Want to discover the real Norway winter travel and go on an epic road trip accessible by self-drive from Oslo? Fancy finding out some of the best places to visit in Norway in winter with thrilling winter activities and without many people? The Norway winter itinerary below will help you do just that!
Norway winter travel made differently
Norway winter travel is an amazing experience. I’m sure you’ve heard about people going up north to Tromsø to chase the Northern Lights or go dog-sledding. Luckily, the south part of the country is equally beautiful, but much less visited in winter.
Picture the white, hilly landscape, frosty trees, and fluffy snow. Joyful fireplace in the wooden cabin or a cottage with the terrace hanging just above the fjord. Winter outdoor adventures, cross-country skiing, dog sledding and everything snow-related. Yes, Norway winter travel experience is a special one.
Norway winter itinerary
After my recent move to Norway, a winter trip for a New Year’s Eve break was a must. To go and explore the amazing Norwegian landscape, visit stunning destinations and connect with nature. In five days, we drove to some of the most scenic routes in Norway, tried various outdoor activities, and discovered some of the best places to visit in Norway in winter, including part of Norway in a nutshell on our own.
The Norway winter itinerary below is perfect for the New Year’s Eve or Christmas break or just any type of winter holidays. We tried to balance the peaceful stay in nature with some outdoor winter adventures and exploring some beautiful places. As a bonus, they happen to be off-season in the winter, which basically means – no people, only nature and you, so the best time eva’.
You can switch things around and adjust them to your needs, but I wanted to give you some ideas on the best places to go in Norway in winter, especially when you start your trip from Oslo.
However, remember, that travel in Norway in winter is more difficult than any other season. You always need to account for the bad weather and early dark hours when you calculate the driving time. More about how to drive in Norway in winter, what to expect and the details about car rental in Norway below.
Want even more arctic experience? Check the best things to do in Svalbard High Arctic
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The best places to visit in Norway in winter – unique alternatives
Norway is a big country and there are many places, that are worth a visit in Norway in winter. If you want to discover the south of the country and visit unique winter destinations, the below itinerary will take you through the roads between Oslo and Bergen. On the way, you can experience a city life of the south, the famous Norwegian fjords, little traditional villages and the breathtaking snowy landscapes.
Day 1: Oslo – Nesbyen
Start your Norway winter itinerary in Oslo. The city has two airports and good connections with many cities in Europe and in the world. Oslo has a lot to offer, with several museums, great restaurants and cafes and modern architecture. If you have time, spend a day in Oslo.
After you visit the capital head north-west in the direction of Nesbyen.
Nesbyen is a small town, lying around 150 km from Oslo and 70 km from Geilo. If you prefer, you can head straight to Geilo and spend more days there, but I recommend stopping in the little town of Nesbyen first. Filled with culture and history, kilometres of cross-country skiing tracks (it’s so Norwegian!), alpine slopes and beautiful quiet landscape, it’s a perfect winter holiday destination to get away from it all.
It’s even better if you manage to get there the previous evening, so you have the whole next day for activities in the snow. Visit the old part of town, called Gamle Nes and stroll among 19th-century houses, stopping by in the cute cafes. There are also pretty Norwegian style churches, that I love visiting. Who doesn’t like Scandinavian architecture?
The nearby Hallingdal Museum dating to 1899 is classified among the oldest open-air museums in Norway. It’s a great place to get to know the history of the region.
On the way to Geilo, you can also find an interesting Gardnos Meteor Park. It tells the story of a 300 meters wide meteorite, that struck the earth near Nesbyen 546 million years ago. The forces created 5 kilometres wide crater. The park is closed in winter, but it might still be possible to go to the crater. We didn’t check it, as it was full of snow and we didn’t have time, but let me know if you do!
Where to stay in Oslo?
$ Saga Poshtel Oslo Central – one of the cheaper hotels, located in Oslo city center with the beds starting from € 39 and very high reviews.
$$$ Oslo Guldsmeden – eco-friendly hotel with Balinese decor and organic breakfast (so delicious, yum) is one of the best hotels in Oslo. I stayed there for several days on one of my visits and loved it. Check prices and availability.
Day 2: Nesbyen – Geilo
Next day, you can drive to another wonderful winter sports town – Geilo. Geilo was one of the first ski areas in Norway and it grew from there. It’s located close to two national parks – Hallingskarvet and Hardangervidda, and surrounded by beautiful mountains. With 500 km cross-country skiing trails and 39 slopes for downhill skiing, you won’t be bored.
There is also another fun activity, that you can try in Geilo – dog sledding. Many people are not aware, that you can do dog sledding in Norway not only in Tromsø or far north. South of Norway has good places for it too. I love dogs and the Huskies running with the sleds are so excited about every trip. To read more about this fun activity go here.
From Geilo, you can also take a 45 minutes train to Finse. It’s a remote mountain village, only connected with the world by the railway, with no road. It looks like a great place to visit, perfect for various winter activities. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for time. Maybe you will?
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We are just coming back from our NYE trip to the Norwegian mountains ❄️ I loved every minute of it! So many new amazing experiences ❤️ ~ I couldn't imagine a better way to finish 2017 than dog sledding in the snowy hills with @geilohusky. There was adventure, beautiful landscape, so much fun and those cute husky dogs that just love to run 🐶 I really wanted to take (at least) one home 😍Thanks for an amazing experience! ~ Have you tried dog sledding before? Would you like to try? It's only 3h drive from Oslo 🇳🇴 Put it on your bucket list now! . . #worlderingaround #visitgeilo #dogsledding #norwaynature #geilo #lovewilderness #winterwonders #stunningnature #landscapephoto #outdoorlovers #thegreatoutdoor #bestof2017 #newadventure #nye2018 #travellinggram #mountainslovers #travellovers #cnntravel #travelphotooftheday #travelgirldiary #outdoorwoman #adventuregirls #adventurelover #bestofnorway #mittnorge #awesomenorway #norwaysworld #mynorway #norway2day #huskypics
Day 3: Geilo – Aurland and Flåm
It’s time to leave the country’s interior and move closer to the fjords. Winter by the fjords feels so mystic and special. Nærøyfjord, a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, surrounded by the snow-covered peaks rising up to 1800 meters above the sea level, is said to be one of the most spectacular fjord landscapes in the world. The famous little towns located around the fjord are Flåm and Aurland.
The area is one of the most popular in Norway and the journey to get there is called “Norway in the nutshell”. Luckily, winter seems to be off-season there, so you can appreciate the peaceful feel of the fjords without the crowds. God knows why, because everything looks so beautiful covered with the snow!
On the way, you will pass through the longest tunnel in the world – the Lærdal Tunnel, measuring 24.51-kilometres. It wasn’t my favourite part of the journey, though. How long can you stare at the concrete walls? I need my views 😉
Day 4: Explore Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjorden
Spend the whole day in this wonderful part of Norway. Admire the views from the Stegastein viewpoint and hike the hills above it. Visit tiny Flåm village with its famous railway, do some shopping for typical Norwegian gifts and souvenirs, take a fjord cruise or try the delicious goat cheese in Undredal. For the overnight stay, I recommend stopping in the quiet Aurland. You can find there the best view from the cottages overlooking the mountains by the fjord in Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri – book here.
Even though visiting this part of Norway is famous to be done by the train, you wouldn’t be able to go to some of those places in winter without the car. Make use of it as much as you can. You can read more about Norway in a Nutshell in winter and what to do in Flåm here.
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I still can't believe that this was the view from the terrace of our wooden cottage in Aurland 😍 It was literally hanging above the water of the fjord! Thanks for amazing stay @vangsgaarden. It's this type of place, where you could just stay in and admire the view the whole day. We did, however, go out to explore – you can find more pictures in the link in bio 😊 ~ *New post* Want to know how to get there in winter and what is worth to visit on the way? Have a look at the link in my bio 👆New post with a winter roadtrip itinerary in Norway is waiting for you on worlderingaround.com. Let me know what you think 🇳🇴 ~ Have you travelled in Norway in winter before? If you haven't, you can still fix it. Go and book a trip now 😄 ~ Follow my hashtag #worlderingaround for more travel content in your feed ⛰ . . . #visitflam #vangsgaarden #visitnorway #outdoorwoman #norwaynature #shetravels #bestofnorway #travelphotooftheday #adventurelover #adventuregirls #winterwonders #mittnorge #travellingram #mynorway #lovewilderness #housegoals #norway2day #awesomenorway #winterroadtrip #femmetravel #travelgirls #girlsthatwander #sheisnotlost #girlaroundworld #girlslovetravel #globelletravels #outdoorlovers #mountaingirl #fjords
Day 5: Back to Oslo through Hemsedal (or further to Bergen)
With more time, you can extend your Norway winter itinerary and include Bergen. You would need two or three more days in order to make the most of it. The distance from Flam to Bergen is around 170km, which in winter can take much longer. It is also worth to stay in Bergen at least for a day.
If you decide to go back to Oslo, prepare yourself for a long drive. It’s around 300 km, which can take between 4,5 – 5,5 hours or even more in a bad weather, so set off quite early. On the way, you can take a break in Hemsedal and try skiing in Scandinavian Alps. We had there our first cross-country skiing experience and it was so much fun! There are also several ski slopes and ski resorts, where you can rent the equipment and have a very nice meal to help you get more energy for the drive back to Oslo. Or you can extend your stay for a bit longer and choose one of the many great hotels and cabins in the area.
Map of the Norway winter road trip – 5 days itinerary
Driving in Norway in winter
Driving in Norway in winter conditions is a wonderful experience, thanks to the beautiful snowy landscape, but it is also a big challenge. It is not recommended for an inexperienced driver, especially on the mountain roads. The snow ploughs are running quite often on the main roads, but for a lot of time, you will be driving on a pure ice, slush or snow. With the snow storm blowing into your windscreen and early coming darkness, those are not the best driving conditions. Some of the scenic routes in Norway are also permanently closed in winter, which can mean as late as May/June or as early as October.
You need to have winter tyres and I doubt that you can find the car without it, but better check if there is an additional payment needed or it’s all included. The spuds also help, but only if you travel outside the cities. Be prepared for the bad weather and a slowdown in your journey or convoy driving. Have the necessary supplies in the car, that include food, warm clothes, torch, reflective vest, ice scraper, snow shovel.
However, don’t let this scare you off 😉 If you know what you are doing and you’ve driven in the wintery conditions before – you’ll be fine. The whole experience with wonderful winter scenery will definitely be worth it! We even saw a moose from the road!
How to rent a car in Norway
There are many car rental agencies in Norway and it’s quite straightforward. I can recommend trying to check the best prices through the car brokers and find the cheapest. I often use Rentalcars to check for the lowest prices.
However, double check if everything you need is included – the winter tyres, insurance, what happens for toll payment etc. Unless you are planning some big mountain climbing or off-road driving, you don’t need 4×4. We had a small Nissan Micra and we were fine.
Remember about the insurance and add the cost of petrol and tolls. Many roads in Norway have automatic tolls, that just scan your car as you pass through and send a receipt to the rental company, that they will then forward to you. You would also normally need to have some money on your card, that will be ring-fenced by the company as a deposit in case the car is lost or damaged. After you return the vehicle, it all comes back to you.
What to pack for Norway in winter?
Here are some must-haves that you need to pack for Norway:
- Warm, moisture-absorbing base layer. I recommend merino wool top and merino wool bottoms.
- Mid-layer, such as fleece or down jacket.
- Waterproof and windproof outer layers. For the top, I always recommend Goretex jacket and for the bottom, the waterproof pants.
- Warm and waterproof boots, with solid soles, that will not be slippery on the ice. I often use my trekking shoes with very warm socks.
- Warm, wool socks.
- Thermal socks, hat and scarf.
Read more about Norway:
- Best Norwegian gifts and souvenirs to bring back from your trip
- 13+ Best things to do in Svalbard
- Svalbard snowmobile tour to the East Coast
- Norway in a Nutshell in winter
- Dog sledding in Norway
Would you like to try and do the Norway winter road trip yourself? Where would you go first? Let me know in the comments!
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