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Interrail Norden

 

Interrail Norden

Commissioned by DSB.dk

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One of those things I’ve always wanted to do was travel around Scandinavia by train. Well, anywhere really. I’m fascinated by this idea of ‘slow travelling’ and witnessing all the beautiful landscapes one passes by on the journey from A to B. Collaborating with DSB on an interrail made it all go from abstract idea to really concrete action. Together with Astrid, I travelled around Norway, Finland and Sweden for a total of 16 days.

During and after our travels, I received a lot of questions on how we planned our trip, and requests to get our exact itinerary. It can seem like quite an overwhelming thing to plan, and to be honest, it was a bit of a puzzle making everything fit and make sense. Therefore I have divided up this post about our interrail into days and places and shared our itinerary and means of transportation. At the very bottom of this page, you will find some of the most obvious questions answered.

 
 

Itinerary

Day 1 Copenhagen → Oslo → Stavanger (night train)
Day 2 Stavanger → Tau → Preikestolen
Day 3 Stavanger → Bergen (bus)
Day 4 Bergen
Day 5 Bergen → Oslo → Bodø (night train)
Day 6 Bodø → Kabelvåg, Lofoten
Day 7
Kabelvåg, Lofoten
Day 8
Stamsund, Lofoten
Day 9
Stamsund, Lofoten
Day 10
Leknes, Lofoten → Narvik → Gällivare
Day 11 Gällivare
Day 12 Gällivare → Umeå
Day 13 Umeå → Vaasa (ferry)
Day 14 Vaasa → Turku → Stockholm (night ferry)
Day 15 Stockholm
Day 16 Stockholm → Copenhagen

 
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Day 1 Copenhagen → Oslo → Stavanger (night train)

We set off at 8.30 in the morning from Copenhagen Central Station. Changed trains in Göteborg and then headed towards Oslo. This first train ride didn’t feel super authentic, but we were damn well excited to be on the tracks finally, after around 10 months of having prepared for this trip. Our stop in Göteborg allowed us to have a quick lunch at the train terminal, but it was a brief visit. Upon our arrival to Oslo, we set off to see the major sights; Snøhetta’s Opera House. We had a few hours before boarding the night train to Stavanger. This allowed time for some sightseeing in Oslo a really lovely dinner in a cosy café with chess boards and fairly priced beer. The night train was a new experience for both Astrid and I. We were equally excited about what it looked like, about the layout of our little sleeping cabin and how sleeping in rocking bunk beds would be. We checked-in, old school style, with a pen and paper kind of registration, and a plastic card key with a number on it. After a little bit of getting used to, we were lulled to sleep by the swaying movement of the carriage, and after 6 hours of sleep, we woke up in rainy Stavanger.

 
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Day 2 Stavanger → Tau → Preikestolen

It was really very early in Stavanger when we rolled into the station with the night train from Oslo. So we took it easy, nestled up in a coffee place next to the tracks and found our rain coats. Stavanger is a city of constant rainfall, and it was no exception when we were there! We made our way down to the port to catch the ferry to Tau. No ticket prior to boarding needed - they come around and charge you for a ticket onboard. From Tau a bus takes you directly to Preikestolen Fjellstue. Buses are a bit pricey, but it is really the only way of getting around up there, unless you have a car of course. Walking is not really an option; distances are too vast, uphill and there are no pedestrian tracks next to the road. Just get on that bus and save your energy for the hike up to Preikestolen.

 
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After two days of constant travelling, we were beyond ready to get outside and explore. So about an hour after we got to Preikestolen Fjellstue we set off. We’d been ‘warned’ by a few people not to do the hike at all, because of the insane amounts of tourists in neon coloured jackets. But of course, we joined the crowds and did the hike, and I’d also advice anyone to go. Not so much because of Preikestolen itself, but for the hike to and from. I mostly enjoyed looking at the scenery on the way up. The wooden board walks, and puddles, the grass and moss-covered bedrocks and the heavy misty haze that painted a beautiful backdrop to the Nordic landscapes. We stumbled upon a tiny shelter with a fireplace inside too, and that made my trip! If there is one thing I love to witness in the landscape, it is these lonely houses, that subtly adds scale to the bigger picture. Once you reach Preikestolen you will, no matter the season, find a long line of tourists, waiting for their turn to get the “must-have” picture on the very corner of the rock. Luckily, that was not our wish. Instead we went up and around, kind of 2-3 cliff levels above the actual Preikestol. You will see small signs marking this ‘off’ route. But be careful.

 
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Day 3 Stavanger → Bergen (bus)

We spend the night at Preikestolen Fjellstue. A really lovely lodge with little guesthouses scattered out on a green field overlooking a large lake. We left early in the morning after having enjoyed the view from our guesthouse as much as we possibly could. Day 3 was mostly spent travelling. First bus back down to Tau, then the ferry back to Stavanger and from Stavanger we boarded a 7 hour bustrip to Bergen. There are no trains between these two cities, since there is so much water and mini islands making up the landscape. Even the bus we travelled with boarded 3-4 ferries, taking us across little water passages.

 
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Day 4 Bergen

With 240 rain days per year, our day spent in Bergen was wet and windy. But we enjoyed this city equally much, with all its wooden houses and steep alleyways. By the harbour front there is a fish market where you can buy lunch to take with you, or salmon to bring home for dinner. We went with Fløibanen up the mountain, to find a splendid view over the city and the fjords. From here you can walk all the way down, which takes approximately 45 minutes, unless you, like us, stop to take pictures of ferns in the forest or large red sports fields.

The city has plenty of nice places to have dinner, drinks and natural wine. Here are a few, that I was kindly recommended by Bergen-based @nerdmedsverd.
Hoggorm - The best pizza in town + natural wines.
Kafé Spesial - Cheap, simple, student vibes. We had soup of the day here for dinner, and a great hummus with pita bread!
Don Pippo - Wine bar that also serves food.
Allmuen - A bistro with a good reputation.

 
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Day 5 Bergen -> Oslo (Bergensbanen)
Oslo -> Bodø (night train)

One thing we had been looking forward to big time was taking the infamous Bergensbanen from Bergen to Oslo. We got up very early to catch the morning train and had stocked up on coffee and lunch, so that we didn’t have to leave our seats for too long. The journey takes a total of 7 hours and there are six daily departures from Bergen, four of which takes you all the way to Oslo. When we initially booked the tickets from home, we were not as such encouraged to book our seat tickets. But although we were travelling semi off-season and on a weekday, the train was still packed. So we were honestly very happy with our seat reservation! Therefore, get your seat tickets no matter the season and day of the week. Note that the timetable changes twice a year, according to season. Have a look at their timetables here.

 
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Bergensbanen is considered one of the world’s most scenic train rides. You drive by vast open glaciers, swirling fjords, mountain plateaus and deserted wooden houses, scattered beautifully around the landscape. The tracks are supported and protected by fences, that sometimes (well, 60% of the time) block your view. So if photographing, be quick!

At Myrdal we made a longer stop. Here Bergensbanen connects with Flåmsbana, so if you have time, take a detour and board this Wes Anderson-like train! Sadly, we didn’t, but it is on the list for our next visit to this part of Norway. This train ride was by far the quickest one of our entire journey, because - nature! Just raw nature. All I want to do now is revisit this place in winter, and do a stop-over on all of the little stations that you drive by along the journey. Highly recommended train ride!

We made it back to Oslo and boarded the night train to Bodø. This second night train experience was better than the first one for sure, since we’d already tried out this form of rocking, wavering form of sleep.

 
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Day 6 Bodø -> Kabelvåg, Lofoten

We made it to Bodø early, before anything had really opened. We spent the morning hours in Melkebaren, a cute coffee bar with really friendly staff. Apart from this nice place, Bodø is really nothing special. Perhaps because it rained heavily when we walked the streets of the small town, or because it simply wasn’t all that jazzy. We cancelled our hotel that night in Bodø, and decided to catch the late afternoon ferry over to Moskenes instead. Our second rescheduling on our trip. This is what is so nice about this way of travelling. You are free to change plans, and go with the flow (and with instinct).

As we arrived to Moskenes, in the South of Lofoten, it was beginning to get dark. When we finally hit the roads, it was pitch dark. As in totally black. We hadn’t really looked into exactly how long it would take us to get to one end of Lofoten to the other. So upon arrival to Moskenes, getting Google Maps to direct us to our cabin in Kabelvåg, we were both very baffled when it said 2 hours. Distances are quite serious on Lofoten! Roads are very curvy and narrow. But we made it, and arrived to our panoramic view room around 22.30, and planned where to go explore the next day, consulting Google Maps for travel time.

 
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Day 7 Kabelvåg, Lofoten

A much needed day of island discovery! We drove South, down to Hamnøy, passing by Sakrisøy and the large Gimsøytraumen Bridge. On the way, whenever we saw places of interest, we stopped and had a quick look around. This is what I love to do the most.. Having time to be spontaneous, and just going wherever looks intriguing. We found some lovely little harbours with shed-like boat houses and managed to catch a few snaps just when the sun came to kiss the grass-covered hillside in the background - a perfect backdrop for our photos! And yes, we rented a car here to be able to get around easily. Buses are also an option though.

 
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Hamnøy

You need to stop by Hamnøy - a fishing village with the most impressive mountain peak in the distance. It is a truly picturesque town, offering great views when standing on the bridge and looking down on the red houses. Most of the village are original fishermen cabins, the oldest one being from the 1890s. Today the houses act as accommodation, so you have the chance to live directly in the heart of this gorgeous place.

 
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Sakrisøy

From red to yellow, Sakrisøy is an even smaller village with yellow houses, between Hamnøy and Reine. There are fishing cabins, a restaurant, boat hire and a museum of toys and dolls. But to be honest, their main attraction is the lonesome yellow house, nestling on a little wing of concrete.

 
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We were greeted by a lovely sunset when we returned to our place in Kabelvåg. We did a little bit of drone flying, and then spent the evening recharging our batteries, having a big dinner and some wine. Before bedtime, we went out on the pier and had a go with some night photography of the Northern Lights.

 
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Day 8 Stamsund, Lofoten

A friend of ours, recommended us to visit Nusfjord. Within minutes, both Astrid and I fell head over heels in love with this corner of Lofoten. From the parking lot you have a lovely view out over the whole village and the U-shaped harbour. All the red houses serve as Rorbuer - cabins where you can stay. The big yellow house has a lovely old school shop where you can get souvenirs (I bought some dried fish!) and if you carry on walking through the shop, you will be greeted by the most wonderful café. Here they serve waffles with rømme, which is mandatory to try, especially here in Nusfjord. If you walk all the way around to the other side of the harbour you can climb up the massive exposed bedrock to get a splendid view. I was mostly intrigued by the landscape architecture that made up the floor in between sheds and the rocks.

 
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Day 9 Stamsund, Lofoten

Sadly, we hadn’t read all the blogs and the local news about Reinebringen route being closed due to renovation. So we set off, all hyped about hiking up there after having been recommended it by several people. After having parked the car and filled our water bottles, we stumbled upon a very anonymous sign on the road saying that the hike was closed. We fussed over it for a few minutes, trying to come up with alternative routes to hike, and then agreed on Ryten hike, that takes you to Kvalvika Beach.

 
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Such an unforgettable hike to Kvalvika Beach. Once you reach the edge, you have the most incredible view. We were incredibly fortunate with the light. It was magical. Coming in from the left side, the sun strokes mixed with the salty sea vapours creating illuminated misty effects which was breathtaking both to witness and to photograph. We walked down to the beach, climbing as far along the rocks as we felt was safe enough. Seriously, one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever had.

 
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Walking up to here to catch this view, the beach just kept offering us a different beauty. You can continue all the way up to the Ryten peak, where you almost stand opposite of the beach, however we actually skipped this trek. Instead we walked through the landscapes, that had plenty of these wooden board walks, over muddy grounds. We reached this elevated lake where we had a quick snack - the walk upwards really took a lot of energy. But this hike was insane. GO!

 
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The Northern Lights

Before midnight, in the midst of brushing our teeth and getting the last things packed, the owner of the place we stayed in knocked on the door and said: ‘Northern Lights, outside… Now!’. We ran for it, but didn’t make it in time. But we set up camp with our cameras and had time to tie our shoelaces properly. We stood on a giant rock, behind the house we stayed in, and even though it was pitch dark, the sky seemed somewhat illuminated. Of course we could see much more going on in the sky through our lenses, but when the green laser lights peeped up from behind the mountains, we weren’t in doubt as to what we were witnessing. The Northern Lights. Another unforgettable moment. This was seriously the best day ever.

 
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Day 10 Leknes, Lofoten → Narvik → Gällivare

Early morning, started with a fiery sunrise. We drove up to where the buses depart from, left our rented car at the gas station, and shuttled ourselves East to Narvik. From here we boarded a train, that would take us across the Swedish border. The crossing uses Swedish trains, so we shifted from NSB to SJ. And by late evening, we arrived in Gällivare. A long day in transit. But since the Swedish train had these old school windows, we had the opportunity to take pictures of the train, as it snailed around the edges of the mountains. Luckily, Gällivare is very small, and our B&B was 200 meter walking distance from the train station. So no bus or taxi needed.

 
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Photo by Astrid Maria Busse Rasmussen

Photo by Astrid Maria Busse Rasmussen

 

Day 11 Gällivare

Gällivare lies roughly about 100 kilometres North of the Arctic Circle, in the so called Swedish Lapland. It is located in a major iron ore mining region, and shares the same story as neighbouring town, Kiruna. It is a mining town, it’s existence based around this industry. This also means that soon, the whole city of Gällivare will have to be moved to a different site. Yes. Moving a city. A phenomenon that could be the theme of someones PhD in sociology or ethnology. By all means, a really peculiar thing to do. But it is due to the very fact that mining rules jobs, and under Gällivare is a mindblowing hollow cave.

We started our day by visiting the Tourist Information center, located at the station. They pointed us in a direction into the forests and around the hills. We loved spending the day surrounded by ruska colours and strong autumnal vibes. We picked arctic blueberries and enjoyed hiking in the wild.

 
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Day 12 Gällivare → Umeå

True to its coordinates, the train that took us from Swedish Lapland down to Umeå is called the Arctic Circle Train. We departed early in the morning, at 7 and had an annoying change in Luleå. Here we boarded a bus, which was a surprise to us. But around 14.30 in the afternoon we made it to Umeå where we were supposed to catch a ferry later on in the evening. However, due to a storm, the ferries were not going as planned, and we had to reschedule and spend the night in Umeå.

 
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Day 13 Umeå → Vaasa (ferry)

Due to our change of plans, we had a whole day in Umeå. We had a long breakfast, waiting for the rain to stop, wandered down to Gotthards Krog, a beautiful restaurant that I couldn’t stop taking pictures of. Really cosy atmosphere, like in a luxurious fishing boat, dark details, dimmed light and with lots of velvet. From there we went to Bildmuseet, an art museum in the creative hub of the city. Next to it lies Umeå School of Architecture, by Danish Henning Larsen Architects. We had the chance to sneak into the building and enjoyed the architecture, the framed view of the river that the large square windows provided, as well as the student work and models left on show in the small studios. Later in the evening we took the ferry to Vaasa. Some rather unsteady hours at sea, one of the less flamboyant times on our trip.

 
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Day 14 Vaasa → Turku → Stockholm (night ferry)

We set off early from our very Finnish-looking hotel to catch the train to Turku. Here we had planned to visit St. Henry's Art Chapel, but we were 10 minutes late. So back we went into Turku, and explored what seemed to us, a Western movie setup with cowboys walking around synchronically on the streets. In the late afternoon we boarded Baltic Princess (!) and had another entertaining boat experience. What an insane place. Stereotypical in all ways. Went to bed and woke up in Stockholm. By this point we were feeling like our planning had gone a little bit off board, with too much commute - too little fun. So if you are to do this, take more time to rest and enjoy the places you travel to. Allow time for delays or ferries that do not depart due to weather conditions.

 
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Day 15 Stockholm

It was 6AM or something extremely early like that, when the ferry made it to Stockholm. The part is a good bit out of the city, and the walk from the harbour to the metro station was around 20-25 minutes. We crashed at a café, had 3 cups of coffee each, and waited for the clock to show a more humane time to go explore the city. Checked into our hotel, left our luggage and went to Gamla Stan to catch the first sunshine. It was incredible to wander all these narrow streets, without tourists clogging the view. Stockholm looked ever so beautiful in the autumn sun. Also, some of their metro stations are really cool, and being the train enthusiasts that we were, we went on a little “metro-crawl”, travelling around the underground tracks to find the photogenic stations.

 
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Day 16 Stockholm → Copenhagen

Such a smooth ride back home. We had 1st class tickets and paid the Bistro wagon quite a few visits. Will only be travelling to Stockholm again by train, it is hassle-free and easy. 5 hours later we ended our journey where we began: at Copenhagen Central Station.

 
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Photo by Astrid Maria Busse Rasmussen

Photo by Astrid Maria Busse Rasmussen

 
 

How?

We travelled with DSB and got ourselves a Global Pass, which allows you to travel around up to 30 countries for one set price. Find out the prices here.

Duration?

We travelled 3 countries for 16 days. We advise you to add a few days to your itinerary or skip a country to leave space for ‘the unexpected’. We had to make some alterations to the last part of our trip due to a cancelled ferry from Umeå to Vaasa (the stormy weather). This meant we had to cancel one of our stays in Finland. Plan a little more loose than we did!

When?

I would go in autumn. The colours are beautiful, and I love September/October foliage. We went in September and saw the Northern lights! Summer could also work of course, but then you need to plan ahead since a lot of other people will also be visiting in summer time. If you want white frozen landscapes, which I am sure is amazing too then winter is the time, but remember that light is very very sparse around this time of the year. And a lot of activities such as kayaking or hiking is not an option as such. Some routes might even be closed.

Seat reservations

If you get a Global Pass from DSB, you will get a little folder where you have to write every to and from destination in a list form. Make sure to do this prior to every train ride! Eg. Copenhagen - Gothenburg.
Some routes in certain countries require that you have a seat reservation. But to do this you need a train ticket, and having an interrail pass, you don’t. This is where it gets a little more complicated. They can be purchased at the ticket office or ticket machines in the country you are in. But if you want to purchase these ahead of your travels, it is something else. In Sweden and Norway you have to book your seats. No seat reservation is required in Finland however. For SJ (Swedish Railways) you can book online and check a box that you have an interrail pass. For the NSB (Norwegian Railways) you have to telephone them. NSB will then email and SMS you a code where you can then download your reservation numbers by using their app.

Night trains

We took the night train two times. It was a really great option for us, both to save time and money on accommodation. The cabins are very small, with bunk beds, so if you have claustrophobia you might want to think twice about this as an option.

Ferries

Some of the ferries are part of the interrail map, meaning that they offer a discount on certain passages. These are marked out on the interrail map, so be sure to check to save cash.