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The Northwestern part of the country is often overlooked. None of Norway’s major cities are located there, the fjords with UNESCO-site status are a bit further ahead and travelers tend to flock to more well-known destinations (like Bergen or the Lofoten archipelago). And that’s really a shame as Northwestern Norway is full of picturesque little towns, scenic routes along jagged shores, idyllic valleys and mountains that provide a ton of opportunities for adventure. Here are some of the highlights.
Northwestern Norway is home to two of the country’s most striking National Tourist Routes. Trollstigen, or “The Trolls’ Road”, is part of a route that covers 100 kilometers from Geiranger all the way down to Romsdal valley. This serpentine route is carved into the mountain and goes on a zig-zag at the steep mountainside, making it extremely difficult to cross with a vehicle – but if you’re on foot or on your bicycle, you’re in for an unforgettable experience.
Prefer the comfort of four wheels? Then the Atlantic Ocean Road is probably the route for you. Stretching for 8.3 kilometers between Kristiansund and Bud, the road runs across an archipelago of small islands and skerries connected by eight bridges. Here you can witness Norway’s coastal landscape at its best, twisting and turning while the waves crash on (and sometimes scatter over) the road.
Of course, every scenic route needs at least a couple of viewpoints or places where you can stop, stare and properly be in awe of your surroundings. On the Atlantic Road, there are outlook points throughout, ranging from quick pit stops to elevated viewing trails like the one in Eldhusøya. Trollstigen is equally blessed as the viewpoints, designed by Reiulf Ramstad Architects, were made to blend with the surroundings. Structures that are partly carved into the rock or built on stone walls will offer you great vantage points on the Trolls’ Path.
Northwestern Norway may not be home to famous, big cities, but its small(er) towns are enchanting in their own right. There’s Molde, the Town of Roses, with its lush gardens and an extraordinary panorama that allows you to take in 222 mountain peaks. There’s Kristiansund (not to be confused with Kristiansand, in the South), with its colorful houses spread across four islands and its long tradition of opera performances – hence its nickname ‘opera town’. And of course there’s Åndalsnes, where the emerald-green Rauma river and the fjord meet, surrounded by mountain tops – a perfect starting point for exploring the area.
There’s definitely a lot of nature to explore in Northwestern Norway. But a must-stop on your list should be the Innerdalen valley. Touted ‘the most beautiful mountain valley in Norway’, Innerdalen is the country’s oldest nature reserve; no vehicles or traffic are spoiling the scenery. The serene valley is dotted with a couple of rustic cottages (complete with farm animals grazing on the grass) and a crystal clear lake called Innerdalsvatnet. There are hiking trails that will lead you 1,452 meters above sea level at the towering Innerdalstårnet, the most prominent mountain of the area. You may want to stay there forever, or at the very least you’d be quite happy you decided to explore Northwest Norway.