People keep telling me that Norway is overpriced, overcrowded and over-touristed – in fact, images of visitors jostling for a tiny piece of Instagram space atop the airy and iconic Pulpit Rock by Stavanger, crowd Nordic social media posts. Everyone invariably shouts out “too pricey” when you even so much as mention the homeland of the Vikings as a would-be holiday location.
However, I find it’s always best to make your own impressions about places and to experience them at first hand before pronouncing judgement. Usually, social media commentators tell only partial truths – of course, there are always “hot spots” and conversely, there are undoubtedly quieter places too; if you’re one of the privileged few who can read a map these days and don’t feel obliged to blindly follow the Instagram sheep (and their so-called “influencer” shepherds), it’s more than likely that you’ll also find some fabulous, uncrowded places without too much trouble, in a vast land with a population of only 4 million.
For the last couple of years we’d been trying to take a holiday in Scandinavia, but were beaten back due to endless cancellations and Corona restrictions. Then 2022 looked altogether more promising, until a serious hiking accident over Easter sent me unexpectedly off to the Surgeon’s table in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and threatened to once again put a damper upon any further travel plans for the rest of the year. However, we persevered and in July found ourselves on a beautiful part of the Norwegian Coast (albeit, me with obligatory crutches in tow).
Anyway I’m so glad we did. We stayed near the picturesque harbour town of Farsund in SW Norway, which seems to be largely off the camper van circuit. There are endless uncrowded beaches, boasting extensive dune systems (of the mercifully, “unTrumpified” variety), big sky panoramas around the adjoining lower lying lands of Lista and extensive networks of fjords, which penetrate far inland (though not on the same scale as those further North). Here. you can find ancient cultural landscapes, packed with historic field systems, old farmsteads, bronze age cairns and rock carvings of ships made by ancestors of the Vikings, as well as some surprising artefacts and forts from WW2. Much of the coast is strictly protected as wildlife habitat, which keeps away the “resortification” you might find in other destinations, though you’ll find some quaint old fishing villages with small harbours, which seem literally hewn out of the rock as refuges from the wild wind and waves.
OK, if you want cheap meals out and toasting yourself on the beach in 40 degree heat, then probably Norway wouldn’t be you destination of choice (but who wants the latter anyhow ?). I have to admit, it was pretty windy most of the holiday and barely got above 18 degrees the whole time. Eating out also wasn’t a good option unless you like throwing money away for no good reason; though strangely enough, we found that Norwegian ice cream comes in mega-portions for a relatively modest price.
Overall, there were many things about Norway which surprised me; the unhurried courtesy of the drivers, for instance, and the fact that there are so many electric cars on the road. The complete lack of any fish and chip venders was also not quite what we’d expected when looking for cheap family dining options (presumably everyone catches and cooks their own fish in Norway !). However, lovers of wild places, winds and seascapes will not be too disappointed about this. I would certainly have no hesitation to recommend a wee trip across the water some time to meet our Nordic relatives… (just bring your own beer and a few other essential supplies, that’s all !)