Every year in the end of July, like most of French, we take a 2-3 weeks long vacation to spend time with family. This year we decided to go to one of the most beautiful countries in Europe – Norway. By car.
From Paris to the Atlantic Road, and back is more than 5000 km, 6000 km including visiting attractions and moving between cities. That’s A LOT with three little children, but it was better to go now when they still share one plate in restaurants. I don’t think that in 5 years from now, we could afford a trip to Norway because of how ridiculously expensive this country is.
Okay, let’s get straight to the point. A road to Norway takes 2 days, but we made it in 3. Our first stop was in Utrecht, Netherlands, the next in Hamburg, Germany before to take the ferry in Hirtshals, Denmark.
Please note that this is not “what to do in Norway with the kids” article. When we travel with the kids, we don’t look for amusement parks, aquariums and other kids friendly attractions. It’s very rare that we visit museums and queue to see something. We’re also not obsessed with “insta-spots”. This is a diary of our freestyle trip across the country with little children, not an article for visitnorway.com.
Day 1: Kristiansand Zoo
Kristiansand Zoo is one of the most beautiful zoos in Europe. Unfortunately, when we woke up the first day in Norway, the weather was terrible and we had to cancel our visit there and spend the day in the city instead. However, we all were so tired that day that we were home by 5 pm already, so maybe not going to the zoo was a good idea actually. But if you ever go to Norway, Kristiansand Zoo is a must see. I guess.
Day 2 and 3: Southern Norway
What is important when you travel with little children is to do a break from long roads every other day. Therefore, we decided to spend two days in the South, visiting little cities and villages before to move to the Western part of Norway. Our Airbnb was in Mandal, a small town not far from Kristiansand. The weather was still bad and we were just driving around from one city to another.
This is when we learned HOW actually EXPENSIVE is Norway.
For example, you simply can’t eat outside for less than 30€ (per person), and food is, let’s say, average. Really, nothing special. But veeeery expensive! So are the prices in the cheapest supermarkets. We paid 50€ for a little bag of foods (no meat and alcohol). Not much cheaper than to eat in a restaurant, I must say. Good thing: there will never be a mass tourism in here.
Day 4: Road Trip to Stavanger and Lysebotn Road
We took the longest route to Stavanger to see the famous Lysebotn Road. This popular tourist road goes from Lysebotn, a small village at the innermost end of the Lysefjord, to Sideral. The steep mountain road has 27 hairpin turns and it´s highest point is at Lake Andersvatnet where is the car park/starting point for the hike to Kjerag. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get there because of the children, so we just enjoyed the beautiful road.
Around 6 pm we arrived in Stavanger where we took another overpriced dinner (yes, I’ll complain about pricing A LOT).
Day 5: Stavanger City Center and A Fjord Cruise on Lysefjord
Waking up in Stavanger after 10 hours of sleep was fantastic! We went to the center to take a breakfast and visit the city a little bit. Stavanger is beautiful. But to be honest, like in many cities of Norway, there’s a lack of history to see, compared to the cities in other parts of Europe. There are no fancy cathedrals, arcs, castles… After visiting 3-5 cities, you already have this déjà vu feeling.
But Norway has something more to give – its beautiful nature that is a million times more impressive than its pretty white wooden houses and fish markets, right? Château des Versailles would be left unnoticed in the great beauty of Norwegian fjords.
After visiting a little bit (if you’re interested, you can google what to see in Stavanger. Nobody has sponsored this brilliant article, and I’m too lazy to share my wonderful guide skills for free), we took the road again to a fjord cruise on Lysefjord in Ryfylke. It presents spectacular natural phenomena, such as Preikestolen, the Kjerag mountain, rugged scenery and dramatic rock formations. It was AMAZING drive and much cheaper than more touristic cruises.
Day 6: Road Trip to Flåm and Låtefossen Waterfall
Technically, to somewhere between Bergen and Flåm where I took our next Airbnb. The way there was stunningly beautiful! One of the most beautiful stops was Låtefossen waterfall. We brought the girls down to the river where they were playing in the water and having fun. It was beautiful just to be surrounded by huge rocks and waterfalls. The weather was amazing, too. Speaking of weather, it was 19’C in Stavanger that day, and 26’C in Bergen. Pretty big difference for not that big distance.
Later in the evening we counted how much money we spent on this 6 hour drive. 3 ferries, 30l of gas, road tax… a little bit over 100€ for 229 km. Not very cheap. But 100% worth it! I also discovered that here you can’t buy alcohol after 4 pm on weekends and 6 pm on weekdays. Maybe that’s the reason why Norwegians are so serious…
By the way, here is the view from our Airbnb house somewhere between Bergen and Flåm:
There is no wifi, hot water, shower and normal toilets but the view is totally worth it!