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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.