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.
Bicycle Touring Norway Route
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.