Driving up the western coast of Norway, there is certainly no shortage of beautiful scenery to enjoy. In fact, I don’t recall many instances at all during our whole trip, where there weren’t stunning natural vistas everywhere you looked.
However, there is one section of highway situated slightly inland that is famous as an engineering feat and driving challenge amidst a majestic natural landscape. I am referring to ‘Trollstigen’.
What is Trollstigen Norway?
Trollstigen translates as ‘ladder for a troll’ or ‘Troll’s ladder’. It is a steep, narrow mountainside road that is regarded as one of the more dangerous drives you can take.
This is also Norway’s most visited tourist road. It contains many steep inclines (more than 10% in some places) and 11 hairpin turns (each turn having its own name).
Definitely not for the faint of heart or inexperienced drivers the dangers include rock falls, narrow lanes, steep inclines and unpredictable weather. The route is even more problematic in the dark and wet which make it incredibly challenging to navigate. Usually open between mid-May to October, the road remains closed during autumn and winter.
Originally completed in the 1930’s, the road received major repairs and an upgrade in 2005.
Where is it?
Trollstigen Norway is located along national route/road 63 located between the towns of Valldal and Åndalsnes (a distance of 89 Kilometres or 55 miles) Rauma Municipality, Møre og Romsdal county, in the Western Fjords region.
The drive heading toward Trollstigen involved going through some amazing and stunning scenery. Although this was during the month of May, let me say that it was still freezing while driving up these mountainous areas. Below are a couple of the photos we took on the way there.
Trollstigen Norway Visitor Centre and Lookout
This is somewhere you simply must stop to appreciate the amazing views. If you are travelling north along route/road 63, the visitor centre comes up on your right-hand side and there is plenty of parking.
Built at the top of Trollstigen, the centre was opened in 2012 and contains a restaurant, toilets, souvenir shop and a number of walkways and scenic viewing platforms. From here you can look down on Trollstigen and the surrounding mountains, valleys and waterfalls that are everywhere in this region.
Below you can see how lovely the centre and walkways are, built in the midst of the river Istra which is fed by the melted snow and ice from the imposing mountain Meiadalen.
The largest platform juts out over the edge of the mountain and looks down to the top part of the road some 200 metres below. Although the raised pathways are not that long to walk to the various platforms, it can seem that way when the temperature is low and you are freezing. On the day we were there, we also needed to watch our footing so as not to slip on the continual wet surface.
Nevertheless, there is just no doubting the wonderful scenery as we captured this magnificent vista with our cameras.
You just can’t visit this amazing area and not notice the massive waterfall called Stigfossen. There is also another waterfall named Trollfossen which is slightly taller but considerably less voluminous.
Stigfossen is a natural waterfall of some 240 metres in height with the largest single drop being 180 metres. The waterfall passes through bridges and beside the road as it snakes up and down the side of the mountain. The spray produced by the thundering falls as you drive will completely saturate the outside of your vehicle.
Trollfossen is not as predominate as you traverse Trollstigen Norway as it is not as close, but it is still a lovely sight as 280 metres in height nearby.
The Stigfossen comes from the river Istra and is photographed most often nearby the stone bridge as you head up or down Trollstigen.
If you have time to spend here, hiking is something that many enjoy doing, being surrounded by such an epic backdrop.
Rated as a challenging hike along the old Kløvstien path connecting Romsdalen and Sunnmøre, this path has been used by traders for centuries. It runs alongside the Istra river and has stone steps and chains to make the more challenging parts more accessible and safer.
Another sport done here (for those who are very fit!) is cycling. The gradient and narrow nature of the road is not something to be underestimated. It reminded me very much of seeing cyclists take on the Andes mountain roads in Chile.
Driving down Trollstigen
James had the task of driving us both down Trollstigen. We had already read up on this particular road in advance and so exercised considerable caution as we began our descent. No one on the road that we saw, took this road lightly or for granted as a fun, sporty ride. Everyone seemed to be very aware of the reputation of Trollstigen and watched their speed and space on the road, especially as you neared each of the 11 hairpin turns.
We were very lucky as we drove because there just wasn’t very much in the way of traffic at the time. This was just fabulous as it allowed us to take our time and enjoy the experience in addition to stopping briefly to take photos along the way.
Just past the stone bridge at the closest point to Stigfossen, there was a stopping area which was completely empty so we were able to get out and take some shots of the waterfall from the road.
From this vantage point, we were able to look back up to see the top of the falls, the main viewing platform as well as look down to the rest of the Trollstigen winding road and the mountains and valley to the north.
As we completed the descent, the road widened out and we were able to get back to highway speed as we reached the level of rivers heading out to the North Sea. We were bound for the famous and scenic Atlantic Road and beyond that the town of Kristiansund, where we had reservations to stay the night.
What are your impressions of Trollstigen? Would you include this on your Norwegian itinerary? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. And before you ask… no, we did not see any trolls on the way! (aside from what was in the gift shops) …