Our Trip from Molde To Bergen, Norway
By Eilene Lyon
After our Hurtigruten ferry trip to Molde, we were free to motor our way around the fjord region until our flight back to Amsterdam. This part of the trip was entirely unplanned. We followed our noses (as you shall see), with a little help from Lonely Planet.
We began with a hike up the hill above our Molde hotel to see The Romsdal Museum. The museum and the open air park were technically closed – in season, they have living history demonstrations – but we were able to get a map of the buildings and a booklet that gave their history.
The park includes 50 buildings from Molde and the surrounding area that were built in the 1600 – 1900 time period.
Some of the buildings in the open air Romsdal Museum.
Next, it was time to try our hand at navigating by map and Norwegian road signs – fun, fun! We took the 64 north out of Molde and turned west toward Bud on the 663/664 to see the Atlantic coast. The weather was really unsettled – wind, low clouds, and occasional rain spitting in our faces.
The sight to see is called the Atlanterhavsveien – Atlantic Highway – which hopscotches across little patches of rock between Vevang and Kårvåg.
A view of the most spectacular bridge along the Atlanterhavsvein highway.
Another view showing the full scope of the bridge.
Behind this long funky wall near the bridge was a well-hidden snack bar and public restrooms. As we puzzled about how to get in, someone inside took pity on us and opened the door.
The Putterer enjoys his espresso inside the snack bar.
Looking out the snack bar windows to our rental car.
Not wanting to venture beyond this crazy little roadway, we turned around and completed a loop back to Molde to catch the ferry across the fjord south to Vestnes. We followed the E39 overland, then took the 650 which wound inland along the Storfjorden. We ended our day at Valldal.
There’s a really cute tourist hotel in town (closed), so we opted for the Valldal Fjordhotel (it was the only place open, and we were effectively at a dead end). Excellent choice. It sits right on the fjord, and there are walking paths along the fjord and up the river that bisects the little village, so we had a nice stroll. All the rooms are on the ground level and open out to individual patios.
The Valldal Fjordhotel. That black blot in the sky is a raven kite. We saw these in several places and assumed they were intended to scare gulls away.
We were among a small, select number of guests, but the restaurant was serving dinner and I will commend it as the best meal we had during our entire stay in Norway. The breakfast buffet the next morning was also stupendous. (Overall, the food we had in Norway was quite good.)
The next morning we took the short ferry ride from Valldal to Eidsdal, where we were able to drive to Geiranger (known for heavy traffic in tourist season). We knew we would not be able to proceed past that point by road. You got it! Another ferry ride!!
The view of Geiranger from a lookout on the winding road down into the fjord.
This ride from Geiranger to Hellesylt was so stunning that The Putterer was in tears. I’m not certain if it was the beauty, or the fact he refused to come in from the breezy, chilly deck. Pictures do not do it justice, I promise you.
Preparing to board the ferry in Geiranger.
We learned about some of the holdout farmers who clung to the steep sides of this fjord until the 1960s. When you see the buildings they left behind, and how they seem to hang in midair, you marvel that they could have survived there at all.
Leaving Hellesylt, we entered the region known as Nordfjord. We found a hotel in Stryn, knowing that the towns a little further along were more expensive. Though the hotel was a little long in the tooth, the rooms were nice and the dinner and breakfast buffets were good. There didn’t appear to be much going on in the town itself.
The next morning, we first drove from Stryn to Loen, where they have a new aerial tram, just a year old. The employees were there and told us they didn’t open until noon, but they had a school group arriving earlier if we wanted to go up at 10:30.
We planned on that and drove the Lodalen Valley road to the lakes southeast of Loen. We really enjoyed exploring the rural areas, but were quite puzzled about this: we rarely saw farmers or their livestock, but whenever we got out of the car, the smell of manure was a real face-slap.
View of a lake and mountains in the Lodalen Valley.
We arrived back at the tram for the 10:30 lift. We bought our tickets (not cheap) and waited for the kids to arrive. They didn’t, so they gave us a private ride up to the mountaintop.
The Loen aerial tram arrives at the top of the mountain.
The snow was still quite deep up there, so we didn’t get to wander far, though they do have snowshoes available. It’s a deadly drop if you misstep. We enjoyed the view from the platform instead. It’s undoubtedly a marvelous place to hike in summer.
Still lots of snow up top.
The viewing platform.
View of Loen and the Lodalen Valley
The kids came up on the tram just as we were heading down. Can’t say we minded having the place to ourselves!
Next stop on our impromptu tour was the Briksdal Glacier. This hanging glacier sits on the edge of the Jostedalsbreen, a national park that was not open while we were there (home to the largest glacier in mainland Europe).
The hike to the Briksdal glacier was perfect. The sun was out, waterfalls burbled energetically, and there was almost no one there. We encountered one group of four at the glacier itself and saw no one else until we were nearly back at the parking lot. Okay, maybe this off-season touring isn’t so bad!
Mossy waterfalls on the hike up to the Briksdal glacier.
The Briksdal glacier and lake.
We spent the rest of the day driving to Sogndal, the seat of government in the Sognefjord region. We stayed in a Best Western, but not like any I’ve ever been in. The décor was like I’d imagine a stuffy old men’s club at Oxford to be, but modernized. Not bad, just different. The city itself wasn’t remarkable.
Leaving Sogndal the next morning, we stopped in Kaupanger to see the stave church there, which is one of the best preserved (and still in use) in Norway. Though it wasn’t open, and we couldn’t see the staves and interior construction, it was in a romantic setting and we enjoyed the exterior view and small cemetery.
The Kaupanger stave church and cemetery.
Time for a bit on Norwegian engineering. Up to this point in our trip, we’d driven through a fair number of tunnels. One was a bit unnerving, as it was essentially an oversized culvert, curving and one-laned. But most were well-designed, well-lit traffic tunnels.
On this section of our trip, because the pass road was still closed by snow, we had to take the mother of all tunnels – the Laerdalstunnelen. This is the world’s longest traffic tunnel at 24.5 km (15.23 mi). Tunnels are so critical to transportation in the fjord regions that Norway is at the forefront of tunnel engineering. Need a tunnel? Call Norway.
We emerged from the tunnel at Aurland and took a scenic (steep, one-lane, two-way) road up to a viewpoint overlooking the arm of the fjord that ends at Flåm. We also visited Flåm, but the brewery was closed. We visited the museum about the train, though we didn’t ride it. Overall, we didn’t think it lived up to the hype. Onward.
Based on a last-minute look at the Lonely Planet guide, we detoured up to the Myrkdalen ski area for the night. It was the final weekend of ski season. We were tempted to try a bit of skiing the next day, but the snow was in classic spring condition, there was fog covering the mountain, and the slopes were barren of trees to provide depth perception.
The hotel at the ski area is new, modern, and the least expensive place we stayed in Norway. We had a balcony from which we enjoyed watching the crazy season-end snow-trike races (crashes galore). The bartender in the lounge (Juan from Barcelona) was a hoot. He told us a lot about Norwegians and Norway’s strict alcohol laws (we never saw a liquor store while we were there).
The hotel and ski area at Myrkdalen.
Honestly, we tried to get to know the Norwegians, but even the young ones at the ski area were quite reserved. I think we need to know more about the culture and a bit of the language if we have the opportunity to go there again.
Feature image: Looking down valley from the Briksdal glacier (E. Lyon 2018)