Norway is what most would consider the best country in the world for landscape photography. Massive waterfalls, northern lights, steep cliffs and 25.000 km of coast line. Ingredients that all sound like music to any photographers ears. Having visited Norway 2 times in the past 2 years, I’ve already had my share of wonderful photo opportunities. However, once you´ve experienced Norway, there´s no stopping you in becoming an addict.
One of the best things about Norway speaking in travel destinations terms is that there are so many different places that each are totally worth a visit. For example, you could easily spend a week on the island of Senja and only see 50% of the very essential highlights. And that´s only Senja! So keeping that in consideration, it was a hell of a job to plan a route from Norway´s 2nd largest city, Bergen to the small sized harbour city of Ålesund, both located in the Western part of Norway. A route with so many fascinating sights and must- see’s that it was pretty hard to fit it all in roughly just under a week.
As our plane (me and my travel companion and photographer Erik Hageman) approached Flesland airport, we had a terrific view over the numerous little isles located in front of the mainland. It was really nice to notice that despite the rainy and grey weather, the sea water looked surprisingly clear, even from above. After we checked in to our first hotel, located in the city centre, we rushed towards the other side of the main harbour to shoot the famous Bryggen houses, because the sun was already setting. Due to our tight schedule , the sunset view from Bergen’s well known spectacular view point, Mount Fløyen, became a night view. The train ride up to Mount Fløyen is by itself one of Norway’s most famous attractions. On our way down we decided to take some more night shots of the city centre before calling it a day.
Waking up in a different country always gives me an exciting kind of fresh energy. It’s a starting signal that the journey has really begun. Our navigation system told us that the drive from Bergen to our next hotel in Flåm would approximately take two and a half hours. I was positively surprised to see the landscape turning more rural, the very minute we left Bergen. First stop on the route was the village of Gudvangen. Located at the end (or the beginning?) of the UNESCO protected Nærøyfjord, Gudvangen is known to have had several places of worship in pre-Christian times. The turqoise water of the Nærøyfjord was so clear that I could see many starfish laying on the submerged rocks. Truly breathtaking.
The village of Flam is an important transport connection. The cruise ships touring on the Sognefjorden practically all have Flam on their route schedule. Also, Flåm is very well known to have one of the world’s best railway lines, the Flåmsbana. Our plan was to catch a sunset, overlooking the Aurlandfjord from the nearby Stegastein viewingpoint. Because it was off-season we assumed there wouldn’t be too many people around. And right we were! The Stegastein viewingpoint will give you a shivering panoramic view, from a staggering 640 metres above the fjord.
It was our plan to go and see the Borgund Stave church, one of the most beautiful and biggest in it’s kind. Unfortunately, like many sights outside the main season, it was under maintenance and the building was surrounded by construction fences. After a well earned cup of tea in the lovely traditional village of Laerdal, our local contact Helene, suggested we’d hike up to the King’s road, which sounded tempting. Curious to know what the King’s road (Kongevegen) was all about, Helene told us that it is the name of an old trail over Filefjell, the mountainous area between Lærdal/Borgund and Valdres in Norway. It was the historical main route linking Western Norway and Eastern Norway. The best preserved bit of the trail is called Vindhella and is located close to the Borgund stave church. As the sun was already setting, the overwhelming scenery turned out to be better than I ever expected.
From Laerdal to Loen takes a 3 hour drive, including a nice ferry crossing of the Sognefjord, Norway’s largest (205 km) and deepest (1300 m) Fjord. Driving in Norway can generally be described as a postcard highlight reel; everytime you exit a tunnel, a breathtaking landscape appears. Loen is situated on the shores of the Nordfjord. The Loen area is a surrounded by plenty of natural landmarks like lake Lovatnet, mount Skala and glaciers Briksdalsbreen and Jostedalsbreen. Recently, the Loen skylift was opened. Rising to more than 1000 metres with a gradient of 60 degrees, it’s one of the steepest cable car rides in the world. Close to Loen lays the Lovatnet lake. In recent history there have been two incidents of rockfall into the lake which caused a huge waves that tragically swept away many surrounding houses and farms.
After spending 2 nights in the famous Hotel Alexandra in Loen, it was time to move on to our last stop of the trip, the city of Ålesund. Predictably, we decided to take the scenic route which guided us over a mountain pass and another ferry crossing over the fjord. As we got closer to Ålesund, the rain clouds started to move away and we arrived at the Aksla view point just in time to see the sunlight kiss the city. Ålesund is a charming little city surrounded by the Norwegian sea on one side, and the Sunnmøre Alps on the other. After spending the night in yet another lovely hotel (Hotel Brosundet) I was curious to explore one of the surrounding islands, which are all perfectly reachable by ferry. I was delighted to see some brave surfers catching waves on the beach of Godøya island. Another perfect photo occasion so I made the most out of it. I would definitely recommend a weekend trip to Ålesund (It has a direct connection to Schiphol airport!).
This was an amazing trip which I will stick with me for a long time. Norway is definitely one of the best countries I’ve ever visited. Hopefully until we meet again!