3 Epic Southern Norway Road Trip Ideas That No One Told You About
Last updated on May 5th, 2023
When I went on my first southern Norway road trip, for some reason I wasn’t expecting to see much. I thought that all that beauty that Norway is famous for lies in its northern part.
But as it turned out, southern Norway is full of a diverse range of natural landscapes, from rocky coasts and sandy beaches to pristine lakes and forests. And you actually need to plan a few trips (or stay in the country long term) to see them all.
While I haven’t been everywhere in the south of Norway, I managed to travel on a budget around this part of the country and still see some of the most awe-inspiring locations, including deep fjords with crystal clear lakes, green valleys with a variety of wildlife, rugged coastlines, and some cultural heritage sites.
And this is why I thought to create my version of south Norway road trip itinerary with some cool ideas for a nice drive.
You can follow each of these routes separately or combine them all in one big road trip in Norway as all of them are special and promise a plethora of stunning natural landscapes together with some amazing cultural attractions!
Resources You’ll Need to Plan Your Norway Road Trip
Before a Trip: check if you need a visa to visit Norway
Car Rental: this company has the lowest rates to hire a car in Norway. But don’t miss my post on Norway car hire tips before booking
Travel Insurance: get affordable insurance that covers both health and travel
Guided Tours: go with this leading tour provider to find not just paid but many free tours in Norway!
Things not to forget: waterproof breathable jacket or reusable waterproof rain poncho if you plan to go hiking, especially in spring and fall to keep you dry&warm
When is the Best Time to Go on a Road Trip in Southern Norway?
The best time to go on a road trip in Southern Norway depends on what you want to see and experience.
If you are looking just to drive through without detouring from the road and doing any hikes or walks in the wilderness, then you can start planning your Norway road trip from April till late October (as parts of the road can be closed from November to March depending on the snowfall).
The summer months of June to August are the warmest and sunniest months in Southern Norway which makes them the most comfortable time for road trips. However, the shoulder seasons of April to May and September to October can also be great times to visit if you don’t mind milder temperatures and fewer crowds.
However, if you do plan to include hiking, kayaking, or fishing in your Norway road trip itinerary and want to see the region’s natural beauty, consider going in the summer when the snow melts, and accessing even distant roads becomes easy. The fall is also a beautiful time to visit, as the leaves change color.
Rent a car for your Norway road trip with the best company on the market:
Southern Norway Road Trip Ideas
Oslo Stavanger Oslo Circular Route
Let me start this list of South Norway’s best road trips with one of the most famous drives that begins and ends in Oslo and goes by the south coast of Norway introducing the scenic beauty and cultural heritage of this Nordic country.
It’s perfect for those who travel to Norway in summer and look to get a good introduction to the diverse landscapes and get to know the country’s past at the same time.
So get ready on this self-guided driving tour of southern Norway to get to see the coastal cities, mountains, and even fjords. Prepare for a long driving adventure and book your accommodation in advance as this part of Norway is very popular in summer.
The route offers a mix of natural beauty, historic towns, and cultural attractions, making it ideal for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. It’s also a great way to get off the beaten path and explore some of Norway’s lesser-known destinations.
The best time to take this road trip is during the summer months of June and August when the weather is warm, the days are long, and places are open along the coast allowing you to enjoy the drive to the fullest.
The whole trip is approximately 1200 kilometers (810 miles) round trip and can be completed in around one week, depending on how much time you want to spend in each location. So let’s go!
Highlights of Oslo to Stavanger Road Trip
I suggest you start your first day early and leave Oslo for Kristiansand. But before you get there, there are a few stops to make along the way. First, stop in the famous town of Drammen with a beautiful walking path along the river and the Spiralen Tunnel viewpoint.
Continue on to Arendal, a coastal town with beautiful architecture, charming streets, and bustling harbor. If time allows, take a boat tour of the surrounding islands or visit the Arendal Maritime Museum to learn about the town’s seafaring history. Right after it, you can also make another stop in Grimstad famous for its old wooden houses, cobbled streets, and scenic views of the sea.
From Kristiansand to Stavanger the road also goes through charming towns (lake Mandal, Lindesnes, Lista, and Flekkefjord famous for harbors, beaches, and historic buildings).
Before (or after) reaching Stavanger, stop at the must-see Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), a steep cliff that rises 604 meters (1982 feet) above the Lysefjord, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. for a hike and breathtaking views of the Lysefjord.
It is one of the most iconic and beautiful natural landmarks in Norway and you may want to plan your road trip in that way when you go on a hike to this rock. The view from the top is simply gorgeous and I am sure you’ve seen photos of it online on many resources.
I’d also say that the area around Preikestolen is a good introduction to Norway’s fjords as it is located near the Lysefjord, which is one of the most famous fjords in Norway. If you don’t have an opportunity to go north to see other bigger fjords, then Lysefjord will give you a good idea.
After spending a couple of days in the area, start going back to Oslo but take a road (and ferry) towards Haugesund, situated near several fjords and hiking trails. The drive to this town is gorgeous on its own and Haugesund is another interesting place where to pause for a few days. It has a beautiful waterfront and a couple of interesting museums about its rich seafaring history.
From Haugesund back to Oslo, the road goes by Latefossen (you’ll need to do a short detour), one of the most famous waterfalls in the country, and then Roldal village with an ancient wooden church, surrounded by small fjords and a lake on one side. The rest of the road toward Oslo winds through more beautiful landscapes and peaceful Norwegian villages.
Additional Activities to Enjoy on This Road Trip
Where to Stay on Norway Road Trip From Oslo to Stavanger
HOTEL LILLESAND – cozy hotel on a budget in the quiet coastal town of Lillesand with a mix of old charm and our day comfort. All rooms have their own unique design and antique furnishings, transferring guests to the 19th century when it was built. Breakfast buffet comes with the price, there is also a cozy bar and lounge area and a great location by the coast.
HOTEL VICTORIA – a stylish boutique hotel in the heart of Stavanger that features modern decor and amenities, including a fitness center and on-site restaurant. It offers beautiful views of the harbor and is just a short walk from many of the city’s top attractions.
HOTEL ULLENSVANG – get transported to a world of timeless elegance and natural beauty in this gorgeous historic hotel with a fine-dining restaurant, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a sauna and hot tub, fitness center, private beach, and a range of activities. With many rooms offering stunning views of the fjord, you’ll never tire of the breathtaking scenery.
THE THIEF & SPA – a lifestyle hotel in the trendy Tjuvholmen neighborhood. It features unique art and design, a rooftop bar, and a luxurious spa.
Bergen to Alesund to Trondheim Road Trip
This is one of the most beautiful roads in Norway which offers incredible scenery, exactly that one which is the reason why you want to travel to Norway in the first place.
The entire route from Bergen to Alesund to Trondheim is approximately 700 kilometers (435 miles) but with all the stops and side trips it will be around 1200 km (745 miles).
You’d need to have at least 4 days to drive it but be ready to wake up early, go to bed late, and pack your days with dozens of places to visit.
This Norway road trip takes you through some of the most beautiful and scenic landscapes, including fjords, mountains, and coastal scenery. Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to stop and see charming villages, sip coffee in some scenic cafes, and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking, kayaking, and birdwatching.
Also, you’ll notice how much the landscape changes along the way as the road trip from Bergen to Trondheim offers a unique perspective on Norway’s geography as you travel from the west coast to the central mountains and beyond.
You’ll have the chance to see how different regions of Norway have adapted to their natural surroundings and to appreciate the unique character and charm of each of them.
Highlights of This South Norway Road Trip
BERGEN-TVINDEFOSSEN WATERFALL-FLAM-STEGASTEIN-FJAERLAND-JOSTEDALSBREEN GLACIER-HjORUNDFJORD-TROLLSTIGEN-ANDALSNES-ATLANTIC ROAD-TRONDHEIM
Plan this road trip in that way when you can also explore Bergen for at least a couple of days.
The city of colorful wooden houses and cobblestone streets with towering mountains and sparkling fjords in the background has something for everyone. It can be somewhat difficult to find parking in Bergen but not impossible and still worth having a car with you.
Depart from Bergen in the morning and drive north towards the village of Vinje. The drive will take around 2 hours and I bet you’ll want to stop every other kilometer to take photos and enjoy the scenery.
Before reaching Vinje, stop in the town of Voss to see the beautiful Tvindefossen waterfall and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking or river rafting.
But near Vinje, take Highway E16 and then Stalheimskleiva Road (and then back on the highway). Stalheimskleiva is a steep, winding road, one of Norway’s most scenic drives with stunning views of the Nærøydalen valley and surrounding mountains.
Follow this route and arrive in Flam, the picturesque village located at the end of the Aurlandsfjord and is a popular starting point for fjord cruises and train rides on the Flam Railway, one of the world’s steepest railway lines.
Flam on its own is a place where to pause, go on scenic walks or hikes in the area, and drive to nearby lookout points (and there are many in this region!)
Continue your drive to Stegastein viewpoint, a popular vista spot with panoramic views of the Aurlandsfjord and surrounding mountains. From there, take the Aurlandsfjellet Scenic Route, continue past Lærdalsøyri, and drive to Fodnes Ferjekai to take a ferry and continue driving up to Fjærland for a night at Fjærland Fjordstove hotel.
From Fjærland, you have another stretch of the road towards Alesund with incredible scenery on each corner. It will be passing through Olden where you can take a detour and go towards Briksdalen from where short paths start towards Jostedalsbreen and Briksdalsbreen Glaciers. The first glacier one is the largest glacier in continental Europe and you can hike to it by taking a short trail.
Otherwise, if not making any detours, you’ll see more fjords between Olden and Stryn, and then Hjorundfjord when reaching Alesund.
After Bergen to Alesund road trip, you will be probably tired, so it is a good idea to stay in Alesund for a couple of nights to recharge.
For the Alesund to Trondheim drive, plan your route in that way where you can make a detour to Trollstigen, a winding mountain road with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The road is famous for its hairpin bends and steep inclines. There, make a stop at Trollstigen Kafe trying Norwegian food and spending time in nature.
Make a stop in Andalsnes, located at the mouth of the Romsdalsfjord, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, including the iconic Trollveggen (Troll Wall), which is the tallest vertical rock face in Europe.
And then before reaching Trondheim, follow the Atlantic Road by taking a detour towards the coast and enjoying the scenic drive that stretches across several small islands and islets with dramatic coastal scenery.
Additional Must-Have Activities on This Road Trip
Where to Stay on the Bergen to Trondheim Road Trip
FRETHEIM HOTEL – a historic hotel in Flam. The highlights of a stay here are the location on the shores of the Aurlandsfjord and rooms with unique decor that blends traditional Norwegian elements with modern amenities.
FJAERLAND FJORDSTOVE HOTEL – a small boutique hotel built in the 1920s as a family home with only 16 rooms, where each of them has a unique individual design and is decorated with a mix of modern and traditional Norwegian elements. Many of the rooms offer views of the fjord.
STORFJORD HOTEL – luxurious accommodation in close proximity to Alesund with a stunning location overlooking the Storfjord. The hotel features individually designed rooms, a spa, and a restaurant that serves locally sourced cuisine.
HOTEL BROSUNDET – a boutique hotel in Ålesund known for stylish decor and waterfront location. It is housed in a restored 1916 building and features modern amenities and Scandinavian design.
Oslo to Trondheim Road Trip
This south Norway road trip works great for people who arrive in the country through the airport in Oslo and plan to go to northern Norway in a rental car.
In this way, you have a chance to see some of the off-the-beaten-path places in the south before arriving in Trondheim, one of the most important cities in Norway during the Viking Age.
The drive between Oslo and Trondheim is rather short and takes less than 7 hours to complete but you can stretch it for 2 days to see everything at a slow pace.
Although to be honest, I wouldn’t spend too much time in this part of the country as it would be better to devote it to a wild western part with fjords and dramatic landscapes.
But here are more detailed suggestions for what to see on a road trip between Oslo and Trondheim:
Highlights of This Road Trip
OSLO-HADELAND GLASSWORKS-MJOSA-GJOVIK-LILLEHAMMER-DOVREFJELL SUNNDALSFJELLA N.P.-TRONDHEIM
I assume you rent a car at Oslo airport which is a good choice as it is located in the northern part of the city and allows you quickly hit the road.
The first stop you can make is Hadeland Glassworks a historic glass factory that has been in operation since 1762. There, you can take a guided tour of the factory (check in advance if reservations are needed) to see the process of glass production and visit the factory shop to buy souvenirs and handmade glassware.
This place is important to Norway and has historical significance, dating back over 250 years, making it one of Norway’s oldest glass factories. It has played an important role in the country’s economic and cultural development, as well as in the development of the Norwegian glass industry.
It is definitely a special place to visit in south Norway on any trip. But it makes it much easier to stop here when driving from Oslo to Trondheim.
Not far from the Hadeland Glassworks, there is another interesting place worth a visit and that is Hadeland Folk Museum. It is an open-air museum dedicated to the history and culture of the Hadeland region, with exhibits on traditional crafts, farming, and daily life in rural Norway.
However, if you are not really into museums then just drive to Mjøsa Lake, Norway’s largest lake with several towns and villages around that offer opportunities for swimming, boating, and hiking, as well as cultural attractions like museums and art galleries.
Some of the places of interest that I can personally highlight on Mjosa Lake are Gjovik which also has a large glassblowing factory (if you’d rather visit one here), and the Gjovik Olympic Cavern Hall, which was used as a training facility during the 1994 Winter Olympics.
And another one is Lillehammer, a picturesque town famous for hosting the 1994 Winter Olympics and is home to several attractions, including the Maihaugen open-air museum, the Lillehammer Art Museum, and the Olympic Museum which will be interesting to visit for both adults and children alike.
After Lillehammer, the drive becomes more and more picturesque as the road goes by Rondane national park and then by Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park. Both are scenic wilderness areas known for their rugged mountains, vast plateaus, and diverse wildlife. And both are great for detours and independent explorations.
Although as you keep driving to Trondheim (especially if visiting Norway for the first time) you may want to skip going away from the main road.
Then I suggest you make a quick stop at the Kongsvoll Mountain Lodge to learn about the park’s history and wildlife and go for a quick walk in that area to see musk oxen, reindeer, and other animals. If you feel like staying overnight, Kongsvold Hotel has nice wooden rooms and also dorm beds for budget travelers.
From this lodge to Trondheim you’ll need another 2-2.5 hours to spend on the road and finish the drive.
But if time allows and you have an opportunity, you can make it somewhat longer and take a scenic route to the east and drive through the Norwegian countryside with its rolling hills, forests, and mountains, and make a stop in a charming mining town Roros. It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved wooden architecture from the 17th century.
Attractions Not to Miss on This Road Trip
Where to Stay on the Road Trip From Oslo to Trondheim
KONGSVOLD HOTEL – mountain lodge by E6 highway on the Dovrefjell mountain plateau which grants beautiful views on all sides. It was built originally as a monastery in the 12th century and still keeps its feel. It has 59 unique rooms and a restaurant with wild game dishes, such as reindeer and elk, which are sourced from the surrounding mountains.
SCANDIC NIDELVEN – good hotel for a mid-budget in the heart of Trondheim by the canals. Rooms have heated floors and nightly rate includes a big breakfast.
Southern Norway Road Trip Cost
The final cost of a road trip in south Norway depends on several factors, including the duration of your trip, the exact step-by-step Norway road trip itinerary, your accommodation choices, and your food and activity expenses. Here are a few estimated costs to give you an idea of how much can Norway trip cost.
Car Rental Costs in Norway
Obviously, if you plan to go on a road trip in Norway, you need to rent a car. Before you start booking a vehicle, I recommend you read my post on Norway car hire (if you haven’t read it yet) to understand how much different cars cost and where to score a good price.
On average, if you follow my tips, you can rent a good economy car for about $45-$55 per day outside July and August. Although it will also depend on where you rent it and for how long you take it.
Another expense to have a budget for would be about ferries as you’ll need to use a couple of them to get places faster. Short-distance ferries that cross fjords or rivers cost between $6-$17 per car, one way while long-distance ferries can cost anywhere between $115-$230 per car, one way.
But on my list of Norway scenic routes there are no long ferry crossings, so you shouldn’t worry about them if you follow my itineraries.
Accommodation Prices in Norway
The cost of accommodation in Southern Norway first of all depends on the location. On average, you should expect to pay for a mid-range hotel somewhere between $90-$160 per night for 2 people. Although hotels and lodges closer to fjords and glaciers will cost more, particularly in summer.
Cost of Food & Drinks in Southern Norway
Dining out in Norway is always expensive, with a typical meal at a mid-range restaurant costing around $23-$35 per person.
However, it is still possible to travel Norway on a budget and save money on food by renting your accommodation with a kitchen and cooking your meals, and picking cooked foods from grocery stores.
Cost of Activities in the South of Norway
A wonderful thing about Norway which also helps to save money is the number of free outdoor activities that are awesome. With the number of endless hiking trails, kayaking and cycling opportunities, it is easy enough not to spend anything on activities in Norway.
You do need to budget coffee stops in Instagram-worthy cafes in the middle of valleys or with waterfalls and glaciers in the background as well as entrance fees for museums. But other than that can range from 50-150 NOK ($6-17 USD) per person.
Norway Road Trip Cost – Estimate
Overall, I’d say you need to budget between $1700-$3500 per week for two people for a road trip in southern Norway. This will cover all expenses, depending on the type of accommodation you choose, how early you book your car, where and what you eat, and whether you pay for additional guided tours or not.
However, in the end, the actual cost can be totally different as everything depends on your choices and preferences.
On our latest trip to Norway, we spent $3500 for two for the entire month because we rented a car in Gothenburg, Sweden (which was much cheaper) and rented accommodation in more remote areas.
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