Despite being marked by the country’s famous fjords, Norway’s Northwest is often overlooked, with tourists preferring to spend their whole trip in Oslo or Bergen and surrounding areas. In the Northwest, the coastline is broken up into miles of idyllic islands where the North and Norwegian seas converge and weave further inland via bays, channels and fjords. Trondheim, located a little over 300 miles north of Oslo, is one of the area’s largest cities, offering cultural sites, viking curiosities, local eats and a vibrant city center ready to welcome foreign visitors.
Highlights include the 11th century Nidaros Cathedral, Ringve Museum of Music History and the world’s first bike lift. Trondheim is easily accessible by airplane or train, and car rentals are available.While there is plenty to do in Trondheim, the remaining towns and natural phenomena that define the Northwest are just as enthralling, especially if you move through them at your own pace. A road trip through a new country is an unforgettable way to get to know local destinations- and, more importantly, everything in between.
If you’ll be departing from Trondheim and still have a few days to continue exploring the region, consider driving to Ålesund, a town perched on Norway’s west coast, overlooking open sea. Colorful architecture, crisp alpine air and a serene harbor will ring in the end of your road trip; after spending a few nights in town, you can catch a flight back to Oslo from nearby Ålesund Airport.
While the drive takes only about five and a half hours in total, you can easily devote a long weekend or more to the complete experience, stopping in small towns along the way and lingering where the moment feels right.
While taking on a foreign highway system might seem daunting at first, you’ll ease right into it with some advance planning. Out of Trondheim, you’ll want to follow road E6 to Oppdal, where you’ll get on road 70 towards Sunndalsora. From Sunndalsora, turn onto road 62, heading back north towards Angvik. This is a great place to stop for the night; the drive from Trondheim should only take about three and a half hours, so if you leave early, you’ll have plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and take in the atmosphere. Angvik Gamle Handelssted is a family-run hotel representing refined Norwegian hospitality in this small community overlooking Tingvollfjorden. You can even count on the hotel manager or another family member for a tour of the property, which includes a restaurant, spa and bath house.
After you’ve treated yourself to a long dip in the Badehuset Spa Bath, head to the on-site museum to learn more about the family who brought the hotel to life and continues to keep it in tip top shape to this day. The displays introduce you to not only their central presence in the community, but the progress and development of the town as well.
While you’re at it, don’t miss the Tore Bjorn Skjolsvik Gallery, where 75 renowned works of art by Norwegian artists make up a one of a kind permanent collection. In the evening, the hotel’s restaurant, Bokkerstua, serves gourmet five-course dinners chosen by the chef on a daily basis, meaning you’re guaranteed to return to your room delightfully surprised.
From Angvik, you’ll take a sharp turn north towards the town of Kristiansund, your first true seaside stop. Known as “The Atlantic City,” Kristiansund encompasses four islands and is considered the gateway to Norway’s scenic Atlantic Road. Comparable to the United States’ Pacific Coast Highway, this roadway follows the coastline, bringing drivers as close as possible to Norway’s rugged beaches, crashing waves and curiosities along the way. Before making your way down the coast, spend a few hours exploring Kristiansund, especially if you want to stretch your legs before continuing on. There, you’ll find Norway’s oldest opera, local eateries, and the charming island of Grip, located just 12 km by boat outside of town. In February, the town hosts an annual opera festival and in October, the Northern Lights Photography Festival draws visitors from around the world.
If you can only stay in Kristiansund for a few hours, be sure to put Mellemvaerftet Shipbuilding Museum at the top of the list. First opened in 1856, the shipyard is now open as the country’s only “living” museum, meaning its is a workshop as much as it is a historic destination. The center focuses on preserving, restoring and maintaining maritime vessels while allowing the public to view and learn about Norway’s vast seafaring history firsthand. The Sundbaten ferry stops nearby, giving you the chance to take a short cruise on the oldest uninterrupted public transportation service in the world.
For lunch in Kristiansund, stop by Bryggekanten Brasserie for local delicacies prepared with an expert’s touch. Overlooking the water, the restaurant is a perfect way to bid Kristiansund goodbye and hop back on road 64.
At this point, you’ll be on the famous Atlantic Road, where you’ll come across multiple pullouts and viewpoints for photo opportunities. This stretch of highway is among the most photographed scenic byways in the world, having set the scene for multiple films. Featured in the latest James Bond film, the iconic Storseisundet Bridge is one of many stops you’ll want to make while driving south. A pullout by the bridge makes it easy to park and set up some shots.
A break at Eldhusøya Island is also highly worthwhile; after parking by the cafe, take a stroll around the walkway that runs around the island for scenic views following the shape of the water’s edge.
After getting back on the road, keep driving west until you reach the village of Bud. Jutting out into the sea, Bud is a historic fishing village you can easily spend a long morning or lunch break exploring. After sampling local seafood, stop by Ergan Kystfort, a former German WWII fort now open to the public as a museum. Then, take a walk on the town’s coastal path, which features displays recounting the town’s history against a stunning backdrop.
Making your way south, you’ll reach the Romsdal Peninsula, where you’ll likely want to stay the night before continuing on to Alesund. Stop in the town of Molde, home to the Scandic Seilet hotel and even more fjord-side panoramas. Molde’s Panorama viewpoint is the best place in town to take in 360- views of the fjords and 222 snow capped peaks stretching across the horizon.
Afterwards, treat yourself at the Glass Restaurant and Bar, an intimate eatery serving Italian classics. Back at the Scandic, expect a comfortable stay, mountain views and an easy walk to the town center, which hosts a renowned International Jazz Festival. Winding down at the hotel’s soaring Masta Skybar is a great way to ring in the night before continuing your road trip in the morning.
From Molde, it’ll be two more hours to Alesund, where you’ll complete your journey. The town’s Art Nouveau- style buildings will be the first thing you notice as you drive to your hotel; they are a mark of the town’s reincarnation after a tragic fire that left it mostly destroyed in the winter of 1904. The Art Noveau Center & the Art Museum KUBE are the best way to learn about this part of the town’s history and the architecture that eventually brought it back to life. Fjestulla viewpoint is your next must-do, especially if you’re craving a short hike after the long drive. The hilltop viewpoint offers extensive views of Alesund’s colorful city center as well as the peaks surrounding it. Aksla Mountain is another easily accessible hike from the city center- and likely the first peak you’ll notice as soon as you drive into town.
Whether you sign up for a walking tour with a local company or set out to explore Alesund on your own terms, the best way to take in the town’s spirit is to immerse yourself in its neat streets and storefronts. Antiques, gifts, local specialities and more are available throughout town for you to discover.
With Trondheim and Alesund as your gateways to Norway’s northwest, you’ll get to know the heart of the region by experiencing everything that connects the two cities along the way. A strong maritime and outdoors culture, coupled with local flair and a passion for history will make your road trip much more than a drive. Devoting a day or two to each destination on your list is the best way to get the most out of your experience, especially if you have the chance to attend an annual festival or take part in a tour. Driving through Norway means slowing things down enough to appreciate the way the landscape changes, the slight differences between each enclave and the roadside gems that often go overlooked. Starting with Trondheim’s urban bustle and rounding things out with Alesund’s seafront stillness gives you the full scope of life in this idyllic part of the country.
For more information and to start planning your own trip to Trondheim and the northern part of the fjord region of Norway, head to visitnorway.com, visitnorthwest.no, visittrondheim.no, and visitalesund.com.