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traveler91 Dec 8th, 2015 03:04 PM

15 day Scandinavia itinerary
Hello! I am planning a trip for next year to Sweden, Denmark, and Norway and would like some input on my itinerary! I will be using train/bus/ferry to travel, and would like to see a mixture of cities and nature. I want to see as much as possible, but also want to enjoy the quality of my time and not feel I am spending all my time on transportation. Mainly I am looking for feedback on the following:

1. Is this too rushed?
2. Does it seem like there will be plenty of opportunities for hiking/biking/nature in maybe at least/around half of these places?
3. Should I cut out something (i.e., Malmo and/or Sigtuna), and if so where could I better distribute that time?

My idea involves 1.5 days in Stockholm, .5 day in Sigtuna before flying to Visby, 2 days in Visby, 1 day each in Gothenburg and Malmo, 1.5 days in Copenhagen, 1 day in Oslo, 1 day taking the Nutshell itinerary as far as Gudvangen, 2 days in Gudvangen/Bergen, and 1.5 more days in Stockholm. In other words:
Day 1 - land at Vasteras airport in the afternoon, spend the day in Stockholm
Day 2 - Stockholm
Day 3 - AM train to Sigtuna, spend a few hours, go to Arlanda airport and take a PM flight to Visby
Day 4 - Visby
Day 5 - Visby; PM flight to Gothenburg
Day 6 - Gothenburg
Day 7 - AM train to Malmo
Day 8 - AM train to Copenhagen
Day 9 - Copenhagen; PM ferry to Oslo overnight
Day 10 - Oslo
Day 11 - AM train to Flam, Ferry to Gudvangen
Day 12 - Hiking around Gudvangen or Bergen
Day 13 - Bergen
Day 14 - AM flight to Stockholm
Day 15 - Flight out


nytraveler Dec 8th, 2015 05:30 PM

IMHO you are short-changing Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo - which have by far the most to see/do.

I would not bother with Malmo (did a meeting there once and it is a cute town but good for about 3 or 4 hours).

I do don't hiking and while I bike at home when I go to europe I want to see what is different and unique there - not just pedal around. But them I'm a history freak and want to see every museum, palace, castle and cathedral there is - as well as explore city neighborhoods and enjoy cafes and dining.

I did see some of the countryside in Norway and found it really boring - except for the fjords. Also drove from Copenhagen to Stockholm stopping at Visby (which we did like) but again much of the scenery was just so/so.

One of the things we enjoyed most was a strip through the Stockholm archipelago by boat - but it doesn't look like you have time for that. Also loved visiting the Vasa, old town and Skansen.

Someone who is more interested in hiking might provide more info - but you have really squashed a LOT of places into your limited time and I think it's just too many to really enjoy much.

thursdaysd Dec 8th, 2015 05:44 PM

Seems very, very rushed to me. Denmark and Sweden are not places to visit for the scenery, and in Norway the good scenery is in the west.

If you click on my name you'll find my TR for a recent trip that included Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Stockholm and Olso, and you'll find that there is far more to do in all four than will fit in the time you have allowed.

kja Dec 8th, 2015 06:50 PM

"Is this too rushed?"

For my tastes, definitely! I thought Stockholm easily merited at least 4 or 5 days; Copenhagen at least 2 or 3. But its your trip, and the only way to figure out whether it will work for you is to decide what you want to see and experience and plot it out. I recommend that you get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, check their opening/closing times on the internet, and mark them on a calendar. Then pencil in your transportation, add some time on either side (for getting to/from your lodging, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). Only then see how things fit together and whether they fit YOUR needs or not.

Also, if you don't already have your airline tickets, consider flying into one city and out of another. IME, the difference in prices rarely covers the cost of backtracking.

If hiking and biking are priorities, I trust you have consulted the Rough Guide and Lonely Planet?

Also, have you decided what time of year you will visit? The number of hours of daylight will vary dramatically across different times of year.

traveler91 Dec 8th, 2015 06:51 PM

It seems like I should at least cut Malmo. Back to the drawing board...

Does this look better?

Day 1-3 Stockholm
Day 4 Visby
Day 5-6 Gothenburg; PM train to Copenhagen on Day 2
Day 7-8 Copenhagen; PM ferry to Oslo on Day 2
Day 9-10 Oslo
Day 11 Norway in a Nutshell as far as Gudvangen
Day 12 Gudvangen/Bergen
Day 13 Bergen
Day 14 AM flight to Stockholm
Day 15 Fly out

The only thing set in stone right now are my flights in and out of Stockholm. Unfortunately I can't add any more time, although I agree I easily could find plenty to do if only I had the time!

traveler91 Dec 8th, 2015 07:04 PM

I just saw your reply KJA, that is great advice to plot things on a calendar - a big challenge is knowing how long the activities I am interested in will take. I probably have unrealistic expectations about how much can be done in a day.

I am not going until the first 2 weeks of September next year but would like to get my pick of hotels and flights, which is why I am looking to firm this up sooner than later.

I already have a flight that goes in and out of Stockholm and am finding it a bit restrictive. That may have been a mistake.

I have looked at Rough Guide, and have found that most of the outdoorsy things are in Norway (basically the nutshell tour, although I can't find a whole lot of specific information about how to not experience most or all of this from behind a window) or off limits since I am not going to be getting a car. I will keep looking!

thursdaysd Dec 8th, 2015 07:14 PM

The Stockholm archipelago is good for getting outdoors.

You need to allow enough time for transport - Gothenburg to Copenhagen is at least three hours, for instance. (For train info see

I really liked Gothenburg but I would be inclined to drop either it or Visby. Will you arrive in Stockholm jet lagged?

kja Dec 8th, 2015 07:29 PM

"a big challenge is knowing how long the activities I am interested in will take."

Yes, that's always a challenge. Although I've learned a lot about how to estimate timing based on my experiences over the years, there are always a few things that leave me stumped. For that I generally (a) look at the guidebooks by Fodor's, Frommer's, and the Michelin Green Guide, which often offer estimates; (b) scan TripAdvisor reviews to see if anyone speaks to the time taken, and (c) once I've done that, post a question here. You will, of course, always find a range of options, so you'll need to decide how high a priority it is -- if it's a really high priority, give it the maximum recommended time, perhaps planning some back-up options if you finish early. And see if anything else gives you a clue about how to adjust the estimate to your own needs. (For example, if you know you love to look at every display in a museum, go with the longest estimate and add time; if you know you usually just do a walk through, go with the shortest estimate, etc.)

Thinking about one's priorities is, IME, always valuable: What are the things you most want to see and what will you do to ensure you can see them? What are your options if it takes you less time to see those things? (I've never run out of things to see; maybe you will.) How much time are you willing to spend in transit relative to the time you actually have to see things? Etc.

"I am not going until the first 2 weeks of September next year but would like to get my pick of hotels"

Have you looked at Many of the hotels they represent allow cancellation with as little as 24 or 48 hours notice-- just be sure to read the cancellation policies carefully before making a reservation. I do NOT recommend holding on to hotel reservations until the last minute if it is possible to make a commitment in advance -- and hope that enough travelers are respectful of the need to cancel within reasonable timeframes to allow these hotels to continue to offer that option. But for early planning, it gives you a way to ensure appropriate and affordable lodging while you are still finalizing your plans.

Hope that helps!

Odin Dec 9th, 2015 02:28 AM

You asked for a mix of nature and cities. Scandinavia is famous for nature holidays, outside of the main cities there really is not much going on so if you enjoy nature and hiking, biking, swimming in lakes, forest trails, canoeing, horse riding etc, you will find that in Sweden and Denmark. It is a pity you are not renting a car, since it's a good way to get off the beaten track. You can't experience the outdoors from the inside of a train or bus.

Danes are crazy about bikes, they are everywhere, you can rent them easily. You could take the train from Copenhagen to Helsingoer and pick up a bike and cycle around the coastal area which is very pretty in northern zealand, I see people taking their bikes on the ferry to Sweden and cycling all around Helsingborg area.

Sigtuna would be an interesting excursion so it is a pity you have dropped it. It's close to Arlanda so you could have squeezed it in on the way to somewhere else. You can take a boat excursion from Stockholm but I don't think you have the time. It looks like you have dropped all nature and outdoor things in Sweden and Denmark and are just concentrating on the cities, not sure why, try TA forums where you can get advice from locals.

Here are some links that might help

nytraveler Dec 9th, 2015 05:02 AM

Have a look at the Michelin green guide. Besides rating sights by number of stars it will give you an idea of how long it takes to see the various sights.

Sorry - but you still have a VERY rushed trip.

bilboburgler Dec 9th, 2015 06:04 AM

very city orientated, try and stay say on the edge of a fjord or up a fjell for a night and discover how far north you are, how long the day is and how clean the air.

Copenhagen is ok, but again the towns and countryside are very fine.

traveler91 Dec 9th, 2015 01:04 PM

There is still time to make an itinerary that uses a car. Initially when my boyfriend and I discussed this neither of us were willing to drive in Scandinavia. Both of us will have US licenses and will be just over 25 years old on this trip. I am not sure that makes a difference. I will discuss this with him, as it would open a lot more options to us. I would like to see perhaps the major museums and castles/architecture, but by no means feel the need to go to a museum every day. That is my personal travel style.

Thanks for your input everyone! I will report back once I have made some progress :)

greg Dec 9th, 2015 01:35 PM

>>>Danes are crazy about bikes <<<
I think anyone would be crazy about bikes when the car sales tax is 180%.

Gwendolynn Dec 10th, 2015 06:28 PM

Too too much. I would split my time between Stockholm and Oslo … or
Stockholm and Copenhagen. Then figure in excursions from either. When we were young my husband used to travel like a bat out of hell.. but your schedule would have been too much for him -:)
(That is, to really appreciate these places.)

Ozarksbill Dec 10th, 2015 06:54 PM

I like your routing. We did the overnight ferry to Oslo and Nutshell connection from there to Bergen...don't think you need the layover though. You will enjoy the mountains and fjords. Could use more time in Copenhagen, Oslo, but you can't see it all! Bergen is a favorite city.

Bostonblondie226 Dec 10th, 2015 07:10 PM

I just did a trip to Copenhagen, Stockholm and Oslo in the fall. Didn't get to Bergen on this trip, but it is wonderful too and you should include it since you have time. Otherwise, I would give the most time to Copenhagen and Stockholm -- neat cities! Oslo is great too, but I found there was less to do. But for 15 days, I think your routing is much better as you revised it! Have the best time! :)

traveler91 Jan 15th, 2016 10:31 AM

I have put some more thought in and I think this is the final itinerary. I would love it if I could spend more time in each place, but my boyfriend and I are not sure when/if we will get back to Scandinavia, so we really do want to see all of these places. We have decided to get some quick flights between locations in order to cut down on transit time as compared to trains (with the exception of NIN, since that train route is supposed to be an activity in itself). We also discussed cutting either Visby or Gothenburg and chose to cut Gothenburg.

Day 1 - land in Stockholm, maybe have time to see one thing or have dinner in the Old Town area
Day 2 - Stockholm (Choose 1 or 2: Museums? Drottingholm? Archipelago tour? Open air museum? Bike/sight see?)
Day 3 - More Stockholm (Next priority among what we didn't accomplish Day 2)
Day 4 - More Stockholm (Sigtuna on the way to airport?), PM flight to Visby
Day 5 - Visby (see the architecture, bike)
Day 6 - More Visby, PM flight to Malmo. Dinner in Malmo
Day 7 - AM train across the Oresund bridge to Copenhagen (Museums? Bike/sight see?)
Day 8 - More Copenhagen
Day 9 - More Copenhagen, PM flight to Oslo (this is actually cheaper and more time effective than the ferry in our case)
Day 10 - Oslo all day (Some would say one day is not enough I think, but I have heard mixed reviews on Oslo, plus it sounds like one of the most expensive places on our itinerary)
Day 11 - Embark on the Norway in a Nutshell train tour (pray for clear skies). Spend the night in Gudvangen (there is a specific hike nearby that my boyfriend and I are interested in doing)
Day 12 - Journey by bus to Bergen
Day 13 - More Bergen
Day 14 - Half a day in Bergen, flight to Stockholm (I have since learned the error of my ways flying in and out of the same city... too late for this trip)
Day 15 - Fly back to the States

Looking at this I think the timing seems OK to me. I have looked at some itineraries done by tour groups that go at least this quick

kja Jan 15th, 2016 05:30 PM

I'm glad to see that you are paying attention to your priorities for places where you have little time -- I think that will help.

"I would love it if I could spend more time in each place, but my boyfriend and I are not sure when/if we will get back to Scandinavia, so we really do want to see all of these places. "

My reaction to the realization that I might never return to an area seems quite different than yours: Rather than trying to cram it all in (my take on your itinerary), that realization makes me want to maximize the time I have to actually see and experience the places that I choose to see, while minimizing the time spent traveling between places (unless, of course, the point of the journey IS the time in transit). Rather than skimming the surface and spending time getting from place to place, I choose to skip some places entirely, even if I am sure I would enjoy them. I’m most likely to skip or skimp on places that have international airports, because those are the ones that I can most readily visit again. I’ve also realized that if I can return to a region, the LAST thing that I am likely to want to do is spend my time re-visiting the places I shortchanged because I would hate to spend all that extra travel time so that I can go back and finally see the things I skipped the first time. In fact, I might end up not returning specifically because it would mean wasting so much time going from place to place! JMO.

"I have looked at some itineraries done by tour groups that go at least this quick"

Yes -- but tour groups can almost always move MUCH faster than independent travelers: They control your transport, often just "drive by" points of interest, do not let people linger (unless those people agree to leave the tour for the rest of the day), etc. I usually figure that seeing something on my own -- literally, as a solo traveler -- will take at least 1/3 more time than a tour suggests.

Hope that helps!

dyoll Jan 16th, 2016 04:59 AM

Re.: Ferry Copenhagen - Oslo. Remember that this is a scenic journey up the Oslo fjord - you need to get up early and grap a breakfast table near the front windows. Plus a much more relaxed and pleasant form of travel than the hassle at airports.
When comparing the cost of ferry and flight don't forget to factor in that you are saving a night's hotel cost and the cost of airport transfers. The ferry port is walking distance to central station in Oslo. You can normally check in early to hotel or at least leave your lugage there while exploring Oslo for the day.

dyoll Jan 16th, 2016 05:08 AM

Day 11 / 12. There really is nothing in Gudvangen - a hotel, campsite and petrol station. Consider staying in Flåm where you at least have some choice in restaurants and something to do. Take the first ferry in the morning and you should still have time for your hike. Note that there are two buses from Gudvangen:
Local route 950 from the ferry quay that drives to Voss via Stalheimskleiva - (summer timetable is not yet available)
and the express bus to Bergen that leaves from the main road E16 stop about 1/2 km from the ferry, this misses Stalheimskleiv and drives the new road through tunnels - you can stay on this bus to Bergen -

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