Norway is a large, colorful, maze-like nation filled with mountains, lakes, rivers, fjords, and hundreds of coastal islands. Navigating this broad landscape can be both complex and time-consuming for a first-time visitor, which makes Norway a difficult place to visit if you’ve only got a short period of time to spend in the country.
Lucky for you, there’s an area just south of Bergen (Norway’s second-largest city) called Sunnhordland, which contains a vast array of Norway’s best tourist attractions in a relatively confined area.
Sunnhordland is a region that begins at the mountains in the east and extends west, through a number of nearby fjords to a scattershot of small, idyllic islands. Dotted with numerous lakes, waterfalls, and farms of various kinds, Sunnhordland is the perfect place to spend your summer months. The area is home to a flourishing cultural scene, complete with festivals, musical concerts, outdoor markets, sporting exhibitions, and a whole lot more! Plus, this thrilling region is within easy reach of Bergen (by boat, bus, plane or train)… and all of this makes Sunnhordland the perfect location for a cycling holiday.
While it’s possible to come to Norway on your own, rent a bike, plan out a route, find your own accommodations, cook your own meals or find restaurants along the way, it’s also a whole lot of work. A much easier way to visit Norway is to have a company like Norske Bygdeopplevelser (also known as “Active-Norway”) plan your trip to Norway for you.
Norske Bygdeopplevelser has put together a number of packaged cycling tours in Norway, and their “Sunnhordland by Bike and Boat” tour is one of their most popular!
Bike Tour Details
- Name: Sunnhordland by Bike and Boat
- Tour Company: Norske Bygdeopplevelser (also known as “Active-Norway“)
- Bike Tour Type: Self-Guided
- Official Tour Website: www.active-norway.com
- Tour Length: 5 days / 4 nights (with 4 days of cycling)
- Starting/Ending Location: Bergen, Norway
- Total Cycling Distance: 165 km / 103 miles
- Price: 8,150 NOK per person (approximately $995 USD)
- Optional: This tour can be combined with the Hardangerfjord Bike Tour
Simply contact the company (by phone or email) and tell them when you’d like to conduct your bike tour. Then, they’ll go ahead and plan your entire holiday for you. They’ll book your hotels, they’ll arrange your meals, they’ll provide you with a rental bicycle for the duration of the tour (if you choose not to bring your own bike with you), and they’ll give you maps and an information packed that tells you everything you need to know to get from the start of your trip to the very end.
Traveling in this way is what is known as a “self-guided bike tour,” and it’s one of the easiest and most affordable ways to see a place by bike! The discounts that Norske Bygdeopplevelser is able to arrange on hotels, meals, etc is far beyond what you’d be able to do on your own, so booking a self-guided bike tour is not only the easiest way to plan a cycling holiday, but also one of the cheapest.
To begin your Sunnhordland by bike and boat tour, simply travel to Bergen, Norway. You can fly straight into the city (the airport is located about 15 kilometers south of the city center) or get to Bergen by train, boat or bus.
While you’re in Bergen, be sure to take a walking tour of the historic city center and learn about the colorful wooden homes you see standing just inches away from one another down on the harbor. Grab some seafood from the local market stalls, try the famous Norweigan brown cheese (it tastes a bit like Carmel), or ride the funicular railway (Bergen’s post popular tourist attraction) up to the top of the hill on the eastern edge of the city. From there, you’ll be blessed with a beautiful view looking out over the entire city center, where you’ll be able to see cruise ships pulling into the harbor, a number of nearby islands, and hundreds of colorful homes scattered across the nearby hills.
If you have the time, spend a day or two in Bergen and take in all that the city has to offer. There are dozens of delightful local restaurants, hundreds of kilometers of nearby hiking/biking trails, and an impressive nightlife scene.
After your stay in Bergen is over, jump on a ferry boat and travel to the nearby town of Rosendal. The ferry ride takes about an hour and drops you off just a few meters from the door of your hotel – the historic Rosendal Turist Hotell.
The white, three-story building that is the Rosendal Turist Hotell is a truly special place – with hotels rooms on the top floor, a restaurant on the first floor, and a relaxing bar/lounge area in the building’s basement.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You can combine the Sunnhordland bike tour with the Hardangerfjord Self-Guided Bike Tour (also organized by Norske Bygdeopplevelser). The Hardangerfjord bike tour ends in Rosendal, which is where the Sunnhordland bike tour begins. So if you’re looking for a slightly longer cycling holiday in Norway, conducting both bike tours together is a good idea.
If you have the time, the area around Rosendal is an area worth exploring for at least a day or two. One the best ways to see the city (and the surrounding fjord) is by hiking to the top of Malmangernuten – a nearby mountain peak (It takes about two hours to hike up to the top… and about five hours in total for the round-trip hike). From here, you can look down on the fjord below – surrounded by islands and tiny Norwegian towns nestled against the nearby coastlines. Or while you’re in Rosendal, visit the Barony Rosendal – a small castle famous for its picturesque rose garden. Or simply take a walk around the “Steinparken” (Stone Park), where blocks of stone that have been cut, sculpted, and placed together in a unique way, so as to show off the geological diversity of the Folgefonna peninsula.
Your first day of cycling in Sunnhordland is a scenic 50 km bike ride through a beautiful fjord landscape with the Hardangerfjord (Norway’s second longest fjord) and a number of small islands on your right… and the tiny towns of Uskedalen, Hunsnes an Utaker on your left.
In Uskadelen you’ll have the opportunity to visit a small museum containing more than 1,500 items dating back to the 1700’s. Here, you’ll see an example of what the houses, stables, smithery and mill house might have looked like more than two hundred years ago.
After a pleasant day of cycling along mostly flat roads with small rolling hills, you’ll arrive in the tiny town of Utaker, where you will take a short ferry boat ride across the fjord to the nearby town of Skanevik. Once in Skanevik, you’ll be able to cycle (or walk) just a few meters to the nearby Skanevik Fjordhotell.
After a shower and a short rest, you’ll be served a delicious 3-course meal in the hotel restaurant. Afterward, you’ll be free to walk around the town, read a book, watch TV, surf the Internet, or do anything you please.
The following morning, you’ll dine at your hotel again, eating a traditional Norwegian buffet breakfast, which usually consists of bread, yogurt, cereal/muesli, eggs, meat, waffles, fruit, veggies, juice, coffee, tea, and more. Then, you’ll return to your hotel room, pack up your bags, and prepare yourself for another great day on the bike.
Included with the cost of your bike tour is luggage transport from one hotel to the next. So there’s no need to carry lots of heavy clothing, gear or equipment on your bicycle. Instead, simply drop your bags off at the hotel lobby when you check out of your room in the morning, and your luggage will be waiting for you at the next hotel when you arrive in the evening. This makes traveling on your bicycle in Norway even easier and more enjoyable!
The second day of cycling on the Sunnhordland by Boat and Bike tour is unique because it involves cycling 27 km along the shoreline of the Hardangerfjord to the nearby town of Etne. Along the way, you’ll pass through dozens of small hillside farms, a dark green forest, and you’ll cycle right along the water’s edge. Once in Etne, however, you’ll turn around and cycle back in the same direction you just came – back to the town of Skanevik, where you will board yet another ferry boat, cross over to a large island on the other side of the water, and arrive at your hotel in the much larger town of Leirvik.
The Grand Hotell is a large, rectangular building located in the heart of Leirvik (Stord) and steps from the city’s main pedestrian plaza, where small shops, bakeries, and a quaint community park makes you feel right at home. After a long day on your bicycle, you’ll take a well-deserved shower, and then head to dinner at the nearby restaurant Brygga – where you’ll be served by one of the best chefs in all of Norway. Prepare yourself for some truly fine dining!
After eating breakfast in the morning at the Grand Hotell and preparing yourself a packed lunch for your bike ride, you’ll leave the city of Leirvik, cycle 39 km north across the entire island, and then take yet another ferry boat to the town of Husavik. From here, there’s a short uphill climb, a narrow bridge to cross, and then an exhilarating downhill finish into the harbor town of Bekkjarvik. The bike ride this day was my favorite of the entire tour… and I think you’ll enjoy it as well (You’ll be cycling along the water, through small forests, past open farmland, and across three different islands in a single day).
In Bekkjarvik you’ll stay at the Bekkjarvik Gjestgiveri, which might just be the most high-end hotel on the entire tour. The spectacularly white exterior of this hotel screams high-end living, and the hotel’s rooms and restaurant only act to backup this initial impression. Located in the heart of an idyllic Norwegian harbor, the hotel is sandwiched in with a number of other small shops and galleries (making it one of the most unique hotels I have ever seen).
In Bekkjarvik you can continue cycling around the area (if you like) or retire to your room, with views looking out over the harbor and the nearby sea. For dinner, make your way to the hotel dining room, where you’ll be treated with yet another spectacular 3-course meal.
Then, on your last day of the bike tour, you’ll wake up, eat breakfast, pack a lunch, and then hit the road. You’ll cycle back across the bridge that you cycled across the previous evening when you first arrived in Bekkjarvik and then pedal north across a large island. From here, you have a choice. If you’re tired or in a rush to get back to Bergen, you can go straight to the ferry landing and take a ferry boat back to where your tour began. Or, if you have the time and energy for slightly longer bike ride, you can turn left just north of the town of Storebo and cycle for about 20 kilometers out onto a series of small islands. If you make it to the end of the road, you will have cycled across at least nine (or more) islands in a single day!
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. During your final day of the Sunnhordland by Bike and Boat tour, you’ll pedal your bike to the Hufthamar ferry landing and take an express-boat (about 50 minutes long) back to Bergen, Norway.
Important Bike Tour Details
- This is a self-guided bicycle tour, so you will be traveling on your own, without a guide. But all of the details of the bike tour will have been arranged for you in advance. All you have to do is show up for the start of the tour in Bergen, Norway and then follow the instructions that the company provides for you each day.
- Because this is a self-guided bike tour (and not a group tour), you get to choose your travel companions. You can travel alone, with a family member, loved one, or with a friend (like I did). You also get to choose the pace at which you travel. You can sleep in late or wake up early. You can cycle super fast or pedal really slow, while stopping to see and explore things throughout your ride. The bike tour is extremely flexible, so you can make it as short or as long as you want it to be… and Norske Bygdeopplevelser has gone out of their way to provide you with the information you need to make your cycling holiday in Norway as enjoyable as possible (no matter what your style).
- In addition to the cost of the bike tour itself, you will need to get yourself to and from Bergen, Norway for the start and finish of the tour.
- At the start of the tour you will be given a packet of papers containing all the information you need for the duration of the tour. This packet of papers contains maps of the routes you will be cycling each day, information on the sights you can expect to see throughout the tour, details on your hotel stays each night, and a whole lot more.
- If you’d like Active-Norway to book you a hotel room in Bergen at the start and/or finish of your bike tour, they are more than happy to do that. The cost for this service is 750 NOK per person… and your hotel stay includes a free breakfast.
- You should be in decent physical shape to participate in this bike tour. While I found the Sunnhordland by Boat and Bike tour to be slightly easier than the Hardangerfjord Self-Guided Bike Tour (by the same company), there are still a number of short, steep hills you will need to tackle on this trip. Make sure you are capable of cycling at least 30-40 kilometers before signing up for this tour.
- While flat tires and mechanical breakdowns are uncommon, you should know how to make basic repairs and adjustments to your bicycle before arriving on tour. At the very least, one person in your party should know how to change/repair a flat tire, adjust a bicycle’s handlebars/seat post, and adjust a bicycle’s front and rear derailleurs.
- You can choose to bring your own bicycle with you on this bike tour… or you can rent one in Bergen when you get there. Norske Bygdeopplevelser has a local bike shop that they work with if you simply want to fly into Bergen and have a bicycle waiting for you when you arrive. The cost for renting a bike, pannier (bag), and helmet from the company is 1,350 NOK ($165 USD).
- There is no need for a GPS on this bike tour. Norske Bygdeopplevelser will provide you with both paper maps and written instructions for the roads you will be traveling on. Most of the bike tour follows along the edge of the water and passes through small, well-marked towns, so it’s a fairly simply route to follow. If you do have GPS capabilities on your smartphone, however, this can be used (in addition to the paperwork that the company provides) to navigate your route each day.
- Vegetarian food is still somewhat of a rarity in Norway (while fish, meat and potatoes is extremely common). I’m a vegetarian myself and I was a little fearful that I might have trouble finding enough food to eat on this bike tour, but I was more than pleased with the food that was given to me throughout the tour. Hotel breakfasts were served in a buffet-style, thereby allowing me to take the foods I was okay with eating. Lunches were the same (I usually made vegetable sandwiches and ate a small side of fruit), and special meals were made for me at the restaurants each and every night. While the restaurant staff was a bit leery about serving me a quality vegetarian meal (because they apparently do it so rarely), I found each and every meal to be both delicious and fulfilling after a long day on the bike.
- If you do have any health or dietary restrictions, just be sure to tell the people Norske Bygdeopplevelser in advance. They will go out of their way to make sure you are catered to and happy throughout your cycling holiday.
- Any drinks you might order at your hotel (such as wine and beer) are extra. If you order a drink, you will be asked to pay your bill when you check out of the hotel.
- You will need to pay for everything on the bike tour in Norwegian Krona (NOK). Obtaining this local currency is easy, as ATMs are available at multiple locations along the route. Paying with a credit card (even in small shops and on the ferry boats) is extremely common, so its not 100% necessary to be carrying cash (although having a small amount of cash on hand is a good idea).
- Weather in Norway during the summer months can range from extremely hot (shorts and a bike jersey are recommended) to quite cold and rainy. If you get lucky, the sun will be out and the weather will be quite comfortable. However, it’s a good idea to be prepared for slightly colder temperatures and even some precipitation. If it does rain, however, it doesn’t usually rain for long. When you sign up for the bike tour, Norske Bygdeopplevelser will provide you with a suggested packing list for the tour. Make sure you see this list and pack appropriately.
- Every hotel on the bike tour has free WiFi Internet access. Internet speeds in Norway are good, but not great (usually around 3-5 Mbps at most of the hotels).
- If you have the time and would like to see more of the area surrounding Bergen, Norway, consider doing this bike tour in conjunction with the Hardangerfjord Self-Guided Bike Tour (also by Norske Bygdeopplevelser (Active-Norway)).
- If you have any additional questions about participating in this unique bicycle touring holiday, just contact Active-Norway directly. They are quick to respond to any messages that you send them and they go out of their way to help you in any way they can.
To learn more about the Sunnhordland by Bike and Boat tour, or to book this bike tour for yourself, please visit the official tour website at: www.active-norway.com