The bus trip to Ålesund was sleepy, and winding, with ferries and bus switches. We left Bergen early in the morning, and arrived in the afternoon. We found our hostel pretty easily on Parkgata (thank goodness for wifi on the bus and Google Maps), and checked in.
There was a large girls dorm, and a boys dorm across the hall (which I assume, probably looked exactly like ours). The girls dorm had 4 or 5 “3-storey” bunk beds along the walls… nobody took the very top of any of them! We shared a room with two girls from Australia, and one girl from Chicago, though one of the Aussie gals left soon after to go check out a town further north. We quickly got acquainted and spent the rest of the day hanging out on the bunks, chatting about our travels and talking about all of the good food we’d eaten.
(It’s nearly a year later, and we still have a Facebook message group, wherein we share travel updates and photos of food 😋).
The next day, we went exploring the town, which included a climb to the top of the Aksla look-off, which was not far from our hostel… but 418 steps higher!
Thank goodness, there was a café (with GF cakes!!) at the top.
We had only planned on staying at the hostel for one night, to shower and get our bearings, before going to a nearby campground for a couple nights.
However, our new friendships at the hostel, and its relaxing atmosphere, led us to ask the owner if we could stay a couple more nights. For any Harry Potter readers out there, it had the same feeling as you would imagine their dorms had. Cozy and quiet, with enthusiastic conversation. We also seemed to need the rest at this point in the trip. We were two and a half weeks into backpacking, had technically just hiked a half-marathon distance through snow the day before, I had a ridiculous sunburn on my face from Trolltunga, I’d lost my voice for no reason at all and Penny was sick too, so we were very lucky to have such a homey place to plunk ourselves for a few nights! I felt recharged.
The next day, Penny and I went off to try hiking to the top of Sukkertoppen, to which the lady at the tourist information centre gave us directions. We pestered her many times in those three days, poor thing. 😜
It took about an hour to walk to the base of the mountain. We could have taken a bus, but we didn’t feel like it. The walk was entertaining. Penny and I were in a silly mood.
The hike up was pretty straightforward, once we found the trailhead across from a school. At first it felt like we were tramping through backyards, but soon we were on a clear trail.
Reaching the top only took about 30 minutes, if that, and the 360-degree view we were rewarded with was well worth the trek. Our only error was thinking there might be a trail down the other side… which for a while, there was… but it petered out at a sharp cliff with a rope dangling from the edge, and a loooong drop down. At that point, we’d already done some pretty risky things, but we weren’t willing to attempt rappelling down a mountain. So we scrambled back up the rocks.We survived.
And so we ate.
Ålesund is a hidden gem for gluten-free treats. That is how they serve a cookie at Lyspunktet Café! With frosting, grapes, icing sugar, and a damn garnish! Best cookie of my life. ❤️
The next day we hopped on a bus to go explore some Norwegian fjords! We packed up all our things again, and prepared to camp for a night in Geirangerfjord. The ride was once more sleepy (I think I am easily lulled by bus rides), but the final ferry cruise into Geiranger was spectacular.
At some point on the ferry ride, I realized it was May 25th. My grandmother had passed away exactly one year prior. As I reflected for the rest of the journey, we were followed the entire way by several birds. Most of them dipped and dived at crumbs that other passengers were throwing, but one in particular flew just alongside Penny and I for a great deal of it. It seemed to be hovering in mid-air, since we were going the same speed. Now, I’m not a spiritual person, but my grandmother sure did love birds. I’d like to think she was seeing Norway with me. ☺️❤️
Geiranger itself is a pretty small village, with many tourist shops, cafés, a chocolatier, a couple of hotels, a waterfall/river running through the centre of it, and a campground. We staked a spot out by a fence, facing some distant waterfalls, and then went off to explore the village.
We enjoyed some coffee, and then walked up the wooden stairs beside the waterfall, went back to get some hot chocolate at the chocolatier and snuggled in for a great night’s sleep. It was a wild feeling, sleeping in a fjord, with sounds of rushing water surrounding us. What a way to wake up!
The next morning, we packed everything up, and took the first bus back to Ålesund, where we caught another bus to the airport. Bye-bye, Norwegian trolls!
To Copenhagen! Or as I would learn to say “Ko-bin-ow-n” 😉
Overall costs in Ålesund:
- Hostel in Ålesund: $44.67 per person per night (breakfast included)
- Bus from base of Sukkertoppen back to town: ~$7
- Bus and ferry trip to Geirangerfjord: $73.04 each (we booked online here)
- Camping in Geiranger: $13 each
- $50 total at Lyspunktet Cafe (two separate occasions)
- ~$25 for cake and coffee at the top of Aksla
- I’m going to estimate another $50 for the rest. We didn’t have to think about breakfast, and we usually had coffee and treats for lunch. We made use of the hostel kitchen for dinner, and got some frozen meals from the grocery store. Between returning from Geiranger and catching the airport shuttle, we got some cheap and tasty food from a stand near tourist information.
- Bus trip back from Geiranger (paid on bus): $40 each
- Airport bus: ~$14
- Flight to Copenhagen: ~$450 (right now you can book it for $215), but I used rewards points to book it a day or two before, so I believe I only paid the tax. Maybe $50-100. I’ve long since lost the confirmation email.
- We did not spend anything on sight-seeing or any other activities. We ate, we walked, we talked, we hiked, we took photos and we slept!
Again, about $100/day over five days (including $100 for the flight). If you weren’t to cash in some points or use other discounts, leaving Ålesund could be a pretty expensive part of the trip.
Having breakfast included in the hostel cost was a huge benefit in places where we were hiking all day (aka not near restaurants) or before boarding busses all day between cities. The hostel in Bergen happily prepared us bagged breakfasts/lunches to go at no extra cost, but the Ålesund hostel was a little strict about food leaving the breakfast area. Nevertheless, we all hid various food items in napkins, in pockets, under our hats, etc. during the breakfast buffet, and packed them for long bus trips.
Of course this saved us money… but make sure you get away with it! 😄
Total cost of trip so far: ~$3000 (with 4.5 days left!)