cycling the suleskarvegen

An Incredible End to Our European Tour

Norway was our final destination in Europe, and it was a fantastic place to finish our 14 month journey around the continent. We lucked out with beautiful weather throughout most of our loop around southern Norway and ended up in Oslo, where we would box our bikes and fly to Asia. We cycled a combination of Norway’s National Cycle Routes 2, 4, and 5 and the EuroVelo 12 and experienced a variety of landscapes and jaw-dropping scenery.

norway traditional houses
Traditional houses on display in Norway.

Bicycle Touring Norway Route

cycling southern norway map
Map of our cycling tour around Southern Norway.

Download the GPX track of our Southern Norway cycle tour.

National Cycle Route 2

Our ferry from Sweden arrived in Sandefjord on a dreary, misty afternoon. After getting groceries from a scenic Kiwi Market, we immediately headed into the mountains on National Cycle Route 2. There was a fun cycle path leaving Sandefjord that was full of cyclists, roller bladers, and even a group of Nordic roller skiers. Our first campsite in Norway was down a very overgrown old road, and we had a lot of ticks to contend with due to the high grass. It was a minor miracle that we didn’t contract Lyme Disease in Europe – we had tons of tick bites but we were militant about doing checks and usually caught them very early.

bicycle touring norway
Bike path on our first day in Norway.

There were some significant climbs early on along Route 2, and we got lots of thumbs-ups and cheers of encouragement from people out for walks. We rode along beautiful fjords and through the Telemarkskanalen Regional Park, taking in the sheer rock faces and placid lakes as we went. The 2 also takes lots of smooth gravel roads and overall had very low traffic.

bicycle touring norway
Really nice roads to start out our tour in Norway, though at one point we had to lift our bikes over a locked gate. There weren’t any signs about the road being closed to through traffic, and this was the official Cycle Route 2, so we were pretty surprised to find a gate without any warning.
cycling southern norway
Lock crossing on Cycle Route 2. The railings seemed a little sketchy and we had to take off our rear panniers to fit through the narrow walkway.
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Hunkering under a tiny overhang after grocery shopping on one of the rainier days.
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It was pretty gloomy and rainy for our first few days of riding, but luckily the weather cleared up for most of our tour.
cycling southern norway
Appreciating a break in the weather at a nice overlook.
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Scenic grocery stop, Coop in the background.

Cycling the Suleskarvegen

The Suleskarvegen is the highest road connection in the southwest of Norway. It traverses a wonderful high alpine area filled with lakes and rolling hills, and is also home to the southernmost population of reindeer in Norway. The road is popular with motor tourists, and unfortunately we ended up riding it on a Saturday. Despite the traffic, it was a beautiful route and one of the many highlights of our time in Norway.

Further west along Route 450, we rode through a deep canyon with spectacular steep walls on both sides. This area was just as scenic as the Suleskarvegen, but with much less traffic.

cycling the suleskarvegen
The beginning of the Suleskarvegen’s high alpine scenery.
cycling the suleskarvegen
Andrew descending a hill. There were lots of campers like the one pictured that made the road difficult to negotiate.
cycling the suleskarvegen
Enjoying the sun while it lasted.
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Starting the canyon ride on Highway 450.
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Amazing sheer rock faces all along the road corridor.

Stavanger to Bergen

We decided to get a hotel in Stavanger since we had been camping for weeks and were ready for a brief respite. We booked the cheapest hotel we could find, and when we arrived, we realized that it was a hospital hotel. As in, the entrance for the hotel and the hospital were one and the same. While we were initially a little put off, we decided to just laugh about it since in the end, a bed is a bed. On the plus side, hospital elevators tend to be really big and we had no problem fitting our fully loaded bikes into the lift.

The coastal route between Haugesund and Bergen was probably our least favorite part of Norway, mostly because it was pretty populated and the bike path was often right next to a big highway. We did enjoy traveling to some of the more remote islands such as Ombo, though figuring out all the ferry transfers was a little bit challenging at first.

bicycle touring norway
Cycling above a fjord near Stavanger on a short section of bike path.
bicycle touring norway
The highway went through a tunnel for this stretch, so the old road essentially became a bike path.
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A beautiful though windy campsite next to a lake. We had to drag our bikes down a hiking trail and a couple rocky creek crossings to get here. It seemed to be popular with boaters, and someone had even built some wooden tables and chairs around the camp.
wild camping norway
Rainy, sad campsite on the island of Ombo. We often sleep in on rainy days in the hopes that the storm will pass, but on this day we had an early ferry to catch. It was kind of tough to find camping on Ombo so we wound up at a gravel parking lot next to a lake.
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Bike path separated from the highway.

National Cycle Route 4

Just south of Bergen, we took local cycling route 90 and the Arna-Trengereid (AT) cycling route to Trengereid, where we took a train to Stanghelle and the connection to National Cycle Route 4. The train between Trengereid and Stanghelle was mandatory to avoid a long tunnel where bikes aren’t allowed. There were dedicated bike spaces on the train and it was easy to get them on, but the train was pretty expensive considering how short the journey was.

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Tunnel on the bike route. There was a new, bigger tunnel for the cars right next to it.
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Small bridge across a fjord on Cycle Route 4.

After Dale, the route takes some wonderful low traffic byways along fjords and high up into the mountains. We passed through Voss and began a long climb toward Upsete, where we took another mandatory train to Myrdal and the connection to the Rallarvegen. The section after Voss featured blue glacial rivers and great options for camping and much needed rest breaks along the climb.

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Some road workers directed us off the bike path for a short stretch because they were clearing trees way up the mountain.
Zoomed in on the sawyers. Wild to see them working on such a high, sheer cliff!
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Stopping to admire a tall waterfall.
upsete train station
Upsete train station. All the stations in Norway had nice waiting areas to shelter from the rain and cold.
myrdal train station
Myrdal, the other side of our second mandatory train ride. Here we started the Rallarvegen cycling route.


The Rallarvegen is Norway’s most famous cycling route, with an estimated 20,000 users every year. It was built in 1904 as an access road for the railway and is closed to other motorized vehicle traffic. Naturally, we did the route on an absolutely gorgeous Saturday and were going the opposite direction as everyone else, so we passed a near constant stream of people on rented mountain bikes. It was a little bit scary when the trail got narrow on steep downhills, because there were a lot of people that were clearly uncomfortable on the loose gravel, and there were a couple close calls where they almost lost control.

Despite the crowds, the high mountain scenery was spectacular, with many alpine lakes and pockets of snow.

cycling the rallarvegen
Starting the climb up into the alpine.
cycling the rallarvegen
The initial big climb followed a gorgeous stream cutting through a small canyon.
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Lots of tranquil alpine lakes along this route.
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Some of the best scenery of the whole trip, it’s no wonder why this route is so popular.
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Cloudy morning campsite on the Rallarvegen. The only flat spot we could find was on top of bedrock, so we had to use straps and rocks instead of stakes. Takes more time to set up but it works pretty well!

National Cycle Route 5

We switched to the Route 5, also called the Numedal Route, to take us into Oslo. This route passes by some beautiful medieval churches and takes a few really enjoyable gravel roads. There were blueberries carpeting the forest floor at this time of year, so we were constantly feasting on fresh fruit. Leaves were starting to change in mid-September and the air was getting a crisp fall edge to it.

nore stave church
Nore Stave Church, originally constructed in the 12th century though it’s been partially rebuilt.
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The nights were getting colder and we enjoyed making campfires when we stopped early. Usually we try not to call attention to ourselves while wild camping, but since it’s legal in Norway we felt more comfortable.
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Blueberry close-up. Some parts of the forest were totally covered with them.
blueberries in norway
Disembodied hand with standard breakfast in Norway – bread, nutella, granola, and fresh blueberries.
We had some extra time before we needed to be in Oslo for our flight, so we took some camping rest days.
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Heading into the forest to look for a campsite. Some of our favorite campsites were near the end of our trip, where we felt like the only people around for miles. This forest floor was absolutely covered in berries so that made it an even better site.
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This campsite was very high on the list due to the prevalence of blueberries and nice campfire area.

Bike Boxing Extravaganza

We had been going back and forth about when and where to box our bicycles before flying out of Oslo. Hotels were all well over $100, and we hadn’t gotten any responses from Warm Showers hosts that we’d contacted. We found boxes at a bike shop about 5 miles outside of the city, and we decided to just bring everything onto the train and box our bikes at the airport rather than the train station. Initially, we tried to get on the local train to the airport, but it was totally packed and impossible to get all our junk aboard. Instead we took the airport express train, which was twice the price ($22 each) but had ample space for our bikes and boxes.

After arriving at the airport, we found a quiet spot and set about disassembling our bikes. Doing it at the airport was actually pretty convenient, and our flight wasn’t until the next day so we didn’t have to stress too much. The boxes even made a nice privacy wall when it was time to sleep, and there were other people sleeping in the lobby too so it didn’t seem like the airport staff minded that much.

bike boxing at the oslo airport
The far end of the departures hall was pretty empty, plenty of space to box our bikes and dry out our tent.
Andrew set up a roof with our footprint to shade us from the lights while we tried to sleep. Airport staff did eventually ask us to move, but only because they were shooting a commercial in this area the next morning.

Video from Bicycle Touring Southern Norway

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