Discover the Norwegian fjords by car

This road trip takes you to Norway. We travel from Bergen to Trondheim along fjords, mountain landscapes and waterfalls. We drive trough the longest road tunnel in the world, climb the troll path and take the spectacular Atlantic Road over the ocean. The easiest way to do this is to fly to Bergen, rent a car, do the road trip and fly back home from Trondheim.

In Norway wildcamping is allowed. This means that as long as you’re not on private property and don’t disturb anyone, you can set up your tent anywhere. Be sure to take some camping equipment with you, this way you can sleep for free where you want and do the trip on your own tempo. There are lots of little dead-end mountain roads where you can set up your tent in the middle of beautiful landscapes. We advise you to do this trip during summer. In winter it’s to cold to sleep in a tent, and some of the roads we take are then blocked by snow.

 Fjärlandsfjord
The Fjärlandsfjord

Bergen and surroundings

We start our trip in Bergen. We take the E16 national road and follow it along the Sörfjord, a branch of the Osterfjord. This fjord starts at the Atlantic Ocean just north of Bergen. The Sörfjord is the longest branch of the Osterfjord and cuts south about 50 km from the main fjord. Its maximum depth is more than 800 m.

How were these fjords created? About 10,000 years ago the Scandinavian land mass started to rise up as enormous glacial ice started to melt. The lower parts of the valleys became flooded, and so created what we today know as the Osterfjord. The valley was originally not only made through glacial erosion but by the high pressure melting water which pushed its way beneath the ice, carving the landscape as it is today. As we leave Bergen behind us, the road starts to climb to a height of 600m, offering some spectacular views on the fjord.

 Sörfjord
The Sörfjord from a viewing point near the E16 (Photo by Svein magnus)

Continuing on the E16 and lots of tunnels later, we go back to sea level and follow the bends of the fjord to Voss. This small town is surrounded by mountains, forests, lakes and fast flowing white water rivers. This has led to its development as a notable center of adventure sports. The area hosts the Extreme Sports Week every year in the last week of June, which is regarded as the world's premier extreme sports festival. Voss also has an open air museum with several old farmsteads giving an idea about medieval life in Norway.

We keep on following the E16 and 14km after Voss we pass the 110m high Tvindefossen waterfall. Further along the road we’ll pass several other waterfalls, but this is one of the biggest.

 Tvindefossen waterfall
Tvindefossen waterfall (Photo by Habanero)

Tunnels, lots of tunnels

As we drive further into the Naeyroy Valley we enter a more alpine landscape with lots of lakes and mountain tops to be seen. The Norse have constructed a series of tunnels here to avoid the mountain passes which are blocked by snow in winter. The first of them is the Gudvanga Tunnel. At 11,428 meters (7.1 mi) in length, it is Norway's second longest road tunnel. After passing through this tunnel, we pass through a number of other tunnels.

Entrance to the Naeyroy Valley
Entrance to the Naeyroy Valley (Photo by Habanero)

500 meters (1,600 ft) east of the eastern exit from the Gudvanga Tunnel a new tunnel begins: the 5,053-meter (16,578 ft) long Flenja Tunnel which ends at Fläm. Approximately 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) after that tunnel is the 1,363-meter (4,472 ft) Fretheim Tunnel. About 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) further to the east (near Aurland) is the entrance to the 24.5-kilometre (15.2 mi) long Lärdal Tunnel. This means that in a 51.5 kilometers (32.0 mi) section of the E16 highway, 43 kilometers (27 mi) of that distance consists of tunnels.

The Lärdal tunnel is with its 24,5 (15.23 mi) kilometers the longest road tunnel in the world. Construction work started in March 1995 and the tunnel was opened by the Norse King Harald on 27th November 2000. The Lärdal tunnel costed about 120 million euros and many tons of dynamite. It creates a snow-free route to travel from Bergen to Oslo in winter.

Lärdal Tunnel
Lärdal Tunnel rest cavern (Photo by Wilfrid)

Because of its length, the designers of the tunnel thought of the mental strain on drivers, so the tunnel is divided into four sections, separated by three 30-meter-wide mountain caverns at 6-kilometre (3.7 mi) intervals. The caverns are meant to break the routine, providing another view and allowing drivers to take a short rest. Blue and yellow lights illuminate the roof of these caverns, giving the impression of a sunrise and creating a funky atmosphere. A couple even got married in one of these halls of illumination. The tunnel itself has normal, white lights. Unlike many other new tunnels in Norway, this tunnel is not tolled and free to drive trough.

If you think you’ve had it with all the tunnels you can also take the Aurlandsvegen or snow route between Aurland and Lärdal. This road crosses the mountain area between the two towns and is definitely more exiting then the tunnel. Even during summer you can find snow near the road, and the views are staggering. Our advice is to take the snow route, drive back trough the tunnel and do the Aurlandsvegen again.

Snow route in June
Snow route in June (Photo by Bernd Mock)

After the tunnel adventure (or the snow route, or both) we leave the E16 and follow national road n°5 to the north. A few kilometers later we take the Fodnes-Mannheller. The ferry takes us across the Sognefjord in 15minutes.

Fjärland

We continue our way on the national road n°5 and pass the famous stave church in Kaupanger. When we leave the town of Sogndal behind us we enter the Fjærland region. Travelling trough the Fjärland valleys, you have glaciers both to your right- and left-hand side such as the Bojabreen.

Bojabreen glaciar
Bojabreen glaciar (Photo by Andreas Wiesner)

On our route we encounter some idyllic mountain landscapes with lots of lakes and snowy mountain tops. Near Jolster we leave Route n°5, take the E39 and later route n°60 to Stryn. Before we reach Stryn the road starts to climb to a height of 650m (1950ft) only to descend back to the Nordfjord with some fast hairpin turns. When we are back on sea level our route follows the shore of the fjord for about 30km (18,6mi) to arrive in Stryn.

Nordfjord
Road to the Nordfjord (Photo by Moszi)

Stryn

In Stryn we leave the main road and drive towards Grotli, taking road n°15. After a few minutes we have Strynsvatnet (a lake) on our left-hand side. Continuing up the mountain side, our next stop is at Videseter, a small mountain village, where you can view the Stryn valley. After some rest there we take the Gamle Strynefjellsveg to Grotli. Driving along this road is a pleasure to your eye, but a pain to your car. The road was built in 1894 and its surface is still gravel, i.e. a dirt road that makes your car look really nasty. Gamle Strynefjellsveg takes you across Strynefjell pass (1139m, 3417ft) and is one of the National Touristic Roads that are only open during summer. And what a road it is! The pictures speak for themselves.

Gamle Strynefjellsveg
Gamle Strynefjellsveg (Photo by Hubert J)

Gamle Strynefjellsveg
Gamle Strynefjellsveg (Photo by Thies-Peter Lange)

Gamle Strynefjellsveg
Gamle Strynefjellsveg (Photo by ArtDrenalin)

When we arrive in Grotli we have again some smooth asphalt under our tires. We take route number 15 (and later route 63) to Geiranger. Yet again the Norwegian landscapes are breathtaking as we travel trough the mountains.

Road 15
Road 15 (Photo by U.Walli)

Geiranger and Trollstigen

Geiranger has probably always been and still is the most touristic town of Norway. Hundreds of thousands of tourists and cruise ship passengers have visited this beauty of scenery. The only industry that survived near the most beautiful fjord of the world was of course, tourism. I have no idea what the people of Geiranger are doing in winter, because the town consists of 4 hotels, some 50 cabins and the rest are souvenir-shops, which sell trolls, Norwegian knitwear and postcards. Nevertheless the town earned its nickname pearl of the north rightfully.

Geiranger Fjord
Geiranger Fjord (Foto door Brandstroms Busstrafik )

Continuing on road 63 we encounter various medium sized mountain lakes until we reach the Norddalfjord where we take the Eidsdalen-Linge ferry. The next highlight of our journey lies 30km (18,6mi) further to the North-East: Trollstigen.

Trollstigen (Norse for The Troll Path) is a narrow road with an incline of 9% and eleven hairpin turns up a steep mountain side. Vehicles over 12.4 meters long are prohibited from driving the road. The mountains surrounding the road carry majestic names like the Queen, the King and the Bishop. If your car makes it to the top, you have a great view down the valley and at the Stigfossen waterfall falling 320m down from the surrounding mountain range. At the parking on the top a souvenirshop and a cafe invite you to leave a few cent. Because we are now in one of the most touristic areas of Norway, you may want to drive the Trollstigen early in the morning when there are no tourists on the road.

Trollstigen at sunrise
Trollstigen at sunrise (Photo by Brandstroms Busstrafik )

Trollstigen has always been an important road, or more precisely a trail, between the two regions Sunnmöre and Romsdal. On July 31st 1936 King Haakon officially opened the crooked road, making it possible for cars to make the journey. Earlier on, only a narrow and dangerous track led people and cattle up the steep mountains. It is now part of road 63, the one we are following.

Atlanterhavsveien

As we descend back to sea level, we head for Andalsnes, a village near the Romsdalfjord. There we take road 64 along the fjord towards Afarnes, where we have to take another ferry to take us across the Eresfjord. Taking the Bolsäya bridge we arrive in Molde. There we continue on the 64 towards Kristiansund. When the road reaches the Atlantic Ocean something wonderful happens. The Norse have constructed a series of bridges hopping from island to island. This part of the 64 is known as Atlanterhavsveien or the Atlantic Road.

The Atlantic Road
The Atlantic Road (Photo by Petter Haavin )

This road features lots of steep bridges and has an open sea view which is not so common for roads along the Norwegian coast. The spectacular road quickly became a popular tourist attraction to the extent that caution must be shown when driving it, as both the local population and visitors frequently use the road to go fishing directly from the roadside. Just as the Trollstigen it is advised to get up early to have some fun.

The Atlantic Road
The Atlantic Road (Photo by Giorgio Ghezzi )

Atlanterhavsveien was voted "Norwegian Construction of the Century" on 27 September 2005. The road’s sharp turns and wild nature have ranked it first on The Guardian's list of the world's best road trips. Even in bad weather condition it stays open, which can be a thrilling experience.

The Atlantic Road in bad weather
The Atlantic Road in bad weather (Photo by GlennHGSD )

This was the last highlight of the trip. In Kristiansund we take road n°70, and later the E39. We are now heading to Trondheim, the finish line of this road trip. All together we have travelled 860km (533mi) trough the beautiful landscapes of Norway.

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tags: 
road trip, europe, norway

Comments

How long do you recommend allowing for this trip?

please let us know how will this take

About 3 days

This route looks perfect for my first trip in Norway. If we're not camping, which towns along this route would you recommend for stops for restaurants and lodging?