This trip was originally published on www.travelfrreak.blogspot.com
This May, I spent a long weekend exploring the north-west part of Norway, around the Andalsnes and Geiranger area. It was 4 days of essentially driving through picturesque mountains and greenery, trekking the green mountains, taking scenic train rides, boating in the fjords and just enjoying the natural beauty of Norway. The weather was warm and sunny the entire period we were there, which added to our already perfect experience. We covered a lot of ground through all modes of transport, and have got a good feel for what Norway is about. We of course could not explore close to what all this vast country has to offer, but got a good peek into it for sure.
We were there for 4 days and our itinerary was as follows:
Day 0 - Land at Trondheim from London Day 1 - Travel from Trondheim to Andalsnes by scenic train route. After reaching there, drive to Trollstigen (Troll Road) and Trollveggen (Troll Wall) Day 2- Drive towards Atlantic Ocean Road in morning and Rampestreken trek to Andalsnes viewpoint in the evening Day 3 - Drive from Andalsnes to Geiranger, sightseeing on the way. Bike down from Batsnibba to Geiranger and boating in Geiranger fjords in evening. Day 4 - Boating in Geiranger fjords again in the morning, drive from Geiranger to Alesund. Return flight from Alesund to London
To start with, I had no part to play in planning this vacation. A group of friends were already going and I decided to tag along. I now realise the benefit of letting other people plan trips for you:). Its easier and more comfortable that way. And if their planning is as good as my fellow travellers', there can be nothing better than that!
We started our vacation with a delayed flight to Trondheim which finally landed after midnight. I think that was the only thing in the whole trip which did not go as planned:). Rest was as smooth as it gets. The last part of the flight was over snow covered mountains interspersed with water bodies, which looked pretty from the top.
After we landed, we got to see the midnight sun though, it was quite un-dark when we got out of the airport. We took the local bus to the city centre and also got a discount on the bus ticket, 1 free ticket with 8 tickets bought. So a good start to the trip:). The way to town was all green with mountains and water bodies all around. And the horizon was orange throughout, with light from the sun in multiple hues.
Trondheim is a small little town on the North West coast of Norway. We were staying at the Scandic hotel in town which was close to the train station and the cathedral. We could not see anything at night as we were very tired and crashed as soon as we reached the hotel. I did go out for a quick walk around in the morning after breakfast, along the coloured houses next to the canals but couldn't explore enough. I also got a sneak peek from afar of the cathedral but not much after that.
The first day we took the Rauma scenic train to Andalsnes, and then drove around nearby to Trollstigen and Trollveggen. We had an early start from Trondheim, as we had to take an 8 am train. It was a 10 min walk to the local train station and we barely made it, given how late we had slept at night. While leaving the city on the train, I realised that the town was quite spread out and not as small as I assumed. It just looked smaller because its not congested:).
The train we took dropped us at the village of Drombas where we waited an hour for the Rauma scenic train to Andalsnes. The route up to there also felt scenic to me:), we went through green hills with wooden houses and lots of water bodies in between. And then the landscape got dry, with trees with no leaves and still lakes. We then passed by red wooden houses with reindeer horns in front, am guessing all Norwegian houses have those? We also saw some elk (or reindeer?) running along the train on the way but not many.
We had a nice time at the village of Drombas as we had an hour to kill and so walked down the hill to the village, noticing the farmers getting their fields ready for sowing in the summer. There were barely 10 houses there which is the usual for Norwegian country side I would think. But even with the few houses, they had a helipad to help during medial emergencies!
The scenic route was about 1.5 hours one way, the train was very comfortable and had panoramic windows on both sides to take in the views on both sides. The train goes down from 5000 mts to the valley floor at 100 m above sea level along the ride. It slows down when it comes to touristy places but was not slow enough for us to take pictures:). It was more enjoyable just taking in the scenes. As the train took us across lush green mountains and wild yellow flowers; next to the Rauma river and small streams and big waterfalls; throughsmall villages and old historical sites; and over bridges which were feats of engineering to build.
The one I remember though is the 360 degrees turn the train took inside the mountain to land at a place just below where it had entered! I had seen something like this in Banff in Canada but not gone through it. You don't realise whats happening till you are out of the hill. In the end, we cross the Troll Wall where we would drive later in the day anyways.
Once we arrived in Andalsnes, it was bliss. This is the view of the train station, in between high mountains on all sides and the sea coming in as a fjord in between. The snow on the mountains, the green on the hills, the blue of the water and the bright blue sky with the shining sun - all colours were at their resplendent best and this was a standard fare for the rest of our 4 days in the country.
We had rented a car from Hertz (I think) and the car rental served as the local petrol station too. Am guessing given how small the town was, people had to multi-task ;-). We also found two grocery stores nearby itself with convenient opening hours and we were all set for food if we did not find vegetarian options in the town.
We had taken an Airbnb apartment near the village of Isfjorden. It was a 20 mins drive from Andalsnes and a beautiful villa located in the middle of nowhere. It has a picturesque view outside the window, of snow covered mountains with lush green trees in front. There were also lots of ponies and sheep on the way to the accommodation, which felt quite picture perfect. We quickly checked in there and then took off on our explorations.
We first drove up the serpentine Trollstigen road, which goes up one of the famous mountains of the area - the Trollsveggen (or the Troll Wall). It is the tallest rock-face in Europe, and towers 1,000 m above the ground. We had seen the Wall face from the Rauma scenic train and now were driving up the other side.
The views while driving up and from the top were quite magnificent. You can see the road zig-zagging all the way up. And picturesque bridges and waterfalls on the way. There was also a lot of snow on top unlike the sunny plains we had left behind. Within 30 mins it had gone from sunny and warm to cool and breezy. We stopped a bit at the viewpoint on top which gives a panoramic view of the road up. We also stocked up our water bottles with fresh water from the streams (it was very fresh and tasted awesome). We kept doing this all along our trip and I am sure we drank more minerals than what the typical bottled water bottle provides:).
After Trollstigen we went back for a quick stop to see the front of the mountain, where we stopped for a short time. It seemed like a popular place for people to camp, under the shadow of the huge mountain. Thereafter we went out looking for food (One downside of being in Norway in summer was that it was light till 11, so you lose track of time. You can be out till late and not realise how late you are for dinner)
Anyways we were lucky with food our whole time in Norway. Given how small the town was, we were not too hopeful of finding tasty vegetarian food there at all. But we got a good surprise when we were served a tasty and hearty Italian meal at the Piccola Mama Rosas in the city centre.
The second day, we all drove to the Atlantic Ocean Road and in the evening did the Rampestreken trek which was the first highlight of the trip for me. Some of our group did more than that though - the two most adventurous ones went for cycling up the Trollstigen. It was a couple of hours and quite tough apparently, but totally worth it. I was happy though to drive around in the car:).
We had a very tasty home cooked breakfast, and then left for the Atlantic Ocean Road which was about 2 hours drive away from Andalsnes. The drive till there was along the sea and the typical Norwegian drive with magnificent views all along - green lush forests dotted with yellow and purple wild flowers, snow on the mountain peaks, streams and waterfalls on both sides of the road, wooden colourful huts dotting the plains, very few people, fjords every two minutes, crossing them in ferries (Solsnes ferry), bright blue skies and fresh air everywhere. We crossed many tunnels through the mountains also on the way. Every turn in the road felt like a picnic spot. To be honest, it felt so natural after a point but we stopped noticing it also:). But I miss it a lot now when I think back on those 4 days.
The drive was very comfortable and the road and infrastructure amazing. We jumped from one to another island, driving through Molde and Bolsoya, mostly along the sea. We saw lots of houses all along the way and it felt that the density of population was a lot higher than I would have assumed. But we did not see as many people. It could be because a lot of those houses are vacation cabins and vacant most of the times. Or just that this area of Norway was more densely populated than the others.
The Atlantic Ocean Road is about 8 kms, runs from Bud and Kristiansund, and connects multiple small islands through a series of bridges over the sea. This whole drive was spectacular with photo spots every two minutes. I don't even remember how many places we stopped and how many pictures we would have clicked when we were there. The mountain landscape, the dark blue of the water, the seagulls in the air, the fishes and jellyfishes in the sea, a fresh breeze blowing, the sun shining - and there, life is beautiful:). Norway I think is one of those places where you can sit anywhere in the vast countryside and enjoy just sitting there, staring at the calm and peace around. It was amazing to lie down on one of the rocks at one of the stops, and go to sleep. Nirvana?
One of the most photographed bridge on this route was the Storseisundet bridge. Just next to it was a cafe where we took a quick snack break. On this trip, we had planned ahead and were carrying enough cash for the trip. But when we tried paying at the cafe in cash, they were quite surprised to see it! Apparently no one uses cash in Norway anymore, even at a remote location:). On our way back to Andalsnes, we also stopped at a fishing village (now converted to a hotel) for some time. It was nice sitting in the sun and spotting fish in the way. It would be great to stay in a remote place like this, wouldn't it?
Once in Andalsnes, we did the Rampestreken trek up from the City Centre to a view point which has a panoramic view of the valley below. It was a red in difficulty and took about 2.5 hours to go up and come down. The length of the trek was about 2 km in length and a total ascend of 500 mts. There are markings every few 100 mts of height gained which is very helpful:). The path is through forested areas, all the way straight up; you will need to jump over tree roots and stone steps on the way. It was quite a tough trek and took a lot of effort going up.
But the viewpoint on top was totally worth it, one of the high point on this trip. Once on top, there is a protrusion out in the open which gives you a 180 degrees view of the Trollstigen road, the fjord, Andalsnes and beyond. It was a mind-blowing view and I loved standing at the place, though I must say it felt a bit scary too! I also realised that Andalsnes was quite an industrial town and had lot of the ugly looking steel buildings. The view from the top though was beautiful in every sense. As I said the trek was totally worth it, but did not stop us complaining all the way on why we had come on such a difficult trek:).
Again we did not realise how late we were, we had started the trek at 7 and finished at 10. By that time, we were all ready to call it a day, cooked a very tasty maggi dinner at our airbnb and crashed soon after.
The third day again we had an early start: we drove till Geiranger, cycled down a mountain and then went for boating in the fjord (pretty hectic day, but as I said days in Norway are very very long). The drive till Geiranger was again again through very picturesque locations. We had to take many ferries on the way, to get from one island to another and not have to drive along the fjords. But by this time as I said, stunning views had become a daily occurrence and no more a novelty:).
This blog was originally published on 'TRAVELFREAK'