From the south all the way up to North Cape, the northernmost point of Europe, around the fjord region or through the quaint villages with their idyllic coloured wooden houses, there are different ways of getting to know Norway. One of the most adventurous, though, is to hire a car or motorbike and explore the national tourist routes. Here, the marvellous natural landscape guarantees a feeling of freedom and escape from the humdrum. Take a look at some of the attractions you'll find along the way:
Almost down at the southern tip of the country, the Ryfylke district is home to the dramatic Lysefjord and the mountains of Kjerag and Preikestolen – Pulpit Rock – impressive rocky outcrops that can be climbed to afford a marvellous panoramic view. Go salmon fishing, or sample the fresh catch at one of the Ryfylke restaurants; take a cruise on the glacial waters of the Lysefjord, visit the picturesque town of Sauda, nestled among waterfalls and mountains, and admire lake Nedre Tysdalsvatn along the way... these are are just some of the must-sees on this scenic road.
The west of Norway is known as Fjord Norway and here the Hardanger region spans one of the largest mountain plateaus in Europe. The lush green hillsides, waterfalls, mountains and glaciers typify the romantic landscape of the country. Among an impressive number of waterfalls is the dazzling group of falls that make up the Voringfossen, boasting a spectacular drop of 145 metres. This route also offers other attractions such as hiking some of the Hardangervidda trails, a cruise on the Hardangerfjord, kayaking on the Eidfjord or walking on the Folgefonna glacier.
Farther north, about 200 kilometres inland from the western coast, lies Aurland. Here the road crosses the mountains of Aurland, taking the travellers on an intense journey to a high mountain plateau with lush forests. Don't miss the chance to drive through the Laerdal tunnel – at 24.5 kilometres, the longest in the world – as well as visiting the Stegastein lookout point with its marvellous views of the fjords and valleys of the area.
At 1430 metres above sea level, Sognefjell mountain pass is the highest, and one of the most impressive, in northern Europe. From the inner reaches of the Sognefjord, the road winds between the fjord and the valley through the Jotunheimen National Park, over high mountains with glacier ice, jagged peaks and brilliant emerald green lakes. Along the way you pass Galdhopiggen, the highest mountain in Norway, and Jostedalsbreen the largest continental glacier in the country.
Trollstigen - 'the troll's ladder' - climbs through the steep slopes and intense natural landscape of western Norway. Located about 15 kilometres south of Andalsnes, in the province of More og Romsdal, north of the Norwegian fjords, it has a hair-raising 9% incline and comprises 11 tight mountain bends. There is a parking area at the top, and a ten minute walk will take you a viewing point looking out over the Stigfossen waterfall, which tumbles 320 metres down the mountainside to the enchanting valley of Isterdalen.
Although only short – just eight kilometres – this modern route offers a breathtaking driving experience as you zigzag over low bridges that jut out over the sea linking the small communities on the islands between Molde and Kristiansund, in the fjords of western Norway. Hustadvika is an ocean region where whales and seals can be seen in good weather, while storms in the area provide stunning natural spectacles – the road opened in 1989 and during the construction workers experienced 12 hurricanes. The local climate and the winds combine to make a dramatic atmosphere, and both the road and the terrain are great for cycling and hiking.
Above the Arctic Circle, this national tourist route runs for 166 kilometres and passes through fantastic landscapes of majestic mountains, emerald sea and white sand beaches with wooden fishing boats and rorbuer – the traditional fishermen's cabins. The main tourist islands, Austvagoy, Vestvagoy, Flakstad and Moskenes are a place of inspiration for writers and a favourite destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The southern islands swarm with sea birds – puffins, cormorants, guillemots and eagles – and seals, killer whales and whales are regular visitors to these waters.
Norwegian Tourist Board
NB: Due to extreme weather conditions in parts of Norway, some of these roads are only open at certain times of year.