When it comes to driving in Norway, prepare yourself for two things: sharing the road and being patient. One-lane roads are not uncommon (you'll have to utilize turnouts), and the constant curves require taking it slow and easy. Always assume the route will take longer than expected, especially because you're likely to get out of your car to take in the vistas, anyway. With those two things in mind, you're ready. Where would you like to go?
- Road-tripping Norway's second-largest island
- Skirting the waters in the Nordfjord region
- Cruising the length of the Lofoten archipelago
- Driving from mountain and back again in Ryfylke
- Checking out bustling Oslo and beyond
Senja, the second-largest island in Norway, is a paradox: On the outside, its white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters conjure up images of the Caribbean. Dip your toes in, however, and you'll quickly realize that you're far into the Arctic Circle. Practically unknown to tourists, this area is fjord Norway at its most pristine and undiscovered, and yet there's so much to do: hiking, paddling, diving, photography, and staying up with the midnight sun (or the northern lights) are all obvious draws.
There's an entire scenic route dedicated to this area, aptly named the Norwegian Scenic Route Senja. You'll start in Gryllefjord before winding all the way to Botnhamn, making short detours to the water in Mefjordvær and Husøy. Don't skip these — standing feet from the edge of a mountain popping out of the ocean is an other-worldly experience. As you're cruising down the road, look for the viewpoints of Tungeneset and Bergsbotn. At Tungeneset, you'll find a wooden walkway ushering you over the rocks to epic views of the Okshornan peaks jutting out of the water. Bergsbotn, on the other hand, is a 44-meter long platform that sends you over the edge of the Bergsfjord, gazing down on the fjord and the village below.
If you're in Bergen and looking for a road trip out of the city, the five-hour drive north through the Nordfjord region to Kalvåg couldn't be more beautiful. You're along the very edge of Western Norway, dipping through inlets and waterways, above fjord waters, below cliffs, and through tiny fishing villages you wouldn't otherwise experience.
In Kalvåg, water is life. Go kayaking just outside the village, hop on a charter to go fishing or sailing (try your hand at catching your own crab), tour the herring factory, or stay above it all with a hike in the mountains. Otherwise, hop back in the car and head to the beach at Grotle. It's about 30 minutes away, but you'll feel as if you just drove to the Caribbean (white sand, turquoise waters, the works). For higher elevation junkies, head to Hornelen, the highest sea cliff in all of Europe, or make the drive to Loen, where you can take the skylift up to Mt. Hoven, about 3,300 feet above the sea.
Across the fjord, about 90 minutes from Kalvåg, slow down at the Kråkenes Lighthouse. It's especially dramatic during sunset, where the panoramic waters light up gold, orange, and pink — in all directions — across from the humble lighthouse. Not all of Norway is about heart-pounding adventure, after all.
The Lofoten Islands are becoming more and more popular by the day, making it all the more paramount to road trip the archipelago, finding spots away from the tourist grind. That being said, there's a reason visitors are starting to flock here: tiny fishing villages, cliffs plunging deep into blue waters, white beaches, and vistas spreading out to the ocean are around every corner.
Norwegian Scenic Route Lofoten starts you off in Raftsundet. From there, head straight to Svolvær. It's a traditional fishing village that will help set the pace — be sure to try the stockfish — and it's a great stop for viewing the northern lights at night. From there, break for the views in Gimsøy, Unstad (some of the most epic surfing in Europe), and Eggum, stopping in the village of Reine. If you've ever seen an aerial photo of Lofoten, it's probably from right here. "Picturesque" is an understatement, and once you're here, wandering the village streets, gazing down at the water and up to the hills, counting the dots of land barely breaching the surface, you'll see why.
After the beauty of Reine sinks in, head to Å. That's both an entire town name and the last letter of the Norwegian alphabet, which makes sense: it's at the very end of the Lofoten archipelago. Visit the Norwegian Fishing Village Museum while here, though know that the entire village will feel like a particularly beautiful museum in itself. Fishing was the sole industry up until WWII, and it's still very much run by two distinct families. Once you get your fill of history, grab a spot by the water and just take it all in — you've officially road-tripped the Lofoten archipelago.
Norwegian Scenic Route Ryfylke is for anyone who can't decide. Along its hundred-some miles, you'll cross rugged, brutal landscapes, and soft, lush hillsides. You'll get views deep into fjords, up waterfalls, and over cliffs. How is a road even here? you'll probably wind up asking.
Start your trip in Oanes, near Stavanger. If you're feeling adventurous, know that nearby is the famously epic Preikestolen. Even if you're not looking to climb to the top, take time to get immersed in the views of the Lysefjorden, viewing Preikestolen and the Kjerag boulder from below. Afterward, head north, weaving in between water and land. At Lovra in Suldal, you'll have the option of going east or west (it's a loop, so you'll go both ways eventually). West takes you directly along the fjord and to the Svandalfossen waterfall — a 540-step staircase will ensure you get a splash or two — while east sends you into high, barren mountains (of which Saudafjellet Mountain is the most well-known).
Your turn-around point is Håra, a small fishing village framed by snow-capped mountains. If you have time to spare, stop to learn more about the history of this area — small towns like Sand and Nesvik will quickly escort you to an otherwise bygone way of life.
The Oslo Loop
You've landed in Oslo. You've rented a car. Now what? Hit the road. You can see a combination of eastern and western Norway, of fjords and mountains, of small villages and big cities in about ten days, looping from the capital.
From Oslo (there will be time to explore it later), head to Geilo. It's a ski resort town, and if that's your thing, you know what to do. If not, know that Geilo is also the gateway to two very-nearby national parks: Hallingskarvet National Park and Hardangervidda National Park. Both offer amazing hiking trails, plenty of wildlife, and incredible views — you can't go wrong at either.
From Geilo, drive to Flåm — the namesake of the famous Flåm Railway. The town can be quite busy, so instead, stick to the surrounding waters. Break from the car, stretch your legs, and rent a kayak to see the fjords on a personal level. To avoid higher prices, though, get to Solvorn by nightfall to lay your head (we recommend Villa Solvorn). For the next day, explore Fjærland, take a ferry over to Urnes (the oldest stave church in Norway), or visit the Glacier Museum.
The next day is a big one — seeing the Geirangerfjord, one of the country's most beautiful and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take it in however you choose: hiking, biking, or just sitting and enjoying the view all day long are all solid options. If you have time to spare, head to nearby Jostedalsbreen National Park, or head for the next stop, Trollstigen. It's one of the most famous roads in Norway (the "Troll's Road"), and the views certainly aren't for the faint of heart. After the adrenaline-heavy drive, book a stay in Øye, ideally at the Union Øye Hotel. It's one of the most distinctly antique hotels in all of Europe.
From here, it's back to Oslo. Chill on top of the Oslo Opera House, walk through the Akershus fortress, or sit down to a Michelin-starred meal. Aquavit to celebrate, anyone?