Drop everything for the captivating Geiranger-Trollstigen National Tourist Route of Norway

How could I have known, when I left the most beautiful fjord in Norway, that the scenery would only get better?

 

The spectacular beauty of the Geirangerfjord was everything I’d hoped for. And I expected it to be. After all, I saw plenty of pictures as we charted our preferred itinerary through Norway, and besides, doesn’t Norway = fjords and fjords = Norway?

 

So I thought.

 

Advance warning for this travel-blog cliché: There’s a lot more to this country than fjords. Yes, yes, you say. Now she’ll run through Norway attractions that supplement – but never quite compare to – a trip to the fjords.

 

No. Instead I will say this: While the beauty of the fjords was breathtaking, the drama of its interiors – especially when combined with the world-class architectural installations of the Geiranger-Trollstigen National Tourist Route – was transcendent.

 

The route

 

However, you won’t have to forego seeing the fjords on this route, because it passes two of them during its trajectory in an area known as Fjord Norway:

 

The 106-kilometer motorway starts south of Geiranger at the Langevatnet lake and continues north past the UNESCO World Heritage listed Geirangerfjord, includes a ferry crossing of the Storfjord, continues up to and along the famous Trollstigen Mountain Road – the “troll’s ladder” – before ending at the Sogge bridge in Romsdalen valley, near the town of Åndalsnes.

 


View Larger Map

 

These are the highlights, from south to north:

 

Dalsnibba

 

This is not part of the official route, but it’s a view you don’t want to miss. Turn off at the Nibbevegen toll road to arrive at this lookout 1500 meters above sea level:

 

Flydalsjuvet

 

We featured this spectacular natural lookout – a jutting rock suspended over meters and meters of nothing – in our post on Geiranger, but didn’t include the architectural installations (landscape architect Arne Smedsvig):

 

Photo credit: Per Eide

 

Ørnevegen

 

Translated as “the Eagle Road,” this stretch rises 620 meters up from Geiranger and includes 11 hairpin bends. The installation pays homage to the fjord’s many waterfalls, and its position induces dizziness as your head swings left, right, and left again. To the left is the abrupt end of the fjord, where the little town of Geiranger is backed by fairytale mountains whose contours appear to churn and whirl. To the right, an eternal view down the fjord to the next bend, each succeeding cliffside and mountaintop a different shade of blue-gray or blue-green (depending on the time of year and the weather), with foamy waterfalls plunging into startlingly vibrant water. (Architects: 3 RW – Sixten Rahlff)

 

Ørnevegen

Photo by Jarle. Photo credit

 

Ørnevegen lookout architecture, Geiranger, Norway

 

Gudbrandsjuvet

 

The swirling Valldøla River crashes through a rocky bit of earth causing a deep, narrow waterfall and gorge, and a wiry pathway winds slowly over and around it. Like its Trollstigen neighbor up the road, these walkways are purposely designed not to lead you quickly from Point A to Point B. Instead, the walk inspires contemplative reflection upon the surroundings. If you should also wish to ponder the miracles of nature and our place in the cosmos, well, by all means…

(Architects: Jensen and Skodvin)

 

Valldøla river, Norway

 

 

Gudbrandsjuvet in Norway

Ben overlooks the Gudbrandsjuvet, and kindly provides us with a sense of scale

Juvet Landscape Hotel

 

Just steps from the Gudbrandsjuvet, this one-of-a-kind hotel is part of the tourist route project but only open to guests. Minimalist, dark interiors combined with floor-to-ceiling glass ensure that the landscape takes center stage. There is much more to say here, but since we’ll be reviewing Norway’s landscape hotel in the weeks to come, let’s switch to the visual:

(Architects: Jensen & Skodvin (JSA))

 

Juvet Landscape Hotel

 

The Trollstigen plateau

 

The only thing I’ve seen that comes close to this landscape is the Himalayas. As you ascend the foothills, boulders take gargantuan proportions and peaks appear freshly chiseled, as if a sculptor had struck the first blow and then simply walked away. What water can do in the form of glacial shifts is astounding.

 

Here you are, here are the rocks, here is the wind. A line of matchsticks – actually 4-meter poles that define the road during the heavy snows of winter – is the only sign of civilization. In my lifetime, we probably won’t see the interplanetary travel I dreamt about as a child. This – the Trollstigen Plateau – is as close as I’ll get.

 

Trollstigen plateau, Norway

Trollstigen plateau, Norway

 

Trollstigplatået

 

And then suddenly, it is over. The plateau ends abruptly, like Niagara Falls without the water (actually, there is a waterfall here, but why ruin a good simile?). It’s the perfect opportunity for another lookout, and here rests one of the most spectacular architectural projects in Norway, built with materials that can withstand the brutal winters. At the edge of the cantilevered lookout, there is nothing but a clear balcony wall. As if that weren’t enough, the floor is actually a grate, providing a glimpse of the vertical space between you and the valley straight below.

(Architect: Reiulf Ramstad)

 

Trollstigen architecture

Photo:Reiulf Ramstad Arkitekter RRA. Photo credit

 

Architecture at Trollstigen, Norway

 

Trollstigen Mountain Road, Norway

Trollstigen Mountain Road

 

About the National Tourist Route project

 

In total, 18 tourist routes combine Norway’s most scenic drives through varied and magnificent scenery with works by both young and renowned Norwegian architects, turning ordinary stretches of highway into major attractions.

 

It was devised both as a tourism development project – providing a complete travel destination (picnic areas, cafes, restrooms, shops) to lure more visitors to the country’s interior and entice a brand of tourists interested in culture and art – and a public works project – providing beautiful spaces and outlooks for both locals and tourists, plus economic development for Norway’s small towns.

 

Its success with both is a model for other communities around the world.

 

Trollstigen architecture river reflected in glass

Trollstigen architecture interacting with its surroundings

 

As a contributor to tourism, I’m deeply cognizant of the fact that laissez-faire tourism policies – implying minimal government oversight – have had devastating consequences to local communities and ecosystems around the world. Balancing the benefits and detriments of tourism is an extremely difficult but imminently critical endeavor of any tourism-associated economy.

 

This particular project impressed me not just with the finished product, but with the concept. There is so much here that exemplifies the people of this special nation:

 

  • Love of nature – these are consummate outdoorsmen and women who prioritze environmental conservation and cherish the beauty of their lands
  • Egalitarianism – as we’ll explore in a later post, there exists a deep underlying belief that nature should be open to all
  • Culturally sophisticated – the country brims with Scandinavian design, cultural fairs, and culinary exploration
  • National pride – Flags are prevalent throughout the countryside, and foreign brands and chain stores have problems piercing the national market
  • Long-range thinking – With its new oil wealth, the country has invested in its citizens, to the tune of over $100,000 per capita. According to Reuters, in 2009 Norway’s sovereign wealth fund owned 1% of global stocks.

 

Imagine being the first person you know that has visited the Grand Canyon. Upon returning home, you do your best to convince your friends that this place is really, truly worth seeing. Photos are nice, but there’s a magnificence that doesn’t translate and an energy that needs to be experienced. That has been my plight in this post, and I hope I’ve succeeded.

 

If I were asked to recommend just one off the beaten path destination (I use that phrase so regularly on this site. Should we just shorten it to OTBP?), this is it. Of all the things to do and places to visit in Norway, this to me marks the culmination of Norwegian travel. Next time you’re fortunate enough to visit this very, very special corner of the planet, make sure to explore at least one of these shrines to nature and to responsible stewardship.

 

Learn more

For Norway travel information about this tour of Norway and others, with gorgeous photos, maps, itinerary planning and detailed route information, head to the official website


**Special thanks to the invaluable guidance of the Geiranger Tourist Office


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Comments

  1. The only words I can use to describe the pictures is breathtaking. So… Do you need an intern?!?! 😉

  2. Though my ancestors hark back to very Northern European countries, I have never had any desire to visit them as I prefer mostly warm weather and even warmer beaches. However, after reading your posts and looking at the magnificent scenery that is displayed in your photos, I have certainly enjoyed “traveling” to these countries while sitting on my cozy sofa!

  3. The photos are breathtaking and the narrative so descriptive that I felt like I was riding along the Tourist Route with you.

    However…it’s your eloquent perspective of the Norwegian’s love and determination to live “with” their land not just on is what left me emotional. I hope future tourists are able to experience that as well.

    You do Norway proud-I hope their tourism bureau reads this.

  4. @Hilda – Why yes, yes I do 🙂 Ben isn’t working out too well, I’m afraid (joke)

  5. @Wendy – I’m glad to facilitate armchair travel, any time! Afraid we won’t be profiling warm beaches this winter, but just wait till next year…

  6. @Kristen – Thanks for the kind words. If there’s one country that I feel will responsibly manage tourism for decades to come, it’s this one. I like to think future tourists are in for a treat for years and years to come.

  7. Hi Jenna,

    Wow, really breathtaking views! Words are really not enough, aren’t they, but you were able to share something of the beauty of this place. I would gladly drop everything if I have the funds right now.

    The only place I’ve seen that comes close are the mountains and valleys of Switzerland.

    This goes right to the top 5 in my bucket list!

  8. @CreditDonkey – I’m so happy to provide something that resonated with you, and to help someone else experience such a unique place. If you ever do get to go, I’d love to hear what you think.

  9. I haven’t made it to Norway yet. The views look so incredible I can’t wait to go. Maybe next year.

  10. It’s such a special place, Andrea. Not sure what I was expecting, but I was completely overwhelmed.

  11. Norway IS my favourite country in Europe if you want to see something
    special “google” >>>
    Reine Norway panorama photo
    This is my favourite location which is near the southern end of the
    Lofoten Islands off the coast near Bodo… I dare you to go!!!

  12. Beautiful!

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