Tempted by family in Norway and long-held desire to visit the Land of the Trolls, my partner and I planned a 750km road trip along the West Coast of Norway and inland, through fjords and valleys of waterfalls. Having never visited before we relied heavily on the excellent Visit Norway website to help plan our trip, and then scored great tickets from Norwegian Air that would get us from Stewart International in Upstate NY, not far from where we live, directly to Bergen on Norway’s rugged West Coast.
We flew in at sunrise in late November, gazing in awe at the rugged coast line below us dotted with rocky outcrops, and in the distance, an epic horizon full of snowcapped mountains. We hopped in our rental car and hit the road immediately, South towards Stavanger where relatives awaited. Our first day was mainly spent on the road and several seamless ferry rides that connect the West Coast, through vast but low-lying estuaries that flow from narrow, giant fjords further inland. The first thing I noticed was how different the light was – the early Winter sun never getting much higher than the tree line, and the pink hue of dawn lasting for hours.
Stavanger is a busy port town with a lovely old quarter, and acts as the gateway to a number of famous Norwegian sites; ferries depart daily for Preikestolen (the Pulpit Rock) for example – one of the most photographed sites in the World. At that time of year, the ferries were still chugging out into the fjord but the long hike to the site was closed to visitors and we decided to save that for another visit. Instead we explored the town, taking a short hike at Godalen Beach for breathtaking views out East towards the fjords and mountains. We also spent the day exploring South of the city to visit some unmarked Viking graves, lighthouses and walk the gorgeous, wind-swept Orre beach.
On day three of our roadtrip through Norway, we set out East towards the mountains that had been tantalizing us since our dawn arrival at Bergen. Our route followed National Road 13 almost the entire length, taking us through spectacular fjords, over huge suspension bridges, on ferries and through tunnels and winding mountain roads. We stopped at Kvednahola, a magical little collection of old moss-roofed cabins and that was an ancient water mill, before arriving at our first hotel, Energihotellet in Nesflaten, which is attached to a hydro-electric power station that stands as one of the finest examples of Norwegian functionalist design.
From Nesflaten we drove North through the Valley of the Waterfalls which takes in 4 giant falls visible or accessible right from the road. We continued North, winding through the imposing Hardangerfjord (also the gateway to the famous Trolltunga that was closed to visitors that time of year) until we reached Hotel Ullensvang, a family owned spa hotel with with a slightly old school vibe, but an amazing indoor/outdoor pool facing straight out over the fjord. Behind the hotel, the steep mountainside leads up to Husedalen, where hiking trails leads through moss-covered forests to more huge waterfalls and views into the valley. Husedalen leads into Hardangervidda National Park, Europe’s largest high-mountain plateau of almost 9000 km2, and features hundreds of miles of hiking an cycling trails, fishing and camping
Just North of Ullensvang, we turned reluctantly back West towards Bergen to end our roadtrip through Norway. Easing our pain was another mind-blowing road through the fjords, where epic waterfalls cascaded down vast and distant cliff sides. On arriving in the lovely port town of Bergen, we checked into our hotel the Hanseatic and then made the short drive to visit one of Norway’s many Stave churches, Fantoft, a replica of a church originally built in 1150.