Family camping in Norway

Finding an excellent family-friendly campsite in Norway isn’t easy… but we discovered a real gem.

Thundering waterfalls, pristine mountain wilderness, gargantuan glaciers, chocolate box villages and quite possibly the most celebrated coastline in the world: Norway has everything you could possibly want for the more adventurous family camping holiday.

Well, almost everything…

Folgefonna
Folgefonna glacier, Norway.

Based on our experience, the one thing Norway seems to be lacking is a decent choice of quality family-friendly campsites.

Perhaps we’re just big softies, but after becoming accustomed to the excellent range and quality of family-oriented campsites in France and Spain – and even neighbouring Denmark and Sweden – Norway came as a bit of a shock to the system. There are, of course, some pretty valid reasons why Norway is at a natural disadvantage here:

  1. The camping season in northern Scandinavia is very short, and Norway is expensive. It may not make economic sense for campsites to invest into top-notch facilities if they are only attracting paying visitors for a month or two each year.
  2. Due to (1) above, many Norwegian campsite owners try to smooth their income by allowing private stationary caravans to remain on their sites all year round. However, these make the campsites less attractive (occasionally downright ugly) and lacking in the dynamic international atmosphere found in many of the better continental campsites.
  3. The weather in Norway is – how can we say this? – notoriously inclement. One night (in mid-August!) the mercury almost touched freezing. Luckily we were (just about) prepared:
IMG_1815
Daybreak in our Outwell tent. 4°C in the bedroom. The fleece carpet, hats and 3-season sleeping bags were much appreciated…

All this means that campers arriving in Norway tend to fall into one of two polarised groups:

  1. Hardcore campers who pitch their hurricane-proof two-man trekking tent out in the wilderness; or,
  2. Motor home owners, who shelter from the elements in their luxurious heated vans whilst watching satellite TV and choosing their next restaurant online (and, by the way, there is nothing wrong with that).
fullsizeoutput_17ae
Our Outwell Bear Lake 6É, daring to be different in Norway

We, however, fell firmly into the sparsely-inhabited middle ground between these two very different types of campers. France caters for our particular niche very well, Spain and southern Sweden too, but we got the impression that Norway wasn’t quite ready for us yet (or possibly we weren’t quite ready for Norway…).

But then we found the Hallingdal Feriepark in Ål.

IMG_1827
Reception / restaurant at the Hallingdal Feriepark

Now, before we go any further, just a quick (non-) disclosure: Hallingdal Feriepark did not ask us to write this article, nor did they sponsor our stay in any way whatsoever (apart from undercharging us one kid’s meal at the restaurant, but I presume that was just a happy accident).

We are writing this article because we really, REALLY enjoyed our stay at this campsite and we think that other semi-adventurous families like us may enjoy it too. It’s as simple as that.

The immediate appeal of Hallingdal for us was that they had a communal kitchen (we were almost out of camping gas). In our experience, many campsite and youth hostel kitchens are cramped and slightly grimy places, good for meeting other travellers and picking up food poisoning, in that order.

But – Holy Thor!! – take a look at Hallingdal’s kitchen!!!

fullsizeoutput_1e72

Modern, spacious, great equipment and spotlessly clean: this was comfortably the best communal camping kitchen we have experienced anywhere. Mind you, the animal-themed kids’ bathroom facilities were even funkier:

Private family bathrooms are also available (at an extra fee) but with the Norwegian school holidays already finished, we almost always had these wonderfully Scandinavian facilities all to ourselves.

With our basic needs so spectacularly taken care of, we could simply relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of camping life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Situated roughly half-way between Bergen and Oslo, Hallingdal is conveniently located as a one-stop “best of Norway” base camp. Fjords*, glaciers, stave churches and – our particular favourite – the surreal sub-Arctic landscape of the Hardangervidda: they are all an easy day trip away.

fullsizeoutput_1e7c
Out for a hike in the Hardangervidda, Norway.

But be warned! Your kids may not want to leave the campsite at all. Onsite you’ll find the self-proclaimed “biggest indoor play centre between Oslo and Bergen”, which sounds mightily impressive until you factor in that there is essentially nothing but reindeer between Oslo and Bergen. Nevertheless, it is indeed rather large and our kids absolutely loved it. There’s also a decently-priced and high-quality kids’ menu in the restaurant, a refreshingly original “adventure golf” course and the ever-popular petting farm.

But the star attraction is undoubtedly the high ropes park. Open to the public as well as campers, the Høyt&Lavt climbing park claims to be the biggest of its type in Norway north of Oslo. We dedicated an entire day to extracting the maximum possible adrenaline rush from this labyrinth of ladders, obstacles and zip cords. In particular, Poppy (6) and Ash (12) were amongst the first ones up on the ropes at the beginning of the day, and the last ones to climb down at the end. Check this out:

However, Hallingdal is not perfect. In the interests of a balanced review, here are some things to bear in mind before you rush off to book your trip to Norway:

  • Inexperienced staff. They were friendly and enthusiastic, but didn’t know much about the campsite nor the surrounding region. A more accessible and knowledgeable senior management presence would have made our stay even better.
  • Toilets and kitchen distant from pitches. The (fabulous) bathroom and kitchen facilities are located underneath the reception building, a couple of hundred metres away from some of the camping pitches (including ours). A midnight pee can turn into quite a trek.
  • Watch those extra costs. Norway is pricy, but a basic camping pitch at Hallingdal is surprisingly reasonable (for us, around €30 per night). However… your kids want to visit the indoor playground? That’ll cost you (quite a bit) extra. Same goes for the petting farm, use of the private family bathrooms and certain other onsite facilities (communal kitchen is free). The climbing park costs around €40 each for a day pass. In short, be prepared to say no to your kids’ pestering… or dig deep into your holiday budget.
    • In our opinion, the indoor playground and farm should be free to campers, or unlimited access given for a small fixed fee.
  • Road noise. The main road between Oslo and Bergen runs directly alongside the campsite. Be sure to ask for a spot closer to the river – some of the roadside pitches may be uncomfortably noisy.
  • Pitch privacy and shade. There is none, although small hedges do separate the generously-sized pitches.

But despite these minor quibbles, Hallingdal was quite simply one of the best campsites we have ever stayed at. If you are looking for a comfortable base for an active family camping holiday in Norway, we would highly recommend it.


PIN IT!

Norway 2

 

Disclosure: We are a tester family for Outwell, who provided us with our Bear Lake 6É tent and certain related camping equipment. As a reminder, this article was not sponsored by Hallingdal Feriepark. As always, all views and opinions are our own.

Daisy the bus visited Hallingdal Feriepark, Norway in August 2017. Anecdotally, she didn’t want to leave (flat battery) and needed to be jump-started…

IMG_1828.JPG

(c) 2018 Jonathan Orr

*Believe it or not, we spent almost three weeks in Norway and did not take one single photo of a fjord!?! With so much natural beauty everywhere, the incredible becomes the mundane…

linky-badge-final

FARAWAY-FILES-FIVE-BADGE-with-map-e1513237009496

 

Author: daisythebus

Family travel bloggers based in Luxembourg. We write about "off the beaten track" travel adventures with our four children. Expect to read about nature, outdoor activities, culture and alternative ways of discovering the world around us.

23 thoughts on “Family camping in Norway”

  1. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! 4C in the tent is downright chilly! I actually like going to sleep when it’s cold outside and you can snug down in your weather appropriate sleeping bag (we parents in our house love our double one!) It’s just the getting OUT of the bag in the morning that is the challenge! That tent is something else – how long does it take to pitch? I love Norway and wish it weren’t so darn expensive, I’d spend every trip exploring a new corner or fjord! Thanks for sharing your honest opinions of this fun family campground with #FarawayFiles

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love sleeping in the cold too, and my sleeping bag is definitely still comfortable at 4°C, but I was getting a bit worried at one point of the night for the kids. Luckily, all the sleeping bags did their jobs (good job Vaude and Nordisk!!) and we were fine.

      It takes (us) around 30 minutes to pitch the tent, plus another 30 minutes of my time making sure everything is pegged in, guy ropes taut etc. Let’s be honest, this is not the sort of tent you’d want to be putting up and down every single day, but for a stay of a few days or more, it is a good investment of effort. Plus, I treat myself to a cold beer once it is all completed! ;o)

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t know much about camping, let alone in Norway for that matter, but wow! This place looks pretty incredible. The modern kitchen is so impressive I would have never associated it with a camping site. I appreciate the bit at the end about some of the issues – and your honest review – no place is perfect! Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We love Norway although I agree it is very expensive (well as an Australian it is) to visit. Never thought of camping there, but will keep it in mind for our next visit. #FarawayFiles

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post. I always love reading about campsites, particularly in different countries. I loved the kitchen, I wish more British campsites had communal facilities, it’s always a fab way to meet people and sometimes shelter from the weather! Thanks for linking up with us. #AdventureCalling

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was an interesting read, thank you! As a Swede (though now converted to being – pretty much – English) I very much enjoyed the chance to have a little chuckle about the Norwegians (joking about Norwegians is an age-old Swedish tradition) 😊 Also appreciate how informative your post is! #AdventureCalling

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This sounds like an awesome place to stay. We’d definitely fall into your middle ground of campers (unless the wife and I could escape in my 4 season tent for some wilderness camping – now there’s a thought! haha), so it’s great to hear that despite the obvious issues with family camping in Norway that you found somewhere that the kids did not want to leave. Thanks for joining us on #adventurecalling. I hope you can again when we open for more posts tomorrow morning.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love camping!!!! We had our first camping trip as a family last summer. These pictures make me want to pack up and head out as soon as the snow melts! #adventureon

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Now this makes me want to pack our tent right away and head for Norway! We did spend three weeks touring Norway in a (Swedish rented) camper van back in 2010, and it remains our best family holiday ever, and I took photos I still pore over from time to time. I wouldn’t mind going back but always wondered about the cost with 4 kids. This makes it just about affordable…
    Thanks for sharing on #Adventurecalling

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, we were surprised how cheap the basic camping pitch was, and the basic campsite facilities (kitchen, public toilets) were included in the price. Even the showers were free, which is unusual for Scandinavia. If you could only say “no!” to all the “fun” options such as the farm and the indoor playground, it would actually turn out to be a rather cheap holiday.

      When we were not camping in Norway, we were staying at a Home Exchange, which is also a great way of saving money in Scandinavia.

      Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It looks like you had a great trip. We are thinking of doing a car camping trip this summer. But instead of one place, were thinking of 3 or 4 over a week. I absolutely love your family tent. We had one similar when our kids were young. Now all they do is hammock camp!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norway is a superb place for campervanning. One thing that I didn’t mention in this article is that the roads are absolutely brilliant despite the wild terrain, perfect for touring. Hope you get to go one day! Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a superb campsite in a beautiful country, and a perfect base for an adventurous holiday. But this is a blog, not an endorsement or advertisement; the quibbles were mentioned purely to be informative and neutral, and I definitely did not intend to discourage other families from coming to this unique place. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Looks like great fun, and what talented musicians you have there.
    We went to Norway, Tromsø, in Feb half term in order to try and see the lights. We did and it was amazing- we didn’t camp though!
    I’d love to go back to that area at some point. Everyone was so friendly and the scenery spectacular.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s