The fjords of Norway are one of nature’s wonders: gigantic and rugged mountains teeming with waterfalls that churn into deep inlets that empty to the sea. Most people think that the only way to see Norway’s fjords is via an expensive cruise. Not true. We recently partnered with our friends at Auto Europe to explore the fjords via automobile. If you haven’t already, we recommend reading part one of this feature :”The Perfect Norway Roadtrip“. It highlights our recommendations for the wonderful capital city of Norway: Oslo. Here is a map of our trip:
Before we give you a detailed plan of what to see in Norway, we think we need to put the debate to rest about the whole fjord cruising thing. Yes, being on the water is incredible. But the problem with the cruise ship is twofold: you have to go where the ship goes or swim really well. The worst thing about cruising: where the boat goes a whole lotta people go as well. No fun. Having the flexibility of driving a car enables you to see what you want to see. It allows you to spend as much time as you want staring at a magnificent waterfall. It also allows you to be alone with your lover at the base of a majestic lake all by yourself. We did both of these and felt sorry for the hordes of cruisers who never experienced Norway the way we did.
Part one of our series focused on Oslo to Lillehammer. Now it’s time to head north towards Andalsnes.
Located just 18 km from Andalsnes is a beautiful collection of cabins overlooking a lush forest and deep blue lake. You can rent cabins large or small depending on number of your party. It is perfect for traveling with families. What we love most about this location is the ability to take little row boats out onto the lake. It is truly a surreal setting. You are completely surrounded by the majestic Romsdal Mountains. Of all of the areas of Norway, this spot mimicked the views from the Disney cartoon, Frozen. This is a great base to explore the fjords and the deep lakes that are in the surrounding area. As we mentioned in our previous post, Norway is extremely expensive. One of the advantages of renting a small cabin is the ability to do your own cooking thus saving you money.
Once you have your fill of alpine living, it’s time to head for the water. Drive northwest for another hundred miles and you will come to the charming seaside city of Alesund. The old city is filled with Norwegian charm. Architecture and colors combine to create a beautiful tapestry that is pure Norway. The city is known for its art-deco architecture. Hotels here don’t come cheap. This is a great place to use your points. There is a very nice Radisson blu right on the water. They have big rooms and a massive breakfast.
The must do’s in Alesund include climbing or driving to the lookout perch above the city. We would highly advise you to head up there anytime the weather looks clear, which is not very often for this part Norway. Taking a good picture up there is a challenge. The location is quite popular, so try the early morning if you get clear skies. The hike up to the top is quite rigorous, but the steps make it very doable. As you can see above, this is the best we could do.
The second must do is shopping. There are so many little eclectic stores that have Norwegian folk items, Maritime trinkets, and your standard tourist souvenirs. We found some good deals on some clothing including hats, gloves, and coats all handmade with bright Norwegian colors.
For our tour of the fjords, this is as far north as we’re going to go. From here drive south toward the hamlet of Hornindal. It is approximately two hours drive south. You will follow some of the worlds most stunning scenery. Cascading waterfalls are in view at just about every turn. Yes, we stopped a lot!
Once you arrive in Hornindal, we highly recommend the First Hotel Raftenvold. It is perched on the banks of Hornindalsvatnet Lake. Try saying that name three times fast! At a depth of 514 metres (1,686 ft) it is the deepest lake in all of Europe! The hotel is located right on the edge of the water. You can even take a swim if you wish!
They’re not a whole lot of places in this area to eat. We do recommend eating in the hotel restaurant. A word of warning: do be careful because the hours are a little bit confining. Mike took his sweet time getting ready for dinner and they were ready not to serve him because he was five minutes late. Be on time!
The next morning we continued our quest. We drove to the charming town located on a stunning fjord called Aurland. We stayed at the Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri. It has great little cabins right on the fjords, affording you a wonderful view to wave at the cruise ships as they pass by. The hotel has a rich history, it was once home to the Norwegian Sea captain Juell circa 1770.
The city of Aurland is located on Europe’s deepest Fjord, the Sognefjord. It is 1,308 m deep and 204km long! It is known as the king of the Fjords. Here you will have easy access to Geriangerfjord, the Briksdal glacier and Vestkapp Mountian. This area is considered by many to be the most beautiful place on the planet.
Just outside of town, and up a zig zagging road is the fjord viewpoint called Stegastein. Sounds like some kind of dinosaur? The viewpoint includes a laminated wood and steel viewing platform that is visually stunning. It is has won numerous international design awards. It juts 30 meters out into the air and affords some incredible selfies with the fjord in the background.
A little Odda
Our road trip now takes us further south to the little fishing village of Odda. Odda turned out to be one of our favorite places during our stay in Norway. It has a number of little restaurants, beautiful water, and some amazing waterfalls. Prices can be a bit steep in town, we elected to rent a cabin at Seljestad Cottages just 20 minutes outside the city.
Ten minutes outside of Odda on our way to our cabin, are Latefossen Falls. Latefossen must mean car wash in Norwegian. You actually drive your car through the waterfall! We struggled to keep our camera dry as we braved the torrent of mist to take photos. Definitely stop and take some pictures!
The most famous attraction near Odda is Trolltunga (translated, the Troll’s Tongue). Type it into Google and you will see some stunning pictures of the rock outcropping that will make anyone scared of heights go into freak out mode. We elected not to take on the 15-mile hike. It was a bit much for our hiking abilities. But, good news for you, our friends at www.norwaytonowhere.com did. Here is their report.
Norway is perfect for driving. The roads are in good condition. Petrol in the county is cheap and plentiful, and the rental rates from our friends at @autoeurope are affordable. Skip the cruise and take a drive that will envelop you in some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.