5 of the best road trips in Norway: be captivated by mountain passes and coastal routes

Atlantic Ocean Road, passing through the several small islands in Norwegian Sea and is part of  National Tourist Routes of Norway. One of most famous landmarks. Beautiful blue cloudy summer landscape.
One of the best ways to see Norway is on a road trip holiday © Jana_Janina / Getty Images

In the land of 50,000 islands, where mountains spring straight from the sea and mossy greens sit starkly against grey, craggy, snow-capped peaks, driving is the best way to get about. Seeing all Norway has to offer from the cozy cockpit of a car is, quite simply, an otherworldly experience. 

From island-hopping, bridge-crossing coastal drives to hair-raising mountain passes, see Norway at its finest with these top road trip routes.

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Atlantic Road

Best road for bridges 

Molde to the Gjemnessundbrua suspension bridge – 111km (69 miles)

Bridges and tunnels are a frequent feature of Norway's road network as they keep many of the country's small islands connected. For those looking to sample some of Norway's most spectacular bridges, look no further than the Atlantic Road. Not far from the city of Molde, the road connects the island of Averøy with the mainland and was first opened in 1989.

Best-known as one of the filming locations for a driving scene in the Bond film No Time to Die, a total of eight bridges stretching over 8274m (27,146ft) make up the route, giving way to some spectacular views across the Atlantic.

Packed with coastal scenery, culture and history, start by driving north from Molde on the E39 before taking the exit for Route 64. From here, there's no need to take any turns as the route will guide you up to the coastline where the breeze from the Atlantic and the bridges signify the start of the drive. 

Once on the Storseisundbrua – the road's longest and best-known bridge – hopping from one inlet and island to the next can be quite the experience on a blustery day. With the ocean foam peppering the road as you drive along, the initial stretch is magically moody when a northwest storm rolls in. But, equally, on a still summer's day, it's just as impressive and easier to snap some spectacular photos.  

After the main stretch of bridges, Route 64 weaves its way across the island of Averøy before dropping down into the Atlantic Ocean Tunnel and resurfacing to join Route 70. Once across the beautiful but sparsely populated island of Frei, the road drops down into another impossibly long tunnel that reconnects with the island of Bergsøya briefly before heading across the mighty Gjemnessundbrua suspension bridge. First opened in 1992, the bridge reconnects to the mainland, where the route continues on Route 39 back to the city of Molde.

Looking from the vewpoint over the Trollstigen mountain road
The Trollstigen (the Troll Path) has 11 hairpin bends © Justin Foulkes / Lonely Planet

Trollstigen pass 

Best road for thrillseekers and photographers

Åndalsnes to the Trollstigen visitor center – 40km (25 miles)

The Trollstigen pass (the Troll Path) is one of the world's most celebrated roads. Made up of 11 bracing hairpin bends that carry the road up more than 850m (2790ft) up the mountainside, the route links Åndalsnes with the Valldal valley and Geiranger. Replacing a challenging hiking trail, the pass scales a sheer face dominated by the Stigfossen waterfall – a vigorous body of water that cascades off the mountain and plunges more than 350m (1000ft) in a thundering torrent.

Harsh weather and snow makes the route impassable to traffic between October and May but the road reopens after the annual spring rockfall, which legend has it results from trolls fighting on the nearby Trollveggen mountain. For those looking for that epic shot of a steep-sided Norwegian fjord, Trollstigen is the one. 

Starting in the small town of Åndalsnes, take route 64, south out of the town for a short distance before making a left turn to join route E136. Head along here until the turn for route 63 comes up on the right and head off south down here. After roughly 20 minutes of driving, the imposing sheer face of the Trollstigen will come into view, which is where the route starts to twist its way skywards. There's a small lay-by at the bottom, which makes for an ideal, low down shot of the pass before you start to climb. 

Once on the pass, your eyes might want to wander to the views down the valley out of the side window, but keep focused as the pass snakes its way up the mountainside with the rugged edge of the cliff face on one side and a hefty drop down on the other side. Luckily, there's a sturdy concrete barrier that lines the road for most of the way.

As if the views weren't enough, there's another surprise at the Trollstigen's summit. With its modern steel and concrete aesthetic the Trollstigen visitor center and cafe is an ideal stopping point to catch your breath and take it all in. 

Best of all is a zig-zagging pathway that starts from the summit and leads to viewing platforms perched high above the pass. The steel and concrete structure is an impressive architectural feat but also the key to securing the final piece in the photographic puzzle for those documenting the drive. From up here, the views on a clear day are simply sublime.

Aurora Borealis in Tromso, Norway in front of the Norwegian fjord, winter season
You could be lucky enough to spot the northern lights in the Lofoten Islands © MU YEE TING / Shutterstock

The Lofoten road 

Best route for heading off the beaten track

Svolvær airport to Å – 133km (83 miles)

For those looking for something a little more adventurous, arctic and remote, try the road that connects the Lofoten – a wild archipelago that clings to the coast and sits inside the Arctic Circle. Far from the beaten track of tourist sites within striking distance of Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, the Lofoten lies in the far north of the country, which makes it the ideal place to see winged wildlife and the northern lights in the wintertime.  

Fly directly to Svolvær airport on the island closest to the mainland, which serves as the gateway for the Lofoten road. Luckily the airport is also home to a rental car company, which saves a lengthy drive through Norway to get to the starting point. Equipped with some wheels, it's off and away as you pick up the E10 and follow its end in the tiny fishing village of Å, on the far west of the archipelago.

With just one road to follow as it snakes its way across the islands, there's very little margin for error but don't rush –the whole drive could be done in less than three hours or you could take a few days to soak in all there is to see. As the road hugs the coast, you'll be treated to stunning views of mountains rising steeply from the sea, turquoise waters and – depending on the time of year – plenty of snow in winter or lush greenery and blonde beaches in summer. Despite being in the Arctic Circle, the climate is surprisingly mild thanks to the Gulf Stream. 

Along the way, there are a few essential sights. First on the route from Svolvær airport is the viewpoint at Torvdalshlsen, with its modern benches providing shelter as you look over Vestvågøy. From there, keen twitchers should head over to the west side of the area to the lakes of Gårdsvatnet, Skjærpvatnet and Storeidvatnet to see the best-winged wildlife the region has to offer. 

Staying within Vestvågøy, it's on to Eggum with its amphitheater-shaped rest area, offering views down the rugged coastline on one side and towering, jagged mountains on the other. An hour further west towards the end of the road is Rambergstranda, which features an idyllic beach in Jusnesvika bay. The site is an unusual blend of peaks, sand and azure seas, with a walkway made of railway sleepers enticing you down to the water's edge. 

From Rambergstranda it's a 40-minute drive to the village of Å, where the road quite literally ends. This tiny village was dependent on fishing until the 1990s when tourism started to take over. As one of the most westerly points in the country, the village is a beautifully isolated outpost with its red wooden fishing huts harking back to the days when tourists would seldom venture this far.

The Jæren road

Best route for Norway’s spectacular south coast 

Ogna to Bore – 41km (25 miles) 

While the Jæren road between Ogna and Bore itself is reasonably uninspiring, this is the best way to take in the most beautiful parts of Norway’s southern coastline. Take your time over the journey – there are plenty of stunning hidden spots and detours to take in along the way. 

Starting out in the small village of Ogna, pick up route 44 as it heads northwest, hugging the coastline all the way. Less than 10km (6 miles) down from Ogna, lies the Kvassheim lighthouse, which is worth pulling off the main road and visiting. On this coastline littered with shipwrecks, lighthouses are a frequent site and Kvassheim is one of the best examples. First built in 1912, the lighthouse was still in operation until 1990 when a smaller, automated beacon replaced it. Now the wooden building houses a museum and visitors center.

From Kvassheim, the route continues northwest on route 44 before breaking off to pick up route 507, which runs parallel to the white sands of Orrestranda, one of the best beaches in Norway. Here you can walk for miles along the sand, while taking in the leafy greens and rich flora and fauna that surround the beach and populate the sand dunes. Finishing up, it’s a short drive to the village of Bore where the route comes to an end.

Reindeer in Jotunheimen National Park in Norway which is near Lom
The Sognefjellet route is littered with viewing platforms where you might spot local wildlife © Martijn Smeets / Shutterstock

Sognefjellet

Best route for an inland adventure

Lom to Gaupne – 108km (67 miles)

Moving away from the coastline, the Sognefjellet is a road that cuts through the heart of the Bøverdalen valley. Expect constantly changing scenery as this route climbs up to a high point of 1432m (4705ft), making the road northern Europe’s highest mountain pass. With that, part of the route – from Rustasætre/Vegaskjelet to Turtagrø – is normally closed during the winter months and is usually open from spring until autumn. Those traveling the route in springtime, shortly after it re-opens, will be treated to 3m (10ft) banks of snow, which line the road on both sides, illustrating the full force of a Norwegian winter.    

Once an important transport artery linking the coast and inland areas, the Sognefjellet was used to carry salt and fish eastwards, while butter, pitch and leather were transported west. Now a popular tourist trail, the route is littered with viewing platforms and spectacular natural features that tempt you off the beaten track.

Starting in Lom, the small village has built up a reputation as a culinary capital along the route, so make sure you sample the local delicacies before heading off. Halfway along the route, a rugged stone sculpture at Mefjellet by Knut Wold is a firm favorite with photographers, as it frames the jagged mountain landscape surrounding it. 

Closer towards Gaupne, the route runs along the shores of Sognefjord from Skjolden to the end of the route. As the largest and deepest fjord in the country, Sognefjord is often referred to as the King of the Fjords and stretches 205km (127 miles), cutting through the heart of Norway.Once around the glimmering green and blue waters of Sognefjord, the route ends up in the small village of Gaupne. With a traditional wooden church overlooking the water, the village is the perfect place to stop off before doubling back on yourself to drive it in reverse or continuing southwest along the shores of Sognefjord.

This article was first published on November 2, 2021 and updated on August 17, 2022

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