Hello and welcome to Bergen, Norway – the gateway to the fjords and home of the Discover Norway Biking Hardangerfjord Self-Guided Bike Tour.
This unique city of 272,000 is located on the western coast of Scandinavia and was once the capital of Norway. Today, Bergen is the country’s second-largest city and the most popular tourist destination in all of Norway – boasting a range of exciting outdoor activities and local tourist attractions. From Bergen, all of Norway is at your fingertips (the mountains, lakes, rivers, and fjords). An international city full of history and tradition, Bergen, Norway is a big city with small town charm… and it’s the perfect place to begin a bike tour around the country.
While there are a number of different ways to see fjord Norway (by boat, bus, car, etc.), there’s no better way to see the region than by bicycle. Traveling by bike allows you get up close and personal with the people, places, and nature that make this part of the world so very special. And there’s no better place to explore by bike than the area around the Hardangerfjord – one of the most picturesque regions in all of Norway.
I recently had the pleasure of participating in the Biking Hardangerfjord Self-Guided Bike Tour with a friend of mine named Eric Kiraly… and it was such a wonderful experience, I thought I should take a moment to tell you all about it.
The Hardangerfjord Bike Tour is a six-day/five-night bicycle tour organized by a company called Discover Norway. This 180 km cycling holiday takes you from Bergen, Norway in the west to the nearby mountain town of Voss. From there, you’ll cycle past countless waterfalls and down to the tiny town of Ulvik, which is located on the arm of the Hardangerfjord. Then you’ll bike south; cross over the fjord on the Hardangerfjord suspension bridge; take a number of small ferry boats across the deep waters of Norway’s second-longest fjord; cycle past small local farms growing apples, plums, and cherries; explore old wooden homes that date back to centuries gone past; and then spend your evenings relaxing inside charming local hotels where you’ll be treated with delicious food and drinks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Welcome to fjord Norway! My name is Darren Alff… and this is my review of the Discover Norway Biking Hardangerfjord Self-Guided Bike Tour.
Important Bike Tour Information
- Name: Biking Hardangerfjord Self-Guided Bike Tour
- Tour Company: Discover Norway
- Bike Tour Type: Self-Guided
- Official Tour Website: www.discover-norway.com
- Tour Length: 6 days / 5 nights (with 3 days of cycling)
- Starting/Ending Location: Bergen, Norway
- Total Cycling Distance: 180 km / 112 miles
- Price: 8,950 NOK per person (approximately $1,083 USD)
- Optional: This tour can be combined with the Sunnhordland by Bike and Boat tour.
What Is The Hardangerfjord? And Why Should You Go There?
Before you even consider coming to Norway, you might like to know what a fjord is, and why these large, impressive, and unique bodies of water draw in so many tourists each and every year. You might also like to know why the Hardangerfjord, which is just one of Norway’s many fjords, is among the best fjords in the country to see and explore.
To start, a fjord is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides (or cliffs), created by glacial erosion. A fjord is formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley out of the surrounding bedrock. Unlike a lake, ocean bay, or other large body of water, a fjord must be longer than it is wide and lead from the mountains to the sea (otherwise it’s not a fjord).
The Hardangerfjord, is the second-longest fjord in Norway (at over 179 km (111 miles)) long… 2 to 10 kilometers (1.2 to 6.2 miles) wide… and 860 meters (2,820 feet) deep at its maximum depth.
When you look at the high mountains above a fjord and the giant mass of water filling a fjord, you also have to imagine the incredibly deep ravine that you can’t see, running far beneath the surface of the water. In many cases, this ravine is as deep as the mountains around it are high! And unlike a lake or river, a fjord is filled with snow melt and sea water, meaning there’s always the chance you might see a sea otter, whale, dolphin, or other such animal swimming in a fjord.
Beside the beauty of the fjord itself, there are a number of other reasons to visit the Hardangerfjord and its many local attractions. Take for example, the small fruit farms you’ll find scattered along the hills of the fjord. These local farms grow and sell apples, plums, and cherries (among other such fruits). During the summer months, apple cider and fresh cherries can be purchased from the farms themselves or from small roadside stands (Simply take the fruit you want and leave some money in a nearby box).
The numerous ferries that crisscross the area also provide a unique means of viewing the fjord. On this bike tour, you’ll cross the fjord at least three or more times (depending on which route you decide to take), and from the open waters of the Hardangerfjord, you’ll be able to see the nearby towns and villages in a way you wouldn’t be able to view them otherwise.
During your rest day in Norheimsund, you’ll have the opportunity to travel (by boat and by bus) up to one of the nearby mountaintops and visit the infamous Folgafonna glacier. Here, you’ll participate in a guided glacier hike – allowing you to not only walk on top of one of Norway’s largest glaciers, but view the country from up high (which is the best way to see what Norway is all about).
Finally, in the town of Rosendal (which you’ll visit on the last night of the bike tour) you’ll have the opportunity to see the Hardangerfjord from above. You can do so by hiking to the top of Malmangernuten – a nearby mountain peak (It takes about two hours to get to the top). From here, you can look down on the fjord below – dotted with 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.
As you can see, there’s a lot to see and do in the area surrounding the Hardangerfjord… and the best way to navigate this picturesque region is on the seat of a bicycle. So get ready to go cycling! Our bike tour across fjord Norway begins right now!
What Is The Average Day On Tour Like?
While participating in the Discover Norway Biking Hardangerfjord Self-Guided Bike Tour, you’ll begin each day by waking up in your hotel room, taking a shower (if you like), and then going to breakfast in the hotel restaurant/dining area. The breakfasts on tour are a buffet-style breakfast with an assortment of fresh foods to choose from (bread, yogurt, cereal/muesli, eggs, meat, waffles, fruit, veggies, juice, coffee, tea, and more). Simply take the food you like and then sit down in the hotel restaurant to enjoy your meal. As you eat, look out across the waters of the fjord and enjoy your scenic surroundings.
After eating breakfast, you’ll be given some wax paper and a small plastic bag. Use these items and the food provided in the breakfast buffet to pack yourself a lunch (I recommend making one or two sandwiches and then packing an apple or a banana for the road). If you decide to bring a thermos with you on the bike tour (which is both recommended and a really good idea), you’ll be able to fill your thermos up with coffee, tea, or hot chocolate – which you can then carry with you on your bicycle.
After breakfast, you’ll return to your hotel room, where you’ll need to pack up your things and prepare for the day ahead of you. You can choose to carry everything you need for the tour with you on your bicycle (in a set of panniers that you either bring from home or have provided for you by the tour company)… or the company will gladly ship your luggage from one hotel to the next (at no additional cost to you). Then, once your bike is packed and your water bottles are filled, you’ll begin your cycling for the day!
Each day of the bike tour is a little different (which makes your time in the Hardangerfjord region both fun and exciting). Some days you will travel short distances, but have a lot of time to stop and look at things along the way. You might stop to explore churches, waterfalls, museums, or any number of additional sights along your route. Other days you will cover longer distances while having fewer things to look at during the ride. Some days there is really only one route to cycle, while other days there are options, allowing you to cycle the short or long route for that day.
Whatever distances you might cover throughout the course of the bike tour, keep in mind that this is a self-guided bicycle tour and there is no professional guide to escort you along your route each day. You’ll be on your own to choose the rate at which you travel, when you want to stop and rest, where you eat along the way, and a whole lot more.
In the late afternoon (usually between 4 and 6 PM), after a good day of cycling, you will reach your destination for the night. Some nights you’ll be staying in a large, modern hotel, while other nights you will be put up in a much smaller accommodation.
As soon as you arrive at your hotel, you’ll be given a room for the night and then you’ll be free to shower, take a nap, read, explore the property and the surrounding area, or do anything you please.
Sometime around 7 or 8 PM, you’ll make your way to the hotel restaurant/dining room, where you will be given a table and a plate. Most dinners are buffet-style, meaning you simply take your plate and fill it up with the food you want to eat. Only at the Rosendal Turist Hotell (on your last night) will you be given the choice of meal from a set menu of food items. All other nights will be buffets.
Finally, after dinner you are free to take a walk around the town, watch TV, read a book, or simply return to your room and go to sleep.
Who Is This Bike Tour Designed For?
The Biking Hardangerfjord Self-Guided Bike Tour is designed for individuals who:
Who want to choose who they travel with. You can travel by yourself, go with your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, a group of friends, or anyone you please. Unlike a guided bike tour where you might be grouped together with a bunch of people you’ve never met before, The Hardangerfjord Bike Tour allows you to choose the travel companions that will compliment you most.
Are capable of cycling for several hours per day and covering moderate distances. This is not a bike tour for absolute beginners, nor is it a bike tour for people wishing to cycle over super challenging terrain. This is a bike tour for people who want an enjoyable bicycle touring experience with a moderate amount of cycling each day and enough time to stop and enjoy themselves along the way. There are a couple short, but steep climbs on this bike tour (each one being about 5-6 km long). You need to be in good physical shape to complete this tour, but you don’t need to be a seasoned bicycle racer. Casual cyclists with a fair amount of bike riding experience will be perfectly suited for this bike tour. (My friend Eric was able to complete this bike tour with almost no bike riding experience… although he found cycling over the hills to be quite difficult)
Want a little bit of luxury on their bicycle touring holiday. If camping in a tent or going for days on end without a shower is not your thing, then this might just be the bicycle tour you’ve been looking for. On the Biking Hardangerfjord Self-Guided Bike Tour, you will get all the benefits of traveling long distances on a bicycle, but at the end of the day you’ll be able to stay in a high-end hotel, take a hot shower, eat a delicious meal, use the Internet to stay in touch with friends and family back home, and still have time to relax and enjoy the company of your fellow travel companions.
Are capable of navigating on their own and repairing their own bicycle if need be. Because there is no guide to escort you along your way, you need to not only know how to read a map and follow the directions that Discover Norway lays out for you to get from one hotel to the next, but you also need to know how to repair your bicycle (change a flat tire, adjust your handlebars/seat post, etc.) in the event that something should go wrong with your bicycle at any point during the tour. While major mechanical problems are highly unlikely, at least one person in your party should be capable of changing or repairing a flat tire.
Enjoy taking time to stop along the way, see the sights, and move at a pleasant pace. One of the many benefits of a self-guided bicycle tour like this one is that you get to move at your own pace. If you like to wake up early (or sleep in late), ride super fast (or super slow), stop and take pictures along the way (or rush to your destination as quickly as you possibly can), this type of bicycle tour with allow you to enjoy your holiday in the manner you deem most desirable. During the Hardangerfjord Bike Tour, Discover Norway gives you dozens of recommended places to stop and explore along the route. If you want to, you may choose to stop and explore each and every one of these destinations. Or, if you like, you can skip over the recommended points of interest and just continue cycling. The choice is up to you!
Don’t want to waste time planning a tour like this on their own. More than anything else, participating in the Biking Hardangerfjord Bike Tour takes all the time, energy, and grunt work out of planning your Norwegian holiday. Instead of spending countless days and hours on the computer, researching possible routes and places to stay, just call up Discover Norway (or send them an email) and they will do all the hard work for you. Just tell them what day you plan to arrive in Bergen and they will do the rest for you. After your accommodations have been booked, your only job is to show up for the start of the tour, follow the instructions that have been provided for you by the company, and enjoy six full days of cycling in beautiful fjord Norway.
Highlights From The Biking Hardangerfjord Bike Tour
There are so many memorable moments during the Hardangerfjord Bike Tour. Rather than re-hash every single one of the tour’s many highlights, I’ve decided to feature some of my favorite moments from the bike tour with you. Take a moment now and scroll through the photos below. I think you’ll see why this Scandinavian bike tour is one to seriously consider.
Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway, but it’s colorful and charming.
While you’re there, be sure to participate in a guided walking tour of historic Bergen.
You don’t want to miss the fine dining at Fleischers Hotell in Voss, Norway.
Enjoy cycling downhill past the impressive Skjervefossen waterfall.
You won’t believe the views, coasting down the switchbacks to the town of Ulvik, Norway.
The view from your room at the Strand Hotel in Ulvik will make you want to stay forever.
There’s nothing quite like biking over the Hardangerfjord suspension bridge.
The charming town of Kinsarvik, Norway is a great place to stop for lunch.
Be sure to visit the Hardanger Folk Musem and the grass-roofed homes you find there.
You’re going to love the dinner you receive at the Thon Hotell Sandven in Norheimsund, Norway. It was my favorite meal on the entire bike tour!
The fresh local foods and delicious desserts were a highlight of the tour, for sure!
Don’t miss the opportunity to participate in a guided hike on top of the Folgefonna glacier.
Make sure your lights are on when you cycle through the tunnels that run along the edge of the Fjord. Don’t worry though, traffic is light in this part of the country.
Even two nights at the Rosendal Turist Hotell won’t be enough. This place is so special.
Hike to the top of Malmangernuten in the town of Rosendal and look down on the Hardangerfjord below. The views from the top are out of this world!
The Hotels: Where Will You Be Staying?
The hotels you’ll be staying in while participating in the Hardangerfjord Bike Tour are truly something special. There are four hotels in total… and each is unique in its own way.
Fleischers Hotel – Voss, Norway
Next to the train station in Voss, Norway is the impressive Fleischers Hotel. From any direction (front or back) you can tell that this hotel is something special. And the moment you step inside, you’ll feel like you’ve arrived! Like being thrown back in time, Fleischers Hotel welcomes you in with its old-fashioned (yet elegant) interior design and it’s friendly, well-kept hotel staff. The rooms themselves are slightly nautical in design, with impressive views of the nearby lake and mountains from just about every room.
Strand Hotel – Ulvik, Norway
While not nearly as impressive as the Fleishers Hotel in Voss, what the Strand Hotel lacks in exterior appeal is more than made up for when you get a glimpse of the Hardangerfjord from the hotel’s back deck (or the private patio outside your hotel room). This is not a hotel where you want to sit inside all day. Instead, make your way to a nearby patio and take in the scenery! The views from the hotel windows are spectacular – especially on a sunny day.
Thon Hotel Sandven – Norheimsund, Norway
The Thon Hotel Sandven is conveniently located just steps from the town’s ferry boat landing. While the main hotel lobby, restaurant, and lounge are similar in design to that of the Fleischers Hotel in Voss, the rooms themselves are much more modern, with bright green accents, a flatscreen TV, and the best WiFi Internet access of the entire bike tour. My favorite part about this hotel, however, is the food! You don’t want to miss the buffet dinner at the Hotel Sandven. It’s to die for!
Rosendal Turist Hotell – Rosendal, Norway
Finally, the Rosendal Turist Hotell may just be the most special of all the hotels on this bike tour. By far the smallest of any of the hotels on the tour, the Rosendal is unique in that it accommodates only a small number of guests, bathrooms are not private and must be shared with other hotel guests, and the restaurant attached to the hotel serves food from a menu (rather than as a buffet, like you get in the other three hotels). Plus, the hotel and restaurant wait staff are the friendliest people you’ll find in all of Norway. If you have the time, be sure to stay in Rosendal for at least two nights. The town is special… and so is the hotel, the people who work there, and the food that you’ll receive. Trust me! This is a place you’ll be talking about for months and years to come.
Other Important Things You Should Know
- This is a self-guided bicycle tour, so you will be traveling on your own, without a guide. However, all the details for 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 Discover Norway 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, your hotel information each night, and details on the optional excursions along the way.
- If you’d like Discover 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 can choose to bring your own bicycle with you on this bike tour… or you can rent one in Bergen when you get there. Discover Norway 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).
- If you do have any health or dietary restrictions, just be sure to tell the people at Discover Norway in advance. They will go out of their way to make sure you are catered to and happy throughout your cycling holiday.
- Navigating the routes of this bike tour via GPS is not necessary. Discover Norway 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 Hardangerfjord, so it’s a fairly easy route to follow. If you do have GPS capabilities on your smartphone, however, this can be used (in addition to the paperwork that Discover Norway provides) to navigate your route each day.
- In addition to the cost of the bike tour, you will also need to pay for three ferry crossings. These three crossings will cost you approximately 200 NOK ($25 USD) in total.
- Any drinks you might order (such as wine and beer) are billed extra at each of your hotel stays. If you order a drink, you will be asked to pay your bill when you check out of your hotel in the morning.
- 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).
- 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 Sunnhordland By Bike And Boat tour (also by Discover Norway), which begins in Rosendal where this bike tour ends. The Sunnhordland tour adds an additional five days to your travels in Norway and is a great way to see the beautiful little islands that liter the western coast of the country.
- If you have any additional questions about participating in this unique bicycle touring holiday, just contact Discover 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.
Hardangerfjord Norway In A Nutshell – What Are You Waiting For?
Seriously! What are you waiting for? The fjords of Norway are waiting for you to come and pay them a visit!
I had an incredible time participating in the Hardangerfjord Bike Tour and I know that my friend Eric, who joined me on the tour, has been raving about the experience ever since we finished.
Norway is a beautiful place filled with friendly people, fresh food, beautiful hotels, and some of the most amazing scenery you’ll ever see. I thoroughly enjoyed my bike tour around the Hardangerfjord… and I’m sure you will too!