After hopping a flight from Oslo to Stavanger, we rented a car and journeyed northward. We spent most of our time in Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane counties, and for my first trip to Norway, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Traveling throughout these counties, we stayed at a different Airbnb every night. Each place we came home to had its own character and charm, and I’d love to recommend a few places if you find yourself in any of the areas mentioned below. We certainly lucked out in that most of our stays had picturesque views of the surrounding fjords.
ULSNES GARD, KINSARVIK 🔗
Our first stay was in Kinsarvik, directly across the road from the Hardangerfjord. We arrived late in the evening and had to head out early the next morning, but this would have been the perfect place to nestle up on the patio with a blanket and hot cup of tea. Before we continued our journey, we spent some time with the animals. The horses barely paid any attention to us, but the moment we called for the sheep, they ran up the hillside to greet us!
AUD’S COTTAGES, BYRKJELO 🔗
Aud’s Cottages in Byrkjelo are the epitome of a cozy Norwegian cottage, with a wood fire stove and adorable sleeping loft. Our own private cottage was located on the hillside behind the town with a beautiful view of the mountains surrounding Sanddalsvatnet Lake.
LAVIK, HØYANGER KOMMUNE 🔗
We enjoyed our stay at a shared home the night before we planned to take the ferry from Lavik to Ytre Oppedal. We settled into a spacious room with a balcony that offered an expansive view of the Sognefjord. Per our host’s dinner recommendation, we made our way over to the restaurant at the Lavik Fjord Hotel and although the kitchen recently closed (note that many stores and restaurants in these small villages close early), the friendly waitstaff offered to make us sandwiches and heat up a few bowls of soup for us.
STONEHOUSE APARTMENT, HJEMELAND 🔗
This cozy cottage was another favorite. Our hosts, Olav and Elsa (note: the movie Frozen was actually based on Scandinavian culture) were very welcoming and made us feel right at home. Their property is at the end of a long rocky road, and the cottage we rented stands separate from Olav and Elsa’s home. During the twilight hours, we could see their home from our window, lit with candles in the window and sheep grazing out back.
This area of Norway is relatively easy to navigate as the roads weaving in and out of the mountains are limited. However, be prepared to be driving along the edge of single lane roads that switchback up and down the mountainsides. On our trip I was assigned the role of the navigator, so peering over the edge of the road while trucks twice the size of our car passed us by was only slightly less unnerving. Ferries, bridges, and mile long tunnels are quite common as well. We were excited to learn upon arrival that we would experience twilight during the night hours, which meant more time to take in the scenery!
It seemed that every few miles we would stumble upon towering mountains, breathtaking views of the fjords, or colossal waterfalls. All of the scenery, combined with the twilight, it’s no wonder we arrived at our Airbnb’s late into the evening each night. The waterfalls were simply amazing. Some we planned to visit, while others we drove upon with sheer surprise.
Although we went through enough tunnels that I lost count, the most memorable was the Lærdal Tunnel. Known for its 15 mile length, it’s the longest road tunnel in the world and it only opened in 2000. Blue and yellow lights are displayed in sections, with areas to pull off to keep drivers alert. We were happy to put this one on the books.
While traveling throughout these counties, we also noticed how clean, efficient, and thoughtful everything seemed. One of the most impressive projects that Norway has implemented is their National Tourist Routes. Well-known architects, designers, and artists have come together in a movement to create beautiful rest stops and viewpoints along the 18 routes throughout Norway. The infrastructure was designed in a manner to respond directly to and minimize the impact on the landscape.
Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane had many surprises in store for us, and we were happy with our choice to rent a car so we had the freedom and time to wander. Oslo, (read here), Stavanger, and Bergen (you’ll read more about this city in the near future!) were great to experience, but I have to say that the Norwegian countryside was my absolute favorite.
Read more about the waterfalls we visited: