When the filmmakers behind “Frozen” took a research trip to Norway, they returned with a lot more than rosemaling patterns and pictures of the fjords. They returned with a feeling of breadth and depth, a feeling that the setting for their film needed to be expansive and epic just like the land it’s based on. In fact, according to the film’s producer Peter Del Vecho, the research team came back and “wanted to make the movie Cinemascope (widescreen) to try to capture that feeling.” That perspective, both literally and figuratively, is the foundation on which the latest Adventures By Disney itinerary to Norway is built. It’s a trip to broaden your horizons and see a place so rich with beauty that several of the trip’s earliest guests have determined, “Norway just can’t take a bad picture.”
Having an experience like this means having a “hakuna matata” attitude about the specifics and details of your adventure. There’s no worrying about luggage or hotel check-ins or driving on “two lane” roads through the mountains of Norway that are really more like one-way, at best. (Translation: the bus driver on the trip deserves a medal of excellence.) Two adventure guides, one from the US and one native Norwegian, accompany you on your journey, along with your fellow travelers. The Norway itinerary has a capacity of 40 travelers and a minimum age of 5 (suggested 6). It all begins with a pick-up at the Bergen airport on a Saturday and concludes with a drop-off at the Oslo airport the following Saturday. What happens in between is nothing short of exceptional.
From the first group dinner, you get the impression that you’re about to embark on a journey to a place that can’t be done justice by a mere photograph. Adventure Guide Kira Butler, who is quite the seasoned traveler (both in life and while guiding other trips), sums it up by saying, “Norway is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.”
The sense of that beauty is palpable, even in the late hours of the evening. Norway is rather far north as locations are concerned, so the summer finds them in the midst of long hours of sunlight and very little darkness. This is the view at 11:30pm in Bergen:
Trip highlights are too many to list, but we’ll run you through a few of our favorites: There’s one day spent river rafting in Voss in which our novice skills were luckily more than enough to get us down the river without falling in. Experienced river rafters help guide you and then it’s onto the relatively mild rapids to paddle your way down the river and to your destination. Once you’re done, a lunch awaits in a place with a view almost impossible pristine. Don’t believe us, here’s proof:
The rest of that day is bus rides to new locations culminating in dinner at the next location, Flam, Norway. Almost every view on the trip is more picturesque than the next. Kira says it’s one of her very favorite things about this particular itinerary: “I love that every time you turn a corner, you get an astonishing view and the reaction is so cool. When something cool happens on the right of the bus, everyone is over there taking pictures. Until something happens out the left window and everyone shifts. I love that moment.”
Another trip highlight includes a Stave Church tour and Norwegian brown cheese lesson from two of the 60 residents in the tiny town of Underdal. The way you get there, a Fjord Safari, might have been our favorite trip experience. The safari takes adventurers through the Nærøyfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, protected for its wildlife, natural beauty, and human life. The scenery is breathtaking and around every corner is a waterfall where you can see the glacier water melt into the fjord.
Along the way, there are stories of towns that have existed for generations and sheep herding practices that are still in place today.
One such story is told by Safari guide Thomas, who points at a patch of land and tells you the story of a man who used to stare at it day in and day out. He noticed that it was always the last to get frozen in the winter and the first to experience the light of summer and dreamed he would visit that spot. One day he encountered a girl who worked at his hair salon and she invited him for a little trip to her parent’s farmland in Flam. She revealed that her family owned that parcel of land (among many others) and that was the way she spent her days, so he proposed to her almost on the spot. The whole group listens intently to the end as Thomas reveals this story to be his. He concludes almost like a Disney love story by saying, “so now you’re all part of my fairy tale.”
There are certainly more obvious Disney ties in the trip (Disney trivia and a bus viewing of “Frozen” being two), but most are subtle, like Thomas’ tale. The sense of Disney is more the undercurrent of magic and wonder that unfolds with every new stop.
One day there is a trip to the Borgund Stave Church, which inspired much of the architecture of the castle in “Frozen’s” Arendelle among other locations in the film. Standing next to the church that—with its founding in 1180—has existed for almost 600 years longer than the United States of America makes you feel like one piece of a much much larger puzzle. It’s one of 28 Stave Churches still left in Norway and boasts elements from its early days, including the original floor.
Yet another day lands you on the side of a mountain at Vesteras Farms, where you hike down to an amazing view, spend a little time with the animals, and learn a thing or two about how to tend to the fields.
The Junior Adventurers on the trip, the youngest ones, are treated to many different kinds of activities to make sure they’re getting kid things out of the experience. There are fun nights and silly songs and it’s a joy to watch these little travelers see the world. One of the greatest joys of the whole experience is getting to see it through their eyes.
The food along the way is filled with potatoes, meats, and some of the freshest fish you will ever taste. The cheeses are always plentiful and the breakfast buffets in all the locations are massive, to say the least. Apple cake is a common dessert you’ll find (always serving as a reminder of just where you are):
While all of this is happening, our every trip need is taken care of by the calm and collected Adventure Guides. They are personable, knowledgeable, and constantly on top of things like helping with dietary restrictions or pointing you toward the best souvenir locations. Above all, though, they are full of personality and just excited to be experiencing the adventure with us:
Side note: After “Frozen,” Norwegian accents sound really familiar to us…
The trip wraps up with a final dinner in Oslo, the capital, and comes complete with slideshow of trip highlights and a delightful performance by a local folk dance group. Here’s a peek:
By the end, the whole group has bonded like the old days of summer camp and there are misty eyes as everyone trades goodbyes. Kira says this is common of Adventures By Disney trips and that it’s something she cherishes. “The value of traveling with people who are initially strangers is amazing. Having a group with you means you get to share the experience and everything about it. By the end, people are such great friends.”
When all is said and done, you emerge from the trip with unforgettable memories, undeniable smiles, and an appreciation for—as Elsa would say—being one with the wind and sky. You finish the trip with the feeling of breadth, depth, and history, and you know that the “Frozen” filmmakers were right: Norway deserves the widescreen view, both on screen and in life.