Highlights of Norway | Ålesund, Bergen

Norway is a Scandinavian country characterized by glaciers, mountains and deep fjords.  Over the past two weeks, I visited two Norwegian ports on a Holland America Line Northern Isles voyage – Ålesund & Bergen.  As these places are particularly beautiful, I took the opportunity to get outside and appreciate the natural landscapes.

Ålesund – Ålesund is a small Norwegian town of just over 42,000 inhabitants, situated at the base of Geirangerfjord.  The port is frequently visited by cruise ships on Northern Isles routes.  The residents live a very calm and laid back lifestyle, so there isn’t much to do for tourists here besides several hiking trails and museums.  I love the outdoors, and conquering new mountains, so I made the most of my day by taking on the tallest peaks.

After a walk through the town, we first reached the base of Mt. Aksla, a frequented site for visitors.  There you will find a park area with trails, statues and the first step of 418 stairs that will lead you to the top of the mountain.  The stairs are actually numbered, so you can monitor your progress, and there are several viewing platforms along the way.  Perched at the top of the mountain is a seating area, telescopes and a cafe.  If you don’t want to/can’t walk the 418 steps, you can also take a taxi to the top via a nearby road.  The view of the town, ocean and towering fjords from the top are spectacular.

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The hike up Mt. Aksla only took us about an hour, so we decided to take a taxi to the base of an even bigger peak, Mt. Sukkertoppen, meaning “Sugar Loaf” in Danish and Norwegian.  After nearly an hour of trekking up the forested mountain, we reached the summit.  Sukkertoppen is the tallest peak in the area, allowing 360°  of stunning views, which we enjoyed thoroughly before descending back down the way we came.

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To head back into town, we hopped on a local bus, which dropped us off in the city center within 45 minutes.  Before heading back to the ship, we stopped off at a local coffee shop for coffee and pastries.

Bergen – Bergen is the second largest city in Norway, home to nearly 266,000 people, situated at the base of Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, Sognefjord.  We began the day by hiking up the Stoltzekleiven, a nearby mountain which locals frequent for a great cardio workout and to attempt to set a new personal time record.  The Stolzekleiven consists of 908 large, moss-covered, stone steps leading up to Sandvik Mountain.  We were able to climb the trail in just under 30 minutes, but the best time to date is 6 minutes 55 seconds!!

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As we walked up the stairs, we encountered few people, who we assumed to be locals.  One man passed us by and when we met him at the top, he told us he hikes the Stolzekleiven every morning to keep in shape.  I enjoyed the workout, as well as the peace and tranquility of the uncongested atmosphere.  The views from the top of Sandvik Mountain were worth every grueling step of the Stolzekleiven.  We observed stunning landscapes in every direction, characterized by colossal fjords, the sprawling town of Bergen and even our seemingly tiny ship!

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After catching our breath, we decided to walk along the mountaintop trails to the nearby and more popular Mt. Fløyen, passing some of the most incredibly beautiful and reflective lakes I have ever seen.

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Mt. Fløyen is more commonly visited by tourists because it is accessible via Fløibanen, an 850 meter cable car running from the base of the mountain to the top.  It also sports cafes, restaurants, shops and even children’s play grounds!  Mt. Fløyen offered a different vantage point of the city, but the terraces were extremely crowded with tourists, making it a less pleasant experience than the Stolzekleiven.  To replenish our energy, we grabbed a traditional “Norwegian skiers lunch,” consisting of a Kvikk Lunsj, Orange Solo drink and cinnamon roll, then purchased a one-way Fløibanen ticket down to town.

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With just a few hours left to explore Bergen, we headed to the old wharf and historic harbor of Bryggen, characterized by traditionally medieval and colorful buildings, then through the town’s fishing market.

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I absolutely loved the country of Norway, from it’s laid back culture and people, to it’s stunning fjords and mountains.  I do believe I made the most of the two ports I was able to visit on this trip, but am looking forward to returning to this incredible country and seeing what more it has to offer.

Have fun!  And don’t forget to follow my page and subscribe to my YouTube channel for updates on my travels around the world! ❤ Jess

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