Norway, Driving Up the Coast on the Atlantic Road

The Atlantic Road is only 5.2 miles long, and crosses eight bridges in this short span, linking together a series of small islands on the Norwegian coastline. ©Foto- Kjetil Rolseth
The Atlantic Road is only 5.2 miles long, and crosses eight bridges in this short span, linking together a series of small islands on the Norwegian coastline. ©Foto- Kjetil Rolseth

One of the most Dangerous Roads in the World!

By Donnie Sexton

I have always thumbed my nose up at cruising as a means of travel.  I like to be on the go, continually exploring, and a new bed every night on the road is fine by me.

Renars Kigelis is a guide for Calm Giant Tours based out of Alesund, and knows a wealth of information on Norway, his adopted country.
Renars Kigelis is a guide for Calm Giant Tours based out of Alesund, and knows a wealth of information on Norway, his adopted country.

But with so many friends singing the praises of cruises, I felt it was only fair one day to give it a try.  When an opportunity to sail on Holland America’s 7-day Norse Legends cruise to Norway dropped in my lap, I gave in.

City of Alesund

I had never been to Norway, so I did my homework in researching not only this country but learning in advance what life aboard our ship, the Koningsdam would entail.

There were four ports of call, including a full day docked at the city of Alesund.

When I googled this city, an eye-popping image grabbed my attention.  There was a slice of highway that appeared to head straight up to the heavens, pelted by ferocious ocean waves crashing over it.

The description said ‘Atlantic Road, one of the most dangerous roads in the world’.

And it was reachable from Alesund.  Bingo!  This was a must-do for me – I wanted bragging rights for having driven on one of the most dangerous roads in the world.

The Storseisundet Bridge is the longest of the eight bridges on the Atlantic Road and initially has the appearance of heading straight up to nowhere.
The Storseisundet Bridge is the longest of the eight bridges on the Atlantic Road and initially has the appearance of heading straight up to nowhere.

Calm Giant Tours

The options were renting a car or finding a local tour guide.   My hubby Ed was with me on this trip, and we made the decision not to irritate ourselves by renting a car and letting him drive and I navigate.

After an exhaustive search, I found Calm Giant Tours, a business with stellar reviews.  When I emailed the company, owner Igvars responded,

“I’m booked this day myself, but I have my Viking-like guide Renars available for you.”

When finalizing our full-day tour, I mentioned to Igvars that I hoped the weather would cooperate for some great photos of this scary drive.

He replied, “In Norway we say there is no bad weather, there is not correct clothing.”   His response brought a smile to my face.  The nuances of Norwegians was going to be interesting.

Renars, our Viking-like Guide

Walkways along the Atlantic Road make it easy for both locals and tourists to drop a line looking to catch cod, trout, coalfish and mackerel.
Walkways along the Atlantic Road make it easy for both locals and tourists to drop a line looking to catch cod, trout, coalfish, and mackerel.

When we docked at Alesund, Renars was there to greet us. My first glance at our guide was less “Viking-like” and more like staring at a hitman in the Russian mafia.

He stood there, arms crossed and tatted up, with biceps the size of bowling balls bulging out from his white t-shirt, a rugged beard, bald head, and sporting sunglasses.

Despite his intimating looks, Renars was very soft-spoken as he informed us that the drive to reach the Atlantic Road would take about three hours, which included a 30-minute ferry ride.

I shared with him how I had seen photos of this treacherous road and had to experience it for myself.

Renars was quick to burst my bubble, letting us know that the road is only dangerous in very turbulent weather, and in fact, is sometimes closed under these conditions.

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Driving the Atlantic Road is a thrill, with several pullouts and viewing stands worth the stop to get out and explore on foot.
Driving the Atlantic Road is a thrill, with several pullouts and viewing stands worth the stop to get out and explore on foot.

A Beautiful Drive

I admit I was disappointed that our drive today would be anything but dangerous.

We had been blessed with a sunny, bluebird-sky day, somewhat rare in Norway.  There wasn’t any choice but to sit back and soak up the ride through the peaceful countryside of Norway.

Wildflowers rose up along the roadside as we passed through little villages and farmland lush with crops.   I never once saw any liter, a testimony to how Norwegians respect their land.

I was in the back seat, while Ed was riding shotgun as we motored our way to the ferry.  The time passed quickly, as Renars filled us in with tidbits about Norway (economy, fishing, food, lifestyle, etc.).

A short ferry ride is required to reach the Atlantic Road if coming from Alesund. The ferry, which operates all day, connects the cities of Moldes and Vestnes.
A short ferry ride is required to reach the Atlantic Road if coming from Alesund. The ferry, which operates all day, connects the cities of Moldes and Vestnes.

He had migrated from Latvia for better job opportunities, and he made it clear he was very fond of his adopted country.

I couldn’t help but notice how Renars’ right hand grasped the steering wheel.  I made a mental note to take a closer look at his hand once we were out of the car.

Accident Prone Renars

When we reached Moldes, there was a 10-minute wait to catch the ferry.   By this time, we were feeling very comfortable with Renars. He was married with one daughter and spent his free time perfecting jujitsu (currently a blue belt).

Once on the ferry, I reached for his right hand as curiosity had gotten the best of me.   He casually said, “Oh, I got my hand cut off.”  That’s why my fingers are bent.”  What?  You got your hand cut off?

He explained while working in construction on a ground floor, a large piece of glass being installed above him came down and landed on his wrist, severing his hand except for the skin.  Doctors managed to reattach everything, but with some loss of function.

Many walkways along the Atlantic Road make it possible to explore on foot.
Many walkways along the Atlantic Road make it possible to explore on foot.

Renars continued by telling us he was accident prone.  He delved into a second tale of how he had fallen out of a four-story window, landed on his leg which pushed his knee into his face, and crushed his facial bones.

Renars had more to add.  “There was the time that I was taking a shower.  We had a mirror attached to the wall in the shower and it slipped off, slicing my Achilles heel as it crashed to the ground.

“That was the worst” he said.  It took seven months to be able to fully walk right again.  We stood speechless staring at Renars, who turned out to be as colorful as the Norwegian landscape we were experiencing.

History of the Road

Back in the car and swapping stories, we finally reach the famed Atlantic Road (spelled  Atlanterhavsveien in Norwegian).  The road is all of 5.2 miles long with eight bridges that connect a series of small islands.    It took six years to build, from 1983 to 1989.

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When it first opened, there was a toll on the road to help recoup the cost, but by 1999, the toll was removed.  It is estimated that the cost to build this asphalt beauty was 122 million Norwegian kroner (approx. $14,257,000 US dollars). The road was voted Norway’s Engineering Feat of the Century in 2005 and is recognized as a National Tourist Route in Norway. website about Atlantic Road

Exploring the Atlantic Road

There are pullouts and viewing platforms scattered along the drive, as well as one rest area where drinks and snacks can be purchased.  We did some short hikes which yielded panoramic views of the island/ocean landscape.  Several anglers were trying their luck at fishing.

A few houses were clinging to the rocky islands.  We witnessed a Viking replica boat at Geitøya motoring over to the 17>th-century village of Håholmen, with its original wharves, where a hotel and restaurants awaited visitors.

There is a unique architectural rest stop on the Atlantic Road, where travelers can pick up snacks and drinks, as well as use the restrooms. ©Foto- Jan Andresen : Statens vegvesen
There is a unique architectural rest stop on the Atlantic Road, where travelers can pick up snacks and drinks, as well as use the restrooms. ©Foto- Jan Andresen : Statens vegvesen

We picnicked at one of the pullouts with a lunch Renars had packed for us. It was one of those moments in life where I was in full appreciation and awe, having never known or imagined I would experience this fantastic slice of earth’s beauty.

The goal of having driven on one of the world’s most dangerous highways had morphed into experiencing one of the world’s most beautiful drives.

Renars, our tour guide and driver, provided a picnic lunch with homemade sandwiches and cookies. Nature provided the gorgeous backdrop.
Renars, our tour guide and driver, provided a picnic lunch with homemade sandwiches and cookies. Nature provided the gorgeous backdrop. Donnie Sexton GONOMAD photo.

Lasting Friendships

Back to the dock and dwarfed by the Koningsdam, we said our goodbyes to Renars.  The friendship had evolved over a few hours into extending invitations for this remarkable man and his family to visit Montana as our guests.

While I had my heart set on getting a killer shot of a wicked highway, the takeaway for me was to leave expectations behind when traveling and remain open to whatever new experiences stir my soul.   It’s all about being in the moment.

Recommended is Calm Giant Tours should you find yourself in Alesund. In addition to day drives, they offer multiple day trips involving camping and hiking.  For more information on Norway’s scenic routes, go to https://www.nasjonaleturistveger.no/