After 3 nights in wonderful Ålesund, and watching Norwegians celebrate their Constitution Day on 17th May, it was time to move on. Our next destination was Åndalsnes on Romsdals Fjord, followed by the famous Trollstigen road.
After driving through 3 long dark tunnels, including the 4.1 mile long Innfjord tunnel we found another fantastic free overnight parking area along the side of the fjord and with breathtaking views of the mountains. Coordinates N62°34’7″, E7°45’19”.
Åndalsnes, as well as having beautiful scenery, is the start of the famous Trollstigen mountain road. We are hoping to drive over the Trollstigen road tomorrow. The road is liable to being closed at any time due to bad weather and flooding from waterfalls.
The E63 is one of Norway’s best National Tourist Routes. It runs from Åndalsnes to Geiranger over the Trollstigen mountain road. The route includes 11 hairpin bends of Trollstigen, a tunnel through a mountain, a ferry across a fjord, and the perilous hairpin bends of the Eagle Road into Geiranger itself. This final stretch downhill gave me cause for concern with my brakes as I will tell you about later!
There is a visitor centre before Trollstigen itself starts so we stopped for a browse around the shop before plucking up the courage to drive to the top which is 700 metres up 11 hairpin bends. I wouldn’t normally flinch driving a car up a narrow mountain road but driving a big motorhome is a different beast and whilst it’s not my first mountain road in a motorhome this one looked like our biggest challenge yet. As it turned out the Trollstigen road was not as bad as I had imagined.
The road is spectacular. We passed huge waterfalls and crossed narrow bridges over deep ravines before reaching the visitor centre at the top. Negotiating 11 hairpin bends was not a problem apart from one incident when the car in front decided to stop without warning in the middle of the road to admire a waterfall on a very steep incline. After that there was a hot burning smell from hot brakes, which luckily subsided as we got going again.
The Trollstigen road reaches a height of 700 metres where there is a visitor centre, an impressive building with a cafe and a shop, but the best bit is the walkways and viewpoint that have been built that offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, waterfall and valley below. It’s not the highest point we have been to but it is one of the most impressive.
The E63 road continued for another 35km past snow drifts and incredible scenery. I would have loved to have been driving a Top Gear type car along these roads but I was driving a 3.5 tonne motorhome instead, which was still an exciting experience. The video below is dashcam footage of our journey up Trollstigen and set to music to block out the swearing!
Eventually, after several stops to admire the wonderful views, we arrived at the small ferry port at Valldalen and took the short ferry crossing to Eidsdal. (£25 for a 7 metre motorhome). Geiranger was our next destination a distance of 23km and little did I know that we were in for a very steep descent on what is called the Ornesvingen Eagle Road, and the very steep hairpin bends would put serious strain on our brakes!
From the top of the Eagle Road we could see a huge cruise ship in Geiranger Fjord and it was at that point I realised how steep this road was going to be. On the winding descent we met tour coaches and even a double decker bus. The road sign showed a 10% gradient so I engaged 2nd gear for most of the way yet I could still feel the heavy motorhome wanting to accelerate so I needed to use my brakes a lot, but it wasn’t until I reached the campsite in Geiranger itself that I could smell hot brakes. I parked up but didn’t apply the handbrake as I had read that applying the handbrake to hot brake discs can cause a problem. Eventually, the hot brakes smell disappeared but the experience has made me think twice about driving downhill on severe gradients.
It was a relief to park up on the campsite at Geiranger. We had a beautiful waterfront pitch and we later watched a cruise ship go past, looking so close that we felt like we could touch it. The depth of water in the Geiranger Fjord reaches depths of 260 metres and it’s 100 km to the open sea. Sheer rock reaches out from the water and it truly is an incredible sight, which is one of the reasons that Geiranger is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Geiranger is one of Norway’s most popular tourist destinations. The population of 200 people is swamped during the summer with an extra one million people, many of who arrive on one of the 180 or so cruise ships that arrive at Geiranger between May and October every year.