Norway is a country of mountains, fjords, lakes and an almost endless coastline with islands of all sizes. When planning a roadtrip here, you have to take in account that going from A to B may take a lot longer than what you would estimate by the number of kilometres. Not necessarily a bad thing. When the roads make you go slower, it also means that you have more time to enjoy the views of the varied Norwegian landscape. And when roadtripping, the road is the journey. Right?
Some places I would actually urge you to take detours. And that is where the Norwegian Scenic Routes comes in. On our summer 2020 roadtrip in Norway we ended up driving two of these scenic routes; Gaularfjell and Sognefjell.
What are the Norwegian Scenic Routes
The Norwegian Scenic Routes are, as the name implay, roads with extraordinary beautiful views. There are 18 of them in total, spread over almost the entire country. Many of these roads used to be main roads back in the days. Built more or less by hand in order to connect villages and towns. The last 50 years or so, they have been replaced by more effective roads. Often going through the mountains in tunnels, instead of winding up and across plateaus.
The old roads have been preserved, because people still live along the strechtes or at least use them parts of the year. Which is great news for everyone on a holiday roadtrip! Just be aware that some of them are closed for winter due to large amounts of snow, and that winter may last until June…
To make them even more attractive, most of them have innovative and top class architectural features like viewing platforms and rest places open to everyone. Some even enhance the experience even more with thought-provoking art along the road.
Gaularfjell Scenic Route
On our first full day we drove across Gaularfjell mountain plateau, which started with an almost endless winding steep road up the mountain side. We had planned to use most of the day exploring the sites along the route, and even though it was wet, misty and cold it turned out to be a great start to the holiday.
First up was the viewpoint “Utsikten”, jutting out above all those turns we hade to take to get there. You cannot help but send a thought to the people who started the almost rediculous project this road was more than a 100 years ago. Imagine driving here with the cars of that time? Our 1986-model motorhome just about made it.
Next up was “Mirage”. Work made by the artist Marianne Heier. One well set up on a mountain plateau in Norway, where there are no shortage of water to say the least. Nine wells set up in Malawi, where you have the opposite problem. It makes you reflect on the huge differences we have on this planet.
Fossestien hiking route
Initially we had planned to walk parts of the 21 km long walking path called Fossestien (the waterfall path), but due to the weather we only did small sections of it in two different places. One of them by a waterfall with the creepy name of Likholefossen (the corpse hole waterfall), where there is an elegant bridge across the river just above the waterfall. It is possible to just do a short stop by the bridge if you are not up for a longer walk. All sights are well marked, with parking and tables and benches for picnic in better weather.
The most rememable part of the day was, however, was the traffic queue made by goats. Most probably they were en route a mountain farm in time for the evening milking session. No matter their mission, it was too important to make room for cars to pass…
Sognefjellet Scenic Route
Almost two weeks later, after we found ourselves on another Norwegian Scenic Route; across Sognefjellet mountain plateau. Maybe one of the most popular and beautiful mountain passes in the country.
Parts of the route is also a part of Jotunheimen National Park, and the views here are just astonishing! If you are a hiker you are up for a treat. Spend a few days to conquer peaks instead of just driving past. This is were you can find Galdhøpiggen, Norway’s tallest mountain, Fanaråki, Smørstabbtindane and Skagastøltindane among others. Google them if keen. Parts of Norway had exceptionally large amounts of snow last winter, and you could easily go skiing at Sognefjellet in the end of July when we were there.
We did not do any major hikes here, but on our way up from Lom we walked the undulating Dundalen valley in search of some caves my better half had visited a long time ago.
Across the mountain plateau you will also pass by memorial sites of people who lost their lives crossing the mountains between east and west before the road was constructed. It was by all means a periolous journey in summer as in winter. I could only imagine…
The most epic camp spot
I will not tell you exactly where, but it was on Sognefjell we found the most epic campspot of our roadtrip. A place where we could sit in front of the car with a cup of whisky (!) and see the sun set behind a ice covered lake late at night. If you do not have a motorhome or caravan and not into tent life, I recommend to book at night at either Sognefjellshytta or Turtagrø Hotel. Both modern, yet traditional accommodation sites with impeccable views and hiking routes just outside the door.