Norway – North to South

Meandering our way back down to Oslo from Lofoten Islands was a treat for the eyes, even if it was a very long way! We’ve a load of photos but tried to select some that evoke the vast and diverse array of landscapes, high and low, warm and cold that we travelled through. Different to other parts of this trip, this is more about the sights and fascinations along the way rather than visiting places or riding out. The Norway ‘right to roam’ (allemannsretten) means parking anywhere is fine if you are respectful. It makes it so easy, fantastic camping facilities everywhere too for water etc. We managed to drive four of the eighteen “National Scenic Routes” of Norway and would love to have done more but we are these days, 90 day limited sadly. We have also met some odd creatures on our way…. none jumped out from under a bridge but reckon they’d have been frightened off by me and the state of my hair!

From Lofoten we picked up the FV17 (Helgandskysten Route and the longest) towards Fauske and on to the edge of Valnesvatnet (Polarsteps through the menu will help). We passed over the bridge at Saltstraumen, one of the worlds great maelstroms, an incredible sight, the powerful swirls of water on an unimaginable scale. It being a pretty wet day we were glad to be driving and in plenty of tunnels! We pulled over to check out what’s billed as “The Worlds Most Beautiful Public Toilet”, which was A1 from the outside at least. Oddly it was at the same spot as a memorial to war sunk submarine. At least we’d managed to get to the start of the main event, its commonly known as The Coastal Route (Kystriksveien) . It’s 700km long and 6 ferries form part of the route.

Driving with on and off weather makes for very dramatic scenery, the fjords magnificent in their sheer dominance of the waters edge to the natural harbour, nestled at the tip of Ørnes. We made it to the Svartisen National park area where two of Norway’s largest glaciers impose themselves on the view. We decided to pitch up overnight and go across the fjord to hike up to Vestisen the following day. This glacier is the second largest in Norway, second to one on Svalblad. Its 221sq km and nestles up to Ostisen at 148 sq km. Sadly both were once much larger, Vestisen used to meet the waters edge 100 years ago (see pics) The water of the lake as we took the boat across was incredibly still with an oily, silky look to the surface. The hike was a lot longer and tougher than our lakeside views had deceived us into thinking, but worth it to get as close to the edge of the glacier as was safe, as it is carving and melting. From underneath, there were small ripples of melt, joining to create a thunderous waterfall down to the lake. Being able to see the vivid colours and shapes and patterns formed within the ice was endlessly fascinating. The snow above it, untouched and glossy.

The mountains continued to become more breathtaking at up to 3.5k ft they were grander than Lofoten. Towering above the roads, arresting and beautiful, rising from aquamarine waters. A ferry took us across the water from Jetvik to Kilboghaven, taking us back across the Arctic Circle line. The scenery was starting to change somewhat as signs of autumn appeared, the tree’s just starting to change colour. The ‘seven sisters’ peaked above the clouds and the ice scarred rocky mountains shimmered. This area is very much a drive through with stop starts just to look in wonder, unless 3-4 day hikes are your thing. We did cross an unusual bridge at Helgelandsbrua. Rather than spanning straight across it took a right turn at the top and continued parallel to the shoreline down a man made spit. Quite disconcerting seeing no road ahead! Lovely church at Valsoyfjord in a super setting. One thing we have noticed which is really great, is stuff doesn’t seem to get stolen, all the churches have tools for people to tend the graves and all the servicing points have hozelock style fittings. Having heard the rhetoric, it does appear that Nordic folk seem a respectful bunch based on what we’ve encountered. (unless it comes to script writing imagination maybe?!) Jigsaw wasn’t fussed, too busy recharging her batteries!

Interestingly, Norway has several electric ferries, we took our first to Horn in glorious weather after it being a tad wet and misty. We continued to skirt the Norwegian Sea coast line of fjords and waterways. It’s an incredible system of islands and peninsulas, very well connected by boat and road and a truly stunning drive inland and out, pretty towns at the heads of water, waterfalls ribboning down the mountainsides. Torghatten is a must see spot, a cathedral sized hole in granite rock! Formed by two sea caves that become one (Ooops, Spice Girls creeping in there…) its a hike up to see the incredible view through. Nearby was the incredible building, sliced into the rock that was the poet priest, Petter Dass museum, close to the Alstahaug Church, one of seven medieval churches preserved in northern Norway. Leaving here, two moose crossed our path, they are much bigger than the photo of them suggests! Bigger than any horse for sure!

The regions further south and as the roads turned inland seemed to exhibit a different landscape, we started to see more agriculture, flatter lands and farming in the wide glaciated valleys. Golden crop fields in the sunshine, it was harvest season. Dotted all over the agri landscapes are massive barns, many having a ramp up to the first floor. Some quirky and unusual designs, silos often have pitched roofs. As the roads became coastal again, the craggy granite rocks remerged. Then it changes again, tree’s cling to the craggy rockfaces for dear life, the Norwegian Spruce looking like matchsticks with green tops as they tower majestically over their surroundings, en masse, swathes on the mountainsides. Such an eclectic mix of surroundings, driven by the geography. Sea Eagles soared above the tree’s, swooping down for prey once in a while, not a bad watch over breakfast. We kept Jigsaw on a short lead in case the birds thought she looked tasty!

Our next National was The Atlantic Road, certainly one of the well known routes. Taking the ferry to Friedikshavn we thought we’d gone wrong somewhere, a town of 25k people it was a busy town, with loads of industry, quite a shock to our little systems! Here though, we found our new favourite shop, Biltema, a cross between Halfords, B&Q, Lakeland and Millets. We now have a catalogue on board! From there though it was the tunnel to the Atlantic Road, a gorgeous but short run of bridges and causeways connecting several small islands. Its only 8.3km but very popular and runs from Kårvåg to Vevang. Given its popularity its well set up for visitors, several coastal walks enabling us to be lucky enough to see a dolphin and a seal! A marble outdoor sculpture/art installation sits randomly among the rocks and waters, named Columna Transatlantica.

Continuing south we encountered the switchbacks of Trollstigen, 10 of them! Again, a bit of a tourist favourite, another scenic route, they take some navigating up in a right hand drive moho, especially as the mist dropped. There’s a great walkway from a visitor centre with amazing views down the valley, and the cascading waterfalls, if you can see them! We’d been before so weren’t too upset, the mist made it atmospheric but rubbish for pics! Also on this part of the route were the powerful waterfalls at Gudbrandsjuvet with a fabulously designed cafe! From there we carried on climbing and parked up in a bowl of high mountains amongst the mists, at a national park station. En-route we came across quite a few creatures from the Troll family. At one point Jigsaw became very concerned at what her pawrents had become.

Coming down from there, the moss covered the boulders like green snow, waterfalls emerged from the mists into stunningly blue lakes. This route emerges at a ferry point to take us across the waters to the Geiranger Fjord, this is the famous one that all cruise ship brochures have as their cover photo. Just a small one this time, in the mist of the valley. The small town at the mouth of the fjord was decimated by the cessation of cruise ship travel so we felt the need to support them by indulging in warm chocolate dipped waffles on sticks! From there, the only way is up (yep, Yazz there…) and we found ourselves parked up somewhere at 3150ft among the clouds on the 258! Pretty nippy but Jigsaw enjoyed herself with nothing but rocks to get caught around! The 258 is a very quiet scenic route and so worth it.

Dropping down past the lichen covered rocks, snow, boulders and high turquoise lakes the landscape became scrubland with super autumn colours to them becoming greener, more farming and more trees in the wider parts of the valleys. Life is beginning to become more built up as we see more populous areas, such as Lom, with its fabulous Stave Church built in 11thC (original part) From there we were onto main roads as we started the slog to Oslo. It becomes less interesting although the ski jump at Lillehammer was a sight to behold! Our last night in Norway had to be special so a lake swim was in order from our lakeside park spot. I can vouch for the fact that Norway water is colder than Sweden water! The tipple after was welcome! Oslo and the ferry to Denmark beckoned.

All quite smooth boarding the very quiet ferry, leaving early afternoon we had super views across to Oslo as the boat’s first hour was a slow exit through the Oslo Fjord.

Here’s the latest mushrooms for lovers of Fun-ghi Fotos!

1 thought on “Norway – North to South”

  1. We know you only went through with your Norway plan to make us feel envious, well we are! Great blog some fab, fab pics what a stunning place. I hope one day to look through that cathedral sized hole in the rock near Torghatten? Norway’s going to be a hard act to follow for your next trip.
    Stay in touch, Dave & Lesley
    PS did you mean to say – Sadly both were once much larger?


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