When traveling with a house on wheels you get to stop whenever and wherever you want. Its total freedom and zero worries! So much so that we had no idea what time or day it was.
Finding a parking spot to sleep is very easy in Norway since the law says you can park anywhere you want unless there is a sign that says otherwise, or it is a private area.
This gives you 3 different options: park on motorhome rest areas (free), on camping sites (pay), or, like we did, park wherever there is space to park (free).
This really depends on what type of experience you would like to have. You can even mix the 3 options depending on what is more handy at the time.
On city and town centers is almost impossible to park, since they try to be as car free as possible.
As you might have noticed by now, our camper-van does not had a toilet/shower.
This was not a problem for us, especially because we didn't want to have the trouble to have to clean/empty the toilet containers, etc.
But mostly because Norway has its roads well equipped with amazing public toilets that are open 24/7. Some of them are very architectonical and interesting to visit.
I found that most public toilets were well maintained, clean and even had heating.
Gas stations and public buildings like libraries and museums also have quite nice toilets open for the public to use.
Driving & Ferry boats
Driving in Norway can be an adventure! The roads are not the best and most of the times as soon as you leave the "high-way" you'll see yourself in a curvy narrow road in the middle of the forest, next to a fjord, on a 15 km long tunnel or on top of a high mountain.
Despite everything I found that people respect camper-vans and stopped to facilitate us driving by.
Whilst on a road trip in Norway you will for sure have to cross a fjord on a ferry boat at least once. These boats are new, fast and constantly going. And since our van was under 6m, we payed the same amount for the ticket as a normal passengers car.
Energy & Fuel
Cabin Campers vans are 100% prepared with solar panels so you can charge your phone and have interior lights.
They also have a heating system that works extraordinarily good. In just minutes we had our van super warm and the warmth would stay during the whole night.
The stove is connected to a gas bottle, and the sink tap to a water tank. This made it possible for us to cook our own meals during the whole trip.
Filling the van tank with gasoline was also very easy! I think in total on this trip we spent around 1.500 kr in gas.
This trip was in the end of May, which is the beginning of summer in Norway, and the days start to get very long. So we would have day light until around 1:00 a.m.
I really enjoyed this, and recommend everyone to travel around this time of the year. Firstly because you are able to enjoy the day until very late. It gives you varied opportunities to visit things, sleep or drive at different times of the day.
Secondly because there are not a lot of tourists, like you would get in the peek of summer. And you can still get amazing sunny weather.
After driving for 5 hours straight, our first stop was a refreshing one!
Låttefoss is a 165-metre tall waterfall that consists of two separate streams that flow down from the lake Lotevatnet, and as they fall, they join together in the middle of the waterfall, just before going under an old stone bridge.
You cross this bridge while driving on the Norwegian national road nr.13 and its a bit of a surprise if you are not expecting it because studently a gigantic waterfall emerges from one side and your car gets completely wet
This waterfall is extremely touristic, and so I was a bit afraid to be disappointed, but I was stunned! It is beautiful!
BONDHUS GLACIER / BONDHUSDALEN
Our next point of interest was the Bondhusdalen in Folgefonna national park. On our way there we stopped in Odda town for a bit of food shopping and snooping around the cute traditional streets. Then it was a quick and scenic drive thought valleys until we reach the parking lot where you start your hike to the lake.
Folgefonna has 3 glaciers on top of its mountains. The glaciers were growing during the 90s but have unfortunately been retreating since then.
The hike we took until Bondhusvatnet is an easy hike. A round trip takes about two hours. The trail is actually called Ice Road and it wasn’t built for tourists, but rather to transport ice, which was used for refrigeration in the towns and villages up and down the coast (yeah, just like in the beginning of the Frozen movie).
If you want to go a bit further there is a trail to the far end of the lake with a better view of the glacier. On this trail you will also encounter a stunning beach. It was definitely one of the most scenic hikes of my life!
From Folgefonna we continued our trip and took a ferry from Jondal to Tørvikbygd to get to Steindalsfossen.
Steindalsfossen is a 46 metres high waterfall in the village of Steine. From the parking lot, the path goes along the waterfall, up a hill, and behind it, where visitors can walk directly behind the powerful running water. It is a really cool experience!
We learned that this waterfall was actually an accident! It didn't existed a waterfall here, but due to some ice shifting during a winter storm, the river water was redirected to this cliff on a farmers land, creating therefore a waterfall. After that, people from all over Norway started to visit this waterfall making it one of the most visited places in Norway.
The GOLDFISH LAKE
Our next stop was a place I accidently found while searching for things to see and visit on the area. It is known as the Goldfish lake, because its waters all filled with gigantic orange and yellow fish.
It was supposed to be a quick stop, just to see if there were goldfish or not. But it ended to be one of our favorite stops on the whole trip.
The weather was incredible, the lake was beautiful and there were indeed lots of goldfish. They had a little pic-nic / grill corner at the park so we decided to stay for a couple of hours and cook our lunch there.
There is also a small beach where you can go for a swim (together with the fish). And this was clearly not a touristic spot so we even met a couple of friendly locals.
The zinc mines ALLMAN GORGE
We continued our trip heading south, with the plan to reach the coast close to Stavanger. On the way we had an important point marked on our map: The Allmannajuvet zinc mines in Sauda.
I say important because Peter Zumthor (one of the best architects of all time) has designed the new facilities at Allmannajuvet gorge which are composed by 3 buildings: an exhibition gallery, a café/restaurant, and the parking and toilets for visitors. And it was as incredible as I imagined it would be!
You can also visit the mines, which everyone says is a really good experience. Unfortunately they were closed when we were there.
The mines were in operation from 1881 to 1899. In order to reach the entrance of the mine, a spectacular road with bridges and climbing bits was constructed along the wild river. We were a bit sad not being able to visit, but there is always a next time.
We had already visited Stavanger a long time ago, but since it was on the way we decided to make a quick stop, mostly to visit the Oil museum and the Fargegata.
The museum really surprised me! I learned a lot about the discovery of Oil in Norway and the impact it had on the economy, culture and on what Norway turned out to be. Also, I loved how they had the actual real "objects" on exhibition. It was impressive and a bit scary as well. I totally recommend it!
Then we walked a bit thought the city, took some photos on the famous colorful street and on the old town with the white traditional houses.
But our initial plan didn't really involve Stavanger city center but the nearby beaches and culture/architecture points along the coast line.
Unfortunately the weather was not great... well, it was raining the whole time, as it always was every time I visited the Stavanger area...
So visiting the huge and beautiful beaches was not really as I had imagined it. Still, it was worth it, at least to visit one beach, since they are very different from the ones closer to Oslo. Bigger and "wilder" I would say.
I also had a lot of cultural and architecture points marked in my map on this part of the coast, so we made sure we stopped in every single one of them.
Our favorite stops along the coast were:
Reaching Sola beach is a very strange thing, since the beach lies side by side with the Stavanger airport. So when you are driving there you feel like you are doing something illegal or that maybe you have the wrong address.
Then you reach a street where on the left is the airport landing roads, and on the right is the beach dunes.
The beach itself is very beautiful and absolutely huge! Probably one of the biggest beaches I have seen in Norway. Here you have the actual ocean, not a fjord, which makes it so much like a "real" beach. It even reminded me the beach at my hometown in Portugal.
This Church was first built around 1150 and was in use until 1842, when it began to decay. Then a painter bought the church ruins in 1871, and converted it into his private home. After 1940, the Germans took over the area and demolished the church.
From 1992 to 1995 the church was restored and rehabilitated in a mixed style where old and new where put together. Louis Kloster was the architect who won the competition and, in my opinion, he did an amazing job!
For those of you who like architecture with well executed details, this one is a must see.
Varhaug gamle kirkegård
This cemetery is on the farm Varhaug, (so expect so see lots of cows and sheep), and it has the most amazing view to the ocean.
We saw the sign of a culture point on the road and decided to check it out.
We found out that the church square is from the Middle Ages. Around 1200, the first church was built here, and there are many indications that it was laid on an old pagan place of worship.
I wouldn't say it is a spectacular church, but it is definitely one of those places where you can feel the history and the location looks like out of a movie.
Our last stop before returning to Oslo was Helleren. We arrived at the area already quite late during the night and got in awe with the rocky landscape. The narrow road curved around big blocks of stone while descending the scary edge of a steep rocky mountain until reaching the valley.
It was only in the morning, when we woke up and looked around, that we saw the beauty of this place. We had parked the car to spend the night right under the same slab as the two famous houses.
Helleren forms a natural roof and shelter that has been used by humans for thousands of years. The slab is large and the drop falls at a depth of 10 meters. There are two houses built under the slab. Their roof is not a "real" roof because Helleren protects them. Both houses are from the 19th century, but parts of the buildings can be much older. Probably there has been settlements in Helleren since the 16th century.
The houses are a very short walk from the parking lot and are open the whole year, 24/7.
You have to be careful, since they are very old, but you can visit the inside and see how people used to live here. It was a magical experience!
It was a great way to end our road trip, with sun and a scenic view, but unfortunately it was time to return to Oslo and deliver our Van.
I can sincerely say that this was one of my favorite trips in Norway, mostly due to the fact that we had so much freedom and so little worries.
No needing to plan where, when and how really gives you a totally different experience while traveling. That is why renting a camper van is such a good idea! I find Norway one of the best countries to do this since it is so easy to stop, sleep and visit whenever, wherever and whatever you want along the way.
A big thanks to Cabin Campers for partnering with us on this travel! We were really happy using one of their vans and will gladly do it again soon!
Watch HERE the videos from our trip: