Our Epic Road Trip in Norway

With the current corona situation going on, we decided to travel at home this year, and fortunately, Norway is one helluva country to explore with its winding country roads among fjords, mountains, and waterfalls. We have previously traveled to Lofoten by plane, and we have jumped on a train to Flåm and Bergen. This summer, we decided to take the car and go from Oslo to Ålesund and the Atlantic Ocean Road on the west coast via the spectacular Geirangerfjord. When planning the trip, we put together a route with places we wanted to see using Google’s My Maps and it turned out to be a really good one. In this post, I will give you all the details from our trip and you can also see the map with our route at the bottom of this page.

Day 1 – Lillehammer, and Lom (347 km)

Storgata in Lillehammer.

Eastern Norway (Østlandet) is not as spectacular as western Norway (Vestlandet) which is a region along the Atlantic coast of southern Norway, boasting the spectacular fjord and mountain scenery that Norway is so famous for. With that said, it doesn’t mean that eastern Norway is not beautiful — you will pass several gorgeous valleys such as Gudbrandsdalen, home to the well-known winter Olympic city of Lillehammer.

After a two and a half-hour drive from Oslo, we stopped in Lillehammer for some lunch at the main street, Storgata, with small old wooden houses. Since we have visited Lillehammer before, we continued after the lunch to Lom two hours away to set up a tent at Lom camping situated by a beautiful river behind Lom Stavkirke, an impressive stave church which dates back to 1158-59.

Lom Stavkirke.

Located in the middle of Norway, Lom and Jotunheimen National Park is great for hiking boasting Norway’s two highest mountains; Galdhøpiggen and Glittertind. However, on this road trip, we decided to hike zero meters so we just visited the church and chilled out at our tent with some Trangia stove-cooked food.

Day 2 – Ålesund (204 km)

Stunning Ålesund as viewed from the Aksla Viewpoint.

Spread over several islands, Ålesund is one of the prettiest cities in Norway. But unfortunately, right after we visited the Aksla Viewpoint it started to rain, so instead of walking around the city to admire the Art Nouveau architecture, we hit the cozy Egon restaurant before going back to our hotel room just outside the city.

For those who are interested in cruising the fjords, taking the Hurtigruten ferry from Ålesund to Geiranger is one option.

Day 3 – Atlantic Ocean Road, Trollstigen, and Valldal (293 km)

The Atlantic Ocean Road (Atlanterhavsveien) 130 km north of Ålesund is a unique road with seven bridges connected to small islands close to the powerful Atlantic Ocean. This scenic route opened in 1989 and has been voted the most beautiful road in the world, and was also chosen as the “construction of the century” in Norway back in 2005. Follow Google Maps to Eldhusøya, park the car, and follow the walking paths for some great photo opportunities. There is also a nice café here open during the summer.

The trip to Ålesund and Atlantic Ocean Road includes a couple of shorter car ferry rides. The ferry payments work the same way as the road tolls. Read more further down.

Viewpoint at the top of Trollstigen.

After doing the Atlantic Ocean Road we drove 128 km southeast to the famous serpentine mountain road called Trollstigen — one of 18 tourist roads in Norway. Surrounded by majestic mountains reaching an altitude of over 1,600 meters, the landscape is truly breathtaking! No wonder Trollstigen is the most visited tourist road in Norway.

The 11 hairpin turns of Trollstigen look incredible from the viewpoint high up and demonstrates the art of world-class engineering. Once up, the road continues down to Valldal and Geiranger; we choose to stay overnight at a lovely guesthouse called Jordbærstova in Valldal — a 30-kilometer-long valley — before continuing down to Geiranger the following day.

Even though serpentine roads are beautiful, they try not to build them in Norway. Instead, they build tunnels and you will drive through many kilometers-long tunnels. Some are even built undersea, such as the 7,7 km long Eiksundtunnelen reaching a depth of −287 meters making it the second deepest (once the deepest) undersea tunnel in the world.

Here’s a video from when we drove up the Trollstigen, cut down to one and a half minutes.

Day 4 – Hjelle, Lovatnet, and Geiranger (218 km)

Oppstryn Lake in Hjelle.

You can visit Hjelle, Lovatnet, and Geiranger before going to Ålesund as it’s on the way. But since it was bad weather on day 2 we choose to go straight to Ålesund to do Geiranger on the way back. It turned out to be a good decision; look at the absolutely breathtaking scenery of Hjelle on a sunny day!

To find this exact spot, follow Google Maps to Hjelle Hotel.

Hjelle is located one hour south of Geiranger by the lake of Oppstryn, and we choose to drive straight down to Hjelle and Lovatnet in the morning because of the forecast (in Scandinavia you really need to plan due to unpredictable weather) and then going back up to Geiranger in the afternoon where we rented a cabin by the water.

Lovatnet Lake.

Lovatnet (or Loenvatnet) is a lake in Stryn about 2 kilometers southeast of the village Loen a 45-minute drive from Hjelle. The water from the lake flows down from the mountains which gives it its fantastic turquoise or emerald green color. Landslides into the southern end of the lake from the mountain Ramnefjellet caused two major tsunamis in 1905 and 1936; on 15 January 1905, a landslide with a volume of 350,000 cubic meters fell into the lake from a height of 500 meters generating three megatsunamis of up to 40 meters in height. The waves destroyed the villages of Bødal and Nesdal killing 61 people.

Here’s a picture my wife snapped at Lovatnet with her phone holding a plate of Moo Grob (in Thai) which is a crispy fried pork belly dish. We got a “big pack” from Nam Fah Thai Restaurant in Oslo cooked so it lasts for several days without refrigeration. We just cooked boil-in-bag rice with our Trangia stove right there on the beach — delicious!

Wooden houses with grass roofs by the Lovatnet.

When you drive along the country roads in Norway, you will see some pretty cool things such as the houses with grass roofs, which is a tradition in Norway going back to the Viking and Middle Ages. Some are green, others are golden as wheat. Some benefits, besides being long-lasting, are that they are heavy and help stabilize the houses and provide good insulation.

Ørnesvingen (Eagle’s Bend) Viewpoint

After exploring Lovatnet and deciding not to go up with Loen Skylift to dine at the impressive Hoven Restaurant, it was time to finally explore Geiranger. I’m a sucker when it comes to good views (which is why I regret not going up the Loen Skylift) and the ones around Geiranger do not disappoint. Ørnesvingen is the highest of the 11 hairpin turns of the mountainside from Geiranger towards Eidsdal, offering visitors a stunning panorama over Geiranger and the Geirangerfjord including the famous Seven Sisters Falls.

Ørnesvingen Viewpoint.

What I like about the roads in Norway is not just all the rest areas and beautiful viewpoints. In many places, you will see art installations that blend into the landscape such as Ørnesvingen’s own waterfall, which I did not capture in this picture except the glass panels from where the water flows down.

Beautiful Geiranger as viewed from Flydalsjuvet Viewpoint.

The Geirangerfjord is one of the most visited tourist sites in Norway and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005. Geiranger was also the location where they shot the 2015 Norwegian disaster film The Wave (Bølgen), inspired by the events in Loen and Lovatnet. Down by the water on the left side, we spent the night in a cozy cabin with the best view!

Day 5 – Oslo (445 km)

Good morning Geiranger!

On day 5 we decided to drive home to Oslo from Geiranger, a distance of 445 km. Once home, the odometer measured around 1,500 km for the entire road trip. A visit to Norway should also include Oslo, one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe this decade.

Oslo as viewed from Ekeberg two years ago before all new construction projects including the new Munch Museum and the main library Deichman.

Not to be missed on the road trip

  • Gamle Strynfjellsvegen is an old, very scenic mountain road nearby Hjelle. However, the weather was so bad we didn’t bother stepping out of the car taking pictures.
  • Dalsnibba (Geiranger Skywalk) is Europe’s highest fjord view by road – 1,500 meters above sea level. However, the weather was so bad we could hardly see a thing.
  • Loen Skylift and Hoven Restaurant.

Although I end this post with some complaints about the weather, Norway is fantastic and I’m proud to be living in this country since 2012. If you get the opportunity to road trip in Norway, go! Below is our road trip video.

 

Note! Roads and tunnels in Norway are financed by road tolls which all drivers must pay something you should be aware of. If you are driving a foreign-registered vehicle, it’s a good idea to register with Euro Parking Collection (EPC). You can read more about road tolls here.

Map showing our route


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