Road 55 is a 140-km regional route between Sogndal at Sognefjord and Lom in Oppland. The route runs through Sognefjellet mountain pass and the drive is simply called Sognefjellet by locals. The Sognefjellet is a mountain pass in central Norway, joining the Sognefjorden in the west with the Ottadalen branch of Gudbrandsdalen in the east. The route has been named one of 18 national scenic routes because of the varied landscape and fine scenery. Route 55 runs between the great western fjords and the wide eastern valleys, and runs through the steep slopes between fjords and high mountains, passed glaciers and alpine peaks, and along big valleys with powerful rivers. The route offers a shortcut between inner Sognefjord and eastern valleys in an area where overland transport is blocked by glaciers and wild mountains. Alternative drives are through Valdres or E39 through Stryn.
From west to east the road runs from Sogndal village passed Hafslo lake then along Lustrafjorden to Skjolden village at the far end. After a few kilometers passed Fortun in the deep valley the road climbs steeply and through several hairpins to the mountain pass, Turtagrø hotel is about half way to the highest point. For some kilometers at the highest the road runs across a small plateau surrounded by glaciers, lakes and alpine summits. Just east of Sognefjellshytta lodge the road descends steeply along a deep barren valley. Below the forest line Bøverdalen valley is largely gentle with a partly flat valley floor but also with narrow gorges.
At 1,434 metres above sea level the Sognefjellet is the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe, and it is only accessible in the summer with a varying opening time. Sognefjellet lies on the northern edge of Jotunheimen and south of Breheimen mountain range.
At Lom in Ottadalen branch of Gudbrandsdalen valley route 55 connects to route 15 (Otta-Stryn). Ottadalen valley runs along the south edge of Reinheimen national park, a wide mountain range and plateau. About 1 hour upstream from Lom road 15 connects to Geiranger road which is part of Road 63 (Norway).
Work on the road through the mountain pass began in 1936 when the ministry of social affairs wanted to create jobs for unemployed young people. Some 100 from Sognefjord area and 100 from Oppland county joined and the road was completed in 1938.
Get last minute information from road authorities and read weather forecast for drives in spring and autumn. Snowfall and frost can occur also in summer although rarely an issue in the middle of the day.
Despite being one of the most remote and rugged roads in Europe, the Sognefjellet is easily accessed by public transport, with two buses daily in the summer leaving Sogndal on the South-West side, and Lom in the North-East side, connecting with buses to Otta (route information on Fjord1 ).
- 1 Sogndal. Sogndal village (or more precisely Sogndalsfjøra) is the regional centre in Sognefjorden area. At Sogndal road 55 connects to road 5 Lærdal-Førde. Sogndal has an airport on a mountain ridge near Kaupanger.
- 2 Solvorn. Solvorn is a small peaceful village a short detour from road 55. Walaker hotel in Solvorn has been in operation since the 17th century. Ferry to Urnes and the stave church there.
- 3 Gaupne, Gaupne. Gaupne is the administrative centre of Luster district. Road 55 runs through the village. Road 604 through Jostedalen valley leaves 55 in the centre. The road through Jostedalen is a dead end and drivers must return to Gaupne. Jostedalen gives name to Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier in mainland Europe. The village sits at the end of Gaupnefjorden, a small branch of Lustrafjorden. Wooden church (about 1647) with remains of an ancient stave church on the same site, notably the wooden portal. Modest exterior. Interior rosemaling or tole painting. Now maintained as cultural heritage.
- 4 Luster village. Luster village and Dalsøyri sits on the shores of Lustrafjorden, halfway between Gaupne and Skjolden. Road 55 runs through the village. Dale church (from 1240) and the old vicarage are next to the road. While the church is moderate in size, it is well-known for the massive soapstone portal inside. Such impressive masonry work is rarely found except in major cathedral such as Nidaros cathedral in Trondheim. There are murals from the 16th century, later covered by lime paint and again uncovered. Rosepainted wood panels inside.
- 5 Skjolden. The innermost village in Luster and in entire Sognefjord district. This is more than 200 km from the open Atlantic but the shore at Skjolden is still part of Norway's endless coastline. Numerous rivers make the surface of the fjord brackish at times. Road to Urnes stave church along Lustrafjorden. Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein had a holiday house, a small cabin, above the lake at Skjolden. The cabin was moved after Wittgenstein's death, in 2019 reconstructed at the original spot. Wittgenstein compiled parts of his most important works while staying in Skjolden.
- 6 Sognefjellet. The highest section of the road (the actual mountain pass) runs across a rugged plateau with lakes as well as glaciers and summits around. From Turtagrø hotel to Krossbu this section is about 20 km (12 mi). There are several parking areas and viewpoints. Sognefjellshytta is the only accommodation on the plateau, while Turtagrø and Krossbu are on the slopes on either side. Snow usually remain well into summer on the plateau and cross-country athletes continue training under the summer sun in June.
- 7 Bøverdalen. Bøverdalen valley runs from Sognefjellet plateau to Lom village (Fossbergom), about 50 km (31 mi). Named after the main river Bøvra. The upper part is also known as Breidsæterdalen. Road 55 partly runs along the branch known as Leirdalen, home to Leira river which drains glaciers in Jotunheimen, hence the name "Leira", literally "Clay river", because the large amounts of clay making the water gray or turquoise. Bøverdalen church at Galde is a fine little octagonal church next to the road.
- 8 Sagasøylen (The Saga column). A 34 m (112 ft) tall sculpture with reliefs in heroic "saga" style. The column depicts important moments in Norwegian history. The artist Wilhelm Rasmussen was working in the monument in the 1920s and according to plans should be erected in front of the parliament in Oslo. Rasmussen joined the nazi party in the 1930s and further work on the monument was halted. The column was completed in 1992 and erected at Elveseter hotel in Bøverdalen valley. The column stands near the road and is a landmark in Bøverdalen.
- 9 Røisheim hotel. Røisheim has been in operation as an inn and lodging since 1858. The compound include 14 old wooden buildings protected by law. The hotel sits at narrow point in Bøverdalen valley and the river flows through a gorge beneath the hotel.
- 10 Lom. Lom village or more precisely Fossbergom is the regional centre in Lom district and Ottadalen valley (branch of Gudbrandsdalen). Route 55 connects to route 15 (Otta-Stryn road) in the centre of the village. Lom village has a fine location at the confluence of Børve river and Otta river, and Børve river creates a fine waterfall in the centre. Lom village has successfully maintained a consistent traditional style of building even for modern buildings. The ancient stave church stands near the centre.
Detours and activities
- 1 Galdhøpiggen. Galdhøpiggen is the highest mountain peak in the Nordic countries at 2469m above sea level. Galdhøpiggen is the highest mountain in Europe north of the Alps. Galdhøpiggen is in the northern part of Jotunheimen just south of route 55. Galdhøpiggen and nearby summits are surrounded by glaciers. The standard route is a moderate day hike (about 7 hours) from Juvasshytta lodge across a glacier; it must be done with a guide. Guiding begins in early June depending on snow conditions. There is also a summer ski resort at Juvasshytta lodge. Road to Juvasshytta departs from route 55 at Galde hamlet near Bøverdalen church. The drive to Juvasshytta on Galdhøpiggen road offers fine panorama. Note: The Galdhøpiggen road is steep and low gear downhill is needed not to overheat breaks. This is the highest road in Norway and snowfall may occur also in summer.
- 2 Fannaråki. Fannaråki is the 2,068 m (6,785 ft) above sea level and the DNT lodge right on the summit is the highest accommodation in Norway. There was a manned meteorological observatory from 1926 until 1978 and a small staff stayed on the summit all winter (the building was adopted by DNT when the observatory was abandoned). In 1943 they measured wind speed at 250 km/h. The lowest temperature ever measured in July was –8,3 °C. The panorama from Fannaråki is one of the best in Jotunheimen. Fannaråki sits on the south edge of Sognefjellet plateau is seen from the road as a distinct almost straight ridge. The shortest hike is from Sognefjellshytta, but part of this hike is across the glacier where guides are needed (available July and August). Total about 6 km and 5 hours hike. The hike from Turtagrø is steeper and more demanding but glacier crossing not needed.
- 11 Urnes Stave Church (Urnes Stavkyrkje), Urnes (30 km (19 mi) from Skjolden on route FV331, or with ferry from Solvorn.), email@example.com. 5 May-30 Sep: 10.30AM-5.45PM. The oldest stave church in Norway, built around 1130 AD. Included on UNESCO World Heritage List. Available by ferry from Solvorn or road from Skjolden.
- 12 Veitastrond. Veitastrond is a small settlement at the far end of Veitastrond lake. This deep inner valley is surrounded by Jostedalsbreen glacier and many branches of the big glacier. Glacier arms can be approached by trails along the valley floor. About 40 km (1 hour drive) from Hafslo.
- 13 Nigardsbreen, Gaupne/Jostedalen (Route 604 from Gaupne through Jostedalen valley). Arm of the great Jostedalsbreen glacier. Caution: Watch from a safe distance, respect signs and fences, professional guide needed for hike on the ice. Free.
- 14 Tindevegen (Turtagrø). The private road Tindevegen connects to 55 at Turtagrø and offers a shortcut to Årdal (tollbooth about half way to Årdal). This steep and narrow road (but with asphalt) runs along the western edge of Hurrungane, the western part of Jotunheimen. These are the wildest part of Jotunheimen with steep summits and sharp ridges. Toll road.
British newspaper the Guardian named the Sognefjellet one of the top 10 cycle rides in the world (Guardian (2007) ). The road is steep on both the western and eastern side of the pass. Between Skjolden and Sogndal the road is mostly horizontal and at sea level. In Bøverdalen the road is rather flat between Røisheim and Lom village. There are no tunnels east of Skjolden, but a few shorter tunnels between Skjolden and Sogndal - the longest is 1.2 km (0.75 mi) and with bicycle/pedestrian path on the outside. On the very mountain pass, temperatures can drop close to zero Celsius even in summer.
From Sogndal the bus headed out from the town and joins the Lustrafjorden, the very end of the Sognefjorden – the longest in Norway. The road impressively and smoothly traverses its shores to the village of Skjolden where the waters end.
From there the route heads steeply up past gulleys and streams, menacing waterfalls, impassable rapids, into the cloud, and beyond. The glacier and rain-fed rivers get ever wilder, until, dramatically, the road sweeps onto the flat plateaux.
The landscape is bare rock, and even in July ice is all around: floating in opaque blue lakes, in great drifts covering whole mountain-sides, and hanging from peaks higher-still, the great glaciers of the Jotunheimen. Other than a couple of hostels there is little but rock and ice, and our trusty road, the Sognefjellet.
As suddenly the road joined the plateaux it leave it: at Krossbu the road glides into the virgin Bøvre river valley, a narrow scar in the highlands, fringed with dizzying waterfalls, which gradually widens and opens out into the Ottadalen at Lom. From there it connects to buses towards Otta, you can also catch servies from here back East.
- The Lustrafjorden arm of the Sognefjorden, the longest fjord in Norway and the second longest fjord in the world.
- Norway's largest glacier, the Jostedalsbreen Glacier.
Sogndal village has a handful standard hotels.
- 1 Turtagrø hotel. Turtagrø hotel is halfway to the highest point and a popular starting point for western Jotunheimen summits. The first building was erected in 1888 and became the favorite hangout for Norwegian and British climbing pioneers including Slingsby and Patchell. The main building burned down in January 2001 and just one year later a new building was in place. An annex from 1888 is still standing.
- 2 Sognefjellshytta. Sognefjellshytta on the plateau is a privately owned mountain lodge that began operation in 1947. Expanded several times and some sections have standard hotel rooms.
There are some steep descents. Use engine and gear to control speed so breaks are not overheated.
Waterfalls are treacherous. Watch your step and keep a safe distance.
Glaciers should be observed from generous distance. Large chunks of ice can fall off and kill. Never hike on a glacier on your own. Go with a professional guide and proper gear.