Car travel: off the beaten path
Heidi Håvan Grosch
Renting a car and driving your way around Norway is a wonderful option as you can explore areas off the beaten path. As many of Norway’s especially scenic roads are classified as National Tourist Roads , it makes them easier to discover. Often just a short detour from the main highway or an alternate way of getting from point A to B, these roads provide an exotic view of Norway with less traffic. Be prepared however for narrow, steep and winding twists and turns that are not for the driving faint of heart.
Here are a couple routes I have taken over the past few years (go to the national tourist road’s website listed above for more details, maps, and pictures or – the “official tourist board of the fjords”).
Gamle Strynefjellsvegen (the Old Stryn Mountain Road) between Stryn and Skjåk (Hwy258)
RVs are technically not allowed on this 100-year-old mountain plateau road built by hand, because it is so narrow and there are few places to turn around. The road is closed in winter, but no longer requires 200 men with shovels to clear it. The highest point on is 1139 meters and all is accessible in June.
Atlanterhavsvegen (the Atlantic Ocean Road)
You may have seen the Storseisundbrua (Bridge) in car commercial, as it is one of the most photographed bridges in Norway. This 8.3 km (5.2 miles) stretch of Hwy 64 in Møre og Romsdal between Kårvåg on Averøya (an island) and Vevang on the mainland is often referred to as the finest tourist road in the world. The eight bridges and several causeways and viaducts provides breathtaking views of the ocean, and in a storm more than your share of excitement. The road was opened in July 1989, having survived 12 major storms and a cost of 122 million NOK.
Trollstigen Road between Langevatn on Strynefjell and Sogge bridge in Romsdal (RV63)
Start this journey with the car ferry from Hellesylt, run by Fjord1 Nordvestlandske, a one hour sightseeing trip on the Geiranger fjord that ends in Geiranger. From there, climb up the mountainside, hugging tightly the 11 twisty hairpin bends on the Trollstigen Road. This engineering feat is even more amazing when you consider this 106 km long road was built in 1936.
A footnote about the Geirangerfjord: nature is unpredictable, and in the Geiranger fjord she threatens to create havoc. If (and most probably when) the mountain Åkerneset collapses, it would (or will) create a tsunami, hitting several nearby towns including Geiranger and Hellesylt in about ten minutes.
A few tips
Remember your thermos and matpakke. There is no end to the places you can stop and have a cup of coffee if you drive yourself, so remember your thermos or pick one up along the way. It can get cold in the mountains, even in the summer, so I recommend always having cool weather clothes as well as a very large memory disc for your camera.
Use NAF (Norges Automobil: Forbund/www.naf.no). Ask AAA before you go about reciprocal agreements with NAF. I know when we rented a car in the USA we got 10-20% discount because we were members, as well as taking advantage of other AAA discounts. Their main website is in Norwegian, but you can order their camping book in English (www.nafcamp.com/en/) and get maps. That website also has some great links for car travelers in Norway.
Most driving rules in Norway are the same as in the states, but it is a good idea to check out the differences before you start your trip. Visit Norway (www.visitnorway.com/us/about-norway/safety-first/driving-in-norway/) has a complete list of road rules on their English website.
This article is a part of Heidi Håvan Grosch’s column Rønningen Ramblings, which appears a couple times a month in the Norwegian American Weekly.
This article originally appeared in the March 28, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.