Road trip through Scandinavia with Jani who decided to drive from London to Finland via Iceland
The big day, start of the journey, had arrived. However Jani still had to check out of his apartment so spent the morning in Starbucks sorting out some playlists for the car while he put some more things in storage and did the checkout at midday.
Pleasant enough weather to drive to Harwich with the roof down and we covered the trip pretty quickly. We then had a wait of a few hours for the ferry and ended up just sitting around at the port. Terribly exciting.
+30/04/2014Harwich to Esbjerg
The ferry trip itself was fine. Good few drinks in the evening and steak and ribs in the restaurant before a fairly early night.
Had a greasy breakfast on the boat in the morning after which I suddenly felt a bit sea sick. Lay down and had a brief snooze and was fine again.
We were almost the last car to escape the ferry but eventually we were let off. Top down and we were away, driving north on a sunny day. We took the West coast north as it sounded like it'd be a bit more scenic. There were mostly dunes along the coast and since we weren't climbing them we didn't see much.
Arrived at the campsite just outside Hirtshals around 8pm. Local restaurant was closed so we picked up some food and drink at a local store and headed back to our cabin. We'd booked some simple bunks but the guy on the front desk convinced us for a little more we could have a basic cabin. Probably not a bad call.
It gets dark a lot later here, after 9pm and will only get later as we head north and mid summers approaches.
Late start after sitting in the sun and finishing off the gherkins, tomatoes, bread and cheese from last night.
Checked out Skagen, the northern most point of Denmark on the afternoon followed by a late session of mini golf and beer before fish and chips at a local restaurant on the coast.
After a decent breakfast near the harbour we queued up for the ferry to the Faroe Islands. It was a bit disorganised to be fair, four queues but only one open gate that eventually people where approaching from all angles. We were in the lane furthest away so had the more challenging route.
After we got through the first gate I had to leave the car and make my own way on board which was fine as it meant I could explore the ship and not have to hang around in line for another hour. We had a two bed cabin to ourselves and the ship was a bit bigger than the last with a helipad and outside bar. Sadly the spas on the outer deck and sauna and pool were packed with kids but we made the most of the bar. Late night shopping meant I ended up too much candy, a bottle of Drambuie and some random bit of Lego to put together.
Klaksvik, Faroe Islands
We landed at 5am and spent most of the day driving around. The weather started off fine but didn't last long. We grabbed a late breakfast in Klaksvik just as the rain settled in.
Given the early start and less than four hours sleep we decided to pack it in early and find the airbnb. Torshavn isn't that big and one of the girls was home so we had an easy time settling in before taking a walk around Torshavn. This ended at the Irish Pub before Sushi for dinner at Etika.
Torshavn, Faroe Islands
It was a rainy day so decided to spend it in Torshavn. There's not so to see it turns out. I bought a woolly hat from a local store then we settled in at the Irish pub.
Dinner was rather good, a shoulder of lamb at Aarstova, a local restaurant in a historic building.
Gasadalur, Faroe Islands
The plan was to check out Mulafossur Waterfall near Gasadalur on Vagar Island. We did find it but it was so foggy we could hardly see a thing. The tunnel on the approach was full of fog as well which was quite an eerie experience. The waterfall was a bank of fog with a small white point where the waterfall hit the sea.
We did manage to book a boat to the Vestmanna bird cliffs the next day but as the rain settled on again called it a day.
In the evening we went to a local pub quizz with the girls whose place we are staying at. We almost one the first round but lost the tie break so no free drink.
+08/05/2014Vestmanna Bird Cliffs
Vestmanna, Faroe Islands
We tried the Mulafossur Waterfall again and this time we could see it. It was a bit overcast but light enough to get a couple of decent pictures and enjoy the view.
In the afternoon we had a wet and windy trip out to the Vestmanna Bird Cliffs. The cliffs were pretty impressive especially the places that the sheep managed to climb up to but the bird life didn't seem all that great; mostly gulls perched up in the cliffs and a few kitty hawks.
Kirkjubøur, Faroe Islands
The forecast was for fine weather so we planned a small hike over the hill to Kirkjubøur. We set off at midday and the skies were already dark. By the time we reached the top of the hill we were surrounded by cloud and it started to pour. Still it was a really fun walk and the weather made the climb down a bit more exciting. We took the bus back and as we had a half hour to wait at the stop decided to walk a bit further. Unfortunately the next stop was quite a way away so we had to wave the bus down at a give way sign which impressed the driver no end as he opened the door with the greeting “this isn't a bus stop!”.
There's a highly rated restaurant on a hill above Torshavn called Koks that we decided to try out. It uses locally sourced ingredients and while very expensive we'd heard enough good things about it to device to splash out. The view was pretty spectacular but the food didn't live up to the hype. There were a couple of nice dishes but for the most part I've had better food for much less.
Torshavn, Faroe Islands
We've been staying with a female couple the last week and they were hosting a Eurovision party that they were nice enough to invite us to. I've never watched the show before and it's not really my thing but it was a fun night. We headed out to a club at about 2am but as soon as we got there I remembered I don't like clubs and headed home.
Saksun, Faroe Islands
Feeling a bit tired and hungover made our way down to the Irish Pub for some fish and chips and to watch the F1. Unfortunately it was closed but the bar beneath was at least showing the F1, just no food.
In the evening we checked out Saksun which was a cute little village in a pretty stunning setting. The road there was fantastic, a narrow one way asphalt road winding it's way through the valley. It was also the first day where everything wasn't covered in cloud and we could really appreciate the sights the a Faroe Islands have to offer.
+12/05/2014Torshavn to Seydisfjordur, Iceland
Torshavn, Faroe Islands
The ferry left at two and we were slightly early getting there just before midday after a late rise and a five minute drive.
No crowds of teenagers on this trip but still plenty of pensioners with the two inside bars being closed for some conference things.
Faroe Islands have been nice but not unhappy to leave. Weather has cleared up just at the end but too late to be helpful. Still nice to sail out on a sunny day.
Jani went to have a snooze just after four and still there two hours later. So chilling in the sky bar currently which I pretty much have to myself.
Lake Myvatn, Iceland
The first day in Iceland was full on. We arrived at 9am to snow covered fjords and soon found ourselves driving up a hill covered in white to the first major town in the area where we had breakfast and planned what to do.
We decided on Lake Myvatn which has some impressive volcanic activity around it. The drive there was through snow covered plains and the weather started off with plenty of the white stuff falling from the sky before clearing up into a nice day.
We checked out some of the Volcanic sights at Hverir near the lake when we arrived then spent the evening soaking in the Myvatn Nature Baths before settling in at the guesthouse which was a farm out in the middle of nowhere.
In the morning we had a decent hike through lava formations and up Hverfjall crater that provided good views of the lake and the nearby surrounds.
The afternoon was meant to be spend on a Whale and Puffins tour at Husavik but the numbers were short so we got put on an earlier whale only boat. It was a good day for it, sunny and not too windy. No spectacular jumping out of the water but we saw a Humpback and a few Minke whales. Even some Puffins floating around though tended to dive as soon as we got close.
We spent the evening in Akureyri in a guesthouse just out of town.
Long drive through some pretty average weather to Drangsnes. The north seemed pretty quiet and the scenery while nice wasn't spectacular.
Drangsnes is a tiny little village on the east coast of the Western Fjords with not much going on. There was a hot tub between the road and the sea that we didn't make use of though it looked like a nice setting. Instead we drank our way through the bottles that were taking up space in the car and watched some cheesy old 80s movies. There was an old bull dog here who was obsessed with trying to hump my leg as well. Just wouldn't leave me alone until I escaped inside.
After a late and somewhat hungover start we had an awesome drive to Ísafjördur. Near the start was a high plain covered in snow stretching to the horizon. Once we crossed this we got to the fjords with birds everywhere and a bright blue sea. The road winded along the coast with steep sides and a view across to the snow covered slopes to the north.
We'd missed breakfast and lunch as there'd been no towns along the way but found a random little historic cottage in the middle of nowhere that was serving coffee and waffles with fresh cream.
We got into Ísafjördur around four and quickly got some food. Small quiet town and as we found out the tourist info had closed at four and won't be open over the weekend. So since we've paid for two nights here will try and find a hike tomorrow.
The plan was for a day of hiking. We hadn't planned on the tourist info being closed or the amount of snow. Apart from a flat track on the shore around town snow was still in deep patches everywhere and we didn't have the kit to handle it.
Nice drive today south through the fjords to Borgarnes. Only hiccup being the gravel roads and the next to no ground clearance of Jani's BMW M3. Still gave me some amusement every time he winced when something hit the bottom of the car. The 30 km/h we travelled at wasn't so amusing though.
Nice views and overall a pleasant drive though.
West Iceland, Iceland
In the morning headed out to check the Hraunfossar waterfalls. Sunny morning and they were quite nice but damn it was cold with a fresh wind blowing down from the snow covered peaks.
Next up was Snæfellsjökull National Park which provided some pretty spectacular scenery. Plenty of seabirds nesting along the coast and Snæfellsjökull, a volcano at the end of the peninsular with a glacier on top. Snæfellsjökull is also famous as the starting point for “Journey to the Center of the Earth”.
We finished up the day in Reykjavik where we'll probably be based for the next few days. Steakhouse for dinner and had a bit of Minke Whale as part of the starter which was quite good - a much darker meat than I'd expected.
Pretty chilled out day without too much happening. I went on a harbour cruise to see Puffins and saw plenty without getting too close. Plenty of photos but none really close and I'll have to check the others when I get back.
Thrihnukagigur is a dormant volcano that you can take a tour into the magma chamber. It's a 120 meter decent in an old window cleaning rig into the depths and they have set up spotlights to show the brilliant colours of the walls. It's a pricey trip and while it's a really cool experience maybe not quite worth the price. Still it's something not too many people can they've done I guess.
Today we did a loop called the golden circle that starts in Reykjavik and visits Thingvellir National Park, Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfall. If you've only a short stay in Iceland it may be worthwhile but for me it was a tourist packed tour of average sights that were made less enjoyable by the crowds. The best stop we had was at Karid, a colourful crater on the way back. The geysers weren't bad either, the big going off and drenching a guy who was standing in the wrong place to amusement of everyone else.
Very quiet day today, highlight being dinner at Sushi Samba where I had the Icelandic Feast that included smoked Puffin, Minke whale and a Reindeer burger.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
After a late start - and a weekend spent drinking and watching the F1 and ice hockey World Cup - we headed to the famous Blue Lagoon. The lagoon is actually man made and fed from the nearby geothermal plant. It's also very popular and very pricey. We were there on a Monday morning and it was packed. It was nice enough and worth a visit but certainly not a highlight of the trip.
Lunch was in Grindavik before driving east along the southern coast. The highlights on this drive being the Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss waterfalls.
We eventually stopped at Kirkjubaejarklaustur where we found a pricey room - compared to our normal standards at least.
We completed the Ring Road today driving on the southern border of Vatnajoekull National Park with it's numerous glaciers putting on an impressive show. The highlight of this section was Jökulsárlón a lake full of icebergs from one of the glaciers.
We grabbed some lunch at Höfn before the sun came out for the drive up through the Eastern Fjords to Egilsstadir where we started our drive two weeks ago.
+28/05/2014Seydisfjordur to Hortshals
Three nights on a tin can full of German Pensioners to get back to Denmark. Joy.
Torshavn, Faroe Islands
The ferry stopped in Torshavn and we took the opportunity to go to Aarstova and have have the lamb shoulder again. So good.
We had an early morning as although the ferry didn't arrive until 9am we were woken at 6am and told we had to be out if the cabin by 7am. Lovely start to the day.
Once in Hirtshals it was simple to book a ferry to Kristiandsand in Norway and we were back on a ferry by 12:15 though this one was a shorter trip with much better entertainment on board. It was a lovely sunny day so spend most of the trip on the deck enjoying the sun.
We'd booked a place in Stavanger for the night so had a 200 kilometre drive through the fjords to get there. Given the windy roads and the fact we took a scenic route we didn't get into town until almost 10pm and after a pricey meal - £12 for a pint! - crashed for the night though it looked like there was a busy night life kicking off.
If you see a photo of Norway it's often Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock. With a massive drop and the photogenic location it's no surprise why.
We took the Lauvvik - Oanes ferry on the drive there and the Tau - Stavanger one on the way back. Both provided some nice scenic drives.
Preikestolen itself and the climb up we're spectacular. We were lucky to have a nice sunny day but since it was the weekend the track was full of people doing the same as us. Even so it was quiet enough to be an enjoyable climb up and down and sights at the top were stunning.
I wasn't going to but in the end had to sit on the edge of the drop though I really don't have a head for heights any more - if I ever did.
Awesome hike today to Kjeragbolten on Kjerag mountain. It's a boulder lodged in a crevice above a 1000m drop. There's plenty of pictures online of people standing over it but while I walked right up to the edge couldn't make myself take that final step. I did find a point where I poked my head over the edge while lying down but that was enough for me.
The hike itself was really enjoyable, only about 9km with steep ascents and descents to make it challenging. The views all around were fantastic with the fjord, valleys and huge cliffs.
Big drive today. We started late as Jani slept in till sometime after 10 but I enjoyed a nice sunny morning enjoying the views of Lysebotn with the huge waterfall crashing down into the fjord nearby.
The drive took us back towards Stavanger but we took the ferry before we got there at Lavvik to Oanes before driving north. We mostly followed highway 13 north except for a detour at Sand we took the ferry across the fjord to get in a more scenic drive. We then booted it North along a stunning drive along the fjord that took us through Odda - which looked like it would have been a stunning place to stay if there'd been any affordable accomodation - and eventually up to a campsite near Eidfjord where we stayed the night.
Laid back drive to Vossevangen today. We were originally aiming for Bergen but didn't get confirmation on the accommodation and as we'd taken a longer scenic route decided to finish the day in Vossevangen instead and probably give Bergen a miss.
Our route took us along the same road as yesterday from Eidfjord to Kinsarvik where we took a ferry to Utne. We then drove south along the fjord to Jondal before a second ferry to Tørvikbygd. From there it was a drive north to Vossevangen.
The day was a bit overcast with a few showers but it was a scenic drive with nice windy roads.
We headed East to check out the Hardangervidda National Tourist Route. Unfortunately the weather was a bit cloudy and rainy so we weren't as impressed with the route as we may have been. It was a mountainous pass so plenty of snow and ice but not much else.
After we'd passed rough this we headed north to Flåm. The plan was to take a ferry from here to Gudvangen as Lonely Planet rated it highly but given the cloudy day and the fact we could see half the fjords from the mountain road above we skipped it. Instead we stayed in farm at the start of the mountain pass above Aurland and enjoyed the spectacular views of the valley.
It was a bit of a cloudy day but we had some decent sights. We took the mountain pass from Aurland - one of the scenic routes we are following - and headed north. We made our way to Sogndal, the first major town we've hit in a few days, then continued West to explore the Gaularfjellet scenic routes.
Eventually we made our way up to Fōrde where we had a rainy night.
The sun came out and we had we had a spectacular drive from Fōrde to Videseter.
Along the way we stopped at the glacier at Briksdalsbreen before completing a loop back to Sogndal that we'd started the day before. From there it was northeast along the Sognefjellet scenic route to Lom before we headed to Videseter.
We had planned to take the scenic mountain pass to Videseter but it was closed so we had to stick on he main route though the views here were pretty impressive as well. Our room got upgraded to a valley view so we can look out the window down the valley to the mountains at the end.
Another awesome drive with the sun out in full force.
Before leaving Videseter we headed up the pass to check out the ski field that had just opened for the season. Pretty basic but the drive itself was nice.
Almost straight away we were on the Geiranger - Trollstigen scenic route. Geiranger is a pretty spectacular fjord offering amazing views on the drive in and out. We happened to pass through while a local half marathon was taking place and had to pull over as they started the race. There were a number of races on as the entire drive down we saw various activities in progress; mainly running but also walking, cycling and some sort of land skiing.
The other main point on the route is Trollstigen. This is an impressive if touristic lookout over a valley and the road winding down the cliff into it. It was worth the visit but absolutely packed with visitors.
We got to Ålesund in the evening just as the weather gave out and the rain arrived. We didn't see much of the town though it looked quite pretty. We also found out it was so busy during the day because it was a long weekend in Norway - third holiday related to Easter apparently. We weren't too bothered as we wanted to watch the Canadian a Grand Prix though it seems F1 is non existent in Norway so we had to stream it on Jani's laptop in the hotel. Awesome race and glad we didn't miss it as one of the best in a while.
+09/06/2014The Atlantic Road
Mixed bag with the weather and only the one scenic route but probably one of the most famous. The Atlantic Road is a small stretch of Tarmac between some islands with one of the most iconic bridges and photographed bridges around. A high arch and, curving from one island to the next, it just begs to be photographed. The coastline beforehand was quite picturesque as well.
We found a wee town on the coast as well that had A frames for drying fish. The sun was making a showing at this time and it made a nice spot for a late lunch.
From here it was a drive to Kristiansund then onwards to Trondheim.
Beautiful day for a drive with the sun out the whole way. The start of the drive from Trondheim was a bit boring but it became increasingly more scenic as we headed north to Helgelandskysten. This is a 433km stretch of coast that is rated as one of the most scenic in Norway.
For us Helgelandskysten started with a ferry at Holm to Vennesund followed by a short drive to the next ferry then an even shorter drive before a long but enjoyable ferry crossing to Tjøtta in the evening sun.
We finished up in Sandnessjøen where we couldn't find accomodation until on the way out I saw a sign for a hostel. Bit of a relief at that point as ready to call it a day and not looking forward to driving north and hoping to stumble on a camp site with cabins.
The second half of the Helgelandskysten was the exact opposite of the day before. The cloud and rain arrived early and didn't leave. Were as yesterday we rocked up to four ferries just in time to cross we missed all three by miles. In the first seven hours we only managed to cover 150km in seven hours. We'd got up earlier than usual at Sven in order as it turned out to wait almost two hours for a ferry - really should have checked the schedule but given how easy it'd been yesterday we didn't bother.
The plan at the end of Helgelandskysten had been to go to Bodø then get a ferry across to the Lofoten islands which are meant to be spectacular. The weather forecast however looked poor again and the ferries were only running at 4am or 3pm, neither of which suited us. They'd more be more regular in a couple more days but that didn't help us given Jani wants to hit the northern most point and make Finland in time for midsummers. So we ended up in Fauske with a plan to spent the rainy day driving as far as possible.
Long boring drive through the rain. We left Fauske reasonably early and set out north. A pretty long and uneventful day. At least the rain disappeared as we headed north and we even got a couple of minutes of sun.
We found a campsite at Sekkemo which offered our cheapest accomodation, 400 for a cabin.
+13/06/2014Reindeer and Nordkapp
Saw my first reindeer today. After that they were everywhere. We've entered Sami country and they traditionally hunt and herd the reindeer.
I bought a couple of new hats for my collection as well - the Norwegian entries.
The main event of the day was reaching Nordkapp, the northern most point of mainland Europe. There's actually a hike you can do to make it a bit further but given the rain and sleet we opted not to. Bit if a shame as some activity after a few days just sitting the car would have been nice.
The drive East was rainy but with broken up with occasional bursts of sun. The landscape became much more barren and arctic the further east we got.
There's a stretch of scenic road along the coast near Vadsø that we were aiming for but when we got there we decided it wasn't worth the effort and turned back at Vadsø. It was pretty enough just not as impressive as what we'd already seen and probably not helped by the average weather.
In any case we decided to head for Finland and stayed at a campsite in Nuorgam just over the border.
Finland has been a lot flatter and boring so far. And cheaper. Neither which is likely to change.
We made our way down to Inari where we checked out the Siida cultural museum which was well done though my brain was so sleepy I didn't take much of it in. Reindeer stew for lunch with Lingonberry jam which was quite good.
Picked up a new hat as well. Red with reindeer and white fur on the top.
In the afternoon stopped off for some pancakes with cloudberry jam and got my last hat, a “traditional” which is blue, with four points and colourful.
We had vague plans to check out some sites in a Eastern Finland but given how rubbish the weather was we cut it short after checking out a field of scarecrows near Suomussalmi and headed for Jani's mums place.
As we headed south the country eventually changed from trees to fields and the sun actually came out.
I've a week left in Finland now for midsummers then I'll head back to the UK, either for work or the next trip.
So the end of the trip was midsummers in Jani's summer cottage. Not a bad way to end the trip. Swimming in the sea and hot tub and then warming up in the sauna all while drinking way too much. We made it to the local dance at 2am when it was pretty much finished so I still haven't seen it in full swing. Still a fun time and got to sleep at about 8am.
+23/06/2014Back to London
Had an evening flight from Tampere to Stockholm then a final flight to London.