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      our holidays > Journeys > Norway > Grand Norwegian Explorer

Grand Norwegian Explorer

Cities, fjords & islands
Holiday information
Nights: 14
Accommodation: six high-quality hotels; one apartment
Meals: 14 breakfasts, 6 dinners
Included extras: 24hr city cards in Bergen & Oslo

Starting point:

Your holiday begins in Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city, which has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and is overlooked by forested mountain slopes. The Clarion Hotel Admiral is your base for two nights.

Day 1

Today is free to explore Bergen on foot using our self-guided tour and included 24-hour City Card, which entitles you to reduced entry at many of the main attractions. There’s a real sense of history here, and the famous Bryggen – the UNESCO-listed, Hanseatic harbour district – has long been a melting-pot for traders from all over the world. Wander amid its brightly painted shops and warehouses, and peek into the large, glass-sided Fisk Torget (fish market) – a riot of sound and colour, especially when the catch comes in. It’s also worth taking the funicular up the mountain behind the city for views over the fjords.

Day 2

Leaving Bergen, you travel by express boat along the coast and into majestic Sognefjord. From water level, the mountains framing it seem even grander, and all you can see ahead is headland after headland plunging into the sapphire waters. Your destination is Balestrand, for two nights in Kvikne’s Hotel, offering sumptuous fjord-side views. (Journey time: 4hrs)

Day 3

There are plenty of ways to spend your day: enjoy a bike ride, or stroll along Balestrand’s heritage trail to learn about the artists who have visited the village. You could also pay a visit to the local aquarium, or seek out the fjord-side Cider House, a distillery and restaurant run by a Norwegian-Turkish couple amid over 100 varieties of fruit trees. Other options are to walk up the slopes behind the hotel to gain a different perspective on the splendid scenery, or to visit one or more of the area’s remarkable ‘stave churches’ – elaborate, 12th-century wooden structures, often topped with dragons’ heads, much like the prows of Viking longships.

Day 4

You leave Balestrand as you arrived: by express boat. This time you head further inland, along steep-sided Aurlandsfjord to Flåm, where you spend two nights at the historic Fretheim Hotel. (Journey time: 1.5hrs)

Day 5

Take an exhilarating bike ride down the old 'Navvies' Road from Myrdal, enjoy the more sedentary sipping of award-winning ales in surroundings (including a nine-metre-high fireplace) inspired by Norse mythology at the Ægir Brewery, or take a boat trip along beautiful Nærøyfjord, where waterfalls plunge 1,200 metres from the clifftops.

Day 6

Take your seat on the Flåmsbana, one of the world’s great train journeys. From the fjord, you ascend ever higher into the mountains, past lush woodland and thundering waterfalls. At the top, you change trains and over the next couple of hours descend gradually to Oslo, where you have two nights at the Hotel Bristol. (Journey time: 6hrs)

Day 7

Spend the day exploring Norway’s flourishing capital, using our self-guided walking tour to take in some of its many sights. Stroll around the bustling harbour, see the fortress on the headland overlooking Oslofjord or take advantage of the discounted entrance fees offered by your included 24-hour City Card to visit attractions such as the sculpture park, and fascinating museums such as that devoted to Viking ships. You could also admire the ship that took Amundsen all the way to the South Pole in 1911; visit the Nobel Peace Centre; or explore Aker Brygge, the waterfront district which typifies the Norwegian capital’s bold sense of style. Here, you can ascend the 90-metre Tjuvtitten Tower (the ‘Sneak Peak’) for sensational views over the city.

Day 8

You can choose an early morning or early afternoon departure for today's scenic train ride north from Oslo to Trondheim. This 553-kilometre journey takes you past Mjøsa, Norway's largest lake, to Lillehammer, which hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics; through the verdant scenery of Gudbrandsdalen, the valley associated with Ibsen's Peer Gynt; alongside the Lågen, one of the largest rivers in Norway; over the highest point on the line, Hjerkinn, at 1,017 metres above sea level; and beneath the towering peaks of the Dovrefjell National Park. In Trondheim, you spend two nights at the Hotel Bakeriet. (Journey time: 6.5hrs)

Day 9

Trondheim may be Norway's third city, but it has a relaxed, easy-going feel. At the centre of the Old Town is Torvet, a large square where a statue-cum-sundial of the city's founder takes pride of place. From here, broad avenues lead north to the fish market; east to the old bridge of Gamle Bybro, on the other side of which is the pretty district of Bakklandet, complete with old warehouses and timber buildings; and south to Nidaros Cathedral, Scandinavia's largest medieval building and the traditional venue for coronations and royal burials. Our half-day, self-guided walking tour helps you to make the most of your time in the city, with ample time to visit, if you wish, one or two of Trondheim's museums, which include the National Museum of Decorative Arts, the Maritime Museum, the Ringve Music Museum with its collection of instruments from around the globe, and the City Art Gallery.

Day 10

An early start is required for today's epic journey. The Nordland Railway is the longest – and one of the most spectacular – in Norway, and weaves through great forests, past narrow fjords and alongside rivers famous for their salmon. About four-fifths of the way through the journey, you cross the Arctic Circle and continue through the majestic Saltfjellet mountains. After 739km of spectacular scenery, not to mention 293 bridges and 154 tunnels, you reach the coast at Bodø, where you stay overnight at the Thon Nordlys Hotel. (Journey time: 10hrs)

Day 11

Our self-guided walking tour serves as a good introduction to Bodø’s main sights – including its 20th-century cathedral – as well as giving you an insight into its history. After lunch, you make your way to the port, ready for the mid-afternoon departure of the Hurtigruten. You’ll probably want to spend the majority of this four-hour sailing out on deck, admiring the craggy, fjord-indented coastline and the many small islands. On arrival in Stamsund, you collect your included hire car and drive to the fishing village of Mortsund, midway along the archipelago, where you spend your last three nights in an apartment at the Rorbusenter. (Journey time: 4.5hrs, including drive from Stamsund to Rorbusenter)

Days 12 & 13

The wild beauty of the Lofoten Islands is humbling. Rugged granite spires frame silver beaches and an impossibly blue sea, while rocky headlands are dotted with small communities of wooden houses and distinctive, red-and-white rorbuer  (fishermen’s huts).

We suggest a combination of walking and driving for your time here, and include route notes for a couple of walks. Visit one or two of the islands’ museums, such as the Viking Museum with its impressive reconstruction of the chieftain’s longhouse that was found here; drive east to Svolvær for a boat trip to the incomparable, sheer-sided Trollfjord, the two-kilometre-long stretch of water separating the Lofotens from the Vesteralen archipelago; stroll through the UNESCO designated fishing village of Nusfjord; or enjoy the near-deserted walk from Brenna.

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Local Map
Norway's wooden 'cathedrals'
Around the shores of Sognefjord and accessed from the towns of Balestrand and Flåm, stand some of the most remarkable wooden structures in northern Europe, known as the Stave Churches, which date from the twelfth century.
Read more in 'The Slow Lane' >
Biking the Rallarvegen
Inntravel's Eric Kendall tests out the ultimate way to explore the spectacular Flåm Valley – a dramatic "descent" by bike from Myrdal to Flåm...
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