Look no further for road trip inspiration. These 18 roads offer simply the best scenic drives in the country.
Norway's 18 National Tourist Routes are specially selected roads that take you through the best scenery Norway has to offer. Funding from government has improved the condition and facilities along these 18 roads and the program of improvements will continue through to 2023.
Rest stops and picnic areas are now combined with modern architectural features to make them tourist attractions in themselves. Because of their high elevation and poor weather, some of the National Tourist Routes are closed during winter.
Aurlandsfjellet – Known as the “Snow Road” due to the steep snow that lines both sides of the road for much of the year, what makes this drive special is the sudden contrast between the mountains, pine forests and the fjord. Although the road is closed over winter, the modern Stegastein viewpoint is open all year round and offers a spectacular view from 650 metres above the Aurlandsfjord.
Gaularfjellet – One of the lesser known routes, the Gaulerfjellet road skirts the epic Sognefjord before snaking up the mountain. The wonderful village of Balestrand on the edge of the Sognefjord is the perfect place to start the trip. Highlights include several waterfalls and the impressive Utsikten viewpoint that dangles over the edge of a mountain.
Geiranger-Trollstigen – The many hairpin bends of Trollstigen is one of Norway's most famous roads, yet the Tourist Route continues on all the way to the Geirangerfjord. This is Norwegian nature at its most dramatic, and highlights include the Gudbrandsjuvet gorge, the award-winning Juvet Landscape Hotel, and the Ørnesvingen and Flydalsjuvet viewpoints above Geiranger and its fjord.
Hardanger – A romantic drive past the bright orchards that line the Hardangerfjord. Take in several of the country's most visually impressive waterfalls, buy fruit from local farmers at the Hesthamar rest area, then take a walk to the Stone Cross monument and beach.
Hardangervidda – The drive across northern Europe's largest mountain plateau is one you won't forget in a hurry. Weather on the plateau can change quickly and the road is kept open for most of the winter thanks to snowploughs and convoy driving. The steep scenic Måbødalen valley and fjordside village of Eidfjord are other highlights.
Jæren – The coastal landscape of Jæren, Norway's agricultural heartland, is the main attraction of this drive between Ogna and Bore. The long sandy beaches are perfect for picnics, slow walks or just pure relaxation.
Gamle Strynefjellsvegen – Built in the latter part of the 19th century, the old road from Skjåk to Stryn features old stone masonry and long rows of guard stones. A high point of the drive is the Videfossen waterfall, which people have been visiting for as long as the road has been open.
Ryfylke – A diverse, beautiful landscape of high mountains, forested hillsides and deep fjords. At the southern end of the road is the Lysefjord, which is home to the world-famous natural attractions Preikestolen and the Kjerag boulder.
Sognefjellet – Rising to 1,434 metres in the Jotunheimen mountain range, Sognefjellet is northern Europe’s highest mountain pass. A vital connection between the west coast and inland areas, the road facilitated the transport of salt and fish eastwards, with butter, pitch and leather going west. Snow keeps the snow closed during the winter, but when it reopens in the spring you can drive along the road with banks of snow up to ten metres either side.
The Atlantic Road – One of the most famous roads in the world, let alone Norway. As an engineering project it is a marvel yet there is some artistic merit too as the road elegantly hops and weaves its way across a series of islets and skerries, to link the island of Averøy with the mainland. Fishing and birdwatching are popular activities here.
Rondane – The towering mountains along the eastern edge of Rondane National Park are hard to ignore. For the best vantage point, visit the Sohlbergplassen viewing platform at Atnsjøen. The architect wanted to recreate the atmosphere from the 1914 painting “Winter's Night in Rondane”.
Valdresflye – In the very centre of Norway, Valdresflye offers open mountain landscape that's only possible to drive through outside of the long winter.
Helgelandskysten – At 433km and featuring six ferries, the Helgeland coastal road is the longest of the 18 Norwegian Scenic Routes. Unlike many of the routes the terrain is flat and therefore perfect for cycle trips. Crossing the Arctic Circle is a highlight for many, while the stone-vault bridge and sandy brach at the Storvika bay rest area is a picturesque spot and ideal for camper vans.
Lofoten – The main road through the dramatic Lofoten archipelago, the E10 from Svolvær to Å is my favourite road trip in all of Norway. Allow three times as long as you think you'll need because around every corner is another mountain, fishing village or beach just begging to be photographed.
Andøya – The island of Andøya at the northern end of the Vesterålen archipelago offers a pleasant alternative to the busier Lofoten islands. This route hugs the western coastline and leads to the long sandy beach at Bleik. There's also views out to Bleiksøya island, which is home to thousands of puffins and a colony of sea eagles.
Senja – Between Lofoten/Vesterålen and Tromsø, the island of Senja is known for its steep mountains that plunge deep into the ocean. Husøy island in the Øyfjord is home to a few hundred permanent inhabitants and an active fishing community. Visit the Bergsbotn viewpoint for the route's best view of the Bergsfjord and surrounding mountains.
Havøysund – If you're heading to the North Cape, consider a detour out to Havøysund. The lack of trees gives you a feeling of driving along a mountain plateau yet the road hugs the rugged coastline of the Arctic coastline. Known for its deep sea fishing and a stop on the Hurtigruten coastal route, the surprisingly active village of Havøysund marks the end of the route.
Varanger – Few international tourists make it as far as Varanger, situated close to the north-eastern border with Russia. Popular with bird-watchers due to the number of rare and unique species found here, Varanger is also home to reindeer (often on the road itself!) and a landscape of birch woods, marshland and rugged cliffs.
Whether you're planning a Norwegian road trip or just dreaming of travel, I hope you enjoyed this look at Norway's 18 National Tourist Routes. If you use Pinterest, here's an image especially optimised for you. Enjoy!
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