TABLE OF CONTENTS
Many ways lead to Scandinavia. The question was: which way is the most beautiful? In order to find an answer before actually setting of we bought these two guides:
- Lonely Planet – Sweden Country Guide (English / 6th edition / 1 May 2015 / ISBN-10: 1742207375 / 19,95€)
- Reise Know-How Norwegen: Reiseführer für individuelles Entdecken (German / 5th edition / 15 December 2014 / ISBN-10: 3831724725 / 24,90€)
Both were read and analysed in search of the absolute must-sees and best scenic routes. Other than during our Balkans tour earlier this year, we used these guides excessively to find campgrounds, museums and new ways whenever our planed route was closed – which happened quite a few times due to various reasons (road works, road damages, etc.)
The original plan was to make our way up the Swedish east coast, before cutting through inland-Sweden and crossing the border to Norway near Abisko. Further on we wanted to visit the Lofoten and then slowly make our way down the Norwegian coast until Kristiansund where we had booked a ferry in advance to take us to Denmark.
Due to terrible weather hitting us on our third day we decided to abandon the first part of this plan and hurry north as quick as possible in hope of better weather in Norway. This was not really tragic because the Swedish coastal drive we had done so far had been quite disappointing anyway. Most parts of the road are not in sight of the water but instead lead you through forests – which is exactly what you’ll find on the much shorter inland road. So it really does not matter where you’ll drive in terms of having something nice to look at. You will see loads of forrest. And forrest. And – you wouldn’t guess it – some more forrest. Advantage of the inland road: you’ll save a few hundreds of kilometres and will also get to see some beautiful lakes on your way.
This change of plans resulted in a rather short time spent in Sweden and more time in Norway. Therefore we had enough time to relax at beautiful places and visit a couple of museums (Vikings: www.lofotr.no and Samis: www.arran.no)
We have to admit, that Norway was not as offroady as we would have liked it to be. Many gravel roads are private and/or closed to the public. Nevertheless it is easier to find green lanes than in Scotland. That being said Norway is still a fantastic destination and definitely worth a visit – you shouldn’t expect an offroad paradise like in Albania for example!
In terms of navigation we used the maps.me App for open street maps and MotionX GPS for GPS-tracking. Unfortunately the Norwegian OSM maps are quite a disappointment. Many roads are simply not on there and we often had to find towns and/or buildings in areas where the OSM map did not show any sign of civilisation. This caused many long searches for suitable camps which was quite frustrating. Satellite images won’t help much either because many Norwegians grow gras and other plants on their roofs which makes them impossible to spot from space. You might want to look into more detailed maps before setting of – this time we were not happy with our maps at all 🙁
Just a few tips for your journey:
– mobile broadband service: perfect pretty much everywhere you’ll go. A wide-spread 3G network and free wifi in many supermarkets make it possible to get online
– money: you can not count on paying with your credit cards in the Balkans, so make sure you have enough cash with you at all times. You’ll find ATMs only in the larger cities. Due to low prices you won’t need loads of cash – in 3 weeks we needed about 50 EUR per person (not including fuel – which can be paid by credit card)
– green insurance card: you have got to have your green insurance card, otherwise you will find it hard to cross the borders. We had to show it every single time we were checked at ANY border!
– customs & goods: make sure you don’t have more alcohol and other goods on board than is allowed to import/export. We once had to clear out our whole car in order to prove that we had nothing to declare. It is not rare that custom officers inspect cars thoroughly (including European tourists) for illegally imported/exported goods. Don’t take the risk!
– people: Albania is a Muslim country and therefore quite different to what we know from christian Europe. Expect to see (seemingly idle) men standing in groups next to or on the road at all times. Most people will be very curious when Western tourists drive/walk by. That being said, we didn’t have a single bad experience. We were always made to feel welcome and often invited in for coffee, food and conversation by all sorts of people. Expect extreme hospitality without any expectations of anything in return. If you want to give something in return anyway avoid money and instead give alcohol, chocolate, or other sweets – their joy will be endless!
– fuel prices: When it comes to fuel prices, Albania is quite expensive. When we were there, prices were similar to those in Germany. It is a lot cheaper to get fuel in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. If you are close to Macedonia make sure to fuel up there: the price for diesel was significantly cheaper than anywhere else in Europe!
– heavy rain fall: we learned the hard way that heavy rain fall combined with clay and sandy roads can make driving a very tough challenge. Make sure to check the weather forecast and avoid one way roads that you will have to come back on if they look like they might turn into a nightmare once rained upon for several hours. We got stuck several times and both cars had to be pulled out by a tractor once because there was no chance of getting out of the super-sticky mud that had not been on the road the day before!