Of all the 18 scenic tourist driving routes in Norway, none are more popular and talked about than the hair-raising Geiranger-Trollstigen route. With eleven hairpin bends and a descent of 9% gradient, I was a little concerned about driving Trollstigen (meaning: Trolls Ladder) even though I had read that it was one of the most dramatic and stunning drives in Norway.
Why was I concerned? Well, for a few days now we had been hearing worrying squealing noises coming from Matilda’s rear drum brakes whenever we descended and this was not a sound we wanted to hear! (It usually means trouble!).
We were on day 70 of our road trip with Matilda and 10 days into our Norway trip. We drove the entire Geiranger-Trollstigen over two days as the day before we had come along the Sognefjellet route (Route 55) to Lom then followed Route 15 which joined with Route 63. Geiranger was our stop for the night.
About the Route
The route starts from Langevatnet and finishes in Romsdalen, a total distance of 104 km (Route 63). On part of this route you take a short ferry crossing from Eidsdal to Linge at a cost of 279 NOK for a 6.5-meter motorhome. If you travel with a vehicle 6 meters and under then it’s half the cost.
For the purposes of this blog, we will start from Geiranger.
A must-stop on this route is the stunning UNESCO listed Geiranger Fjord, one of the most beautiful fjords in Norway. It is a popular stop on the cruise ship trail and also Gudbrandsjuvet Gorge, a deep ravine carved out by the Valldola River. The descent into Geiranger was an unexpected 10% gradient and even though the brakes squeaked, I thought if we can do this then Trollstigen won’t be an issue. At the top of the descent we stopped at the lookout which rewarded us with views over the town and the fjord.
Stopover in Geiranger
We decided to stay in a campground in Geiranger so we could get some laundry done. As Norway is wild camp friendly then we only stop in camp grounds when we need to as they are expensive. The camp ground was pleasant right on the shores of the fjord, it was a peaceful setting, we enjoyed the dramatic scenery and serenity of the fjord. The weather was drizzly and cool, but this added to the atmosphere of the place. Geiranger is a small town mainly catering to tourism with most tourists stepping straight off a cruise ship. One of the options for the fjord is to take a sightseeing cruise, we decided against this idea for budget reasons.
The next morning a large cruise ship appeared at our door, so we thought it was a good time to leave before the hordes came ashore. The drive out of Geiranger was a steep 10% gradient but made easier by switchbacks, we were rewarded with unprecedented views of the length of the fjord. One of the best lookouts gave you uninterrupted views, unfortunately it was a small car park and already busy with cars and tour buses and there wasn’t any space for us to park which was disappointing. We stopped further up where there was a larger car park, but the views were more obscured by vegetation.
Once we reached the top of the switchbacks the road became flatter and straighter and soon we were at the ferry port.
The drive between Linge and the start of Trollstigen was breathtaking. We stopped at Gudbrandsjuvet Gorge where the Valldola River has carved out a deep ravine about 25 meters deep and around 5 meters wide and water gushes through it to meet the river the other side. A viewing platform runs over the cracks and crevices of the ravine, so you can view the spectacle of waterfalls and surging water push its way through the narrow passages. It’s a popular stop as a cafe and restrooms were also here.
As we drove the gradual ascent towards Trollstigen the scenery became more dramatic like a film set from Game of Thrones.
The start of Trollstigen
At the top of Trollstigen is a large car park, café and walkway connecting viewpoints of the gorgeous valley and a road that lends itself to being one the best road trips in the world. It was a sight to behold and we were lucky that it was a nice day with little cloud and from what we could see the road didn’t have much traffic. We watched as a car pulled a caravan all the way from the bottom to the top of the 11 hair pin bends with no issues, the road didn’t look as steep as we were led to believe. A large waterfall plunged from the cliff top into the abyss below coming close to the road, this is a spectacle I’m sure we will be seeing on our drive down.
The drive was not quite what I expected, it was no where near as steep as it looks from above, it’s a pleasant and relaxing drive especially as we didn’t meet any other larger vehicles coming the other way. There was enough room to pass other vehicles, the only time it may become an issue is when you have swing out to take on the sharp hair pin bend. Half way down you pass the bottom of the waterfall but the pull in was too small for us to park. Another surprise was the number of waterfalls you see on the drive down as you don’t really see these from the lookouts.
Before long we were at the bottom of Trollstigen where there was a large flat parking area, here we stopped to have our lunch. We looked up at what we had just come down but from the bottom it’s not as impressive, it’s hard to make out the road. We planned to press on after lunch, but we struck up a conversation with a young British couple in a BMW van, two hours later we were on our way!
Our destination was the Art Nouveau town of Ålesund and even though the drive was much flatter the scenery continued to impress with mountains and fjords at every turn. The weather turned and we were greeted with dark clouds and rain for some of the remainder of our journey.
We rolled into Ålesund early evening and headed to our free camp spot in a car park near the Aquarium.
We were not sure how long we would spend in Ålesund as we had an issue to take care of, Matilda’s squeaky brakes! It’s a big town so finding a garage should not be an issue.
The Geiranger-Trollstigen is one of 18 official scenic driving routes in Norway. If you are interested in learning about all 18 routes then we found this website to be the best source – Nasjonale Turistveger Norwegian Scenic Routes
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