Stunning views, inspiring fjords, endless forests and much more…Reasons enough to visit Scandinavia starting from Denmark and proceeding further to Norway and Sweden. No sooner said than done!
On Friday, April 27, 2018, which is a national holiday of the Netherlands, the King’s day, we and our kids headed to Denmark. The distance to Løkken (a small seaside town in North Jutland) where we stayed for a night. The distance was 976 km which we covered within around 11 hours with some shorts stops on the way. In Løkken we rented a traditional nice old Danish house.
Having arrived and unpacked, we went to explore the Danish beach scenery. It was very windy that day. The wind was spreading the water from the sea turning it into mist which was covering the charming streets of the town.
Taking the ferry to Norway
The next morning after breakfast it was the time to proceed further to the terminal of Color Line’s modern SuperSpeed ship in Hirtshals. The ship was departing at 12:15. We arrived at around 10 am to the terminal. Having passed the check-in quite fast we were waiting in the car quite long for the ship to come. Once onboard we could relax and our children were happy to spend the time in the special play area for children. The crossing takes around 3 hours and is very efficient and relaxing. You can explore the ship, do some shopping, experience restaurants on board and of course, admire the North Sea. During the crossing our car was waiting for us on the lower deck of the ship.
Boathouse in Hjemeland
Having arrived to Kristiansand on the south west coast of Norway, we were instantly impressed about the rough Norwegian nature. That day we needed to proceed to our first accommodation in Norway, to Hjelmeland ,where we booked a cosy boathouse. The distance was 289 km but it took us around 10 hours to get there! Yes, sounds a lot! We had some stops on the way to enjoy the Norwegian landscape. Moreover, this time includes the car ferry crossing from Lauvvik to Oanes. Norway has an excellent system of car ferries that connect isolated places by crossing the fjords. They are quite expensive. One crossing with the duration of 15 minutes costs around 25 euro (for 2 adults and 2 kids in a car). The fare for the crossing is charged per car and per person. There is no necessity to book this ferry in advance. You just arrive to the haven and wait for the next ferry. They are quite frequent (around twice per hour). The ticket can be bought on board of the ferry.
Finally, we arrived to our boathouse in Hjelmeland.
The view from it was amazing!!! We were completely impressed by the combination of the nice view of the fjord, mountains and charming traditional red Norwegian houses. The house was so close to the water that when we were inside, it felt like we were on board of the boat. That is why it is also called a boathouseJ
With kids to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), if you dare!
Our adventure proceeded and for the next day we had a top activity planned: hike to Preikestolen with 2 young kids of 3 and 5 years old. Preikestolen is the most famous and spectacular tourist attraction in Norway visited by around 300 000 people per year. The rock rises 604 metres above the Lysefjord. The hike is about 4 km each way. Sounds not extremely difficult, but we were with 2 young kids. Of course, before the hike, we were searching for some information online about if it is smart to do this with the kids but found very contradictive opinions. After our own experience we can definitely say that we do not recommend it with young kids! If you read this and decide to do it anyway, then you are exactly like us. Then at least go to hike with kids very well prepared. Take a lot of drinks, food and candies to distract children if they start to be naughty. We will try to explain why we do not recommend it with young children. It takes at least 3 hours with kids to get to the top of the rock, then you need at least 1 hour there, and the next 3 hours to go down. The trails at some places are very narrow and slippery. The higher you get, the more challenging it gets, as the trail becomes very narrow.
Moreover, at the end of April/beginning of May there is still snow high in the mountains which melts and makes the trails wet and slippery. Even we, being adults, experienced it as a bit scary at some points. But if you add 2 young children to this, it can turn into drama… Our kids were doing very good at the beginning. Our daughter of 5 years old was walking herself. For our son of 3 years old we took a special carrier up to 20 kg (Rose and Rebellion) which was very comfortable and practical.
In the beginning our son was very peacefully sitting in it, but at some point he just became tired of it and wanted to walk himself which is normally very good but not in case if you have to walk on slippery and narrow trails… First of all, it is very dangerous and, of course, slow. When we covered around half of the distance, we were thinking that if we take a few steps up, we will almost reach the destination. Having asked some other people who were already going down, we were in a big shock: we needed to proceed up for another 2 km! At this moment we had a weird feeling! If we could play it all back, we would have never brought children to Preikestolen… Our daughter of 5 also started to complain that she is tired by that time. The youngest one was totally hysterical. He was screaming and refused to get back into the carrier.
But we still proceeded up, as there was no other way. Going back was also not an option as it was already too far… Luckily we noticed some wooden shelter there. It was some wooden house for emergency cases. It was closed but it had a wooden bench where our children could rest. It was obvious, we could not proceed further with them! The decision was taken. Me and my husband decided to proceed further to the top of the rock in turns. First my husband went and when he was back, I went alone. The kids were resting in the meantime sitting on the bench. Both me and my husband were sure that we took a good decision not to proceed further with the kids. The trail to reach the top was very narrow. We both made very nice photos and were happy to return to the kids safely. Honestly saying, staying there on top of the Pulpit Rock, you get a very weird feeling. Many tourists are sitting so close to the edge of the rock that you immediately start thinking if tragic accidents ever happened here… and they do… a few tragic accidents happened when tourists fell down from the rock while making photos…
Without any doubt, when you stay there, admiring the charming Lisefjord, you get also a very good feeling of an accomplished mission.
This wonderful scenery is a kind of reward that you get after this challenging hike. But common sense and safety first!
We were really relieved to see the kids again. Having returned to them, we still needed to hike down with them. From the point where the kids stayed to rest, it was around 3 km to hike down. It was also not easy. But luckily our son was tired enough to fall asleep in the carrier. That helped a lot to go safely down! If we would know in advance how it looks like in reality, we would have never taken our children to this hike. Hiking to Preikestolen without kids is a different story: not easy but very possible.
Fishing in Norway
The next morning we headed further to Hatlestrand in Kvinnherad municipality. The distance was around 200 km. It took us around 8 hours still to cover it, as the road went via tunnels through very high mountains and we stopped on the way a lot to admire waterfalls and other natural sites. At some place we stopped by accident because we noticed a nice waterfall not far from the road. At the same place we found old wooden houses of around the year 1850. You could just enter these houses. In one of them we found old baby bed, other beds for adults, old pottery, old horse saddle and even a pair of old shoes… It looked like that life stood still there.. everything was there like many years ago… Amazing! On our way to Hatlestrand we passed the town of Odda from where you can hike to a very scenic cliff – Trolltunga–which hovers about 700 meters above Lake Ringedalsvatnet. This hike is far more challenging and dangerous than the hike to the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen). Even rescue operations happen quite often there to save exhausted and tired tourists! The return hike takes 10-12 hours! Length: about 14 km one way! This hike we postponed for later! J and not with children or when they are a LOT older.
When in Norway eat (self-caught) fish!
We went to the local supermarket to buy some food for on the way. When in Norway, eat Norwegian salmon! We also decided to try some local salmon filet! In addition we bought local fish cakes (Fiskekaker), milk chocolate medallions (Freia Melkerull) and yoghurts with berries. Getting your groceries from the supermarket is one of the best ways to save money on meals in Norway! Late in the evening we finally arrived to our new house in Hatlestrand which was a red traditional wooden house as well.
The next morning our host told that we can use her boat and fishing gear. It was an opportunity which we could not miss! Early in the morning we went fishing in the Norwegian wilderness! It was a pleasure to explore the river in Norway by boat trying to catch some fish. That day (May 1)was a national holiday (Labour Day) in Norway. As a result, all supermarkets were closed. So we really needed to catch some fish to have some food that dayJ The water in the river was still very cold at the beginning of May. It was not yet really fishing season. But we still managed to catch a trout! The kids very screaming from happiness! After we cleaned the fish ourselves and made a very tasty fish soup! We could enjoy entire process from catching fish to cooking it for a meal!
The cabin in the woods…
The next day (May 2, 2018 ) we headed further. The total distance for today was 334 km. It took us around 8 hours to reach Nesbyen, our final destination for today. It took us such a long time because of a D-tour which we needed to make, as one of the roads was closed. Due to this we needed to take a curvy and steep road in the mountains. Moreover, we made a few stops on the way. One of them was Norheimsund to admire magnificent and powerful Steinsdalsfossen waterfall. In addition to this some time was spent in the local shops full of Norwegian souvenirs, traditional woolen clothes and local products. Afterwards we continued our trip. We needed to cross high mountains again. Having reached the top of the mountain, we were really impressed to see so much snow! It was like a real winter there! Like in January! The area of Hardangervidda national park was totally white! Some people were still skiing in that area. While driving through that snowy area we were thinking that it is still good that we were there in May! If it looks like this in May, how should it look in winter? The roads are probably fully covered with snow…On both sides of the road we noticed some poles that help the drivers to find the road during winters. At around 19 o’clock in the evening we arrived to Nesbyen area where we booked a house in wilderness without water and electricity. Yes! It was really in the middle of nowhere! Perfect setting for a horror movieJ Our house was located next to the mountainous river deep in the forest. No other houses nearby…No other people! Complete unity with nature! Only our house, a river and a forest full of wild animals! It felt a bit weird in the beginning but at the same time it was very lovely! As we had no electricity, we used ready canned meals which we could warm up on a very old stove heated up wood. Ideal for this kind of situations! For the kids we also took ready meals which we also could just warm up. There was no shower and toilet inside. The host of the house told that instead of the shower we can wash in the riverJ The toilet was a wooden construction outside with a primitive hole in it… As the kids went to bed, we went outside to sit on the bench next to the house enjoying nature and thinking if we could live in wilderness like this (without modern conveniences) for a longer period…
The next morning, on May 3, 2018, we woke up early at around 5 am. It was already light outside. The dark period of night was quite short there (around 5 hours only). It was very unusual to wake up somewhere in unknown place in the woods and somehow we wanted to get out of that place as soon as possible… Having packed our bags, we proceeded further. Today’s plan was to reach the ski resort called Idre Fjäll in Dalarna County, Sweden. Idre Fäll is one of Scandinavia’s largest mountain resorts .The road to Sweden was like a normal highway which made driving much faster. On the way to Swedish border we stopped at Trysil, Norway’s largest ski resort , to explore it a bit. Afterwards we proceeded our travel, finally crossed the Swedish border and reached Idre. We noticed big amounts of snow in the fields in Sweden inspite of the fact that it was the beginning of May. We spent our time in Idre doing groceries and visiting the tourist office where we checked if it was still possible to take a husky safari. Unfortunately we were late for this, as they stop husky safari on snow somewhere at the end of April. At around 16 o’clock we got a key from our house and were impressed how specious and clean it was. Even a sauna (bastu in Swedish) was in the cabin. Having eaten a typical meal (Swedish meatballs ) we rushed to the sauna. Our kids loved the sauna experience! It felt as some reward for staying in the middle of nowhere the previous day …It became quite cold outside and rain turned into snow which made it extra cosy to relax at home after sauna and to look for raindeer from the window…There are approximately 2700 raindeer in Idre Sampi community and they walk right next to houses in Idre Fjall park but we were not lucky yet to see them.. Hopefully later!
Sleighing Fun in May and Search for Reindeer
The next day in the morning we went to look around in the park Idre Fjall. What really impressed us is the fact that the park was quite empty in the beginning of May. No skiers, only the park’s staff. For us it was a big advantage, as our kids could sleigh on the slopes without any disturbance. It was very special to do winter activities in May. In the Netherlands we already opened the beach season as it was quite hot there a couple of weeks ago, but here we found winter again this yearJ Afterwards we went to the local supermarket in Idre to buy local traditional groceries. It is always nice to figure out local eating habits and to try local food. When in Sweden you should definitely try lingonberry jam which is often eaten with traditional meat balls, sill (pickled herring) , raggmunk (potato pancakes), local crisp bread to serve with cheese or butter, traditional cinnamon rolls for Fika (coffee break in Sweden) and tubes with fish/caviar or many different flavors of cheese. It is very common here to use tubes for many purposes and not only for a toothpaste. The next planned activity of that day was spotting reindeer in the forests. We headed to Grövelsjön hoping to find raindeer there but it did not succeed. In order to find them we needed to go high to the mountains through snow. Having made a few steps in snow and having drowned in it a few times, we gave up this idea. Instead we booked a tour with Renbieten to meet reindeer. The guide Helena brought us over a bridge, through the snowy landscape to reindeer in Storsätern where we could watch them and feed them with moss. It was a success! Our kids were happy! Due to our guide we learned much more about these animals. Moreover, she shared stories from their life. For example, a few weeks ago these reindeer were attacked by a lynx. Due to this, unfortunately, one deer was killed. If you are near Grövelsjön do not miss this opportunity. In addition to this tour you can also visit Renbiten’s shop full of souvenirs, reindeer meet products (smoked and frozen), various jams.
After this reindeer experience we were not tired enough to go home and went to self-arranged moose safari trying to spot moose in wilderness. We tried to take small roads in the forest to meet them but were not lucky, unfortunately. As it was already getting dark, we returned home. Next time hopefully we will be more lucky!
Visit to Särna
The time has come for our last day in Idre Fjäll and, of course, we wanted to spend it doing some nice activities. In the morning after breakfast we decided to go to Särna, the village not far from Idre. We were glad do find an old wooden very beautiful church (Gammelkyrkan) there . It was built between 1684-1697. Church services are still held there. Besides, the church is located next to old houses dating from the early 18th century. It was a very special feeling to walk around there imagining life at that time. All of these houses were locked, so we could not really go inside. But through one window we could see old furniture, old ski and tools inside.
Having visited this village, we proceeded to Fulufjällets National Park. It is located west of Särna and spreads across 38,600 hectares. The highest waterfall of Sweden (Njupeskär) lis located in this national park. We thought to visit it but it was a mission impossible for us, as it is a very long hike and ours kids still remember our hike to Preikestolen which was quite heavy. So our kids refused to proceed immediatelyJInstead, we just walked for a while in the magical spring forest observing the nature waking up from its winter slumber. Back in Idre Fjäll we found a nice activity center with a nice gym, a swimming pool and a playroom for kids where they spent some time. Back in our house, our kids changed to winter clothes and went to sleigh again and to build a snowman. We were just in time for these snow activities, as it was getting really warm outside and snow was melting really fast. That day it was + 16. In the evening it was the time to pack our bags again to prepare for the next leg of our trip.
This morning required a lot of preparation for our next travel to Kristinehamn. The distance between Idre and Kristinehamn was 365 km. Before we could check-out and proceed further, we needed to load our suitcases to the car and to clean the house. It was a bit sad to leave our lovely house in Idre, as we really enjoyed staying there but it was time to go. On our way we could observe a lot of Swedish forests and in around 5 hours we reached Kristinehamn. Kristinehamn is a town in Värmland County. We checked-in to our new house in the late afternoon. It was an old typical Swedish house that was built in 1777. From our host we heard a story that a big fire happened in Kristinehamn in 1893 due to which almost all wooden hoses of this town were destroyed. Only two streets could survive this fire. The house where we stayed could also survive this fire in 1893.
Back to Denmark
In the early morning (May 7, 2018, Monday) we left our cosy Swedish house and went to Gothenburg, one of the major cities of Sweden. The distance from Kristinehamn to it was around 300 km. Having arrived there, we went to visit a shopping center “Frolunda Torg” which was not far from our ferry terminal of Stena Line. At around 14 o’clock we were at the sea port to board our ferry and at 16:00 o’clock we departed. Our sail on board of Stena Line was very comfortable again. Similar to Color Line ferry, there were shops, cafes and a play room for kids on board. We enjoyed staying on the deck observing the sea. The weather made it possible, as it was very warm and sunny! At around 19 o’clock in the evening we arrived to Frederikshavn, town on the northeast coast of the Jutland peninsula in northern Denmark and continued driving to our last vacation house of this trip in Hobro, a railway town in Region Nordjylland.
Visiting Aarhus and Driving back home, to the Netherlands
Aarhus, Denmark‘s Happiest City
After a good night rest it was time to drive again: First to Aarhus. Aarhus is a city located on the eastern shore of the Jutland peninsula. It is Denmark’s second largest and happiest city. We did not have much time there as we needed to drive home the same day but we managed to explore the center of the city, went to Mollestien street known for its small charming houses from the 18th century. The street itself dates all the way back to Viking times. In addition, we also visited the Church of Our Lady, one of Aarhus’ largest churches, located in the city center. Afterwards it was the time to drive home, to the Netherlands. It was a drive of 877 km, long enough to process all what we have done and seen during this tripJ.We were happy and sad at the same time. Sad because our vacation was almost over and while driving to the Netherlands we were not surrounded by nice mountains, fjords and deep forests anymore, and happy because we had an unforgettable experience and we were going home where everything is well-arranged. Late in the evening we were at home! Home, sweet home! The kids were happy to sleep in their own beds and to play with their toys again in their garden! They still had a few free days of May vacation to enjoy nice sunny weather in the Netherlands before going to school again!