Last year was the first year my sister, dad and myself drove (instead of taking a plane) all the way up from Oslo to our summer house in Vesterålen. It’s an absolutely stunning drive, and takes you trough some of the different types of flora and fauna Norway has to offer. It’s a long drive, but it is more than just transport, it’s a journey through Norwegian nature, culture and history.
Day 1 Oslo-Trondheim
On our first day we went from Oslo to Trondheim, over the Dover mountain plateau (there is also a second option to go through Østerdalen, which is slightly faster, but goes through dense woods- see map). The first stretch from Oslo to Lillehammer is a bit boring in my opinion, but from Lillehammer and up to the mountains the nature changes and become more dramatic. However, on this first stretch of road to Lillehammer, you pass Mjøsa, the largest lake in Norway, as well as plenty of places like Raufoss that offers great cross country skiing in the winter. Lillehammer used to be famous for being the host city of the winter Olympic 1994, but is now probably more known to be the setting for the TV series “Lilyhammer”. This year however, the city hosts the youth Olympic Games both the summer and winter games.
Many people want to see stave churches when they come to Norway. There is one in Lillehammer, called Garmo and there is one in Ringebu (larger and more elaborate) a bit further North. They are both worth a visit if only to glance at the exterior, but if you can afford it, you should also see the interiors of Ringebu stave church. If you are interested in stave churches, you should check out https://www.visitnorway.com/about/history-traditions/stave-churches/ which has a map where you can see all the stave churches in Norway.
The road between Oslo and Trondheim over the Dovre mountain plateau is the pilgrimage road to Nidarosdomen (Nidaros Cathedral), where Olav den Hellige (St Olav) is burried. This was a popular pilgrimage until the reformation in 1537. You can still walk all or parts of this road, and it goes through some spectacular nature. The trails are marked and there are several places to sleep. If you are interested you could check out http://pilegrimsleden.no/en/ . My father and I walked 5 km of the pilgrimage road down to Kongsvold.
From last year we knew that Kongsvold had great food, and this year again we had a gorgeous 3 course dinner there before driving down to Trondheim. If you ever pass there and have some extra cash to spend, you should have dinner there. Kongsvold also has a beautiful alpine garden worth checking out (free).
The last stretch down from Dovre to Trondheim goes through varied nature as well as cultured landscape. It also goes through several small villages like Oppdal (which has a downhill ski centre) before you reach Trondheim.
Trondheim is the fourth largest city in Norway (population well under 200 000), and the sagas tell us that it was founded by Olav Tryggvason in 997. It has been an important place for trade and was the capital of Norway from 1030-1217. The city also has spiritual importance and houses the only decent cathedral in Norway, Nidarosdomen. Trondheim is also a university city and is full of students from August-June. To check out what to do in Trondheim, visity http://trondheim.com/ or https://www.visitnorway.com/places-to-go/trondelag/trondheim/ .
Day 2 Trondheim-Brønnøysund
We started off in Trondheim at my sisters old place. She was moving to a new place so half of the day was spent helping her move out her heavy furniture and bed down four floors, and up one. After a hardy morning workout we hit the E6 road. Norway has 18 national tourist roads (nasjonale turistveier), which are roads that are considered to be incredibly beautiful and picturesque. I've done 5 out of the 6 northern ones, and on this trip we wanted do the southern part of the Helgeland coast road as we did the northern part last year. The tourist road starts at Holm, but should start even earlier if you ask me, you can check them out here: http://www.nasjonaleturistveger.no/en.
Last year we drove up to Mosjøen instead of out to the coast. If you chose to do so you will pass Grong, a place with a tiny salmon aquarium and a huge waterfall http://namsenlaksakvarium.no/ . The aquarium is a bit shit, but if you’re interested in fishing, the Namsen river has some great spots for fly-fishing.
We didn't get far on our second day, only to Brønnøysund in fact, as we had a late departure from Trondheim and you depend on the ferry from Horn-Andalsvågen and then from Tjøtta-Forvik to get any further north. It is really worth noting that if you chose to take any coastal road, no matter where in Norway, you often depend on ferries, and though most are frequent, some really aren’t. My best tip is to not rely on your phone as coverage can be bad (and they don't always update their internet time tables), but grab a leaflet with the ferry times for all ferries of the county when on your first ferry, and consult that.
We wanted to see Torghatten mountain, a firm tourist favourite, so we stayed overnight at Torghatten Camping. The sleepover options in Norway are often few and full. We were lucky to get the last free apartment at this camping site.
At this point, I should also tell you how bloody expensive it is in Norway. As everyone have to make a living wage and pay high taxes, food and hotels/cabins/lodges are expensive. If you’re going on a budget road trip in Norway, bring a tent or check accommodation beforehand.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to read part 2 as well, it is the best part!