The highlight of the round trip: the Atlantic Road
If you’re planning a trip to Norway it’s the best to not just remain in one spot. In Norway, a round trip offers more diverse experiences. We decide on recommendation from a Norwegian to drive and see a lot in nine days. We start our journey in the capital Oslo. We drive about six hours, the E6 north to Oppdal past Lillehammer, where in 1994 the Winter Olympics were held. On a small campsite called Smegarden we stay in a small grassy hut. What is normal here: you bring your own sheets and clean the cabin before departure. Other accommodation tips from locals are the Kongsvold Mountain Lodge with a typical Norwegian character and good food and the relatively new Skifer Hotel in the center of Oppdal.
The next morning, we drive about three hours from Oppdal to Kristiansund on the Aursjøvegen Mountain Road. Many photo stops invite you to pause, especially in Sunndal, Aursjøvegen and Eikesdalen. A nice stop for lunch is the Angvik Hotel. We arrive on the Norwegian west coast in Kristiansund and check into our hotel (Thon Hotel) and make our way to explore the port town. Kristiansund is known for oil, fishing and processing to cod. The small town Kristiansund consists of four ‘countries': Kirkelandet (shops and town), Innlandet (old town), Nordlandet (church and lookout point) and Gomalandet (old shipyards). Instead of a tram or bus there is the Sundbåten, a boat in which you go from island to island. By the way, it’s the world’s oldest public transport in continuous use (since 1876). If you’re only in Kristiansund for a very short stay, a ride from Kirkelandet to Gomalandet is recommended. Visit the fishklip museum and walk along the water back to Kirkelandet. An absolute must to eat here is the favorite dish of the locals: Bacalao. Also recommended is a visit to the gallery Arnulf Overland’s Galleri on Innlandet with an exciting selection of Scandinavian art and a day trip to the island of Grip.
On our day three we are particularly excited that we are finally driving the Atlantic Road, Norway’s construction of the century. The Atlantic Road along the Norwegian west coast is high on the hit list of the Guardian on the “world’s best road trips.” It is a fact that the Atlantic Road is one of the most beautiful roads in the world. Google ‘the most beautiful road in the world’ and pictures of the Atlantic Road will show up. The ‘Atlanterhavsveien’ (Norwegian for Atlantic Road) consists of eight bridges that connect the islands between Molde and Kristiansund. This piece of engineering, opened in July 1989, is only 8.6 kilometers long and took six years to build. Surprisingly, the Atlantic Road was paid off in ten years. In November and December the famous Hustadvika Bridge is a spectacular sight with the dramatic storms.
After all the driving we decide for kayaking. Our guide tells us stories of the area, we paddle past fishermen houses until we are eventually surrounded only by water and rocks. We feel lonely – and that’s the feeling of Norway. In Norway it’s all about nature. Fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking, diving – the one who comes does it because of the nature.
Later we meet Ann-Kristin Sørvik, the mayor of District Averøy and she spontaneously invites us for a hike. She tells us about the Atlantic Road, which has become a highlight for many Norwegians and international round travelers. Many car commercials were filmed and photographed, including Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen, Range Rover, Toyota, Peugeot, etc. “Many companies have great optimism and want to invest in our region,” says Ann-Kristin Sørvik. “It will surely become much more than the tourism, the fish and fish food industry and agriculture.”
After the hike on top of the Fagerfjellet (634m) with a view from above of the Atlantic road we drive to the boat dock, because our next stop is only accessible by boat. Off we go to the restored fishing village of Håholmen, a small island with a lot of history (ask for Saga Siglar, replica of a Viking ship). Today Håholmen is a unique and authentic hotel, restaurant and pub. Deputy hotel manager Olav Jørgensen says he will probably work a lifetime at Håholmen, because “It’s in my blood.” And yes, we can imagine. Håholmen is a must for those who want to visit the Atlantic Road, a truly memorable experience and more than one night with excellent food.
After a Norwegian breakfast with a lot of fish, we go via Molde away from the coast towards Trollstigen, probably the most visited and very impressive pass. Eleven hairpin bends lead up at a gradient of nine percent to the summit of 852 meters above sea level. Surrounded by towering mountains with majestic names like Kongen (the king), Dronningen (the queen) and Bispen (the bishop), rushes the Stigfossen waterfall down the mountainside towards the luscious valley Isterdalen.
We don’t stop being amazed. Our next stop is the Geiranger Fjord, famous for its huge fjords and a popular landing stage for cruise ships. We drive via Bergen (visit the fish market) and the ski resort Geilo back to Oslo. The new opera house is worth a visit. And since Oslo is a coffee town, definitely visit one of the many roasters and toast with a cup on the Norway trip.
P.S. Norway is expensive. If you want to travel cheap in Norway, you should definitely camp. Campsites are there en masse, expensive hotels also.
Text by Antonia Heil; images by Desmond Louw and Antonia Heil