The Norwegian fjords are a travel destination that draws people from all around the world—and with good reason. The breathtaking natural beauty of the best fjords in Norway including the UNESCO World Heritage listed Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord is hard to beat.
But there’s much more to discover in the fjord region besides the fjords themselves. Charming villages, waterfalls, glaciers and mountain landscapes are just some of the area’s highlights.
Planning a fjord road trip in Norway
However, the sheer amount of sights makes planning a road trip a challenging task. There is no one ‘best’ road trip through this vast region, as the best itinerary depends on your preferences.
For example, how much driving do you want to do every day? Do you want to experience camping in Norway or do you prefer the comfort of hotels? Do you want to stay in multiple places, or do you prefer having one base and taking day trips from there? Do you want to spend time getting to know one fjord, or see as many as possible? Are waterfalls interesting to you? How about hikes? If so, short walks or multi-hour treks?
The Norwegian fjords are vast, so it’s very tempting to plan a long road trip with early starts and multiple stops per day in a bid to try and see as much as possible.
My best advice is to slow down. You can’t see it all. Instead, pick a smaller number of places that you want to explore in more depth. If you don’t, you run the risk of clock-watching and rushing off before you’ve had a chance to see much of any one place.
Another strategy is to incorporate a road trip into your travel between cities. Taking just a slight detour—especially along the west coast—takes you to some of Norway’s most awe-inspiring scenery.
Here are a couple of suggested itineraries for traveling both north and south from Bergen, the capital of Norway’s fjord region. These aren’t necessarily itineraries to use as-is. Instead, use them as a starting point and adjust to your preferences.
Bergen to Stavanger
The E39 highway travels between these two major west coast cities, interrupted by a couple of ferry trips. The direct trip takes just 5 hours and it certainly has its charms, but if you’re in the region to see the sights then a detour inland including an overnight stop is well worth your time.
Instead of leaving Bergen to the south, head east to Norheimsund on the Hardangerfjord. From here you can drive along one of Norway’s most famous fjords and across the vast Hardanger Bridge to Eidfjord. The Vøringsfossen waterfall and Norwegian Nature Centre are among the attractions in this delightful fjord village.
From Eidfjord, route 13 hugs the shore of the Sørfjord, becoming ever narrower as it reaches the village of Odda nestled in the shadow of the epic Folgefonna National Park that features Norway’s third largest glacier.
Odda is also a popular overnight stop for those attempting the challenging hike to Trolltunga, one of Norway’s most famous sights. Odda (or Eidfjord) is also the best place to overnight on your road trip, with various accommodation options available.
From Odda, a 3.5 hour drive takes you to Stavanger, but it’s worth taking another detour to visit the historic region of Haugesund. Nearby Karmøy island is home to several Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age sites, while fans of Viking culture shouldn’t miss the museum and Viking village at Avaldsnes.
A car is also helpful if you’re planning to take the famous hike to Preikestolen at the Lysefjord. Driving to the trailhead can help you beat the crowds of day-trippers arriving on buses from Stavanger.
Bergen to Ålesund
Heading north from Bergen to the beautiful waterfront town Ålesund is a highly recommended trip that takes in up to three of Norway’s most famous sights: the UNESCO World Heritage listed Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, and the Trollstigen mountain pass. At least two overnight stops are recommended to make the most of the route.
From Bergen, it takes less then three hours to reach Flåm, from where you can experience a return trip on the beautiful Flåm Railway or take a boat trip on the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord.
The next stretch to Lærdal offers two options both of interest to drivers: the old ‘snow road’ over the Aurlandsfjellet mountain (summer only) or the fascinating Lærdal tunnel. At more than 15 miles, it’s the world’s longest road tunnel complete with cavernous break areas and changeable lighting to keep drivers alert.
After a short stroll around the charming Lærdal old town, a short ferry trip brings you to 800+ year old Kaupanger stave church. After overnighting in nearby Sogndal, wake up early for a morning drive through the mountains to Stryn and onto Loen, for an optional trip on the Loen Skylift for a spectacular panoramic view of the Nordfjord region.
The famous fjord village Geiranger is another two hours away, but you may wish to extend your trip by an hour or so by taking the drive up the Nibbevegen toll road (summer only) to the Dalsnibba viewpoint. From this vantage point more than 5,000 feet above sea level, you truly get a feel for the shape of fjord Norway—as long as there aren’t any clouds!
Despite its small size, Geiranger is well equipped for visitors and offers multiple accommodation options. After overnighting here, allow three hours to fully enjoy the drive along the national scenic route (summer only) to the serpentine Trollstigen mountain pass. A stop at the top of the Trollstigen mountain is a must for the view down the valley.
The nearby town of Åndalsnes is a sensible place to refuel body and car, with an optional overnight stop if you want to soak up the atmosphere of the mountainous backdrop. If time is tight, Ålesund is less than two hours from here.
While in Ålesund, make the most of having a car by driving up to the Aksla viewpoint for the iconic view across the town. Alternatively, park at your accommodation and walk the 418 steps up from the town park.