We visited Norway the last week of September till half October 2021. It is a great time to visit Norway for several different reasons. The autumn colors turn every landscape into a color palette of warm browns, yellows and reds, colors that are in harmony with the colors of the red and yellow wooden houses.
The second and best reason is that the hordes of tourists have gone, and you have almost every site to yourself.
Winter hasn’t started yet so the temperatures are still ok. It can be chilly but it isn’t freezing yet. Make sure you bring layers of clothing, because you might need thermal underwear on one day while a t-shirt might be enough the next day.
It often rains in Norway so bring decent raingear. This year it rained a lot in August, while we had relatively little rain during our trip this fall.
Since it is too early for snow roads are usually open and you do not have to worry about wintertires, studs or chains yet. It can snow so be prepared to change your itinerary if it does. Car rental companies only fit their cars with winter tires by the end of October.
The roads are empty and quiet, no traffic jams at all! And you always find a parking spot even at the most popular tourist spots. In many towns you can park using the app Easyparkon your mobile phone.
Autumn is one out of two best periods to see the Northern Lights, because it is close to the Equinox around the end of September (and again in March)
Prices for flights and hotels are lower, hotels are sometimes half the price compared to the period June till August. The price for food and drinks unfortunately stays high all year round!
You do not have to book everything in advance, hotels are far from full, so you can decide last minute where to go or stay. We booked all our hotels with the possibility to cancel up to the last day. We did change our itinerary halfway our holiday to reduce the days of driving in favor of hiking.
It is not as cold as in winter yet, and not as hot as occasionaly in summer. This year they had very little hot days in Norway. In fact the weather was quite good in September and we enjoyed a full week of sunshine while staying in Lofoten.
It is a great season for hiking, I do not like to hike in hot weather, the cooler weather is just perfect for hiking and biking. Be prepared for sudden weather changes.
We went whale watching and although we were not alone on the boat, we had ample space and a good vantage point on the boat to observe the whales.
You still have enough daylight hours, the sun comes up between 7 and 8 AM and goes down between 6 and 7 PM. The sun stands quite low all day giving you the kind of light you normally only get before sunset and just after sunrise. On some days you get beautiful rays of mist in between the mountains, typical for this time of year.
Of course there are some disadvantages too.
The weather is unpredictable and it tends to rain more in the fall. We were lucky and only had one full day of rain and some days where it rained intermittently.
You do not have to worry about traffic jams or parking spots, but it is a period with a lot of road works. When they close a road it can mess up your plans. We were not able to take the Gamle Strynesveldvegen, they closed it of for winter on the day we wanted to take it. Ironically they opened it again a day later seeing that winter conditions were still far of. I started consulting the website Vegvesen on the days before taking a longer route to check for road closures. Consult the website in Norwegian, you can change the language at the bottom of the page and choose the ‘Traffik map’. On this map you can click on the symbols placed on the affected roads to get more detailed info. The info is in Norwegian so I copied and pasted the text into Google translate.
The car ferries often run less frequent than in summer, but still run regularly and often till quite late in the day. On the day we planned to take the Geiranger car ferry it had technical problems. They normally run two boats but had reduced it to one boat due to corona. We could have taken the tourist boat as an alternative.
October is low season which means that some hotels, B&B’s, guesthouses, museums, cafe’s and restaurants are already closed for winter. You have less choice in accommodation, restaurants, bars, coffee houses, organised tours and activities due to lower demand. We visited the stave church of Urnes, but could only visit on the outside. The Breheimsenteren near the Nigardsbreen glacier was closed as of October first. Museums often close earlier or are not open every day. Some of the smaller towns feel quite deserted.
For birders it is too late into the year, most birds have already migrated to the South.
All in all, I find Autumn, that is September till half October a great moment to visit Norway, especially if you like us love to avoid the crowds and enjoy having nature all to yourself. And if you want to see the Northern Lights without having to endure negative temperatures and the lack of sunlight during the day, this is the best season with beautiful autumn colors as an added bonus.