There are tons of things to do in Norway in winter. 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, go dog-sledding, and rave about all those awesome things to do in Norway in winter. Luckily, the southern part of the country is equally beautiful, but less visited by tourists 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, the Norway winter travel experience is a special one.
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Magical 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 around Norway in winter, including part of Norway in a nutshell on our own.
The Norway winter itinerary below is perfect for New Year’s Eve or Christmas break or just any type of winter holiday. 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 ever.
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 in 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 are below. Don’t forget to pack proper Norway winter clothing with you, to make sure you are prepared for any type of weather.
Read more: The best things to do in Oslo in winter
Driving in Norway in winter – Norway Winter Road Trip
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 mountain roads. The snowplows are running quite often on the main roads, but for a lot of time, you will be driving on pure ice, slush or snow. With the snowstorm 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 tires and I doubt that you can find the car without them, but better check if there is an additional payment needed or if it’s all included. The spuds also help, but only if you travel outside the cities. Be prepared for bad weather and a slowdown in your journey or convoy driving. Have the necessary supplies in the car, which include food, warm Norway winter clothes, a torch, a reflective vest, an ice scraper, and snow shovel.
However, don’t let this scare you off. If you know what you are doing and you’ve driven in wintery conditions before – you’ll be fine. The whole experience with wonderful winter scenery will definitely be worth it! We even saw a moose on the road!
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How to rent a car in Norway
There are many car rental agencies in Norway and it’s quite straightforward. I can recommend using Rentalcars to check for the lowest prices and choose the best car there.
However, double-check if everything you need is included – the winter tires, insurance, what happens for toll payment, etc. Usually, a normal car should be fine, if you stick to the main roads, but in case you go into the mountains or smaller roads, I recommend a 4×4.
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, which 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.
Awesome things to do in Norway in winter, and places to visit
Norway is a big country and there are many places to 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 the city life of the south, the famous Norwegian fjords, little traditional villages, and the breathtaking snowy landscapes.
Read more: Norway on a budget – Local tips
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. There are many things to do in Oslo in winter, with outdoor activities, several museums, great restaurants, cafes, and modern architecture. If you have time, spend a day in Oslo. And if you have more time, you can even take one of Oslo’s day trips, as well.
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, kilometers of cross-country skiing tracks (it’s so Norwegian!), alpine slopes, and a 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 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 kilometers 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?
I wrote a detailed post on where to stay in Oslo, that explains different Oslo districts and recommends specific places, so check it out. Otherwise, here are two suggestions:
$ Saga Poshtel Oslo Central – one of the cheaper hotels, located in Oslo city center with beds starting from € 39 and very high reviews.
$$$ Oslo Guldsmeden – an eco-friendly hotel with Balinese decor and organic breakfast (so delicious, yum) is one of the best hotels in Oslo. I stayed there for several days on one of my visits and loved it. Check prices and availability.
Day 2: Nesbyen – Geilo
The next day, you can drive to another wonderful winter sports town – Geilo. Geilo was one of the first ski areas in Norway and it grew from there. It’s located close to two national parks – Hallingskarvet and Hardangervidda and is surrounded by beautiful mountains. With 500 km of cross-country skiing trails and 39 slopes for downhill skiing, you won’t be bored.
There is also another fun activity, that you can try in Geilo – dog sledding. Many people are not aware, that you can do dog sledding in Norway not only in Tromsø or far north. South of Norway has good places for it too. I love dogs and the Huskies running with the sleds are so excited about every trip. To read more about this fun activity go here.
From Geilo, you can also take a 45 minutes train to Finse. It’s a remote mountain village, only connected with the world by the railway, with no road. It looks like a great place to visit, perfect for various winter activities. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time for time. Maybe you will?
Where to stay in Geilo
$ Øen Turistsenter – This is one of the cheapest options in Geilo. You can rent the apartment or the cottages with access to the sauna and outdoor hot tub. Book your stay or check the prices in Øen Turistsenter here.
$$ Geilo Hotel – an affordable option for a trip to Geilo with steam rooms, a sauna, and amazing views. Book your stay or check the prices at Geilo Hotel here.
$$$ Geilo Mountain Lodge – traditional Norwegian 5-star hotel with sauna, terrace, and a garden. Book your stay or check the prices in Geilo Mountain Lodge here.
Day 3: Geilo – Aurland, and Flåm
It’s time to leave the country’s interior and move closer to the fjords. Winter by the fjords feels so mystic and special. Nærøyfjord, a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, surrounded by snow-covered peaks rising up to 1800 meters above sea level, is said to be one of the most spectacular fjord landscapes in the world. The famous little towns located around the fjord are Flåm and Aurland.
The area is one of the most popular in Norway and the journey to get there is called “Norway in the nutshell“. Luckily, winter seems to be off-season there, so you can appreciate the peaceful feel of the fjords without the crowds. God knows why, because everything looks so beautiful covered with snow! There are so many fun things to do in Flam in winter, too, so make sure to check them out.
On the way, you will pass through the longest tunnel in the world – the Lærdal Tunnel, measuring 24.51-kilometers. It wasn’t my favorite part of the journey, though. How long can you stare at the concrete walls? I need my views 😉
Where to stay in Flåm and Aurland
$ Brekke Gard Hostel – budget accommodation in Flam, located 1 km from Flåm Station and the Aurlandfjord shore. Book your stay or check the best prices in Brekke Gard Hostel here.
$$$ Flåm Marina – Upscale hotel located just by the Flam Marina, with stylish rooms and amazing views of Sognefjord. Book your stay or check the best prices in Flåm Marina here.
Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri. – probably the best hotel in Norway that I stayed in. Located in Aurland, a short drive away from Flam. I can recommend the beautiful cottages hanging by the fjords. Book your stay or check the best prices in Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri here.
Want even more arctic experience? Check the best things to do in Svalbard High Arctic
Day 4: Explore Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjorden
I recommend you 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 train, you wouldn’t be able to go to some of those places in winter without a car. Make use of it as much as you can. You can read more about Norway in a Nutshell in winter here.
If you would rather do Norway in a Nutshell tour with a train and visit Nærøyfjord as a part of a train trip from Bergen, this self-guided tour from Bergen through the fjords to Oslo includes pre-organized travel by train, bus, and boat with all the needed tickets.
Day 5: Back to Oslo through Hemsedal (or further to Bergen)
With more time, you can extend your Norway winter itinerary and include Bergen in winter. 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 staying 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 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
What to pack for Norway in winter?
Check my post for the best Norway winter clothing and 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 a 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 the 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:
- Norway on a budget
- Norwegian gifts and souvenirs to bring back from your trip
- Best Norway winter clothing – what to pack for Norway in winter
- Norway in a Nutshell in winter
- Dog sledding in Norway
- The best things to do in Oslo in winter
Published: 2019 Updated: 2022
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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