Diary of a Guidebook Writer: The twists and turns of the Atlantic Road
A few months ago, I wrote a column about whether or not it was worth visiting the Nordkapp at the northern tip of Norway. I concluded that while the experience at the Nordkapp can be underwhelming, it’s made worthwhile by the journey there. The Finnmark region is wild and desolate, so much so that on some roads you’re more likely to spot a herd of reindeer than another car. The same is true of the Atlantic Road.
An engineering marvel
The setting of countless car ads on television, Norway’s Atlantic Ocean Road (Atlanterhavsveien) is a small stretch of Route 64 that connects Kristiansund with Molde on Norway’s fjord-filled western coast. The five-mile stretch of highway that’s known as the Atlantic Road seems to defy gravity and the rules of engineering as it leaps, twists, and turns across small islands and rocky outcrops.
As famous as the road is for driving, it’s almost as famous for the bad weather. On each of my three visits, I’ve been blessed with great weather, but many others aren’t so lucky. Although temperatures are mild thanks to the Gulf Stream, the road is exposed to open ocean. Fierce storms that whip up the water and throw it across the road occur every year.
But that’s not to put you off! The exposed nature of the road at the very top of fjord Norway means the waters are a haven for all kinds of fish. They draw fishermen and birdwatchers from across Europe throughout the year. You’re almost certain to be sharing the pedestrian areas around the road with a few locals looking to catch their dinner.
Things to do
To deal with the increased numbers of visitors in recent years, improvements have been made to the road’s tourist facilities. An information building home to a café and restrooms sits helpfully on one of the islands, while other small parking lots and pedestrian trails have been built and improved.
My recommendation is to drive the full length of the road to fully appreciate the area. Return the way you came and stop at whichever part of the road appeals to you the most. Don’t forget your camera!
While the road and its surroundings are a worthy sight, it’s worth slowing down to enjoy the journey there. Rush to the Atlantic Road as part of a packed itinerary, and you’ll be missing out on so much.
The journey there
Kristiansund is a charming, if windy, small town reminiscent of Ålesund for its watery location. To reach the Atlantic Road from Kristiansund, take the Atlantic Ocean Tunnel (Atlanterhavstunnelen), a tunnel three and a half miles long that plunges 820 feet below sea level making it one of the world’s deepest undersea road tunnels. It’s subject to a hefty toll, but it’s much quicker than the long way around.
The tunnel emerges on the eastern side of Averøy island. Most travelers cross the island to the beginning of the Atlantic Road, but Averøy is worthy of closer inspection. Just minutes from the tunnel’s exit is all the relaxation you could wish for at Sveggen. The small fishing village and its surroundings, including a nearby nature reserve, are the perfect place to stop for a picnic or to enjoy the peace and quiet of an overnight stay at the waterside Sveggvika guesthouse.
Overnight stays are also possible by the Atlantic Road if you want to experience the area almost totally free of traffic during the long summer evenings. Several of the cozy cabins offered by Atlanterhavsveien Sjøstuer come complete with a small boat that you are free to use for fishing or simply to see the area from a unique perspective.
For the more active, Averøy and the Atlantic Road are home to several fishing, hiking, cycling, and diving opportunities.
The advantage of renting a car
Over the past year, several people have asked me about visiting the area by public transport. While many parts of Norway including the fjords are easy to visit by rail and by boat, the Atlantic Road really does require a car to make the trip worthwhile. There is a public bus between Kristiansund and Molde that runs along the road, but this is no way to fully appreciate the scenery.
If you are visiting Norway on a cruise or the Hurtigruten ferry and you are offered an organized trip to the Atlantic Road, my advice would be to check exactly how much time you get at the road before being whisked away. The joy of this area is found by wandering off to truly enjoy the juxtaposition of this engineering marvel set in a glorious natural environment.
David Nikel is a freelance writer based in Norway. He runs the popular www.lifeinnorway.net blog and is the author of the upcoming MOON Norway guidebook.
This article originally appeared in the March 24, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.