If you want to see Norway, you should spend some days on a roundtrip in the western part of the country. This is a travelouge where you will meet the best of the fjords, mountains, rivers and glaciers. Rafting, summer-skiing, sea-kayaking, walking on glaciers and mountaineering are some keywords for this adventure. Here you have the possibility to get an active holiday and you have the continuously beautiful Norwegian landscape as a wonderful bonus. It is recommended to go by car if you do the whole trip, though you can also go by boat, train, bus etc.
Go West! The best of Western Norway
travelogue has its starting point at Oslo. If you start at Bergen, "The gateway to the fjords", you drive to Voss and continue to Gudvangen at the innermost part of the Nærøyfjord, or you can drive across Vikafjellet to Vik and Vangsnes down by the Sognefjord. You will now be in the middle of this Fjord Adventure and you will be able to pick up the adventure in the description of the area below.
from Oslo via Lillehammer towards Otta. Here you can go
rafting and kayaking in the river Sjoa. This is
a must. Sjoa
Rafting and Sjoa
Raftingsenter NWR are recommended.
a few kilometres south of Otta, take to the left
up Heidalen. After a few kilometres you will find
Sjoa Rafting at the left side of the road.
Down the Romsdalen Valley to Åndalsnes
Then continue via Dombås, down Romsdalen valley to the Romsdal Alps and the Åndalsnes area (Norway's Tirol). There you have the well known mountains Trollveggen, Romsdalshorn and Vengetind, and also Rauma river and the National Tourist route Trollstigen. Mountaineering and fishing in spectacular surroundings in this area, with the walk up the backside of Trollveggen as one of the best. Start at Trollstigen, it will take approx 4-5 hours to reach the edge at Bruraskaret. This is the place where B.A.S.E. jumpers use to make their take off point - amazing to see if you´re there when they are! (>1000m vertical wall).
Another nice and much easier walk can be done in Isfjorden. Drive to the Vengedalen Valley (toll road). Drive almost to the end of the valley, at the right side of the road you have a small ridge called Litlefjellet, a 30 minute walk. From there you have a great view down to the Romsdalen valley and to Trollveggen on the other side of the valley. This is at the foot of the Romsdalshorn mountain. You can also climb Romsdalshorn and Vengetind though guiding is recommended. Information about guiding can be found at the Tourist Information in Åndalsnes.
From Åndalsnes you drive towards Trollstigen and Valldal. Here there is beautiful scenery with mountains, wild rivers and waterfalls. Why not stop in the Isterdalen Valley below Trollstigen and join a canoe trip along the Istra River with Romsdal Aktiv. At Valldal, you should taste the strawberries from the local farms. Then take the ferry across the fjord to Eidsdal and continue to Geiranger, a tourist's "Mecca" with narrow dark green fjord and steep mountains. The route between Trollstigen and Geiranger is called "The Golden Route", and is one of Norway´s 18 National Tourist Routes. Via Grotli, you arrive at Stryn Summer Ski Centre. Slalom, Telemark, Cross country and Snowboard equipment are available for rental. Normally there are excellent ski conditions, especially early summer. There is one chair-lift and one T-bar lift. The summer ski season usually begins late in May, depending on the amount of snow on the winter closed road.
If you have a tent and want to feel the fresh mountain air, you can stay in the valley close to the ski area. Alternatively you can stay at Folven Camping down in Hjelledalen, close to Lake Strynsvatnet. This is THE ski camp, with "Einetappen" Pub etc. Order a hut a few days (weeks) before arrival, just to be sure to get one. (Folven Camping is now called Stryn Tourist Centre).
From Stryn to the Sognefjord
Continue, via Stryn, to Olden and up the Olden Valley. Pass the Oldevatn to Brigsdal (Camping), from where you can walk or be transported up to the Briksdalsbreen Glacier. Beautiful scenery! From Olden, the trip continues to Utvik, over the mountain to Byrkjelo and Skei. From here you should drive for approx 15 minutes to Astruptunet where the famous painter Nicolai Astrup lived and worked. This is now a museum where they also have a gallery with paintings by Astrup and is really worth a visit. Then continue to Fjærland. Here you have the Norwegian Glacier Museum where you can have a look at the 3-dimensional movie. Subjects are the Jostedal Glacier and glacier climbing. Fjærland is also a starting point for walks up to the Jostedal Glacier and kayaking on the Fjærlandsfjord.
Then drive through the tunnel to Sogndal, explore the Sogndal Valley and the Anestølen farm where you can buy homemade goat´s cheese. (In the summer it is possible to go by ferry from Fjærland to Dragsvik and Hella, from where you can drive to Sogndal, which is highly recommended. Then you will see the Fjærlandsfjord and you should also explore the beautiful village Balestrand and the historical Kvikne's Hotel where Germany's emperor Wilhelm spent his holiday at the start of the World War I). From Sogndal, drive to Kaupanger and take the ferry on the Sognefjord, Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord (UNESCO World Heritage) to Gudvangen. Due to the new tunnel from Lærdal to Aurland, this ferry only goes during the tourist season, from may to september. In this area you have lots of possibilities in the nearby surroundings.
Activities in the Aurlandsfjord area
Cycling Rallarvegen (the Navvies Road) from Finse to Flåm: This is a must. You take the first train in the morning from Flåm to Finse. (Order tickets a few days before, this to ensure they have bikes for rental at Finse. You need to ask for a ticket including both train and bike). Get your bikes at Hotel Finse 1222. This is the highest point of the Bergen Railway, 1222 metres above sea level. You now start the ride along Rallarvegen. This road was constructed while building the Bergen Railway in early 1900. You cycle mostly dowhill beside lakes, rivers and waterfalls down to the Flåm Valley which takes 6-8 hours or more. You can also bring a tent and stay the night camping somewhere along the road (wild camping is allowed in Norway). When arriving in Flåm, you can leave the bike at Flåm Railway Station before you enjoy an ice cold beer from Ægir Brewery at the harbour.
If you want to have a day or two walking in this area, you should check out the Aurlandsdalen Valley. Wild scenery, wild rivers, narrow valleys, much history from old Norway and how they were living at that time. Many people consider this is the most beautiful and wildest valley in Norway.
From Flåm, if you have time, you can drive through a long tunnel towards Gudvangen. When you are through the first tunnel you turn right and drive to a small place called Undredal. Here you will find Norway´s smallest church. It is actually a stave church and had its 850 years celebration in 1997. At Undredal you can rent a boat and hike to the mountain farm "Stigen Gard" further out in the fjord. This farm has a great view down to the Aurlandsfjord and is located several hundred metres up the mountainside. In the old days they needed a ladder to to enable them to get up there! (Stigen = ladder). When the authorities came to claim tax from the locals, the farmers pulled the ladder up so the tax collectors had to return with empty pockets. If you contact Stigen Farm in advance, you can stay overnight etc. (Open approximately 1 May - 31 Oct).
The Lustrafjord and the Jostedalsbreen Glacier
The trip continue back towards Sogndal. It is recommended to drive over the Aurlandsfjellet Mountain Road to Lærdal. This road is one of Norway´s National Tourist Routes. It is closed during winter and open late May or early June, depending on the amount of snow. Just above Aurland at the start of the road, you will find the Stegastein view point. Here you have an amazing view down to Aurland and the Aurlandsfjord and a stop here is a must; remember to bring your camera with you. In Lærdal, you can visit Norwegian Salmon Centre. Here you can see the salmon in the river, exhibitions etc. If you want to see Borgund Stave Church, drive 26 kilometres east to Borgund. This is one of the most beautiful Stave Churches in Norway. Back in Lærdal continue through the tunnel towards Fodnes and take the ferry over to Mannheller in the direction Sogndal. From Sogndal you drive towards Hafslo, just before Hafslo turn right to Solvorn. Solvorn is a beautiful village down by the fjord. Here you can stay at the historical hotel Walaker Hotel or at the cheaper and charming Eplet Bed & Apple. At Solvorn you can also take the small ferry across the Lustrafjord to Urnes and visit Urnes Stave Church and the Feigumfossen Waterfall. From Solvorn continue to Hafslo where you turn left towards Veitastrond. From there, drive the private toll-road to Tungestølen (4-5 kilometre), from where you have a nice and easy 1½ hour walk to the Austerdalsbreen Glacier. There you can see 3 different glaciers (Loke, Odin and Tor) falling down from the plateau glacier Jostedalsbreen, together creating the beautiful glacier down in the valley named Austerdalen. Crampons can be rented at Tungestølen, where you also should get information about glacier conditions and the direction to walk. The glacier has only minor crevasses, and if it's not covered with snow, it should be fairly safe to walk on it. You should always use rope and guide. Use the guide service from Jostedalen Glacier Guiding, order in advance.
Drive back to Hafslo and along the Sognefjord to Gaupne. If you want to go kayaking on the Lustrafjord, you can drive to Marifjøra, where you can rent kayaks and equipment from FjordSeal. Guiding and introductory lessons are also available. Then take to the left towards Jostedalen and Nigardsbreen Glacier. There you have Jostedalen Glacier Centre with its exhibition, multimedia glacier slideshow, information about the glacier, guiding and equipment-rental (Note! This centre is closed due to a fire in 2010. It will be rebuilt, the finish time is uncertain). You can also drive to the end of the Jostedalen Valley to Lake Styggevatnet, a "semi-artificial" dam, from where you have a view to the edge of the glacier calving into the lake. From here you have an easy hike to the glacier. If you are close to the glacier, pay attention to the danger that the glacier can be breaking into the lake; this can cause big waves and it can be dangerous to stay close to the shoreline. Icetroll arrange guided kayak trips at Lake Styggevatnet. Back at Gaupne, you continue through Luster to Skjolden and Fortun. Here you can go rafting in the river Mørkridselva with Skjolden Rafting.
From Skjolden and Fortun you can have nice walk, into the Mørkrisdalen Valley from Skjolden and the Fortunsdalen Valley from Fortun. The Fortunsdalen Valley is more spectacular the deeper into the valley you drive, but drive carefully. At the end of the road lies Nørstedalsseter Mountain Lodge, a good starting point for mountaineering.
Driving the Sognefjell Mountain Road to Oslo via Jotunheimen
Safe back at Skjolden you continue in the direction of Sognefjellet Mountain Road (National Tourist Route) and Lom. The first stop is Turtagrø Hotel, a new and modern mountain hotel, where you can get information and guiding to one of Norway´s wildest mountain areas.Here there are easy walks and difficult climbing on mountains with views over most of the Jotunheimen National Park. This is highly recommended. A little further and you have the Sognefjellshytta Mountain Lodge on the top of Sognefjellet. It has fantastic views and is cheap to stay overnight. Guided walks over the Fannaraak Glacier to Fannaraaken (2068 metres above sea level) can be done from here. Just a few kilometres from Sognefjellshytta you arrive at the Krossbu Mountain Lodge. Guiding across the Smørstabbreen Glacier can be done from here.
Your trip is almost over. Drive in the direction Vågåmo and you have two choices if you wish to go back to Oslo. You can drive to Otta and down Gudbrandsdalen or you can turn to the right a few kilometres before Vågåmo and drive over the Valdresflya Mountain Pass (National Tourist Route). I recommend the latter option, as then you will drive through the east end of the Jotunheimen National Park. You can stop at Gjendesheim and Bygdin, from where you can go by boat across Lake Gjende and Lake Bygdin into the heart of Jotunheimen. Here you can walk in the mountains for weeks.
The weather is important during such a round-trip such as this in western Norway, the best time is probably June, but also May is a beautiful month - where spring meets summer, with green valleys and snowy mountains. You can easily do sunbathing on the snow, more than 2000m above sea level. Remember suncream with high skin protection! Ski Centres and guiding usually starts in June! If you want to walk in the mountains in Jotunheimen the best time is between july and september due to the likelyhood of there still being lots of snow in early summer. You can get information about Glacier guiding at "Den Norske Turistforening" or "Jostedalen Breførarlag". Den Norske Turistforening have 342 huts spread over the whole country. If you are a member you can have a standard key which fits nearly all huts. In most of the huts there is food, gas and wood you can buy (self service).