We studied the maps of routes in Western Norway leading from Oslo to Bergen for months. There are several routes, but no clear choice as you’re driving over the mountains to the sea. You can either take the six hour Oslo-Bergen scenic train, or drive yourself. We opted to drive ourselves so that we could take advantage of stops along the way. We took the E18 inside Oslo to the E16 north, winding through the gorgeous farmlands outside the city and the grand lake “Tyrifjorden”.
At Honefoss, take the R7 north. The R7 rolls smoothly through the countryside, and charges a 70 NOK toll. A good resting point is in the town of Fla, where you’ll find gas, grocery (to pick up picnic supplies at a cheaper price than Oslo or Bergen), and a new McDonalds for a bathroom break.
At Gol, you can continue on the R7, or turn off to R52 north, which would take you through Laerdal (and the famously long Laerdal tunnel) en route to Flam. We opted to avoid this massive tunnel, and continued the R7 until the next turnoff, R50. Tunnels are not as fun as they sound in Norway. They are DARK! And long. And many. R50 has approximately 13 tunnels. As you are driving, take note that the maximum speed limit is 80 kph (50 mph), and drops to 55 kph (35 mph) around villages. Be on the lookout for this sign announcing speed cameras along the route (even in tunnels!). The grey box to the right of the road is the camera.
The landscape on R50 is like the moon. You are at the top of the mountain plateau, sprinkled with enormous boulders, mossy grasses, and leftover glacial ice patches. These are interspersed with rushing streams and waterfalls from the ice melt, half-frozen lakes, and herds of sheep at the edge of the road.
The “Norway in a Nutshell” points of interest are among the top sights for visitors. These include the Flamsbana Railway from Myrdal to Flam, the Naeroyfjord cruise from Flam to Gudvangen, and the bus route from Gudvangen to Voss. We decided to overnight in Flam en route to Bergen to allow ourselves more time. Thank goodness… driving straight through to Bergen is aggressive as far as timing. Although its only roughly 300 miles, it takes 10 hours thanks to the winding roads and speed limitations. Flam is a cute little town in the heart of the fjords, and the perfect stopover.