Certainly not for the faint of heart. One might say that clambering over sheer mountain faces for a strenuous 3-hour hike to reach a tiny boulder wedge between the rocks is fool-hearted enough. But to gain the courage to scoot onto the 5.3 m rock perched over a 984 m drop to the stunning Lysefjord below is a true test of courage. Not to mention it is undoubtably the most memorable photo-op in Norway. Although geographically close to the more famous Preikestolen, this hike is in a league unto itself. Prone to weather variations for sun to rain to snow in a matter of minutes, good preparation is paramount.
Lofthus is a sleepy little town that would not have much to comment it if it were not for a couple of things. It has the most stupendous views of Hardangerfjord, with plenty of roads and paths meandering up the mountains to provide even better ones. And in spring and summer, it absolutely abounds with blossoms, primarily cherry, plum and apple. While the village itself is not particularly different from many others in the area, it is a great place to go for a stroll, chat with local farmers and just sit in awe of Hardangerfjord with a foreground of pink and white flower blossoms. Simply charming!
Road 55 runs between Lom and Høyager and is 248 km long. The 108 km long section which runs across Sognefjellet (knows as Sognefjellsvegen) is declared National Scenic Routes. The scenery is of course amazing and there are plenty of hairpin bends, but what sets this route apart from the other National Scenic Routes is the elevation. It traverses the alpine plateau of Sognefjellet and passes several glaciers and the highest peaks of Scandinavia. The highest elevation on the route is 1,434 m, but you can take a detour to Galdhøpiggen Summer Ski Center, which will bring you up to 1850 m (where you can touch snow).
Another National Scenic Routes is the country road 5627 (on Google Maps the number is Fv243?). It's about 50 km long and runs from Lærdal to Aurlandsvangen across the Aurlandsfjellet. The views from the barren mountain plateau on Aurlandsfjord 600 m down is even more spectacular. Do we need to mention that there are plenty of hairpin bends. The traffic is just tourists because the route was replaced by the 24.5 km long Lærdal Tunnel - the world's longest road tunnel.
There are many beautiful road trips in Norway and National Scenic Routes 63 is among the absolute best. It's about 100 kilometers long and runs between Åndalsnes and Stryn via Valldal and Geiranger. The route passes amazing alpine landscape, several waterfalls, including Gudbrandsjuvet, and one of Norway's most famous fjords, Geirangerfjord. Four of the most iconic serpentine roads (including Trollstigen and Ørnesvingen) are also part of the route. No wonder why the route has been nicknamed the Golden Route.
This place illustrates well why Norway is the king of fjords. After a couple of hours of scenic hiking, you finally reach the flat slab of rock that hangs dramatically with a 604 m sheer drop to the fjord below. Besides giving you a good dose of vertigo, it also offers a great view over neighbouring peaks and Lysefjord with its vertical walls to all sides. If you're lucky, you will even see the mad BASE jumpers throw themselves over the edge only with a parachute on their back.
Runde is a true highlight of the Norwegian coast. A stunning island, reachable by boat or bridge, it is a bird-watcher’s paradise, with as much as half a million sea birds present here during spring and early summer. With fewer than 100 people living on the island, you’re unlikely to feel very crowded. There are basically two things to do here: hike across the island on foot, or tour around it by boat. The weather here is, as one might expect, crazy: sunny one minute, heavy rain the next. But that provides some absolutely stunning ocean scenery, and the terrain is easy enough to navigate even in bad weather. While the climb to the top of the island’s 300 m centre is a killer, the sight of thousands of Atlantic Puffins crash landing against the cliffs is well worth the effort. There’s also a nearby ship-wreck that has yielded over 500 kg of gold, so if you feel lucky you can always pull on a dry suit and jump in the water!
Norway in general, and Geirangerfjord in particular, boasts some of Europe’s most beautiful waterfalls. Some of them are almost too easy to access – all you have to do to see them is stop your car and open your window. Others, like the Seven Sisters, require a boat trip and (for the best possible view) a steep hike. According to legend, the Seven Sisters – seven streams, each forming its own waterfall – were seven girls, dancing playfully down the side of the mountain. Across the fjord stands the much more powerful Suitor, who – not surprisingly – was a man seeking to court the sisters. Be that as it may, these waterfalls are worth almost any effort to get close to them – the fleeting view provided from ferries and cruise ships is not enough to really appreciate the beauty and raw power of them, so try a sea kayak instead!
Sognefjord is not only the longest and deepest (an unbelievable 1300m in some parts) of Norway’s fjords, it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and varied. In some places its sides are steep and unforgiving, in others gentle, dotted with farms and cherry blossoms. There are countless little villages and towns along Sognefjord and its many branches, each cuter than the next. There is no end to what you can do here, from hikes in the many nearby mountains and boat trips on the water to scenic bike rides or drives along the paths and roads. Sognefjord also includes one of Norway’s two UNESCO-protected fjords, Nærøyfjord, which is often proclaimed to be Norway’s most beautiful. Boat trips are ideal, since they allow you to see places very difficult to access by land, such as waterfalls, farms and Viking graves. Nærøyfjord and its sister, Aurlandsfjord, are probably the most picturesque parts of Sognefjord.
Despite being Norway's fourth largest city, Stavanger has more of a small town feel. The quaint, walkable streets abound with cafes and restaurants ensuring that any visit to Stavanger must coincide with a meal or drinks with friends and laughs. With highlights like Norway's oldest (untouched) cathedral (St. Svithun's cathedral), the colourful old centre (Gamle Stavanger) and a lake that is totally windsurf ready, there is plenty to occupy the traveller. Not to mention MaiJazz, Stavanger's international jazz festival in May. But perhaps Stavanger is more famous for being the gateway to the Lysefjord and 2 of Norway's most popular day hikes, Preikestolen and Kjerag.