Sunday 16 August 2015

Road-tripping in Scandinavia 1: Where to stay

For two weeks in June 2015, my husband and I went road-tripping through Scandinavia from Stockholm in Sweden to the Lofoten Islands which lie about 200km north of the Arctic Circle. It was close to a 3 000km round trip (with a sea leg aboard the Hurtigruten). 

Fishing cottages at Sakrisøy on Lofoten
As a keen camper, I initially thought it would be a good idea to pitch a tent, but mercifully was forewarned about the fickleness of the Scandinavian summer. We opted for self-catering accommodation as the next-best budget option, and found it to be remarkably cost-effective. Good choice, as for our whole trip, the outside temperature seldom went above 8 Deg C. We stayed in everything from a hostel to an Air BnB cottage. Here's a roundup of what we found...

1. Vandrarhem (or hostel), Mora, Sweden

Prinsgården in Mora
Our first stop was in a town called Mora in Sweden, famous for its carved wooden horses, where we opted to sleep in a vandrarhem (or hostel) called Prinsgården, because it was conveniently on our route and was reasonably priced (less than 500 Swedish Krone for the night). We had a basic en-suite room, could do our own cooking in a galley kitchen and eat upstairs in an equally tiny dining room. We went for an evening stroll down to the nearby lake (there's practically always a lake nearby in Sweden). Comfortable enough for a night but certainly not a destination in its own right. We saved money by taking bedding and doing our own cleaning.

2. Bed-and-breakfast, on the island of Trauta, Norway

The view from our room at Klostergården after the storm
On the second night of our road-trip we decided to treat ourselves to a night at a bed-and breakfast called Klostergården on the island of Trauta, about 30km north of Trondheim. It lies next to the ruins of an old abby and is home to a craft brewery and restaurant. The evening of our arrival, there was a wild gale blowing but it had abated by morning and we had a sparkling view of the fjord from our room. I could happily have spent more time here.

3. Cabin, Mo-i-Rana, Norway

Yttervik camping, Mo-i-Rana, Norway

To avoid too much driving, we spent two nights in a little cabin on a fjord at Yttervik campsite, 16km south of the town of Mo-i-Rana close to the Arctic circle. Here, we spent a bit extra for a fjord-side view to see the almost-midnight-sun circling around, and watch the locals out on a fishing trip with their dogs. The simple cabin had bunk beds in a separate room with a living area and a deck overlooking the fjord. We could have done our washing here in the on-site laundromat had we had the energy to do so. The only drawback was that the campsite was sandwiched between the road and the fjord so it wasn't really possible to go for a proper walk.

Fishing trip on fjord

4. Rorbruer (fishing huts), Sakrisøy, Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Rorbruer on Sakrisøy

What's cooking?
I will write more about the dramatic Lofoten Islands, an archipelago in northern Norway, in due course, but for the purposes of this blog, just to say that these fishing huts, run by a lady called Dagmar, and located on a wharf at Sakrisøy outside the town of Reine, are very traditional and utterly charming. We had a loft bed with with the kitchen/living area down below. By now, we were experiencing 24 hours of daylight, which made the skylight directly over the bed a bit of an interesting feature. This gull popped by regularly to see what we were up to.

5. Air BnB cottage, Gimsøysand, Lofoten Islands, Norway

We found this cottage through AirBnB 

A real bargain and booked through AirBnB which is a service I will definitely make use of again when travelling abroad. This little cottage was comfortably appointed with a separate kitchen, bedroom, and loung/dining room with two sofas (one each) where we could happily read books and watch videos while waiting for a two-day storm to abate (that Scandinavian weather again!). An added bonus was the little wood-burning stove which kept us cosy. Sadly we didn't get to climb the tantalising mountain because of the weather. It would be great to return here to see the Northern Lights in the Artic winter.

6. Aboard the Hurtigruten (from Svolvaer to Trondheim), Norway

Polarys enters Svolvaer harbour on Lofoten Islands

More about this later, but a couple of nights aboard one of the Norwegian Hurtigruten mailships is practically essential. They ply their way up and down this extraordinary coastline, making multiple stops along the way so that passengers can get off and explore. It's not particularly cheap but if you treat it as a combination of transport and accommodation, you can almost persuade yourself you're getting a good deal.

7. Pilgrim's hostel, Trondheim, Norway

Nidaros Cathedral, Trondheim

Drain cover, Trondheim
It's easy to fall in love with Trondheim, for its beautiful architecture, glowing light and the impressive Nidaros Cathedral that lies at its heart, the largest gothic cathedral in Scandinavia. The cathedral is also the end point of a northern pilgrimage known as St Olav's Way (a bit like the more famous Camino in Spain). But you don't have to be a pilgrim to stay in the pilgrim's hostel that is conveniently located in a tranquil spot on the river, just behind the cathedral. It was a good pad for one last night in Scandinavia before flying all the way back to Cape Town in the southern hemisphere!

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