Hardanger Tourist Route – the ultimate driving experience.

I think I have discovered the ultimate motorhome driving experience!  The amazing Hardanger Fjord tourist road  includes narrow mountain roads perched hundreds of feet above fjords, very long tunnels with roundabouts in, tunnels that spiral upwards through whole mountains, an incredible suspension bridge linking two tunnels and a road that runs over the largest plateau in Europe at 3,500 ft. This tourist route in Norway is not for the novice driver but it is sensational, as I will try and describe.

After paying nearly £30 per night on the campsite when we visited Bergen in our motorhome we wanted to find some free camping stops as we made our way to the next stage of our motorhome tour of Norway – Hardangerfjord.


It’s worth visiting Norway just to experience the incredible Vallavik  Tunnel and the Hardanger Plateau. Norway is a country full of fantastic driving experiences.


The weather so far in Norway has been superb. We haven’t seen rain for a month and today the temperature has been a hot 27c. As well as the excellent weather, the other phenomenon worth a mention is the length of the daylight hours. At 10.30pm I can still see blue sky and at midnight it is still light enough to read outside. In fact it does not get properly dark, which is great for our solar power.

Our search for a free night motorhome stay did not take long as we soon found a rest/picnic area just off road 48 next to Holmefjord. With a brand new toilet block with motorhome waste point it was a near perfect overnight stop.

Steinsdalsfossen, Norway. You can walk behind this waterfall.

The next day we stopped at Steinsdalsfossen, a fantastic waterfall with the added attraction of being able to walk behind the waterfall.

Hardanger Tourist Route and the Vallavik Tunnel

Beautiful Hardanger Fjord. (With power cables)!

We joined the Hardanger Tourist Route at Øystese and followed the spectacular E7 road perched on the side of a mountain road hundreds of feet above the fjord below. This road is not for the novice driver or anyone scared of heights because this road takes in the best of what Norway offers in terms of scenery. It is single track road for much of its length, with passing places, and only a thin concrete barrier separating you from certain death! It’s impossible to see around corners and you have no idea if another vehicle is going to meet you. The good thing about driving a motorhome which is 2.8 metres high is that you can be seen, and although we met many cars and even several coaches coming the other way most gave way to us.

Take a look, below, at the You Tube video I took of the amazing Villavik Tunnel.

One of the roundabouts inside the Vallavik Tunnel in Norway.

Turning right at the village of Granvin onto road 13 took us through the 4.7 mile Vallavik Tunnel. This tunnel is one of the most famous in Norway because it  has two roundabouts in it with junctions and also the new Hardanger Bridge links another long tunnel, which makes for a truly spectacular drive.

I would have loved a ride on this sea plane parked up at Eidfjord.

After a lunch stop at Eidfjord, where I was tempted by a sea plane flight, and where a Viking Sea cruise ship was berthed disgorging it’s cruise passengers into the tiny village, we continued our journey on the E7 road. A series of spectacular winding tunnels carved their way inside the mountain passing Vøringfossen, which was unfortunately shrouded in low cloud as by this time the hot weather had given way to rain and cloud.

It was a dark and gloomy start to the day when we drove over the Hardanger Plateau.

The incredible Hardanger Plateau.

Try to imagine one of the wildest and remotest places on Earth and that is how I would describe the Hardanger Plateau. It has an area of of 2,500 square miles and an average elevation of 3,500 ft. It is the largest mountain plateau in Europe. The land is strewn with boulders, lakes and small pools of water which makes it impossible to walk far unless a marked path is used. A network of paths connect mountain lodges some of which have honesty boxes whilst others are staffed. Despite the temperature of only 8c on the top of the Hardanger Plateau we found somewhere that looked suitable to park for the night and together with another motorhome that arrived we spent a comfortable but chilly night.

Where next?

The terrain will get less dramatic from now on as we head east. We will be visiting Anne’s cousin who lives north of Oslo before reaching Oslo itself where we will spend a few days exploring before catching the ferry to Denmark.

Our motorhome parked up for the night at 1100 metres on the Hardanger Plateau
Lots of snow near to where we parked for the night on the Hardanger Plateau.
We spent a night at Sæbo Camping on the E7 Tourist Route.
Driving on the Hardanger Plateau at 3,500 ft. Not much of a view at this point due to low cloud!

 

Conquering the highest mountain road and an interview with Norwegian radio

Yesterday was an eventful day. We drove on the highest mountain road in Norway, managed to have a small altercation with another vehicle breaking our wing mirror, and I was interviewed for Norwegian radio, live!

The RV55 from Lom starts with lush valley meadows and the road slowly ascends through the valley before reaching the summit at 1,434 metres, making the road northern Europe’s highest mountain pass. According to Google maps, the route we covered is 138 km long and should take 2 hours and 52 minutes. It took us 24 hours, including an overnight stop, in a parking area next to a fast flowing deep river, many other viewpoint stops and a very slow descent on one of Norway’s steepest roads.

History of the RV55 road

The road was used for trading and was an important transport link to the coast of Norway. Using this mountain road was not without its perils in days gone by as bandits robbed travellers and merchants. The weather is so severe on the road in winter and the snow so deep that it is impossible to keep the road open. Snow poles mark the edge of the road at close intervals and there was still very deep snow when we were there at the end of May.

Parked at one of the many viewpoints on the RV55 mountain road in Norway.

As we reached the summit of the road the Norwegian ski team were training in the still significant amount of snow left, although at its peak the snow is 10 metres deep. We parked our motorhome at one of the many viewpoints and stood awestruck at the magnificent snow capped mountains and wilderness on view before us, stretching as far as the eye can see. We stopped at one point to see a memorial for six men who lost their lives in the 19th century when they went looking for food and perished in the extreme cold.

An incident with a wing mirror

We stopped to take photographs and I got my drone out to take some aerial video. It was shortly after this that we damaged a wing mirror when a fast approaching van failed to slow down when we met and cracked the plastic casing of the passenger wing mirror. Luckily the glass was unaffected but I wished that I had listened to Anne’s advice and bought some mirror guards to help prevent damage like this.

An interview with Norwegian radio

After a very steep descent down a road with too many hairpin bends to count and many curses with “surely this road must end soon” we eventually  reached Skjolden, a pretty town at the end of Lustrafjorden, where we stopped for lunch. The final part of this road is a dramatic drive along the fjord, where we had to stop for 20 minutes when the tunnel was closed due to roadworks. When the tunnel re-opened there were only about 20 cars in the queue, which shows how quiet the road was. The roads we have driven along in Norway just keep getting more dramatic and the RV55 was much longer and steeper than Trollstiggen (blog post here) or Dalsnibba (blog post here) that we had driven along recently.

We eventually reached the town of Sogndalsfjora and found the Kjørnes campsite, which turned out to be a very good choice. With immaculate showers and great views we decided to spend two nights here.

Eating waffles, in our motorhome, with the owner of Kjørnes Camping whilst being interviewed for Norwegian radio.

We were relaxing in the evening sunshine,  without beer because it’s too expensive to buy, when a Norwegian radio car pulled up and a friendly young lady asked us if she could interview us for Norwegian local radio. Never to shy away from such things, and telling her that I had several times been interviewed by the BBC about travel and tourism, she returned the next morning for the interview. The lovely campsite owners were also interviewed and we were all crammed into our motorhome whilst being live on the radio. An interesting experience!

Tomorrow we go on a 3 hour ferry journey from Kaupanger to Gudvangen along the Naeroyfjord (UNESCO)

We spent 2 nights at the excellent Kjørnes Camping.
Map of our journey along the RV55 from Lom to Sogndals.

I put together a short video using a drone and motorhome dashcam.

The amazing Briksdal Glacier campsite in Norway.

Plunging 1200 metres into the awe-inspiring Briksdalen Valley, the Briksdal Glacier is an arm of the huge Jostedalsbreen Glacier and is another of Norway’s most visited attractions. Every day, during the summer season, hundreds of cruise ship passengers call at nearby Olden and board coaches to take them the short distance to Briksdal Glacier.

Melkevoll Bretun Camping

Melkevoll Bretun camping is a short walk to the visitor centre at the Briksdal Glacier, which is where the 45 minute walk to the glacier starts, and we decided to spend a few days there on our motorhome tour of Norway.

Melkovoll Bretun is in an awe inspiring location. We can see the gigantic waterfall Volefossen from our motorhome, thundering 355 metres down the mountain, and as soon as we arrived it was clear that we had arrived at a special place. The beauty of the surrounding landscape is a million miles away from the frantic day to day life and commuting that we still had this time last year . There is no pollution here, just fresh crisp mountain air that fills your lungs. All I can hear as I type this blog is the sound of water from the nearby river that a few minutes ago was at the top of the nearby mountain.  Our motorhome is parked up and all around us we can see snow capped mountains; this campsite must surely be in one of the best locations you could wish for.

I made a short video about Molkevoll Bretun camping, below.

The Briksdal Glacier

It was a warm and sunny day with clear blue sky when we arrived at Melkevoll Bretun so after plugging in our motorhome electricity cable we set off walking in the direction of the glacier.


The Briksdal Glacier and the camping at Melkevoll Bretun make an excellent combination as part of a motorhome tour of Norway.


Most of the cruise tourists were taking the troll carts (motorised buggies) to the glacier but we decided to save ourselves £22 each by walking to the glacier, which is about a mile and takes about 45 minutes. At the Briksdal Glacier visitor centre it said the walk was a gentle incline but I would describe the walk as being a bit of a tiring slog up a steep hill!

The walk up to the Briksdal Glacier takes you past amazing scenery such as this huge waterfall,

The walk up though proved to be the best option because you get to stop to look at spectacular waterfalls and mountain scenery. When you reach the glacier there is a glacial lake and we drank the water from the lake because it looked so crystal clear and fresh. So far no ill effects!

Walk up to the Briksdal Glacier takes you over this bridge.
The Briksdal Glacier in Norway has shrunk considerably over the last few years due to global warming.

On the walk down the very warm weather had made me thirsty and I said to Anne that I fancied a beer. So far on our motorhome tour of Norway we have had only one beer. Knowing that beer is very expensive in Norway, and even more so at popular tourist spots, I was still determined to have a beer to quench my thirst. So, at the Briksdal Glacier visitor centre I bought 2 x  half litre cans of beer at a staggering cost of 180 Norwegian Krone, the equivalent of £8.30 a can!

The area of Briksdal Glacier is fantastic. It’s an easy drive from the town of Olden to get to Briksdal and I would recommend a visit when doing a motorhome tour of Norway.

Coincidences

What are the chances that we would meet the friendly German couple, Monika and Michael again. Originally we met them in February at the top of El Torcal National Park in Spain, 3500 km away. (Blog post here ) Well, that’s exactly what happened! We were  down to our last two bottles of wine but thought the occasion warranted a celebratory bottle to share the evening with them .We spent a very happy few hours talking about motorhome touring and travel plans. We couldn’t quite believe the cooincidence of us meeting up again. When we finished talking at 00.30hrs  it was still light and the nearby mountains and waterfalls looked beautiful.

Meeting up with Monika and Michael from Germany again at Melkevoll Bretun.