European route E39 is a European route stretching from Nørresundby in Denmark to Trøndelag in Norway. The main part of the road runs on Norway's west coast, and goes through some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Norway, mountainous, with deep fjords, pristine lakes, as well as major Norwegian cities. The E39 is the most complex road construction Norway.
Unlike in many European countries, where the European routes are not signed or signed poorly, the European route system is fully integrated into both the Norwegian and Danish road networks; the roads have no other national numbers. This itinerary starts in southern Norway, despite the fact that the south end of the route is actually in Denmark. This is due to convenience; only a tiny part of the route is in Denmark. If you are in Denmark, however, a ferry goes from Hirtshals (the last Danish town on the route) to Kristiansand (the first Norwegian town). If you want to shorten your driving route and stay longer on a ferry, direct crossings between Hirtshals and Bergen or Stavanger are an option.
Within Norway the route includes seven ferry crossings, more than any other route in Europe. The route crosses all the great fjords of west Norway. As there are few bridges or tunnels across these wide and deep fjords most crossings are by car ferry. Ferries are part of the route and not regarded as a separate means of transport. The road and route sign leads to the dock where vehicles wait for the next departure (first come, first serve principle). Scheduled buses, ambulances and some other special transport has priority on ferries. Ferries are frequent, typically every 20 or 30 minutes at day time. Most ferries have cafeterias on board with snacks, sandwiches, coffee and in some cases also hot meals. Ferries are comfortable and safe, and welcome pause from driving. Norway has two pontoon bridges, both on E39.
Road standard on the European route E39 is very variable, on some stretches motorway, other places narrow and winding, but mostly standard two-lane undivided. There some toll booths passed.
This is Norway's most complex road as it cuts across the complex terrain of steep mountains and deep fjords. Norway's two pontoon bridges are both on this route. Most of the road is two-lane undivided, some more narrow and winding stretches remain, particularly between Lavik (ferry) and Førde. A substantial upgrade is underway (as of 2016) and the narrowest points around Sande were replaced with a new segment in 2016. Because of the difficult terrain there is plenty of tunnels (even more after upgrade) and hills. Of Norway's well over 1000 road tunnels, about 100 are on E39. Traffic is generally moderate or light, except long lines of cars leaving ferry and except around major vacations. Drivers must be patient, speeding and overtaking is often risky and gain little.
The most southern part between Kristiansand and Stavanger runs through lowlands and moderate hills. The stretch from Stavanger to Halsa (near Kristiansund) runs across the famous fjords of west Norway.
Parallel alternative routes
- Stavanger-Førde: Road 13 through Odda, Voss and Dragsvik (at Balestrand) to Moskog at Førde
- Molde-Trondheim: Routes 62, 70 and E6 via Sunndalsøra and Oppdal to Trondheim
- Førde-Trondheim: Routes 60, 15 and E6 via Stryn and Otta
- See also: Driving in Norway
Norwegian roads in general are narrow and slow compared to roads in most European countries. The only motorways in the country are in and around the largest cities, and mostly in the flat eastern parts of the country. E39 is motorway first in the Stavanger-Sandnes conurbation, and later in Bergen. Elsewhere, it is generally two-lane (one in each direction) undivided - a few places more narrow and sometimes better.
Long stretches of the road go through desolate areas without towns and petrol stations. Make sure your car is in good condition and that you are never close to running out of fuel. While E39 is a relatively busy road, being the main road between Bergen and Sogn og Fjordane, it may still be difficult to get help in case your car breaks down. Cellphone (GSM) coverage is of varying quality, but generally acceptable. There is 3G (UMTS) coverage in most towns above a certain size.
- This itinerary starts in Kristiansand (not to be confused with Kristiansund). Route E39 runs near the following main airports:
- Kristiansand Airport, Kjevik (KRS IATA)
- Stavanger Airport, Sola (SVG IATA)
- Haugesund Airport, Karmøy [dead link] (HAU IATA)
- Bergen Airport, Flesland (BGO IATA)
- Ålesund Airport, Vigra (AES IATA)
- Molde Airport (the road runs very close to the airport)
- Kristiansund Airport (KSU IATA)
- Trondheim Airport, Værnes (40 km east of end point of route) (TRD IATA)
Minor airports in Norway:
- Førde airport (next to the road) (FDE IATA)
- Sandane airport (road runs under runway) (SDN IATA)
- Ørsta/Volda airport (close to road) (HOV IATA)
Railway stations connected to the route:
- Aalborg ((Aalborg-Frederikshavn line, change at Hjørring)
- Hjørring (Hirtshals line, Aalborg-Frederikshavn line)
- Hirtshals (Hirtshals line)
- Kristiansand (Oslo-Kristiansand-Stavanger line)
- Stavanger (Oslo-Kristiansand-Stavanger line)
- Bergen (Oslo-Bergen line)
- Thamshavn (museum railway)
- Rauma line terminates at Åndalsnes, 50 km east of the route
- The starting point for The European route E39 is 1 Nørresundby outside Aalborg, North Jutland, Denmark. Good highway across the flat countryside.
- 2 Hirtshals port. Northern point of the route in Denmark. Continues by ferry across Skagerrak.
Kristiansand to Stavanger
- 3 Kristiansand port. Southern point of route (in Norway) and junction with road E18 and. The route continues by ferry across the Skagerrak strait. The ferry trip takes 3 hours and 15 minutes.
- 4 Flekkefjord. Small town half way between Kristiansand and Stavanger on E39. Flekkefjord sits sheltered in a maze of small fjords, once a popular safe port for sails during storms.
- 5 Stavanger. City of Stavanger, regional centre of Rogaland, on the northern end of Jæren flatlands.
- Sidetrip to Jæren and beaches
The low plains of Jæren is the one of the few really flat areas in western Norway and the coast is not protected by skerries and islands. The road along the coast from Egersund to Stavanger airport (Sola) offers a different kind of west Norway, including wide sandy beaches often with generous waves loved by surfers and kiters.
Stavanger to Bergen
This stretch runs across wide fjords and several islands.
There are two major car ferries on this stretch:
- 6 Mortavika-Arsvåg car ferry. Ferry across Boknafjorden is part of road E39, 3 departures/hour at day time, 25 min
- 7 Halhjem–Sandvikvåg car ferry. Ferry across Bjørnafjorden is part of road E39, 22 km, 45 min
- 8 Bergen. Bergen is the largest city on the route and the capital of the western Norway. Toll to enter city.
Bergen to Byrkjelo
This segment of the road is extremely varied as it runs from the city of Bergen through rugged land, across and along fjords. The small town of Førde is the only notable settlement. The road runs through deep, often gorge-like valleys. There are countless lakes and waterfalls along the road. The road has several steep hills between Bergen and Førde.
This stretch has one floating bridge crossing a fjord just north of Bergen. The wide Sognefjord has a major crossing at Lavik-Oppedal:
- 9 Lavik-Oppedal car ferry. Car ferry across Sognefjorden is part of E39. The crossing is about 6 km and lasts 20 minutes. A battery powered ferry is now in operation offering silent trip. The Sognefjord is more than 1200 meters deep at this point. Ticket on dock or on board.
- Sidetrip to Balestrand
Instead of going directly north to Oppedal ferry dock, road E16 to Voss then road 13 over Vikafjell mountain pass and across the great Sognefjord to Balestrand. From Balestrand continue along national tourist route (road 13) via Gaularfjell mountain pass and the romantic land of lakes and waterfalls until junction with E39.
Byrkjelo to Ålesund
Just north of Byrkjelo there is a ferry crossing of the great Nordfjord to Nordfjordeid, about 10 minutes. The road then turns east along the shores of Lake Hornindalsvatn, with more then 500 meters this calm lake is the deepest in Europe and one of the deepest in the world. Most of the lake's volume is under sea level and on average water takes more than 15 years to pass through the lake. At Hornindal (Grodås village) the road turns west towards the alpine landscape of Volda and Ørsta villages, then onto the Festøya-Solevåg ferry for Ålesund. Ålesund and suburbs sits on an archipelago connected to the mainland by short bridges.
- 10 Lote-Anda ferry. Car ferry across Nordfjord is part of E39, crossing about 10 minutes. Ticket on dock/ferry.
- 11 Festøya-Solevågen ferry. Car ferry across Storfjord is part of E39, crossing about 15 minutes. Ticket on dock/ferry.
- 12 Ålesund. Downtown Ålesund with its art nouveau (Jugendstil) buildings after the devastating 1904 fire. Ålesund is also the regional centre with shopping malls and airport. Free.
In the interior around Stryn and Geiranger fjords are wilder and mountains higher than further west. Switch to road 60 at Byrkjelo and climb the hills towards Utvik and Stryn. At Stryn there are two options: The scenic mountain road to Geiranger (and further to Åndalsnes on road 63) or turn west and get back on E39 near Grodås (quick drive through the new tunnel to Volda and Ørsta). From Grodås another nice option is driving road 60 to Hellesylt and go by ferry Hellesylt to Geiranger or continue from Hellesylt via Stranda-Sykkylven to Ålesund.
Ålesund to Kristiansund
North of the Ålesund peninsula there is one ferry crossing from Vestnes to Molde:
- 13 Molde-Vestnes car ferry. About 35 minutes across the lovely Moldefjord. The ferry crossing is well-known for its wide and impressive panorama with several hundred alpine summits. About 2 departures/hour at day time. The ferry docks in the centre of Molde. Standard ferry ticket.
Instead of driving straight to Molde, a drive through Valldal and Trollstigen to Åndalsnes is one of the highlights in the area. The magnificent valley and wild mountains at Åndalsnes is worth a detour. See more details for Route 63.
- Sidetrip to Atlantic road
From Molde an easy detour is along the very coast where an interestings stretch of road jumps from skerry to skerry on the edge of the atlantic.
Kristiansund to Trondheim (E6 junction)
- 14 Halsa-Kanestraumen car ferry. About 20 minutes across the 5 km wide and 500 meter deep Halsafjord. Standard ferry ticket.
- 15 Junction with E6 (Klettkrysset). Junction with European route E6 just south of Trondheim at Klett.
Drivers must be patient. There is little to gain by speeding and overtaking. Norwegian traffic is generally very safe, partly because speed limits are fine tuned to conditions - there is always a reason for reduced speed limits. While some stretches of roads like these may look scary or dangerous, surprisingly few serious accidents happen.
This route has a large number of steep hills, some inside underwater tunnels. Use low gear on the steep descents to avoid overheating brakes.
Some narrow stretches remain particularly between Lavik (ferry dock) and Førde. (Information updated as of June 2016. Road construction is in process at bottlenecks around Vadheim and remaining bottlenecks around Sande.) Where the yellow median line is missing, the road is too narrow for vehicles to pass at full speed. Take it easy, also be prepared to pull over and let oncoming vehicles pass - it is particularly important to let oncoming buses and trucks pass as these are often too big to pull over or have problems reversing.
- See also: Winter driving
E39 can be a dangerous journey in the winter if the vehicle does not have good winter tires. For trucks, truck trains, buses and other heavy vehicles, it is mandatory in Norway to use mounted snow chains during snowfall. Heavy vehicles must carry chains during the winter months. All drivers should take extra care and must expect extra time. It's better to arrive late than never. A sensible driver has a shovel lying in the vehicle to avoid being stuck. The police and the road authorities have checks during the winter along the entire E39. Irresponsible driving can result in severe penalties. The E39 runs through areas with different climates and frequently highly varying conditions in winter.
From the north end of the E39 European route E6 leads you north to Trondheim in Norway, and continue north furthermore, through Trøndelag and North Norway all the way to the Russian border. Head south over the Dovre mountains to Oslo and the Swedish border.
From the Norwegian south end of E39 in Kristiansand, ferries run to Hirtshals in the South, where the European route E39 continues in Jutland, Denmark. European Route E18 leads you north to Oslo and further east to Stockholm in Sweden.
From the Danish south end the European route E45 leads you south on Jutland, to Aarhus and the German border.