It has been said that “you haven’t seen the whole of Norway if you haven’t seen Jæren”. Norway’s southernmost Scenic Route is also the main local road, so expect to be immersed in scenes from everyday life, like seeing farmers driving their tractors. If anything, this will give you more time to appreciate the coastal landscape and the ocean. You will find several beaches along the Jæren coast, Orrestranda being perhaps the most impressive one with its many kilometres of white sand. Another place to stop is the Kvassheim Lighthouse, right against the open ocean – your first of many Instagram moments.
Hardanger and Hardangervidda are two different Scenic Routes. However, they can be found in the same area, allowing you to move easily from one route to the other. The Hardangervidda route will take you across Northern Europe’s highest mountain plateau to Norway’s most famous waterfall, Vøringsfossen, and all the way to the valley of Måbødalen near the Hardangerfjord, one of the world’s largest fjords. The Hardanger route also offers the opportunity to marvel at waterfalls, including Steinsdalsfossen, Skjervefossen, Låtefoss and Furebergfossen. Its diverse landscape offers a close look at the glaciers and will also allow you to spot reindeer on occasion.
Norway’s second-largest city has often been called the “gateway to Norwegian fjords”, and for good reason, as you can reach both Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord within a day from the city. Bergen itself and its seven surrounding mountains are equally breathtaking – mounts Ulriken and Fløyen should definitely be on your list. While in the city, take a stroll along the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hanseatic Wharf, explore Edvard Grieg’s heritage by visiting Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra’s Grieg Hall and sample unique fjord flavours in local restaurants such as Christopher Haatuft’s Lysverket.
The area of Aurlandsfjellet, located in Sognefjord county, offers quite contrasting vistas. There is the picturesque village of Flåm at the foot of the Aurlandsfjord, where the famous Flåmsbana railway begins its journey. While on the Aurlandsfjellet scenic route, don’t forget to visit the Stegastein viewing tower, which juts 650 metres (2,100 feet) above the Aurland fjord. The road connecting Aurland and Lærdal is known to locals as “the snow road,” and although it is steep (it takes you all the way from fjord level to the mountains), it promises breathtaking views along the way.
The Gaularfjellet route will take you on a serene journey from Dragsvik to Sognefjord, crossing Gaular mountain. Water is ever present along this route, as the road follows the protected watercourse Gaularvassdraget, taking you amid cascading waterfalls and water glides for 25 kilometres (16 miles). Stop by the bridge over the Likholefossen waterfall to take it all in. If you prefer mountain views, check out the Utsikten viewpoint, at the highest point of the Gaularfjellet route, which offers panoramic views of the mountains and valleys.
With Norway’s Scenic Routes, you can explore the country at a slow pace, which allows you to take your time and immerse yourself in the local way of life – what Norwegians call ‘Fjord Life’. In Sognefjord, there are several fjord villages that will help you do precisely this; Balestrand with its beautifully painted houses, Vik with its Hove Stone Church, Lærdal with its unique wooden houses and Fjærland with its book town all make for great pit stops. Whichever you choose, be sure to take in the views, indulge in local cheeses and apple cider and let the beauty of Fjord Norway envelop you. Springtime is a great time to visit to experience the fruit blossom, roaring waterfalls and snowcapped mountains.
This narrow, 27km stretch might be ancient, but Norway’s oldest scenic route in Stryn has only grown better with age, thanks to its stunning surroundings. Completed in 1894, the designated listed road known as #258 – not to be confused with the newer #15, built to replace the original Strynefjellsvegen in 1978 – delivers breathtaking, elevated views of snowy mountains, turquoise lakes and picturesque waterfalls between Grotli and Videseter. Not short of hairpin bends on the western side of the mountain road, notable stops along the way include the Videfossen (also known as the Buldrefossen) waterfall and the Stryn Summer Ski Centre for shiny days on the slopes – but only from June when the road usually open to the public, before closing in October for winter.
Start in Geiranger which boasts the Flydalsjuvet and Dalsnibba viewpoints. Head over Geirangerfjord towards Gudbrandsjuvet, home of the iconic Juvet hotel, before arriving at Trollstigen, Norway’s famous road with 11 dizzying hairpin turns. This takes you to the village of Åndalsnes, where you can ride the famous Raumabanen (Rauma Railway). Set your eyes on Mount Skala, Lake Lovatnet, the beautiful Nordfjord and the Jostedalsbreen glacier.
Alternatively, if you head south from Trollstigen to Geiranger, you can travel a couple of hours out of the western Norwegian village toward Loen, a quaint town that’s home to the Loen Skylift. Opened in 2017, the cable car takes visitors more than 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) above sea level to the dizzying heights of Mount Hoven. From there, you can set your eyes on Mount Skala, Lake Lovatnet, and the Jostedalsbreen glacier.
After all the dizzying driving along the Geiranger-Trollstigen route, you will probably want to stay put for a while. Visit Ålesund, in Møre og Romsdal county. Praised as the “adventure capital of the fjords”, Ålesund has something for every traveller. History buffs will appreciate the town’s significance as the birthplace of Viking Rollo, founder of Normandy and ancestor to William the Conqueror. Architecture aficionados will love the Art Nouveau buildings, while foodies will delight in the local speciality of bacalao de noruega (dried and salted klipfish). As for adventure enthusiasts, the area is perfect for kayaking and hiking. From Ålesund, make sure to visit the bird sanctuary of Runde and explore the Hjørundfjord and Sunnmøre alps – one of the lesser known fjords in the region, but just as beautiful.
Atlanterhavsvegen has been called the world’s most beautiful drive and been voted “Norwegian construction of the century”. Also called Atlanterhavsveien, Atlantic Ocean Road or Atlantic Road, this iconic zigzag connects an archipelago of islets and skerries in Møre og Romsdal county. You will drive across eight bridges, Storseisundet bridge being the largest of them. There are also many places to stop and take in the salt air, such as the elevated viewing trail at the island of Eldhusøya and the Aksvågen viewpoint at the breakwater’s tip.
The listed fishing village Håholmen near Kårvåg has served as a meeting place, harbour, home and workplace for fishermen, seamen, traders and travellers for centuries. The Viking ship Kvitserk carries guests across from Geitøya on the Atlantic road to the fishing village and Håholmen Havstuer, where you spend the night. Don’t miss the chance to taste the signature dish Klipfish, go on an eagle safari and enjoy the peace and atmosphere of authentic historical surroundings.
The charming coastal towns of Kristiansund and Molde are located on opposite ends of the Atlantic Road. Either one can be your base camp for great fjord adventures. Kristiansund, a harbour town spreading around four islands: Innlandet, Kirkelandet, Nordlandet and Gomalandet. Kristiansund combines gastronomy and culture, being Norway’s klipfish capital and an opera town with over 100 performances taking place every year. Molde has lush rose gardens, a renowned international jazz festival and the Varden viewpoint affording views of no fewer than 222 mountain peaks.
This helpful itinerary will make travelling along Fjord Norway’s coast much easier. It’s never a bad time to visit Fjord Norway, but head to the region in the spring, summer and autumn and enjoy longer days and seasonal activities. Learn about Norway’s Viking history, explore the region’s culinary cities and travel along the coast’s unique and ancient fjord landscape on an unforgettable trip. Norway is easy to reach. Fly direct to Bergen with Norwegian and Iceland Air or to the fjord cites of Stavanger, Bergen and Ålesund via Amsterdam with KLM or via Copenhagen with SAS. Fjord Tours offer a hop-on-hop-off solution to exploring the national tourist routes. Check out Sognefjord in a Nutshell or Hardangerfjord in a Nutshell – both of which start in Bergen – or the Geiranger and Norway in a Nutshell trip, which includes most of the region’s highlights in one.