17/06 – 20/06: Mountain Passes & Glaciers

After leaving Runde, our route took us along route 60 and 650 towards Linge, where we took another ferry and continued with the second part of the Trollstigen/Geiranger pass route (for more about the Trollstigen Pass, click here). The road itself was as scenic as you would expect and Geirangerfjord is similarly impressive.

The Geirangerfjord
Geirangerfjord

However, the atmosphere is polluted by the multiple cruise ships which are usually moored in the fjord and Geiranger itself is a horrible tourist trap, consisting of shops and businesses operated solely to service the cruise ship trade. The whole place smelt like a dockyard because of the ships’ funnel emissions, which are trapped between the tall sides of the narrow fjord, and which create a near-permanent haze in the air, as can be seen in our photos:

P&O Aurora in Geirangerfjord
P&O Aurora & another cruise ship moored in Geirangerfjord

It’s not really worth stopping at Geiranger unless you want some overpriced food, drink or souvenirs.

Things looked up after leaving Geiranger, however. The road becomes even more impressive as you climb away from the fjord and the views are good, including a new viewpoint which provides safer access to the Flydalsjuvet, an overhanging rock looking down on Geirangerfjord that’s used in countless postcards of the region.

Much better still is the Dalsnibba Pass, which is accessed via a toll road that branches off route 63 around 17km after leaving Geiranger (heading south). The Dalsnibba Pass starts at over 1,000m and climbs over 5km to a height of 1,476m. The road is part tarmac, part gravel and only opens in June each year for the short summer season. Despite this, it is in good condition and reasonably wide – motorhomes should not have a problem. At the top, there is a large, new parking area, complete with visitors centre, cafe and toilets. The toll cost 100Nkr when we went up in June 2011 and I would highly recommend it.

Dalsnibba Road
Driving up Dalsnibba
View of Geirangerfjord from top of Dalsnibba
You can still see Geirangerfjord from the top of the Dalsnibba road
View from top of Dalsnibba
The view from the top of Dalsnibba

Here’s a video of us driving up Dalsnibba:

We headed into the Jostedalsbreen Nasjonalpark next for a spot of glacier viewing (‘breen’ means glacier). This national park offers four main glacier viewing and walking opportunities, two of which we tried. The first, the Kjenndalsbreen (near Loen), was a bit of a disappointment. After paying a 50Nkr toll and driving miles down a rough single track road, we go to the parking place for the walk to the glacier, which we expected to take about 20 minutes and bring us quite close.

We put our boots on, but 5 minutes later had reached the end of the (new) path, still a fair way from the glacier, albeit with a good view. The old path is visible but blocked off and appeared to go much closer to the glacier. It’s an easy option if you do not want a hard walk, but a little disappointing as you cannot get very close.

Kjenndalsbreen glacier
Kjenndalsbreen glacier view – 5 minutes from the car park

The other glacier approach we tried was the Nigardsbreen, which was the complete opposite. Turn off route 55 at Gaupne and then take the 604 north, along the bottom of the river valley until you reach the Breheimsenteret Jostedalsbreen Nasjonalpark information centre. This is a modern place, complete with museum, cafe, free wireless internet and toilets and a terrific view of the Nigardsbreen glacier.

The centre lies at the foot of the toll road (30Nkr) which takes you up to the large car park at the start of the glacier walk. The walk is fairly rugged, with some clambering over rocks (a common feature of walking in Norway) and takes around 45 minutes at a reasonable pace. You can shorten it by taking a boat ride from the car park for part of the way, but a walk is still required, including some rocky bits. However, this walk brings you very close to the foot of the glacier and its accompanying scenery, and thus is quite worthwhile. It is quite touristy, however – the walk can become a bit of a procession.

Nigardsbreen glacier
Up close and personal with the Nigardsbreen glacier, Jostedalsbreen Nasjonalpark
Nigardsbreen glacier boat trip
The boat to the Nigardsbreen glacier and the landing place, from which you must walk (from memory, but I’m pretty sure it’s the right spot). Click for a larger image.
The walking route to the Nigardsbreen glacier
Part of the walking route to the Nigardsbreen glacier, this part is after the boat disembarkation point, I think — i.e. everyone has to do it. Click for a larger image.
The walking route to the Nigardsbreen glacier
Another shot of the walking route to Nigardsbreen, again, this is after the boat disembarkation point. Click for a larger image.

A different type of attraction in the same area is the Borgund Stave Church. Situated just 1.5km off the E16 to the west of Berge, it is Norway’s oldest stave church and dates back to 1180. Originally built along a major east-west trade route, it also has Norway’s last remaining freestanding medieval bell tower. It is more impressive and interesting than this description makes it sound and we were glad we took the short diversion from the E16 to see it.

Borgund Stave Church

Some other notable roads in this region were route 258 (Strynefjellet) and route 55 south (Sognefjellet). Route 258 loops inside route 15 between Grotli and Videseter and takes you up through some very impressive (and snowy) mountain scenery to the Stryn Summer Ski Centre, where you can see people skiing in various states of undress. It seemed like a very popular place and was heaving with life on the sunny Saturday in mid-June when we drove through.

Stryn Summer Ski Centre

Route 55 south from Lom to Gaupnes (where you turn off for Nigardsbreen) is also a good drive. It is the highest mountain road in Northern Europe and is a designated National Tourist Route. It rises to 1,434m and much of the road is over 1,000m, making it a stunning drive on a sunny day. Definitely recommended. If you approach from the north (Lom), it does take a while to get started, but it is worth the wait.

Snow Road

Finally, to complete a trio of very impressive roads, we took the ‘Snow Road’ from Lærdal on route 5 to Aurland on the E16. Technically, this road is redundant, having been replaced by the massive 24 kilometre Lærdalstunnelen, which links the E16 from Oslo to the E16 to Bergen. However, the drive over the Snow Road is well worth it and the road is being developed for tourists – we noticed several new rest areas with picnic benches and even toilets – although these were not yet in use. We stayed the night at a rest area on the snow road at around 1,200m – it was very scenic and very, very quiet – although there is tourist traffic during the day.

Frozen lake on the Snow Road

19 thoughts on “17/06 – 20/06: Mountain Passes & Glaciers

  • November 3, 2013 at 7:08 pm
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    hi, do you have experience of the boat to and from the nigardsbreen glacier, in particular is there a quayside both at the car park and the foot of the glacier that will allow boarding and disembarking easilly. My wife is partially sighted and could not manage anything bouncing or moving around. thanks Ian

    Reply
    • November 4, 2013 at 9:33 pm
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      Hi Ian, thanks for your comment. We didn’t go on the boat as we wanted to walk, but we did see the boat, which is fairly small and may bob around a little, although the water was fairly calm when we were there.

      What I would say is that the walk from where the boat disembarks to the glacier is still reasonably demanding, unless you are a regular walker. As was often the case in Norway, it was quite rocky and steep in places. I’ve added some additional pictures to the post so you can see the boat and the location of the landing place (I think), along with some more shots of the walk to the glacier. You can click on each of the new images for a larger version.

      Hope this is of some help!

      Regards, Roland

      Reply
      • November 5, 2013 at 1:28 pm
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        Hi Roland, your photos are greatly appreciated, as with all your postings, I am collecting a great deal of tips and advice for next years trip. I will show them my wife and see if she thinks she can cope, I note guide ropes which would be good for her. We have done the ‘Morrone’ walk in Braemar Scotland, the ‘Cats back’ in Strathpeffer, so she is capable of moderate clambering about, we can only but try, and if it’s too great we’ll turn back. To leave such valuable information in this way to others like me deserves such praise.Many thanks Roland, …. Ian

        Reply
        • November 5, 2013 at 2:51 pm
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          Hi Ian, not a problem, glad I could help. ‘Moderate clambering around’ should be adequate for the Nigardsbreen walk, so I suspect you’ll be fine. Have a great trip, Norway was amazing and is definitely at the top of our all-time great holiday list, despite the cost of everything.

          Cheers, Roland

          Reply
          • November 6, 2013 at 1:18 pm
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            Hi Roland, my wife seems to be frightened by the terrain underfoot even worse if there was ice, she has no peripheral vision at all and what appears easy to an able person is so harardous for her. I think on reflection we would walk down to the waterside then make the call there, and at least we’ll have seen a major glacier.
            We plan on an unusual route via Immingham to Brevik on a freight vessel, then we have 19 days to journey up to Nordkapp via the coastal route, then stright back through sweden, a pretty tall order I hope it goes to plan I’ll let you know in due course………….. Ian

          • November 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm
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            Hi Ian, I can see that a lack of peripheral vision would make walking very difficult on even terrain. Your trip sounds great though, hope it goes well.

            The Immingham-Brevik route sounds great, I can see it’s a freight route, but I didn’t know there was any way of going direct from UK-Norway by ferry. Definitely one to keep in mind in case we go again – is availability very limited for leisure travellers?

            Roland

  • November 6, 2013 at 7:31 pm
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    Hi Roland, I called DFDS seaways earlier in the year and they told me to call several weeks before departure for the availability. Pricing is based on the type, length, height, and number of passengers, they need to know if laden and any hazardous substances etc. I was told not to expect the features found on a regular ferry, but it comes full board (cold meals) with cabin and en suite. Hope you find this useful to remeber. btw how did you go on for gas, can you replace calor bottles in Norway, ifnot are theirs compatible with uk fittings, I’ve emailed calor and they can’t be bothered to reply to me. Thanks Ian

    Reply
    • November 7, 2013 at 8:03 am
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      Hi Ian, thanks for the information about the ferry, we’ll definitely keep that in mind. I’m afraid I can’t be much help for gas as we only use small Camping Gaz bottles for cooking only, and took everything we needed with us. Roland

      Reply
      • February 23, 2014 at 4:03 pm
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        It’s been a while Roland, but here’s an update on that ferry service. It is a useable service alright and a MH under 6m + 2 adults cost £1110 round trip with full board ensuite cabin included, however now the bad news, freight services appear to take priority for all available cabins and so you get placed on a standby list, this means you could possibly be contacted up to 24 hours before depature to confirm if you are on the ferry or not. That also applies for the return route. That means even if you secure a place on the outward leg you’re not guarenteed a place on the return. So I’ve decided to go Harwich to Esbjerg Denmark now instead, I can’t rely on such uncertainty.
        I’m getting so excited now planning our trip, and using your tips along with Adam and Sophie, I have loaded attractions and places to visit or stop over onto my sat nav

        Reply
        • February 24, 2014 at 3:22 pm
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          Hi Ian, many thanks for the update. I can fully understand your decision – most of us don’t have the luxury of enough spare time/money not to have confirmed ferry dates for a long crossing like that.

          The Harwich – Esbjerg crossing should be a safe bet, albeit a bit more driving. I assume you’ll be getting the Color Line ferry from Hirtshals to Larvik? We did, and were very impressed with the fast, modern service (and rapid, efficient loading).

          Good luck with the rest of your planning and your trip, hope it all goes well.

          Cheers, Roland

          Reply
          • February 24, 2014 at 9:13 pm
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            Hi Roland, Thanks for you wishes, i’m going to do my best to make sure it’s adventure we’ll never forget. The route i decided on is to go via Copenhagen, then across to Sweden and onto Stockholm up the baltic coast to the northern tip, and meander our way back along the Norwegian coast. btw the gas concern isn’t one now, I’ve opted for a 40litre underslung lpg tank, that’ll certainly cover our needs. i’ve got to register for the tolls now and that’s about it. I’ll let you know how we get on thanks again for all your tips.
            regards Ian

  • February 8, 2015 at 9:52 pm
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    Hi Roland, I know it’s been sometime now but it just wanted you to know what a fantastic help you were gathering info and tips in reading all your pages and how grateful I am. We did it, cramming it all into 3 weeks last June/July. Harwich-Esbjerg then staright up the Baltic coast of Sweden (all my route planners said it was fastest and most direct) to Nordkapp. Then miandered down the Norwegian coastline taking in most of the National Tourist Routes including Senja and the Lofotens, the ferry back to Bodo on the mainland witnessing the fantastic Maelstrom at Saltstraumen.
    WE DIDN’T go up to the Nigardsbeen Glacier, I deemed it too hazardous for my wife, but the view from the car park itself was just awesome.
    I was amazed how the motorhome is provided for over there, in our own country we are like 2nd class citizens, but the number of free motorhome service areas was great, fresh drinking water and waste disposal.
    I am definately going back to Norway when I retire, but this time without my employers constraints of a max 3 weeks imposed on me.
    The scenery was amazing and having astronomy as a hobby I never could get my head around the idea of a 24 hour sun, having witnessed it now first hand with my wife, it’s amazing. It circles in a giant ellipse, dipping due north at midnight and rising to it’s zenith at noon in the south.
    Best wishes Ian

    Reply
    • February 9, 2015 at 1:16 pm
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      Hi Ian,

      Many thanks for such a terrific and informative comment — I’m really glad your trip went well. Interesting point about driving up the Baltic coast of Sweden, I’ll have to look into this, as we’re mulling over another, shorter, trip to Norway and Sweden.

      I too couldn’t quite understand how the midnight sun worked until I saw it, but as you say, once you’ve seen it skimming along the horizon, all becomes clear!

      Roland

      Reply
      • February 9, 2015 at 1:56 pm
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        Hi Roland, I recall you mentioning that you were hoping to go there again one day, here are a few tips I can offer by way of thanks ; Swedish speed cameras have virtually no warning at all, the sign is almost upon the camera itself and it is facing you, usually round a bend, not like here in the UK where you have to drive past it, so if you see it, it’s probably too late.
        From Esbjerg head for ‘Granna’ by a huge lake it’s located just off the main road with toilets café souvenir shop. From there head for the ‘Hoga Kusten bridge, plenty of room and many campers were there, but the dam noise from some form of cattle grid at the end of the suspension bridge took a while to tune out and get to sleep lol. My next planned stop was the ‘Javre tourist station’ but we got to it far too early, so we just took advantage of the fresh water and waste facilities there continuing on and into Finland where we just selected a quiet parking spot off road. Next day we drove straight to Nordkapp, and having read all the rip off tales about it, I just wanted the ‘T shirt’ lol, I thought £45 for 2 nights camping if you wished (we just stayed the 1 night, had we not seen the midnight sun I dare say we’d have stopped the 2nd night) and access to the exhibiton centre well worth it. So in 5 days, 1 of which was the 25 hour ferry, we were at Nordkapp, now it’s up to where your fancy takes you. One last tip for home, just outside Esbjerg is a lovely town called ‘Ribes’ there is a dedicated tarmac park with fresh water and waste services, some spots had the option to pay for hook up, but god knows how, it had the weirdest plug socket known to man lol
        Ian

        Reply
        • February 9, 2015 at 4:48 pm
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          Thanks for more great tips. Not bad going to get to Nordkapp in five days, it is a very long way.

          Sadly the Harwich-Esbjerg crossing is no longer available as a time-saving option, as the service closed at the end of September last year:

          http://www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/ferry-routes/harwich-esbjerg-route-closure/

          This means the only option is now to drive round to Denmark. However, instead of taking the ferry to Norway, one could then pick up your route into Sweden. Based on sailing overnight from Hull-Rotterdam, getting to a point on your route and east of Esbjerg would not take any longer than it did for you. Food for thought…

          I appreciate your tips re. Swedish driving and motorhome stopovers, though, useful to know!

          Roland

          Reply
          • February 9, 2015 at 5:48 pm
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            Hi Roland, omg thanks for that information and DFDS link, that was a shock to me. Next time I can see myself driving all the way, like I said I won’t be in any hurry to cram it all in this time, nor having to meet a return ferry deadline either.
            I found my wife does not have sea legs, so it will be channel crossing I’m afraid, but from there who knows. Unless it too has been closed there was a German ferry route ‘Putgarden to Rodby’ Denmark that might save a few miles, then onto Copenhagen and across to Sweden, or keep overland through Denmark and on into Sweden. Doing it this was i’ll sure exceed the 5700 miles I covered last year. Oh one other tip don’t trust your sat nav in Denmark telling it to take you into Sweden, I wanted to go over that magnificent bridge but I foolishly trusted the say nav and I took me via the ferry route which was quicker. I learned a valueable lessen there and for the home route I pinpointed the gps position of the bridge, set in those co-ordinates and this time I got my goal, driving over the bridge
            Cheers Ian

  • May 7, 2015 at 5:18 am
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    What a fantastic website. So informative and interesting. I am glad I found you.

    If you had only 8 days to motorhome in Norway, beginning and ending in Oslo, where would you go? Because of time we are focusing on the mid-southern part of Norway, but I am having such a hard time narrowing down our itinerary. It all seems so fantastic. Do you think we could go as far north as Alesund and as far south as Stavanger and still see enough in between? My husband really wants to do the Kjeragbolton hike too. Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • May 11, 2015 at 11:52 am
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      I’d second Ian’s comments, below. How much you can do depends very much on your individually: how far and long you are prepared to drive, how long you want to spend in each place, etc.

      Driving conditions are generally very good, with light traffic and predictable journey times, although you cannot progress as fast as on European motorways, as all roads are single carriageway and have lower speed limits.

      Nearly 24 hours of full daylight makes long days seem natural, but this kind of travel doesn’t suit everyone.

      Hope this helps,

      Roland (motorhomeplanet.co.uk)

      Reply
  • May 8, 2015 at 2:47 pm
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    Hi Cameo,
    when I was deciding where to go, I used google maps. Either click on the map for your start point or enter a place name, then your destination. It will give you a fairly accurate travel distance and journey time taken, just make say a 10% addition for unforeseen traffic, roadworks in particular because there were plenty of re surfacing and up grading roads etc. You can add in via’s for any little detours, then it will recalculate the figures. It was invalueable for me to decide on where to go and see. I printed off maps and step by step directions.
    In my 19 days I did Esbjerg to Nordkapp and back down via Senja and the Lofoten Islands and the f17 national tourist route amongst many other ntr’s, 5,500 miles approx all in all. and it wasn’t tiring in the least the scenery was beautiful, and with 24 hour daylight I had to tell myself to stop driving at times. I can’t wait for retirement and no time restraints set upon me by my employers, I will be back to do it all again and much more. Search for Norwegian National Tourist routes and you’ll get a feel of what to see, quite a few I would say are in your driving range and time scale. Hope this helps

    Reply

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