Cruising Norway's Fjords
The first thing to bear in mind about any trip to Norway is the cost. This is an outrageously expensive country, with massive taxes on absolutely everything. Norway pumps out more oil than Kuwait, but gasoline will run you about $5 a gallon. Take comfort in the fact you'll be driving an economical compact, not some gas-sucking SUV.
Norwegian roads are uncrowded (at least outside of Oslo), rarely more than two lanes wide, and remarkable for things you won't seeÂ—like roadside litter, billboards, or dueling fast-food chains. But if you notice a rectangular box with a glass eye mounted on a pole, pray you aren't speeding. If you are, these automatic speed traps will snap one holiday picture you can do without.
Fjord country roads are peppered with switchbacksÂ—all with strategically placed pull-offs to allow cars and busses to squeeze by one another. Be prepared for tunnels boring through mountains for miles. You'll probably see more sheep and cows on the roads than cars, and if you come upon a traffic jam, chances are good it's due to a herd of livestock.
Plan your visit for the magic months of June, July, or August. Pack a waterproof anorak, a warm fleece, and hiking boots. You should be able to spend your days in shorts, but this is Norway, and it can get cold. No need to fear a language barrier. Just about everyone speaks English, and unlike the French, they're happy to do so.
Although a visit to Norway will leave you shaking your head at the prices, good hotels are actually a bargain (about $75 to $100 a night), and the views alone are worth the price. Most hotels include a sumptuous breakfast smorgasbord that will keep you sated well past lunch. No donuts and styrofoam cups of coffee here.
Make sure to buy a "Fjord Pass," which costs less than $10 and gives deep discounts at more than 200 hotels and cabins throughout Western Norway. It will pay for itself after the first night.
Fjord country is full of good hotels. Here are a few:
Geirangerfjord: The Union Hotel is a big, modern hotel with great views and is within walking distance of the fjord.
Jxlster: The Skei Hotel lies about 100 meters from Jxlstervatnet and is close to everything else.
Gaularfjellet and Sognefjord: Dragsvik Fjordhotell is a small, cozy, family-run place with great food, friendly staff, and superb views from the rooms and cabins.
Hardangerfjord: Eidfjord Hotel is centrally located and boasts rooms adorned in Norwegian wood.
One final note: Your rental car will be equipped with a CD player, so make sure to bring along something like Grieg. There's nothing like rolling around fjord country to the strains of the Peer Gynt Suite.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication