Møre og Romsdal
Møre og Romsdal is in West Norway. It is the most northerly of the famous west coast fjord regions and its northern location possibly cuts visitors - but it yields to none of the others in its scenery. It is an area of iconic fjords but also of alpine mountains rising directly from the ocean, countless waterfalls, myriad of islands, rugged coast and great valleys. There are also interesting man-made sights such as the unusual city of Ålesund and the Trollstigen mountain road.
The northern coastal region around Kristiansund and the inner area around Sunndal Valley.
The area around the great Molde fjord and the monumental Romsdal Valley.
The southern region around Ålesund and the iconic Geirangerfjord and lovely Hjørundfjord.
There are no large cities in Møre og Romsdal, but there are a few towns around. These are mainly:
- Kristiansund - Compact archipelago town, known for being the clip fish capital of Norway.
- Molde - County administrative centre, known as "The town of roses". Hosts Norways largest jazz festival and a great panorama of the mountains in the south.
- Ålesund - The largest town in Møre og Romsdal which is characteraized by its narrow Art Nouveau dominated centre.
- Åndalsnes - Small town which marks the end of Møre og Romsdal's only railway, Raumabanen, and is surrounded by the Romsdals alps.
- Geiranger - iconic fjord in UNESCO area
- Valldal - fertile valley and great fjord on scenic route
- See also: Fjords of Norway
Møre og Romsdal county includes deep fjords, alpine mountains, gentle valleys, countless green islands, wide forests, the wild Atlantic coast, impressive mountain roads, numerous lakes, barren mountain plateaus, charming mountain farms, and the highest waterfalls in Norway. This region is rich in natural resources such as fisheries, natural gas and hydro electric power. While the area is famous for its iconic fjords and tall waterfalls in the interior, the county is in fact largely facing the ocean. Two of three main towns, Kristiansund and Ålesund, both sits on islands. Only recently Kristiansund was connected to the main land by complex tunnel and bridge systems. Important industry as well as two of four airports are on islands. The interior is relatively scarcely populated, while the most population is concentrated on islands and outer areas.
The highest mountains and waterfalls are in the district around Hjørundfjord, Geiranger, Valldal, Tafjord, Åndalsnes, Eikesdalen valley and Sunndal valley. Around Hjørundfjord and Åndalsnes are the some the most alpine areas in Norway, known as Sunnmøre alps and Romsdal alps respectively. The rivers of Sunndal, Geiranger and Romsdal flow west/northwest from the watershed. In Geiranger the river flows few kilometers to the fjord while the corresponding rivers in East Norway flow gently 600 km to the Oslo fjord. This means that western rivers are much more powerful and has for thousands of years dug deep into the bedrock creating gorges and waterfalls, this process has also shifted the watershed east/south such that what was once tributaries to the eastern rivers became tributaries to western rivers. While the water in these tributaries end up in a western fjord, their valley still point south/east, this phenomenon is known as "reverse" or "barb valley". Such barb valleys can be seen in the upper parts of Romsdalen and Sunndal valleys.
Along the coast and to the North (in the Nordmøre area closer to Trondheim), the mountains are lower, less steep and the forests wide and deep. Due to the deep fjords and numerous islands all parts of this region has easy access to the Atlantic and transport depends on ferries. While Geiranger has for 100 years been a popular destination, there is a number of great fjords in all parts of the county.
This area, partly together with Nordfjord, is often referred to as the "northwest" - that is the northern part of Western Norway (Stavanger and surrounding region in contrast is informally called the southwest).
Møre og Romsdal weather is dominated by the North Atlantic. On the islands and close the ocean it's never really hot in summer and rarely cold in winter. Fog tends to emerge on warm summer days. At the eastern end of fjords and in the long valleys, summers are warmer and gentler. In places like Valldal and Geiranger there is typically snow cover from December to April, frequently 50-100 centimeters heavy snow, occasionally more than 100 centimeters in the valley.
Note that temperature is related to altitude. In the mountains, the temperature can be close to zero C even in summer.
As in the rest of Norway, virtually everybody speaks or understands English. In tourist hot spots, like Geiranger, French and German are also common among service personnel. Due to some immigration from Poland, the Netherlands etc., don't be surprised to meet service workers that manage other languages as well.
The language in Møre og Romsdal is Norwegian, with dialects that are distinctly different from Oslo and Bergen dialects. In the northern area (Nordmøre), the dialect is similar to Trondheim dialect.
There are four airports in the county, at Ålesund, Molde, Ørsta/Volda and Kristiansund. Ålesund has the best connections and can be reached from Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim, ans some international cities like London.
- Ålesund Airport, Vigra. Located on Vigra island, connected to Ålesund by underwater tunnels.
- Molde Airport. Located few kilometer just east of the centre.
- Ørsta/Volda Airport.
- Kristiansund Airport.
The Rauma railway terminates at Åndalsnes and runs parallel to road E136, and are connected to both Oslo and Trondheim via Dombås junction. This is also a very scenic piece of railway.
A large number of cruise ships (mostly departing from Denmark, Britain or the Continent) visit towns and fjords every summer. Hurtigruten has daily departures from Bergen and Trondheim towards the coastal ports of Kristiansund, Molde and Ålesund.
From the inland Road E136 connects the region to road E6 (Norway's main north-south road) at Dombås. About seven hours from Oslo to Åndalsnes. E136 is an all-year road and the main access by car to the county.
In summer, the region can also be reached via the famous Geiranger road. Road 15 from Otta (on E6) connects to Road 63 on the mountain pass above Geiranger.
From the south On the west coast, the main entrance to Møre og Romsdal is the E39 from Bergen to Volda, Ålesund and Molde. Tourists should consider the more scenic Road 60 (connecting to E39 at Byrkjelo) across a small mountain pass, further along fjords and through Olden and Stryn to Hellesylt.
From the north The E39 is also the main entrance from Middle Norway (Trøndelag) and Trondheim. Tourists could however consider the more scenic road 70 through Sunndal valley connecting to E6 at Oppdal.
Frequent buses connect the towns, whereas in remote areas there may be only one or two buses daily. Search using rutebok.no.
- See also: Driving in Norway
Your own car or motorcycle is the best way to get around and travel at your own speed and reaching and stop at the most scenic places.
Hitchhiking is a cheap way to travel the tourist routes. Many drivers won't let hitchhikers on, so don't expect immediate response.
Cycling is a nice way to move around the varied landscape, steep hills and numerous tunnels are challenging. Read maps carefully to avoid long tunnels on main roads. In some tunnels, bicycles are not allowed.
- Iconic Road 63 has only one short tunnel (which can be circumvented).
- Road 136 Dombås-Bjorli-Åndalsnes has no tunnels, but heavy traffic at rush.
- Road 136 Åndalsnes-Sjøholt has several long tunnels and often heavy traffic
- Road 64 Molde-Atlantic road-Averøya has no tunnels.
- Road 60 Ålesund-Stranda has no tunnels
- Road 655 Hellesylt-Sæbø-Ørsta has no tunnels
- Tunnels to islands are deep and steep (notably Ørsta-Ulsteinvik, Kristiansund road 64, and tunnels to Ålesund airport), not for bicycles.
- Road 650 Sjøholt-Valldal has 6 tunnels (alternative is road 60 via Stranda)
- Road 60 Stranda-Hellesylt has 2 long tunnels, not recommended
- Road 60 Hellesylt-Stryn has 1 tunnel that may be circumvented along abandoned road
The Møre og Romsdal area stretches from the shores of the mild Atlantic where there are only brief periods of frost and snow, to the high mountains and interior with heavy snowfalls and periods of deep frost. Trollstigen and Geiranger mountain passes on Road 63 are always closed during winter (usually November to mid May). Ice and snow is common on all roads during the winter months December-March, in the interior and uplands from late October to mid April. Some roads are occasionally closed by avalanche. Travel in winter should always allow generous time for the unforeseen.
Ferries like the Geiranger-Hellesylt ferry or the longer Valldal-Geiranger ferry offer opportunities to rest for the bicycle traveler.
Because of the many islands and deep fjords, Møre og Romsdal has a large number of relatively short (10-20 min) ferry crossings. Car ferries are an integral part of the road network and trips across this county always involves ferries, but these ferries are generally not a separate means of transport. Car ferries on the main roads are rather frequent (typically every half hour), extremely reliable and operate with reserve capacity. Except for the popular Geiranger-Hellesylt and Valldal-Geiranger ferries, tourists need not worry about time tables and reservations. Tourists are however recommended to calculate plenty of time for trips involving car ferries. Buses, ambulances and livestock transport have priority. On the longer crossings, ferries have cafeteria selling coffee, beverages, sandwiches and some hot food. Menu also include the typical thick pancake ("svele") served with brown cheese, butter or marmalade.
There are in addition a few express boats (passengers only).
For additional information regarding public transportation in Møre og Romsdal, contact the public transport information Trafikanten Møre og Romsdal or on phone number +47 177.
The most important sights in Møre og Romsdal is the nature and landscape itself, although the old center of Ålesund and some charming villages and mountain farms are worth a visit. A number of interesting and impressive road constructions are perhaps the most important man-made attractions in this region. Trollstigen, Atlanterhavsveien and the Geiranger road are some of the great road constructions. There is also a number of great constructions related to hydro electric power production notably in Tafjord and Sunndal. The best way to see and experience this area is by driving your own car, taking a bus tour or by taking a cruise on the fjords and see something of the below.
- Cities. Molde and Kristiansund were both destroyed during the second world war. Except for the church, Molde is largely not interesting in terms of architecture. After the war Kristiansund became a well-planned and functional but not particularly interesting city, except for the unusual church and a handful pretty old wooden buildings. Ålesund is by far the most interesting city in the area, also rebuilt after a complete destruction, but in the bold local variant of the Jugend-style (art nouveau).
- Churches. Møre og Romsdal is home to three of Norway's 30 remaining stave churches: at Rødven (near Åndalsnes), Kvernes (Averøya) and on Grip island near Kristiansund. The Møre og Romsdal stave churches are less conspicuous than those found in Sogn, Valdres and Hallingdal, but are nonetheless witnesses to ancient construction technique, decorative style and religious life. Møre og Romsdal also has a large number of octagonal wooden churches mostly built about 200 years ago. The elongated octagonal shape is characteristic for the western areas, including the shapely churches in Aukra, Kleive, Norddal, Stordal, Stranda, Tresfjord and Ulsteinvik. The plain white exterior of the churches in Stordal and Tresfjord conceals a richly decorated interior. In the more eastern areas the regular octagon dominates, giving the churches at Åndalsnes, Ålvundeid and Sunndal the shape of a circus tent. Most old churches are wooden, except Tingvoll, Borgund (Ålesund) and Giske churches. The elegant Molde cathedral is a modern building partly with a traditional style, while Kirklandet church in Kristiansund was the first truly modern church building with complete departure from traditional style.
- 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.
- Dalsnibba and Geiranger road. Geiranger road with countless hair pin bends. Detour on tollroad to Dalsnibba summita 1500 m (4920 ft) mountain summit. Faboulus view over the fjord and the mountain behind. Detour from road 63 (Geiranger mountain pass) direction Skjåk and Stryn (summer only). The northern access to Geiranger village via the steep Eagle's road with several hair pin bends. Iconic panorama of Geirangefjord (all year). Both roads part of road 63 Åndalsnes-Valldal-Geiranger-Skjåk/Stryn.
- Trollstigen mountain pass, Road 63 Åndalsnes-Valldal (Car or bus, 20 km from Åndalsnes). summer only (late May - October). The Trollstigen, a mountain road climbing the pass between Isterdalen valley in the North and Valldal valley in the South. This road is the major attraction in this area and one of the most visited destinations in Norway. Can be visited separately or as part of Trollstigen-Geiranger national tourist route. Long taxi ride if no bus available. Parallel to the road there is an old footpath, it is well kept an a nice hike for the fit. Free.
- Zacharias dam, Tafjord (Detour from Valldal (20 km), road uphill from Tafjord (car needed).). All day, all year.. The Zacahrias dam in Tafjord is a 95 meter high concrete dam in a narrow river gorge. The main reservoir for the Tafjord hydro power complex. Wild nature. In Tafjord village: Tafjord power plant, first power station built 1920s, now museum. Free..
- Rose Church (Old Stordal Church / Rosekyrkja) (road 650 from Sjøholt or Valldal, close to the road). 11 to 16 (summer only). The white old church in Stordal valley is a good example of the idiosyncratic wooden octagonal churches typical for the area (similar churches in Norddal, Tresfjord, Leikong, Geiranger, Ulsteinvik, Stranda, Innvik and Tresfjord). It is known as the Rose church because of the rose paintings covering its interior. Paintings are in a naïve but striking style. Some are merely decorative, others depict characters or events from the bible. It was built in 1789 in place of an ancient stave church at the site, materials were partly reused, so the oldest pieces may date back hundreds of years. A traditional residential house typical for the area is displayed next door. It is owned by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments. 35 NOK.
- The Atlantic Road (Atlanterhavsveien) (By car. One of two possible routes between Kristiansund and Molde). One of Møre og Romsdal's most popular attraction is a 8 km long piece of road connecting Averøy to the mainland via a stretch of several islets connected by 8 bridges. The road was voted as construction of the century in 2005 and is one of Norway's top ten landscape based tourist attractions. It is easy to park your car in one of the many lay-bys and walk a few metres to the smooth coastal rocks and some excellent fishing spots. A stone’s throw or two to the west, the shipping lane crosses the notorious waters of the Hustadvika bay, concealing countless wrecks. For the most spectacular view you should visit on a sunny day in the spring or summer, or when there is a storm. Caution: Do not underestimate the power of Atlantic waves. A small detour to the fisherman's village of can be included. Free.
- Skodje bridges (Skodjebruene), Skodje (Road 661, small detour from E136 to Ålesund). These elegant bridges are the longest masonry arch bridges constructed in Norway. Notably longer than Kylling bridge on Rauma railway. Protected as cultural heritage. Now open only to pedestrians, new bridge for cars built parallel.
- Geirangerfjord (Ferry or cruise ship). The steep-sided fjord with its waterfalls, including the Bridal Veil and the Suitor. Geiranger-Hellesylt ferry, Hurtigruten (summer) and cruise ships travel the fjord.
- Hjørundfjord (Ferry and/or car, or cruise ship). Less well-known nextdoor Geirangerfjord, but equally impressive with its towering, snow-clad alpine summits rising directly from deep fjord.
- Grip (By boat. Public boat during summer time). Former fishing community outside Kristiansund. The boat costs around 250 NOK for an adult. Half price for children.
- The Mardal Waterfall (Mardalsfossen) (Reachable by car. South end of the Eikesdal lake.). Waterfall at a total height of 705 metres containing two drops where the longest, with its almost 300 metres of free fall, is the 4th tallest in the world. free.
- Romsdal valley (Rauma railway or road E136). The impressive Romsdal valley is a 1500 meter deep canyon in the bedrock, stretching some 40 km from Bjorli to Åndalsnes. The wonderful Rauma river alternates between wild waterfalls and tranquil salmon pools. The entire Romsdalen valley stretching from Åndalsnes to Bjorli on Road E136. Waterfalls at Monge, Verma and Sletta. Mountains Trolltindane including Trollveggen, Romsdalshorn, and Mongegjura. Trollveggen is a vertical rock face rising 1000 meters from the floor of the majestic Romsdal valley. Climbers' challenge and hotspot. Visible from main road E136 (parking) and railway.
- Ona Lighthouse (Ona fyr).
- Åmotan gorge & waterfalls (Åmotan), Sunndal valley road 314 (Road 70 to Gjøra, then 314). Åmotan is the confluence of several rivers in a gorge on the border of Dovre-Sunndal national park. The spectacle can be seen by car near the main road (70) through Sunndal valley. Steep mountain cliff, moraines and terraces creates a fan-shaped river system where five rivers meet. Three rivers form magnificent waterfalls. The area is facilitated with well-marked trails and accompanying maps.
Alpine Highlights - by car From Otta on E6 road 15 passed Grotli, change to road 63, make a detour to Dalsnibba (at Djupvasshytta), continue down the famous Geiranger road (don't stop in Geiranger village), continue up Eagle's Highway (short stop for photos near the top) on road 63. Take the ferry from Eidsdal to Linge (10 minutes), at Linge turn left onto road 650 for a 10 kilometer detour to Liabygda, enjoy the panorama, and return to Valldal village on road 63. Return to Valldal village and continue up Valldal valley on road 63 towards Trollstigen, short stop at Gudbrandsjuvet to look at the gorge, continue to the mountain pass and drive down Trollstigen after stop "on the edge". Continue towards Verma and look at the waterfalls there. Connect to E6 at Dombås.
- Fishing. In addition to a lot of possibilities for ocean fishing, both Rauma and Surna are excellent rivers for fishing. Note: Rivers are private and permission must be purchased.
- Molde International Jazz Festival. Norways largest jazz festival
- Nordic Light International Festival of Photography. Photography festival held April/May annually in Kristiansund.
- The Rauma Railroad (Raumabanen). Romsdal railway from Dombås to Åndalsnes - one of Norway's most scenic stretches of rail. The railway line itself is an engineering accomplishment. It includes two hairpin bends, one inside a tunnel and one crossing the river.
- Raumarock. Popular Rock Festival held in Åndalsnes in August every year.
- Skiing. There are several winter sports resorts in the area. Notably the snow rich Stranda skiing centre. The Stranda gondola lift also operates in summer, great panorama from summit. There are also many areas where off-pist skiing also is possible and very common - caution: avalanches are common on steep, snow-rich off-piste slopes.
- Trekking and hiking. The area offers countless opportunities for summer hiking, from gentle valleys and islands to the most demanding rock-face climbing. Along fjords and island, short rewarding day hikes are possible. More inland (around Tafjord, Romsdal, Sunndal, Eikesdal) there are many trekking routes along marked trails. Caution: Do not walk near or on glaciers without a guide and proper equipment.
- Whale safariing. It's possible to do killer whale safaris in the coastal regions some parts of the winter. Caution: Do not go out in a small boat on your own..
The northern part of the county has long traditions in fishing and is famous for its bacalao. Another "typical" dish worth mentioning is "Raspeball". Also try the typical thick pancake ("svele") served on ferries.
Most towns has a few or more nightclubs, pubs etc. and decent nightlife in the weekends.
Slogen beer, brewed in Liabygda at Sunnmøre is supposed to be a superb contest-winning local beer brand.
Norway has in general a low crime rate. Møre og Romsdal does not have any big cities where crime is relatively more frequent. Violent crimes are very rare. Petty thefts and vandalism are the most common form of crime. Most of Møre og Romsdal are small, peaceful villages where everybody knows each other, and tourists do not need to worry about their safety in public places. Tourists should however watch their belongings in crowded tourist spots like Geiranger and in the busy shopping areas of Ålesund.
People generally drive careful on mountain roads and few car accidents happen even if many tourists feel unsafe. Drivers tend to use their breaks to much causing the break fluid to boil - use a low gear and let the engine control the speed downhill.
Møre og Romsdal has large numbers of red deer (hart, "hjort") that can suddenly jump into the road at dusk and dawn (particularly where road is passing through dense forest). The red deer is much smaller than the moose (elk) found in Eastern Norway, but can still create a dangerous situation and cause serious damage to your car. Note the special warning sign. Call the police at 02800 (or emergency number 112) if you wound an animal.
Do not walk near or on glaciers without a guide and proper equipment. Do not underestimate the risk on slippery slopes (particularly near waterfalls).
Do not underestimate the power of waves along the Atlantic. Always wear a life west when in a small open boat. Keep well away from the sea in stormy weather - wave height may suddenly cause surprises.
|Routes through Møre og Romsdal|
|Ålesund ←||W E||→ Dombås|
|Bergen ← Førde ←||S N||→ Trondheim|
|Kristiansund ←||W E||→ Oppdal|