Fjord escort: a road trip to northern Norway
Oslo has good food, design and culture, but for spectacular scenery, nothing matches the west coast and the north. A drive along the famous coastal road will provide a lifetime of memories and photographs.
Drive north from Bergen on the first morning â" start early if you want to make it all the way to Ã lesund on day one â" alongside and across fjords on the E16 before stopping for a salad lunch at riverside restaurant Pikant (Â£13, with cinnamon biscuits, quiche, cherry tomatoes, walnuts and strawberries) in FÃ¸rde (175km/3 hours). You could also take a break in one of the many charming villages you drive through. Naustdal, for example, a few kilometres north of FÃ¸rde, is where my mum lives. She has a kitchen view to die for: fjord, salmon river, beach, mountains, islands and the countryâs most westerly glacier.
Continue north for 14km to Storebru,then drive along the north shore of Eikefjorden before heading through extraordinary scenery to the small city of Ã lesund, 214km and five hours north of Naustdal. From this roadany surfers really ought to take the 40km detour (at Ã heim village) to Hoddevik, one of the worldâs best and most secluded surf spots, where a beautiful beach sits between steep hills.
Ã lesund was destroyed by fire in 1904 â" but with only one fatality â" and, after Kaiser Wilhelm supplied shelters and building materials, was rebuilt under the direction of top Norwegian architects in art nouveau style. It became a centre for the resistance to Nazi occupation in the second world war.
Climbing the 418 steps to the Mt Aksla viewpoint allows visitors to fully appreciate the beauty of this seaside town, with its pastel-coloured houses, stone harbour and backdrop of mountains and distant islands. The seafood is world class, and at XL Diner (mains from Â£33) dishes such as pan-fried cod tongues and monkfish cheeks are served at tables on a glass floor, with underwater views.At Hotel Brosundet (doubles from Â£126 B&B), room 47 is in the lighthouse at the end of a jetty, a five-minute walk from the hotel itself.
The destination on day two is Molde (207km including ferries). Start by driving into the rugged SunnmÃ¸re Alps. Here you have to take some car ferries (from SolavÃ¥gen, Standal and Hellesylt) offering spectacular views of three fjords. Have lunch on board â" svele, which are semi-sweet pancakes with brown goatâs cheese are the ferriesâ signature snacks. From
On day three, the iconic Atlantic road to Trondheim has dramatic bridges, including Storseisundet (top picture), between Molde and Kristiansund (72km/1hr 20min), crossing so me of the wildest bodies of water conquered by road builders. Youâll need your windscreen wipers â" and a fishing rod will come in handy. Unless you catch your own lunch, eat fish and chips in Kristiansund harbour at the old-fashioned MÃ¦tt & Go Eteri og Landhandleri. The Seivika-TÃ¸mmervÃ¥g ferry awaits 40km east. Everything is relative, but the scenery en route to Trondheim (190km/3 hours) may come across as a bit mundane in comparison with what you have seen so far. The city is, however, buzzing with restaurants and nightlife, so spoil yourself by eating at RÃ¸st Teaterbistro (set menu of new Nordic cuisine food such as ceviche of haddock with a kimchi from Â£49). Britannia Hotel (doubles from about Â£150 B&B) in the middle of town will cure any homesickness. And its breakfast is legendary.Up all night in Norway: land of the midnight sun Read more
Day four starts in Hell, 30 minutes east of Trondheim, where a sign under the station name reads âGods Expeditionâ, old Norwegian for âGoods Expeditionâ. After 97km/1hr30min, at tiny Asp, leave the countryâs main south-north road in favour of road 17 (via SjÃ¸Ã¥sen), because many Norwegians rate the coastal region of Helgeland more highly than the legendary Lofoten archipelago, and you will see far fewer foreign tourists. But this route is not for speedsters, as six fjords need to be crossed by car ferry, which allows time for the powerful landscape t o sink in. There arenât many hotels around, but staying in a rorbu (a wooden cabin traditionally used by fishermen) is a worthwhile experience. Havblikk Camping (Â£145, sleeps two) in the village of Nesna (320km from Asp) will sort you out. It has a simple but good restaurant, too.
Day five will see you cross the Arctic Circle at 66 degrees, aboard the ferry from Kilboghamn to Jektvik and eventually heading for Narvik and Harstad. Hours of scenic magic await until you reach Saltstraumen, where you can see one of the strongest tidal currents in the world, with powerful maelstroms. Twelve kilometres later you will be in the lovely city of BodÃ¸, where my favourite restaurant is Nyt (set menus from about Â£60).
More jaw-dropping fjords and mountains await on day six in the Ofoten district. From BodÃ¸, head north for nearly 200km to Drag and the car ferry across the 900-metre-deep Tysfjorden. After crossing the Skjombrua bridge, a detour immediately to the right runs to the end of Skjomen, the narrow fjord where the German battleship Tirpitz hid from allied bombers during the second world war.
Narvik is just 20 minutes north of the bridge. The city is famous for its spectacular ski slopes and cable cars, among other things. From the top it appears as if you will ski straight into the sea. Narvik is dominated by the 1,575-metre Sovande Dronning (Sleeping Queen) mountain, which is worth a hike if you have a day to spare.
Narvik doesnât have a large culinary scene, although the local fishmonger serves outstanding fresh dishes at Fiskekroken.
For more choice, drive another 90 minutes north-west, to Harstad (the two cities share Evenes airport in the middle, with frequent flights to Oslo and other Norwegian destinations). There are only 20,000 people living in Harstad, but it somehow supports four outstanding restaurants: 4 Roser, Bark Spiseri, Hoelstuen and Umami.Driven to distraction: the Norway road trip where cool design meets dramatic scenery Read more
Harstad is better than Narvik for nightlife, too. But summer visitors shouldnât forget that the reason itâs so bright when they leave the pub late at night might not be because of their drunkenness; they are just in the far north.Topics
- Road trips
- Bergen holidays
- Europe holidays
- Scandinavia holidays
- Adventure travel
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