Must see attractions in The Western Fjords

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Northern Fjords


    This twisting, sky-topping corkscrew of a road is the most famous stretch of tarmac in Norway. Completed in 1936 after eight years of labour, the Troll's Ladder is a stunning feat of road building, spiralling up the mountainside through 11 hairpin bends and a 1:12 gradient, and after heavy rain, waterfalls cascade down the mountainside, drenching cars as they pass. To add to the thrill, much of it is effectively single-lane, meaning traffic jams and passing vehicles are part of the hair-raising experience. At the crest of the pass, a gravity-defying platform and a series of viewpoints have been built out of rusting steel and concrete, a striking artificial counterpoint to the bare rock and natural scenery all around. Teetering precipitously over the plunging cliff and allowing stomach-churning views right down the mountain, the site was designed by top architect Reiulf Ramstad and has become one of the most famous locations on the National Tourist Route network: don't miss it. The road can be done in either direction, from Valldal or Andalsnes, a distance of about 38km. The road passes through Reinheimen National Park, established in 2006 and Norway's third largest, where wild reindeer still crop the mosses and soft grass. The pass is usually cleared and open from late May to mid-October, although it's entirely dependent on the seasonal snowfall.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Northern Fjords


    The eight storm-lashed bridges of the Atlantic Ocean Road buck and twist like sea serpents, connecting 17 islets between Vevang and the island of Averøya. The UK's Guardian newspaper once crowned it the world's best road trip. For a highway that is barely 8km long, the weight of expectation may be too great, but it's certainly hugely scenic. During the autumn storms you'll experience nature's wrath at its most dramatic. In season, look out for whales and seals offshore. You can do the road in either direction: from Molde, hit the coast at Bud; from Kristiansund and the north, take the new undersea road tunnel that connects with Bremsnes. Whichever your direction, rather than driving the Rv64, which cuts across inland Averøya, choose the quieter, prettier road, signed for Kvernes, which loops around the island's southern coast and takes no longer. Several scenic overlooks are stationed along the route, with striking structures built as part of the Nasjonaleturistvegen project, which aims to promote 18 of Norway's scenic roads and enhance them with cutting-edge architecture. Key stops include the rest area and walking path at Eldhusøya, an island off the southwest of Averøya, and the glass-fronted viewing platform at Askevågen, a little over 10km north of Bud, which gives you a 360-degree panoramic view of the archipelago, the ocean and the shore. The most impressive – and longest – bridge is Storseisund, a gravity-defying marvel that seems to curl and twist on its way from Eide to Averøy island. It's starred in umpteen car advertisements. You don't necessarily need your own car to follow the road, although it does make it a lot more fun. Eide Auto buses link Molde and Kristiansund year-round. There are five daily buses from Monday to Friday, two on Saturday and one on Sunday. It's a 2¼ hour return trip, although if you buy the day ticket you can hop on and off at will.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Fjord Coast

    Kinn Island

    If you're on limited time, a visit to this little island is a great way of getting a flavour of the coastline around Florø. After a quick boat ride from the quay, you're met by a guide on the island who takes you on a 40-minute, 1km walk up to see the island's famous stone church, telling tales of the island and Florø's fishing heritage on the way. The stout stone church, dating from the 12th century, is stunning. Afterwards, you can hike up to the top of the island's hill, Kinnaklova, for panoramic views before catching the boat back home. Bookings for the boat trip, along with several other offshore islands, can be made through the tourist office in Florø. On the second or third weekend in June, it's the site of the Kinnespelet pageant, which celebrates the history of the church on the island.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Aurland


    This 45km road is one of Norway's most fabulous, climbing from sea level to the desolate, boulder-strewn high plateau that separates Aurland and Lærdalsøyri (Lærdal). Even if you don't opt for the whole route, drive the first 8km from Aurland to the magnificent Stegastein observation point. It's a strictly summer-only drive: the road is impassable in winter, and even in midsummer you'll probably still see snowbanks lining the roadsides (hence it's local nickname, Snøvegen – the Snow Road). Now designated as a National Tourist Route, it's a real roller coaster. The highway is narrow and winding for much of its length, so be prepared to take things slow and let other traffic pass.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Ålesund

    Jugendstil Senteret

    The city's unique architectural heritage is documented in a former pharmacy, the first listed Jugendstil monument in Ålesund. Apart from the building's own exquisite and almost entirely original interior, including a sinuous staircase and florid dining room, displays include textiles, ceramics, furniture, posters and other ephemera. Even if you're not a keen aesthete, a 'Time Machine' capsule is great fun, presenting 'From Ashes to Art Nouveau', a 14-minute multimedia story of the rebuilding of Ålesund after the great fire. The museum shop is inside the pharmacy and still has most of its furniture and fixtures in situ – it's a delight. Ticket price also covers entry to KUBE, next door.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Lustrafjord

    Urnes Stave Church

    If you only have time on your itinerary to visit one stave church, the one at Urnes has to figure at the top of the list (along with Borgund). Dating from the 12th century, it's Norway's oldest place of worship and a Unesco World Heritage Site. Serenely placed on the shores of Lustrafjorden, backed by lofty mountains, and covered in elaborate wood carvings of intertwining vines and battling beasts, it looks like a forgotten set from Lord of the Rings. The present church was mostly built around 1170 on the site of the original chapel, built around 100 years before. Ticket prices include an interesting 45-minute tour in English.

  • Top ChoiceSights in The Northern Fjords

    Rauma Railway

    A classic Norwegian train ride that railway buffs definitely won't want to miss, the 114km-long Rauma Railway clatters from Åndalsnes and Dombås, high in the mountains of central Norway. It's a super trip, taking in fjords, forests, valleys, lakes and mountains en route, and passing through six tunnels and 32 bridges. There's also a shorter summer-only tourist train with on-board commentary that runs twice daily from June to August from Åndalsnes' lakeside station up to Bjorli, at 600m. Bookings can be made online or at the tourist office.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Aurland


    Projecting out high above the fjord at an altitude of 630m, this marvel of modern engineering is one of Norway's great viewing points. Clad in pine and balancing on worryingly slender steel legs, it seems to roll down into the fjord, with nothing but a glass rail between you and a long, long drop. It's popular, so it's worth getting up early or staying late to have it to yourself. It's about 8km up the narrow, winding road from Aurland.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Jostedalsbreen National Park

    Norwegian Glacier Museum

    You can't miss this striking museum: it's a concrete wedge marooned among a sea of grass on the way into Fjærland, and even has a couple of model woolly mammoths outside. It provides a great overview of general glacier geology, as well as process of fjord formation, and the ecology and wildlife of Jostedalsbreen itself. Highlights are the simulated ice tunnel and the tusk of a Siberian woolly mammoth who met an icy demise 30,000 years ago.

  • Sights in The Northern Fjords


    You'll have seen that classic photo somewhere, beloved of brochures, of the overhanging rock Flydalsjuvet, usually with a figure gazing down at a cruise ship in Geirangerfjord. The car park, signposted Flydalsjuvet, about 5km up a very steep and winding hill from Geiranger on the Stryn road, offers a great view of the fjord and the green river valley, but doesn't provide the postcard view down to the last detail. For that, you'd have to drop about 150m down the hill, then descend a slippery and rather indistinct track to the edge. It's been fenced off for several years due to safety reasons, but that seemingly doesn't stop some visitors from trying to cheat death.

  • Sights in Ålesund

    Kniven Viewpoint

    For the best view over Ålesund and its fishhook-shaped peninsula, as well as the mountains and islands beyond, head up the 418 steps to the summit of Aksla Hill and this panoramic viewing point. On a sunny day it's a cracking scene indeed, and it looks pretty special when the town lights start to twinkle at twilight, too. Follow Lihauggata from the pedestrian shopping street Kongensgata, pass the Rollon statue, and begin the 15-minute puff to the top of the hill. There's also a cheat's road to the crest; take Røysegata east from the centre, then follow the Fjellstua signposts up the hill.

  • Sights in The Northern Fjords

    Drågen Smokehouse

    Petter Aune set up this operation, where freshly caught Aukra salmon are smoked with pure local wood and herbs, after tiring of the poor quality industrial product. It's one of only a few left in Norway and the resulting salmon does indeed have the elusive 'smakupplevelse' – a melt-in-your-mouth quality. Come here to see the process, sample and buy.

  • Sights in The Northern Fjords


    Fourteen kilometres out to sea from Kristiansund, the island of Grip has a long tradition of cod-fishing stretching back centuries, but was abandoned by the last permanent inhabitants in 1974. Much of its architecture survives, however, and its huddle of pastel-painted houses dotted across the island's rocky shoreline is enormously picturesque. From late May to late August, a boat (adult/child 350/150kr return, 40 minutes) leaves for the island from Kristiansund's Piren pier once or twice daily. The return trip takes about 3½ hours (with 1½ hours on the island) and includes a guided tour – but you're free to wander about as you wish. Landmarks to look out for include the 15th-century stave church and the 47m-tall Bratthårskollen lighthouse, built in 1888 on a rocky skerry (islet). Wandering round the silent island, it's hard to imagine that more than 1000 fisherfolk once called this place home.

  • Sights in The Northern Fjords


    For the highest and perhaps most stunning of the many stunning views of the Geiranger valley and fjord, take the 5km toll road (130kr per car) that climbs from the Rv63 to the Dalsnibba lookout (1500m). Since August 2016, the view has been enhanced by a new viewing platform, the Geiranger Skywalk, with a see-through floor and glass rail making it seem as though you're walking on air. Several buses run up to the viewpoint, including the Nibbebus (adult/child 310/200kr return, three daily mid-June to August). Alternatively, you can catch a public bus, the 211 (adult/child return 335/273kr, twice daily mid-June to August), but it only stops for around 20 minutes to enjoy the view at the top. A more luxurious and leisurely option is the Panorama Bus (adult/child 450/300kr return, three daily mid-June to August), which allows around three hours for the return trip to Geiranger.

  • Sights in Ålesund

    Sunnmøre Museum

    Ålesund's celebrated Sunnmøre Museum is 4km east of the centre. Here, at the site of the old Borgundkaupangen trading centre, active from the 11th to 16th centuries, over 50 traditional buildings have been relocated. Ship-lovers will savour the collection of around 40 historic boats, including replicas of Viking-era ships and a commercial trading vessel from around AD 1000. Should your visit coincide with its restricted opening hours, don't overlook – as many visitors often do – its Medieval Age Museum. Displayed around excavations of the old trading centre are well-documented artefacts discovered on-site and reproductions of medieval illustrations depicting the way of life of the west Norwegian coastal folk who inhabited this thriving community.

  • Sights in Sognefjord

    Norwegian Museum of Travel & Tourism

    A museum examining the history of tourism might not immediately sound like the biggest must-see, but bear with us: the story of how people travelled around the fjords, and how the landscape and culture has been changed in the process, is actually an important part of the Norwegian story. So this impressive museum, constructed from uncompromising concrete and glass beside Balestrand's quay, is well worth a stop. Among the exhibitions, you'll learn about backcountry exploration, mountain climbing, road-building and the development of the National Tourist Routes project, among other things, as well as Balestrand's own popularity as a haunt for artists. There's also a good spot for lunch, the Vindreken Café.

  • Sights in Sognefjord

    Norwegian Wild Salmon Centre

    The River Lærdalselvi is one of the top spots for wild salmon fishing in Norway. Salmon fishing has been part of the culture here since time immemorial, but English aristocrats were the first to spot the area's tourist potential in the 1850s. This museum explores the area's salmon history, and it's a surprisingly engaging tale – using archive film and photographs, as well as a 20m aquarium stocked with salmon and sea trout. Among other topics, you'll learn about salmon migration, how the fish navigate back to their birthplace and the curious question of why their flesh is pink, not white like other fish. There's a restaurant on-site.

  • Sights in The Northern Fjords


    The beautiful islet of Ona, with its bare rocky landscapes and picturesque lighthouse, is still home to an offshore fishing community of about 25 people. It makes a popular day trip from Molde: Fram buses (adult/child 318/161kr) leave Molde early in the morning and take you (with a quick ferry ride) to Aukra and the Småge ferry harbour, from where the boats to Ona leave. Other islands worth stopping at include Gossen, where there's a WWII-era air strip built by Russian POWs during the Nazi occupation, and Bjørnsund, where a lovely old summer house which also warrants a brief stop. The crossing can be rough in poor weather.

  • Sights in Lustrafjord

    Dale Kyrkje

    Spectacular wooden stave churches get all the attention around here, but this little gem of a medieval parish church built of stone shouldn’t be overlooked. Constructed around 1250, it's mainly Gothic in style with a wooden tower and elaborately painted western entrance (the work of a typically near-anonymous ecclesiastical artist known simply as 'Nils the Painter') that were added in the early 1600s. The crucifix above the chancel arch and fine multicoloured pulpit are from the church's earliest days. The naive 16th-century paintings in the chancel were revealed only in the 1950s, when the whitewash was removed.

  • Sights in Ålesund


    At the peninsula's western extreme, 3km from the town centre, this aquarium can consume a whole day. Be introduced to the North Atlantic's teeming undersea world and the astonishing richness of coastal and fjord life. Children can dangle a line for crabs or feed the fish in the touch pool, while the enormous 4-million-litre aquarium appeals to everyone. The grounds offer superb coastal scenery and walking trails (look out for WWII bunkers and gun batteries). In summer, a special bus (adult/child 200/100kr, including admission) leaves from beside the town hall four times a day.