Looking to escape the summer crowds and experience the off-the-beaten-path wonders of Scandinavia? Our 11 day itinerary and planning guide includes the unique but less known areas of Svalbard (Spitsbergen) and the Faroe Islands. And if you are a first-time visitor of Norway and Denmark, like us, you will also have time to explore the cities of Oslo, Bergen and Copenhagen.
When to go
As you can see, this itinerary takes you way far up north. Svalbard is only 1314 km from the North Pole. Therefore, you can expect cold temperatures the entire year, going as low as 8 to −4.0 °F in the winter. For this reason, a summer visit is preferable. From June to September the temperature ranges from 45 to 27 °F, still cold, but much more manageable. Have in mind that some boat excursions can be cancelled in June if the fjords are still frozen.
Svalbard enjoys the midnight sun (the sun never sets) from mid April to mid August, while the polar night (the sun never comes out) extends from late October to mid February.
In the Faroe Islands, you can expect cold, rain, fog and wind the entire year.
The temperature does not change much through the year: in the winter, spring and autumn the average temperatures range from 36 to 48 °F. In the summer, from June to August, temperatures average 45 to 55 °F. However, it frequently rains during autumn and winter. The least rainy period is from May to August. Therefore, most people recommend to visit from June to August so you can enjoy warmer temperatures, long days and perhaps a bit of sunshine.
How to get there
We will give you more detailed information about how to reach these remote destinations in our travel guides, but here are some quick facts:
- Svalbard can only be reached from Oslo and Tromso, with direct flights to Longyearbyen (LYR) with Norwegian Airlines and Scandinavian Airlines. If you prefer to arrive by sea, Hurtigruten and a few other expedition boats have routes that include Svalbard.
- The Faroe Islands have only one aiport in Vagar (FAE), serviced predominantly by Atlantic Airways. Atlantic Airways offers direct flights to Copenhagen, Bergen, Billund and Reykjavik, and seasonal flights to Edinburgh, Barcelona, Gran Canaria, Aalborg, Lisbon, Malta and Palma de Mallorca. Scandinavian Airlines offers direct flights to Copenhagen.
When to book
If you are visiting these areas during high season (ie. summer), we recommend you book at least 6 months in advance.
- There are only one or two flights per day to these destinations, so they can be completely booked.
- Accommodations are limited, and most are expensive. If you are on a budget, book early so you can have some choice regarding your stay.
- The best way to see the Faroe Islands is by car. If you only drive an automatic, book early as there are not many cars available.
Day 1-2: Oslo
Arrive in Oslo. Walk around the city center, visiting the Rådhuset (City Hall), Nobel Peace Center, Royal Palace (reservations needed), Akershus Fortress and Opera House.
On the following day, take the ferry to Bygdøy and visit the museums, most related to the maritime history of Norway.
Return to Oslo via bus, stopping at the Vigeland Park and Museum. Do not miss this amazing sculpture park!
TIP: Consider purchasing an Oslo Pass if you will be visiting the museums. Public transportation, including the ferry to Bigdøy, is included.
On day 2, take a late night flight to Longyearbyen.
Day 3-5: Svalbard
The town of Longyearbyen is very compact. You will find most of your days doing excursions to remote glaciers, fjords and active and abandoned mining towns. There are also opportunities for hiking. Note that these tours can be rather expensive, but without them you will not be able to see the amazing beauty of this place.
During our three days, we sailed on the M/S Polar Girl to the abandoned Russian town of Pyramiden and the Nordenskiold glacier, went on a fast boat to the Von Post glacier and walked around town to see the museums (after our hiking trip was not to be – more on that later).
On day 5, take an evening flight with overnight in Oslo.
Day 6: Bergen
After an early morning flight to Bergen, drop off your bags and start wandering around the city. Walk to the Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as one of the best preserved Middle Age buildings in Norway.
Explore the Bergenhus fortress. You can explore the entire fortress, and the rooms are amazingly well preserved. Walk around the complex to see impressive King Håkon’s Hall.
Take the funicular up to Mount Fløyen for spectacular views of the city and fjords. There are different hiking trails and even a small lake. As an alternative, you can also spend your afternoon exploring the fjords on a boat excursion.
TIP: Consider the Bergen Card to save money on entrance fees and transportation. Airport transfer using the Light Rail is included.
Day 7-10: Faroe Islands
The beauty of the Faroe Islands lies in their amazing landscapes and quaint villages. You do not need to follow a rigid schedule, and most of the time you really can’t as the weather can be unpredictable. However, there are a few recommended experiences that you need to book ahead and plan: the ferry to Mykines and the Vestmanna Cliffs boat tour. In three days we explored 5 of the islands, and can’t wait to return.
On day 10, take an evening flight to Copenhagen.
Day 11: Copenhagen
Copenhagen is a modern city, perfect for those to like to explore on foot or by bike. There are plenty of museums and palaces to visit. If you would like to do so, consider the Copenhagen Card to save on entrance fees.
We though we would spend our day walking around the city, but couldn’t resist exploring some of the palaces. Rosenborg Castle’s highlights are the Throne Room and the Treasury, where you can see the Crown Jewels.
Amalienborg Palace sits on a magnificent square, and you can visit the lavish residency of the Royal Family.
TIP: There is a combined entrance ticket to Rosenborg Castle and Amalienborg Palace, valid on consecutive days.
Don’t forget to visit the iconic Little Mermaid statue! End your day having a delightful dinner in one of Nyhavn’s outdoor cafes.
Have you visited these remote areas in Scandinavia? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!