Road Trip: Aurlandsfjellet & Hardanger

aurlandsfjellet_hardanger_2016_026After our hike to the glacier in the Jostedalsbreen Nasjonal Park, we continued our road trip South.  We drove past the town of Kaupanger and to one of the more unique ferry landings.  To get to this ferry and cross the Sognefjorden you first drive into the mountain nearly 3 km where you pop out immediately at the ferry dock.  If it’s busy, then you may be stuck sitting in the tunnel lined up waiting for the ferry.  This ferry is on a more major route and there are 2 ferries, so our wait was quite brief.

In Lærdal we almost missed an important turn.  The major route towards Bergen from here is E16, and we started that direction following signs to Bergen.  But Jesse pulled over and we were both somewhat confused because we passed a sign for a national tourist route, and we had planned to drive many of the national tourist routes on our journey.  After some quick checks with the GPS and google maps, we realized that we almost missed Aurlandsfjellet NTR.  So we turned around and took the much smaller mountain pass.

aurlandsfjellet_hardanger_2016_028We didn’t get far before I asked to stop and photograph a stream that we had just drive over near Sanden.  The water was a beautiful glacial blue and contrasted with the yellow rocks.  The road then climbed slowly through the a valley that had bright golden foliage.  We found a few waterfalls along the way and at one rest stop there was an art exhibit.  The exhibit was built into the mountain and shows a bear den and all the trash that the bear had collected in its den.

aurlandsfjellet_hardanger_2016_040We wrapped around the side of Kaldeklettane, a ridge with several peaks over 1400 m. Near the summit (1306 m) we drove past lakes with snow still left from winter and beneath glaciers, but we weren’t really able to see the glaciers.  It was cool and crisp out, hinting that winter is coming soon; one of my favorite things about fall.  Our descent towards the setting sun and through the alpine tundra was beautiful.  It reminded me of Rocky Mountain National Park, until we turned the corner and found the ocean once again.

aurlandsfjellet_hardanger_2016_044There is a unique overlook on this national tourist route called Stegastein.  It’s a platform that allows you to walk 30 m out and look down to Aurlandsfjorden.  I’m sure during summer is a busy attraction, but during the fall it was only us and one older couple that came to admire the views.  From here the road is very steep as it switchbacks down to the water.

We planned to make in to Bergen in the evening and explore the city, however time flies by when you are explore. By the time we saw the Nigardsbreen glacier and drove the Aurlandsfjellet route and driven all the way to Skulestadmoen, it was after 8pm and we were still over 1.5 hours from Bergen and had plans for a lengthy hike the next day.   In the end we decided to skip the trip out to Bergen and make sure to go there on another trip or long weekend.  We camped near a ferry dock in Kvanndal.

aurlandsfjellet_hardanger_2016_049The next morning, we were excited to get an early start, we had a big hike planned and the Hardanger National tourist route to explore.  We drove to Norheimsund stopping to take pictures of the numerous fruit trees beside the ocean.  The town of was very nice and appeared somehow quite touristy… we found out later that just outside of Norheimsund is a very famous waterfall, Steinsdalsfossen; next time 😉

aurlandsfjellet_hardanger_2016_053Just past Norheimsund we stopped at a lovely roadside fruit stand and picked up some fresh apples.  We really wanted to buy some of the cider to take with us, but with no way to keep it cool it didn’t seem wise.  The apples were a nice treat that we enjoyed all the way to Germany.   In a picturesque town, Tørvikbygd we took a ferry to Jondal.  We drove a small road along the coast all the way to Utne.  This road was quite rural.   There were lots of slow moving vehicles and orchards and orchards.  This is a really beautiful, peaceful place out in the country.

aurlandsfjellet_hardanger_2016_057We planned to take ferry from Utne to Kinsarvik and then drive down route 13 to Odda, however we missed the ferry by seconds really.  It was one of those where your reading signs and trying to figure out exactly where you’re going, and chose the wrong lane.  Then the ferry closed up before we figured it out.  Jesse went to check the ferry schedule, but this one was not very frequent and it would likely take us at least 2 hours to get across the fjord.  So we adapted and changed our route.  We drove down the west side of the fjord instead.  It worked out well for us this time, but there are definitely places that when driving in Norway there are no alternatives.  Thankfully we made it to Odda with enough time to go for a quick hike 😉

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