As the first day of the road trip featured Sør-Trøndelag, the Coastal Road, the Atlantic Road and Åndalsnes, you’d think we might take it easy on day two, right?
Then you don’t know me very well! We packed even more of Norway’s most famous sights into the Life in Norway Road Trip, day two…
After a light breakfast at the campsite, we threw everything in the Civic and drove the short distance to Trollstigen as soon as we could. The reasoning was simple. The earlier you arrive, the better your chances of beating the tourist buses that make driving the Troll’s Path a chore not a thrill.
As you can see, we arrived at the base of Trollstigen with barely a car in sight! We wandered around the base of the mountain for about 20 minutes, taking photos and just trying to take in the sheer size of the wall of rock we were about to drive up.
Much like driving the Atlantic Road the day before, driving Trollstigen is a wonderful experience. There are eleven hairpin bends, the 1,000-ft high Stigfossen waterfall, and a natural stone bridge along the road that is only open for five months of the year (generally mid-May to October, but this can vary depending on weather)
Because it was so quiet, I drove as slowly as possible to take in the views that had often eluded me on the trip up until this point. I pulled over at pretty much every opportunity to take photos of the road, mountain, and waterfall from all different angles.
At around the half-way point there’s a stone bridge crossing the Stigfossen waterfall. We pulled over and were met by a cyclist taking a break. A cyclist! No doubt about it – he was surely Norwegian.
The traffic slowly but surely began to increase, so it soon became clear the decision to arrive early had been a wise one. On the final few bends I had to pull over several times to allow bigger vehicles to pass – a really annoying distraction from the wonderful views enjoyed by Gerry and Chris. I’m told up to 2,500 cars tackle Trollstigen every day during high season. Make no mistake – come early or late, otherwise you’ll regret it!
At the top there is a visitors centre that bares more than a passing resemblance to Oslo’s Opera House, containing a canteen, shop, toilets, and several well-constructions pathways and viewpoints over the road and valley below. If you’ve had a frustrating drive up then the views from up here will more than make up for it.
It’s all thanks to the Norwegian Government’s investment in National Tourist Routes. We found several of these improved facilities along the course of our road trip and made the most of all of them – they are a great investment.
We spent over an hour exploring the various viewpoints, surrounding areas, and of course, eating waffles and drinking coffee, before continuing south. We made an unscheduled stop at a place near Gudbransjuvet, and found ourselves in a gorgeous secluded spot by the water. The perfect place to chill out for a while:
We adapted our plans for the day a little so we could stay and enjoy the area for a bit longer. The distances in this part of Norway are further than you think. If you’re planning a road trip like this, you must factor in plenty of stops. If you find somewhere as beautiful as we did, your stops will last twice the time you intended!
After about an hour we were back on the road for the 20 minute drive to the short Eidsdal-Linge ferry crossing.
Geiranger and the Geirangerfjord
It took another 45 minutes to reach Geiranger, via yet another impressive mountain ascent and descent along Route 63. At the first stop, Chris and I made friends with the local residents:
While at the second stop, we all just shut up and stared:
The stopping point is half-way down Ørnevegen, a rival to Trollstigen with its 11 hairpin bends.
“Breathtaking” is an overused word in travel writing, but the Geirangerfjord demands its use. At up to 700m deep and lined by sheer cliffs up to 2000m tall, the fjord is the perfect demonstration of Visit Norway’s new tagline, “Powered by Nature”.
This is what Magdalene Thoresen, Henrik Ibsen’s mother-in-law, said of the area:
This fjord is surrounded by the steepest and, one is almost tempted to say, the most preposterous mountains on the entire west coast. It is very narrow and has no habitable shore area, for the precipitous heights rise in sheer and rugged strata almost straight out of the water. Foaming waterfalls plunge into the fjord from jagged peaks. There are, however, a few mountain farms here, and of these one or two have such hazardous access, by paths that wind around steep precipices, and by bridges that are fixed to the mountain with iron bolts and rings, that they bear witness in a most striking way to the remarkable powers of invention which the challenges of nature have developed in man (Wikipedia)
We were in desperate need of food, so stopped in Geiranger for a late lunch. The little village doesn’t offer much for road-trippers, so unless you’re interested in overpriced food, the tourist ferry, or a plastic troll, I’d advise you drive to the other viewpoints in the area.
As our digs for the night were 100km away in Ålesund, we gobbled down our lunch and got back on the road. We retraced our steps (tyre tracks?) back to the Eidsdal-Linge ferry, but then turned north-west along the 650 to meet the main E39 road to Ålesund.
Having already been charmed by Ålesund earlier this year, I was thrilled to be heading back there so soon. We spent the night at the First Hotel Atlantica, who kindly added a third bed to our room and had set everything up for our arrival. Spending the night in a decent hotel proved to be a wise move – I slept like a log!
After the obligatory climb up to the Aksla viewpoint, we met up with Twitter celebrity (!) and Ålesund local Elise. She took us on a short walking tour of the city and introduced us to the wonderful selection of beers at the Brosundet Bar. It was a gorgeous evening so we were able to enjoy our beers and conversations outside. Thanks Elise!
Click here for day 3, the return to Trondheim via the Dovre mountains.