• Norway

    Road trip to Lofoten – Solo traveler’s experiences and tips

    I have had this trip in my mind since last summer and now after obsessively checking the weather forecast and having my mom’s car to use, I decided this is my moment. I started my drive from Rovaniemi, Finland, knowing it will be a long 11h drive to reach my turning point in Lofoten Islands. I crossed the border to Sweden in Pello and drove across the Swedish Lapland making only one stop at picture beautiful Abisko. I already added the place to my bucket list, I really want to go back and do some hiking there. I crossed the border to Norway, and decided to stay the night in Narvik as it was getting late and I started feeling exhausted. Next morning, I continued driving towards Lofoten setting my destination to Festvågtind, the first hike I wanted to do. The landscape started changing and soon I had endless number of incredible mountains and fjords in front of my eyes. Instantly I fell in love with Lofoten.

    Fjord near Unstad, Lofoten

    When I planned the trip, I had in mind to stay on the road for a week if the weather stays good, and also visit Senja and Tromsø before driving back to Finland through Kilpisjärvi. However, after arriving to Lofoten I already knew I was going to stay there as long as possible deciding to visit Senja and Tromsø to another time.

    When visit Lofoten

    I visited Lofoten at the beginning of August and I was incredibly lucky when it comes to the weather: it was sunny or only partly cloudy every day! Nice +17ºC during the daytime and around +12ºC at night. When hiking you could easily manage with short sleeves but after stopping for a moment, I instantly had to put my jacket on. In general, the best time to visit Lofoten is from June to August. You can enjoy the midnight sun and go hiking during the night-time if you feel like it, or still in August you can go hiking quite late in the evening and still make it back to your tent before the sunset.

    Sunset at Ramberg Beach, Lofoten

    What to pack

    If you plan to go hiking number one thing is good shoes. Waterproof over-the-ankle boots with a lot of grip are definitely the type of shoes you should have with you. Also, water- and windproof outdoor jacket and pants are a must, because the weather in Lofoten can be unpredictable. Beanie and gloves are very recommended and a scarf to cover your neck. Remember to pack enough warm clothes especially if you are sleeping in a tent, layers are your friends. Norway is an expensive country, so I wanted to save some money and bought most of my food from Finland. Don’t forget the cleaning wipes, that was my shower during the days I wasn’t staying in camping. Power bank is a lifesaver when there is no electricity available.

    Money

    The currency in Norway is Norwegian Krone (NOK) and 1€ is around 10 NOK. I could pay everything with my card, so it is not necessary to have cash. If you want to get some, just withdraw a small amount as most probably you are not going to need it.

    Driving in Lofoten

    Important thing to keep in mind is that the roads are narrow and winding, going up and down with many bridges and tunnels, so don’t (actually you even can’t) drive too fast. In many points only one car fits to drive the road at a time so it means a lot of waiting. You mainly see Caravans on the road, which adds its own fun to your driving. They drive even slower than you do, and they are bigger than normal cars, which means it’s almost impossible to get past them in Lofoten roads. There are a lot of places where you can park your car along the road to have a break and admire the view. I decided not to do it as I figured I would never make it where I was heading. There are a good number of gas stations until the very end of Lofoten, so you won’t have to worry much where to fill up the tank. I had to pay in total around 180€ for the gas for the whole trip Rovaniemi – Å i Lofoten – Rovaniemi.

    Lofoten, Norway

    Where to stay in Lofoten

    Camping is for sure the most popular way of accommodating in Lofoten, and there are camping sites everywhere. I slept in a tent and most of the nights I stayed in camping areas to have things like shower and kitchen to use. All the campings I stayed in ended up being quite full at the end of the day so better to arrive earlier than later. The tents are set up right next to each other and you can easily be disturbed by your fellow campers snoring almost next to your ear. Another tricky thing was if you wake up in the middle of the night to go to pee, as all the strings from the tents form a huge minefield to get through without stumbling over someone’s tent. While driving I also saw a lot of signs of B&B places and if you are looking for a traditional experience you should stay over in “Rorbuer” which are red fishermen cabins built one end on land and other on poles in the water.

    Camping at Uttakleiv Beach, Lofoten

    Camping sites I stayed in and prices for a tent and one person:

    • Øyjord Camping (Narvik): 150 NOK (=15€) / night
    • Uttakleiv Beach: 200 NOK (=20€) / night, no shower or kitchen available. By the beach and direct hiking trail to Veggen. You’ll be literally camping with sheep.
    • Ramberg Gjestegård: 220 NOK (=22€) / night. Shower not included. You’ll have to pay 10 NOK (=1€) for little more than 2 minutes of water in the shower. Check beforehand you have enough 10 NOK coins!! I had only one (I thought I had more) and the water stopped running while I had my conditioner on my hair, and I was covered with soap from neck to toes. My only choice was to cover myself with a towel and go asking from people if anyone had change, so embarrassing! The location is beautiful by the beach and you can go hiking directly to Nubben or drive few minutes and go hiking to Volandstind.
    • Moskenes Camping: 210 NOK (=21€) / night. Next to the ferry terminal. Easy to visit Å and many hiking possibilities.

    One night I stayed at Kvalvika Beach and one night near Unstad Beach without any amenities but obviously with a beautiful view and for free. In total I spent around 78€ on accommodation for one week.

    What to see

    Haukland Beach, Lofoten

    Did you know beaches in Lofoten are one of the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen! White sand, crystal clear turquoise water with rough mountains in the background. WOW. Check out Haukland Beach, Uttakleiv Beach, Ramberg Beach or Kvalvika Beach to mention a few. Maybe you even dare to go for a swim. Don’t miss picturesque fishing villages Hamnøy, Reine and Å. Drive until the very end of road E10 and go for a walk to see where Lofoten ends.

    Hiking in Lofoten

    Why I wanted to visit Lofoten was the beautiful landscapes and hiking possibilities. I ended up doing 8 hikes in 6 days and my body was craving for rest after. But all the hikes I did were AMAZING. It doesn’t matter which mountain you climb you’ll always get incredible view on top, always! Now important: Lofoten has its own standards for hikes. Before the trip I prepared a list of possible hikes I would like to do and already excluded all the hikes that said “difficult” or “steep”, so all of them were supposed to be easy or moderate level. After doing my first hike which was “moderate” I really understood that moderate for me or any other non-Norwegian person would mean difficult, and easy for me means moderate and if you want an easy hike just don’t leave the beach. For a person who grew up in a country that doesn’t have mountains a 2-hour hike uphill that mostly goes you using all your four limbs to keep going IS NOT EASY OR EVEN MODERATE in any way. Most of the hiking trails in Lofoten are not marked. You just see the path where many people have walked before, and you follow it. Some hikes in Lofoten are very popular and get crowded but there are also mountains where you might encounter only few other people on your way, and you’ll get the whole view for yourself when you reach the summit.

    Offersøykammen, Lofoten

    Hikes in Lofoten tend to be short day hikes, just going up a mountain and then getting back down but still it’s a good challenge for the body. I really like going up and pushing myself a little bit more every time but still I always hike at my own pace, stopping to catch my breath whenever I need it or take a sip of water. Then I continue along the trail like a train, keeping my eyes carefully on the ground not even noticing if the trail splits. So many times I had to turn back because I missed the intersection or took a wrong trail. Or somehow made it on top and then found the right trail I was supposed to go when getting back down. If the slope got a bit steeper a thought often crossed my mind, oh gosh how am I going to descend this part later, but after all I didn’t face any problems. Reaching the summit is the best feeling ever. Seeing the 360º view for the first time, feeling the adrenaline and just breathing, I really cherish those moments. On the top I always chose a quiet spot with a stunning view and drank a cup of tea and ate something, sometimes a sandwich, sometimes a cinnamon bun. I usually stay there at least for an hour just breathing, enjoying the view and obviously taking some photos (which really is a minor part).

    Like in Finland, everyone in Norway too enjoys a concept called everyman’s right or right to roam (allemannsretten), which gives you the right to access and passage through uncultivated land in the countryside for recreation (eg. camp overnight) and exercise. It’s based on respect towards landowners and if you are unsure what you can or cannot do, better to check it beforehand.

    Reinebringen, Lofoten

    Lofoten is a picture-perfect place (100% grammable) and one of the most beautiful destinations I’ve ever visited. It should be on everyone’s bucket list yes or yes! Have you ever visited Lofoten? If you have any tips to share leave a comment 🙂

    With love Sanna

  • Germany

    Bavaria road trip: Munich, Neuschwanstein and Füssen

    What more Bavaria can offer you than the city life in Munich and Oktoberfest? ALPS, castles, small beautiful alpine villages with flowers, pumpkins on the road, lakes and stunning landscapes. While visiting Munich we also recommend to go a bit further to enjoy the beautiful Bavarian views.

    On the first day we made a road trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. In the morning we woke up at 6 o’clock and were packed in the rental car ready to go already at 7 o’clock. Jenna was driving, Sanna navigating and boys were sleeping in the backseat. It took some time until Jenna got used to the German driving style while other cars drove past on winding roads. On our way we saw so many cute little alpine villages and we did our best not to stop by in each of them. When we approached the destination we were impressed of the view: the most beautiful castle we have ever seen in front of the Alps. Another super cute thing was that there were many pumpkin selling points along the way where you could crab a pumpkin with you and pay it by putting the money into a small box.

    The ride to the castle took about 2 hours as the place is almost at the Austrian border. We arrived at 9 o’clock to the small village called Hohenschwangau, where you could buy tickets to the castle. There are many parking lots for people arriving by car and because we arrived so early we had no problem parking the car. The parking fee was € 6 per day. We rushed to the ticket center, but there were only a few other tourists before us. On the castle website they recommend you to buy tickets at least 3 days in advance (not possible to buy online later) and because we noticed that too late we couldn’t buy tickets online. We got the tickets from the ticket center for the tour starting at 10:05. The tickets cost 13€ per person and the students got a one euro discount! From the ticket center it took about half an hour to walk uphill to the castle. Before our guided tour started we walked about 15 minutes to the Marienbrücke Bridge, which has breathtaking views to the castle.

    Neuschwanstein Castle was built between 1868 and 1892 by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The King admired Wagner’s opera performances and built the castle for himself to be able to live there “a fairytale life”. The king’s favorite bird was a swan and that’s why you can spot swan inspired decoration in many parts of the castle. Also, the name of the castle literally means a New Swanstone Castle. The king lived in the castle for six months before he was found drowned in the lake. The castle was opened to the paying visitors just few weeks after his death to fund the completion of it’s construction as at that point only 16 of the 200 rooms in the castle were ready.

    Visiting the Neuschwanstein Castle is a dream come true for all the little and grown up princesses including these two nearly thirty-year-old ones. After all, the castle was also used as a model for the Walt Disney Sleeping Beauty Castle. The interiors of the castle weren’t as impressive as we expected and unfortunately it was forbidden to take photos.

    In Hohenschwangau village there is also beautiful lake called Alpsee with crystal clear turquoise water. There were many swans swimming in the lake which you could imagine been swimming there also when the king lived. The lake was like from a fairytale and definitely worth to see. After visiting in the castle and the lake we decided to continue our journey to Füssen, a nearby city full of colourful houses. We found a lunch spot and decided to eat currywurst while there was a street musician playing nice music next to us.

    After the lunch we drove back to Munich and returned the car to the main railway station. We rented the car from Hertz at the airport after arriving to Munich. The 24h car rental price including additional insurance was 100€. The fuel costs were 36€ so the total cost of the car was 36€ per person. Our Airbnb hosts also recommended to visit Herrenchiemsee Castle, which is located on the largest island of Chiemsee lake and it is said to be like a small Versailles. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to see it but we’ll keep this recommendation in mind for the future trips.

    In Munich, we spent our time mostly in the Oktoberfest area and the city center around the Marienplatz. (If you want to know more about Oktoberfest, read our previous post Octoberfest 2018  ) In Marienplatz, you’ll find the Neues Rathaus (the new town hall), which is a Gothic style building and well known landmark in Munich. As we both have an eye for aesthetic things we really loved the Bavarian way of decorating the buildings with flowers, it’s so pretty! Right next to the Rathaus there is also a white Hirmer’s clothing store for men which was just gorgeous in it’s flower dress. In Marienplatz Square, you will also find Cafe Rischart, which has a long glass vetrine full of delicious sweet buns, salty pies and cakes. Here you can also find fresh pretzels, which are definitely worth of tasting.

    The famous Viktualienmarkt marketplace is right next to Marienplatz. There you will find German delicacies and you really should have a lunch as there are many options to choose from. The smell of fresh vegetables, flowers and spices on the market was charming.

    Getting around in Munich was easy because of the wide train and metro networks (S-Bahn and U-Bahn). We were 4 people so we bought a 72h group ticket for all zones which is meant for groups up to 5 people. The ticket cost 73€ in total so the cost per person was about 6€ / day. The group ticket will always be cheaper to buy when there are two or more passengers.

    German and especially Bavarian food is quite heavy (meat and sausages) and fills your stomach quickly so be careful not to order too much. If you are looking for a traditional German place to eat in the city center we can recommend a restaurant called Augustiner am Dom.

    Bavaria is truly a beautiful area and we think renting a car allows you to explore it more widely and your vacation is not limited only to the big city’s hustle and bustle. Finally we can say that we were positively surprised at how much Bavaria has to offer!

     

    With love, Sanna & Jenna