Day 3 of our Norwegian road trip would be taking us from Aurland, to Rondane; a large mountain area in Norway with 10 peaks reaching more than 2000 metres.
But first we had a couple sights to see. The first of which was Stegastein viewpoint, a suspended platform that had been built on the old road between Aurland and Lærdal. So after having breakfast and packing up camp, we set off.
Stegastein viewpoint gives you a panoramic view of the Aurlandsfjord below. The platform itself juts out 30 metres, and is suspended 650 metres above the fjord.
We arrived around 9am and there was only one other couple there. Perhaps the weather kept others from taking the trip up.
The view was still really good we thought, despite the cloudy weather. The road up to the viewpoint was very narrow in places, and definitely not wide enough for two cars. Pretty typical Western Norwegian roads actually.
After we had had our fill of the view from the lookout, we drove back down, and got back on the main road, E16. This led us through Lærdalstunnelen. At 24.5 km it is the longest road tunnel in the world.
Construction of the tunnel started in 1995 and it was finished 5 years later in 2000, at a cost of around 1 Billion NOK ($113 Million USD). The tunnel contains 3 domes with mood lighting, which were created to break up the monotony of such a long drive through the tunnel and keep drivers alert.
Almost 20 minutes later we could see daylight again as we exited the tunnel. We drove through farmlands towards our next stop, which would be Borgund stave church. To get to it we needed to get off the main road, and on to “county road” 630. This led us to the visitors centre where we parked the car.
The visitors centre had a lot of information about Borgund stave church and stave churches in general. Quite interesting to note that the main feature of a stave church is that is uses the same construction technique from the long boats that the Vikings used to build.
We bought two tickets and grabbed information pamphlets and walked over to the church. The tickets were 90 NOK each.
Borgund stave church was built around 1180 and is the church that has seen the least amount of changes over the years, it has stayed true to the original construction.
According to the pamphlet we got, there used to be over 1000 stave churches around Norway, but now there are only 28 remaining. Quite sad, as these are incredibly impressive structures and very unique to Norway and Scandinavia.
Visiting Borgund stave church was a definite highlight of the day. Incredibly impressive, and hopefully we can visit many more over the years to come.
After we were done at Borgund we had a quick break, with some biscuits and coffee, before we drove towards Sogndal, which meant crossing the Sognefjord a second time. At Sogndal we fuelled up and set our sights towards the town of Lom.
We considered stopping by Jostedalsbreen (Jostedal glacier) and Nigardsbreen (Nigard glacier) but we felt like we had visited enough glaciers already.
The road towards Lom from Sogndal (Fv 55) took us through Jotunheimen which is home to the tallest mountain in Norway, Galdhøpiggen. It stands 2,469 metres tall.
We stopped at a really nice rest stop before the got to Lom to have our lunch. It was nestled inside a pine forest and it was really peaceful. The trees provided decent cover from the light rain that had been falling.
After we reached Lom we parked up and visited Lom stave church. It was built around the same time as Borgund stave church in the same style, but in the 17th century it was rebuilt into a cruciform style church, meaning that from above it was shaped like a cross.
It was further restored in 1933, but it’s the one of very few stave churches where the medieval crest with a dragon head have survived.
We explored the town of Lom for a bit before we got back on the road. We still had to get to Rondane, a mountain area further north where we would camp for the night. And hopefully get to see musk ox and wild reindeer.
Unfortunately as we got to Rondane it was starting to rain heavily, so we decided to look up campgrounds with cabins on the NorCamp app we had been using. We found a couple places that looked suitable, the right kind of distance away. We didn’t feel like testing the waterproof-ness of our tent which was close to 30 years old.
Driving up Rondane revealed a landscape I was completely unfamiliar with. Mossy covered mountain plains are the complete opposite to the valleys and fjords I’m used to having grown up in Stryn.
We got to our campground around 6:30pm and got a small cabin, at Rondane Friluftsenter. The cost for one night was 430 NOK. The cabin we got was clean and would allow us to get a good night sleep in case it rained. The communal kitchen was great, spacious and clean, the showers were OK as well.
We got into the showers quick and got cleaned up, before we had dinner. This evening had salmon and fried rice on the menu, accompanied with sake from Niigata.
A good healthy dinner to finish our day. The rest of the evening was spent in our cabin, editing photos and video before we fell asleep, pretty exhausted after a long days drive.