I never really paid much attention to centerlines on roads, until we no longer had one. It’s one of those things you take for granted until it’s gone. The lack of a centerline wasn’t because it was a one-way street, the roads were all two way streets, but they were so narrow there was no reason to have a center line. In fact our ‘roads’ sometimes felt more like little bike paths than roads for cars. When the bright yellow line reappeared back in our lives, we rejoiced; it was as if a long lost friend had reappeared.
Most tourism boards wouldn’t encourage tourists to drive on the rural roads without a centerline, unless you are Norway. Norway has boldly taken their most scenic and nail-biting roads and turned them into National Tourist Routes. The National Tourist Routes initiative, set out to combine Norwegian nature, architecture and design to enhance and enable new experiences along these iconic routes.
“There are scenic highways elsewhere in the world. What makes this unique, is the use of spectacular architecture and art. No one else has done quite the same thing,” says Per Ritzler from The Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
As soon as I heard about this road trip and art combination I knew I had found my Norway road trip itinerary!
Norway Road Trip Itinerary and Map
The 18 routes are scattered throughout Norway, so you need to pick a region and focus on one area’s routes. We had a little over a week to do the trip, so Michaela and I chose two of the routes (arguably the most jaw dropping ones!), and filled in the rest of our road trip itinerary to do a complete road trip of Fjord Norway.
I don’t like feeling rushed on my road trips. I like to stop wherever I feel like it and get sidetracked. In addition, the beauty of going slow through such a magnificent landscape means you really get to soak it in – and that’s what we did. Our route nearly took us in a complete circle – with only a 3 hour drive between our starting point in Kristiansund and ending point in Alesund, but somehow we managed to drag it out 7 days! As you can see on the map, it’s a winding ribbon of roads that switch back and forth.
When Is the Best Time to Do a Norway Road Trip?
We did this trip in the beginning of June, right when the Trollstigen road opened up for the season. If you go much earlier than this some of the main roads and passes will be closed yet for winter conditions. You’ll see lots of snow yet in the video we shot – as well as primarily gray skies and rain. When you see pictures of Norway they are normally clad in blue skies and fluffy clouds depicting perfect weather and the perfect views, it’s a lie! I’m convinced that on the few blue-sky perfect days all of the photographers in the country race out with their cameras and shoot. I’m not sure what they do the other 25 days of the month.
It’s a moody weather country, but don’t let the fear of less-than-ideal weather stop you. I’d rather be in volatile weather than be engulfed in tourist crowds, so I found this to be the perfect time to be traveling there. The views are spectacular in gray skies, rain, or sun. And often the day’s weather would change drastically from hour to hour and fjord to fjord. Be prepared and bring layers and rain gear for sure.
Don’t Forget Your Rain Gear!
When I go to rainy environments, here’s what I take with me to stay dry and happy!
End of May and beginning of June is the shoulder season for Norway, but there was still a surprisingly large amount of tour buses and cruises in Fjord Norway, more than I cared for. I can’t imagine what it is like in the middle of the busy summer season. I suggest you have your lodging booked in advance – even in shoulder season. Regardless though, I love shoulder seasons becuase lodging is typically more available and cheaper, and I find the people you meet have more time to spend with you. It’s a better experience overall!
Drive to the Best Fjords on this 7 Day Norway Road Trip
See for yourself what a Norway road trip looks like !
A cute, small town that is a great jumping off point. You can fly here from Oslo easily and then rent a car from the airport and go! But before you race off, do spend some time in Kristiansund, it’s adorable! This is your first look into the fishing culture of the area. Plus there are some great local restaurants and exploration to do.
What to do: Take a Sunbaten Ferry to tour the harbor and surrounding islands. You can buy a ferry ticket at the harbor and then do a hop on/hop off tour. Walk around the islands and then get on the next ferry and head to the next one. There is also a klippfish (salted cod) museum that we ran out of time to see, and starting in June you can take a ferry to the fishing village of Grip. Sadly we were a day to early to go to Grip.
Where to Stay: Astoria Hotel – a small, simple hotel in the city center and walking distance to the harbor. Read Reviews of Astoria Hotel in Kristiansund
Where to Eat: Mætt & Go is a super restaurant and local market by the water. Stop in and try their blue cheese burger and pick up local road trip snacks for the trip! They have dried fish, whale sticks, lefse, local beers and more! Reviews of Mætt & Go
Altantic Ocean Road National Tourist Route
Called the Atlanterhavsvegen in Norwegian, this is one the famous National Tourist Routes. In 2005, the road was voted Norway’s ‘Engineering Feat of the Century’, and is also known to be one of the world’s most beautiful drives. Hop scotch over the ocean as multiple bridges connect all the little islands. It was calm when we drove the road, however if you hit it on a stormy day it’s a whole different and wet experience.
What to do: Before you get the to the famous bridge, stop at Håholmen island. This 18th century fishing village is charming with its original wharves, traditional fishermen’s shacks and bakery.
There’s a little parking lot where you can catch a boat to Håholmen and have lunch there or simply explore the island and buildings. Do note you will need to arrange the boat ahead of time to pick you up. The village also is a hotel, so stay the night if you have the time!
Tips: Stop at the tourist information on the Atlantic road and walk out on the trail near the bridge. It’s a short trail and you’ll get spectacular views of the bridge and sea. And don’t be afraid to drive the bridge a few times! The route is very short, so you can easily turn around and do it multiple times.
A seaside town with a constant parade of ferries running in and out of the ports. The whole area reminded me of Alaska since it was surrounded by snow-capped peaks. We stayed one night here and got one of our best local tips to try the svele (Norwegian pancake) on the ferry the next day!
What to do: The drive from the Atlantic Road into Molde was beautiful; full of rolling hills and farmland. We took a few side roads to check out the farming culture and we also drove out to the fishing village of Bud.
Stay: Quality Hotel Alexander – a big hotel with a great view of the water. Read Reviews of Quality Hotel Alexander
This is the day where we really started getting into the steeper fjords and it was spectacular. It started off rainy as we traveled to the Romsdals Fjord for fishing. But it didn’t take long for the skies to clear and reveal incredible mountains surrounding us. It was one of the most memorable moments of our trip. The drive to Åndalsnes just kept getting better and better with stunning landscapes. The town was also really cute with a lovely waterfront and new museum.
What to do: Go fishing in the fjords, hike up the stairs/trail in Åndalsnes, and don’t miss the climbing museum!
Stay: Grand Hotel Bellevue – every room here has a beautiful views! A large, old hotel that sits up on the hill overlooking the town. Read reviews of Grand Hotel Bellevue
Eat: Don’t miss Sødahlhuset Café. A local restaurant owned and run by 3 local women. The food is delicious and healthy, but the décor of the café is even better; beautifully designed in a shabby chic look. Sødahlhuset is much more than a restaurant. They also sell packaged local foods there as well as crafts and products the women produce! These are three wonder women – this is a must stop on your road trip! Read reviews of Sødahlhuset
Trollstigen National Tourist Route
I hope you like hairpin turns and nail biting driving because this is the ultimate mountain pass drive. With 11 hair-raising hairpin turns and steep 9% gradient this drive is not for the meek – or motion sick prone!
We had a rainy, foggy day which made the whole thing even more exciting; not only did we have to dodge buses, and waterfalls, but we also drove into a cloud at one point! Michaela and I did a lot of gasping as we climbed the pass. At the top we stopped at the visitor center and it doesn’t end there. Keep going towards Geiranger Fjord and you’ll continue to have beautiful scenery to take in and likely snow to contend with!
What to do: Stop at visitor center, it’s incredibly well designed. In addition to having all of the normal gift shop stuff and a café, the main draws are the scenic lookouts and path. The architecture is jaw dropping and will test your fear of heights, but it will give you spectacular views of what you just drove up! You can also hike from the visitor center higher up if you have the energy.
Tips: Get an early start and you have a better chance of meeting fewer buses and other traffic. Be prepared for slow going and coach buses that have to do 3-point turns around the switchbacks.
The best things come in small packages; and that’s exactly what Norddal is – a small town package that you don’t want to miss! Plan at least one night in Norddal. It is nestled between mountains and fjords…and goats. We stopped at the one hotel/guest house in Norddal and they helped us set up activities to see the farms and taste the local foods. As you walk around this little community you’ll feel as if you are miles and miles away from civilization, however you are only a few miles off the main road!
What to do: Visit farms, do a goat safari, taste local produce, learn how to make brown cheese, waterfall viewing, kayaking, and biking is also available and there is a bunch of hiking around the area too.
Stay: Besides a little campground, Petrines Guest House is one of the only places in town and it’s charming. It used to be the town old folks home but now it has been turned into a little guesthouse with incredible views of the fjords and it serves up some incredible meals highlighting the local farm to table dishes. Read Reviews on Petrines Guesthouse
Eat: Petrines – has all local food and don’t be afraid to try the goat! I had a goat burger and dessert made out of goat cheese – it was delicious and changed my perspective on eating goat!
The views just keep getting better and better as you continue to drive Trollstigen road to Geiranger. As you come into Geiranger from Åndalsnes make sure you stop at the lookout with the glass waterfall. It’s your first jaw dropping view of this spectacular narrow fjord. You’ll head down all the switchbacks and end up in the little town of Geiranger. This is a big cruise ship stop, and if you happen to hit the town when a few cruise ships are visiting, it can be quite busy. However by the early evening they are all gone and you have the place to yourself! A powerful waterfall runs through the middle of town and there is a walk with viewing platforms throughout.
What to do: We got out on the water and went kayaking in Geiranger. It’s a great place to paddle since the fjord is so narrow – it provides a dramatic perspective that will make you feel small. Walk the stairs and path of the waterfall in town if you want a leg workout. There are a number of short hikes that you can do from town that will take you up to spectacular viewpoints. And if you’d like to relax after all of this adventure in Geiranger, then be sure to check out the spa at Hotel Union. It will shock your system with hot/cold therapy, but you’ll get a chance to experience a real Norweigan style spa.
Stay: Hotel Union is a big hotel, but it’s beautifully positioned at the top of the waterfall with great balconies and incredible views. Read reviews of Hotel Union
Eat: After the cruise crowds leave, head back down to the water and go to Brasserie Posten, a delicious little café with a beautiful design.
The drive out of Geiranger towards Loen was full of more twists, turns, and high altitude passes. We were surrounded by snow for most of this drive – and it was June! One of our favorite parts of this drive were the tunnels. I’m pretty sure they were some of the longest tunnels through mountains I have ever experienced! The town of Loen is pretty simple and there’s not a lot there except for the newly opened skylift which is a must do
What to do: The Loen Skylift opened a few weeks before we arrived. This is a new modern engineering miracle taking you up 3,300 feet in 5 minutes. Once at the top you’ll have a whole new perspective on the region. There are some hikes you can do at the top and various viewing platforms.
Stay: Hotel Alexandra – really the only choice in town. It’s large and caters more towards bigger tour groups. Read reviews of Hotel Alexandra
Eat: Plan on having lunch or an early dinner at Hoven at the top of the Skylift. It’s be the best views you’ve ever had at a restaurant! The food was good, and the views were even better. Read reviews of Hoven Restaurant
Norangsdalen – “The Queen’s route”
This is not a National Tourist Route – but it should be! This was our hidden gem and big surprise of our road trip. We first visited Hellesylt and then took Highway 655 (aka The Queen’s Route) towards Alesund. This narrow valley is dotted with cows and remains of old summer farm houses. But the best part was that the road was all ours – we barely met another car the whole time, and full of jaw dropping scenery.
Eat/Stay: We stopped at Historic Hotel Union Oye for lunch and wished we would have booked it for the night! An old hotel full of antiques and stories nestled in the mountains, of course you’d like to stay there! You do have to book early here as the hotel fills up fast. Read reviews of Hotel Union Oye
Alesund it a charming seaside town and the largest in this region. The town is known for its Art Nouveau architecture due to it’s tragic history of fire and devastation. We enjoyed the just wandering around the old buildings taking in all of the architectural details. There’s tons to do in Alesund in the city and just slightly outside the city so consider staying a couple of nights here!
What to do: Art Noveau Center located in an old pharmacy and see reproductions of homes. Definitely head out to Alnes lighthouse and head to the top for some spectacular views. There’s also some hiking and a lovely beach out by the lighthouse so you can make a whole day of it! Get up early and walk up the 418 steps to the Aksla viewpoint. The morning sun lights up the city below for great photos and a view of the whole region!
Stay: We stayed at Scandic Parken Hotel which was in a nice location to walk to everything of interest. Read reviews of Scandic Parken
Eat: Check out Invit café for lunch and enjoy eating out on the water on a floating deck. The food was phenomenal and service great! For something more upscale try Sjobua Fish Restaurant on the waterfront.
Now you are ready to hit the road in Norway to travel through the Fjords on the ultimate Norway Road Trip. And Don’t panic if you don’t see any yellow centerlines!
I was a guest of Visit Norway on this trip, however all opinions expressed here are my own!