In a country crammed with breathtaking
fjords, sky scraping mountains and sensuous seascapes, giving one road the
nickname the “Golden Route” is fairly significant.
But the Geiranger-Trollstigen
Route offers 106km of raw Norwegian nature, with an awe-inspiring
collection of hairpin bends, glaciated valleys and emerald green fjords running
north to south. It is also one of 18 National Tourist Routes that
aim to draw visitors to all corners of Norway, by pairing beautiful drives with
world-class architectural viewing points that effortlessly blend nature with
modernity. Six of the routes are completed and the remaining 12 routes will be
finished by 2020.
“The challenge is to interpret the mood of
a place,” said Per Ritzler, head of international relations at Norway’s
National Tourist Routes. “Some [viewing points] are in sharp contrast with the
surroundings, others are in harmony with the landscape – but never indifferent.”
Start your Golden Route drive in Alesund, the
principal town of the Sunnmøre district, in Norway’s southwest. As you drive
11km south to the top of the Trollstigen, which is Norse for Troll Ladder, you
will climb 852m from sea level to glacial plateau.
After 11 hairpin bends, the Trollstigen
Visitor Centre – one of the new vantage points that opened in June 2012 –
offers the chance to peer over the edge of the thundering Stigfossen waterfall.
It took eight years for Oslo architect Reiulf
Ramstad to complete the angular concrete and glass structure, which mimics the
area’s rocky granite outcrops and reflects the glacial melt of the deep River
Several hundred metres east, another
platform appears to be suspended in thin air, with only rusted designer steel
and glass plates separating you from a 200m drop to the Trollstigen valley
below. Walkways criss-cross the glacial terrain; their simplicity and
compactness acting as a counterpoint to the enormity of the natural surroundings.
“Our main focus is always to have a humble
approach to the environment and through our architecture get the visitors to
gain a greater sense of nature and the interaction between the two,” Ramstad
Another 16km south, past grandly named
mountains including the Dronningen (the Queen), the Kongen (the King), and
Bispen (the Bishop), is another design gem, located at the bottom of the
Valldal valley. The aptly named Juvet Landscape
Hotel received Norway’s top architecture prize, the AC Houens Fund’s
certificate, in 2012.
Seven guest houses balance on thin metal
poles above granite boulders, designed to fit into nature without damaging it. Their
smoked-glass sides offer a floor-to-ceiling panoramic of snow-capped peaks and
the gurgling Valldøla River below. The dark brown monochromatic interiors focus
everything towards the view.
These minimalist boxes of striped pinewood
are open for their third season and took five years to construct. “It was an
experiment,” said hotel owner Knut Slinning. “They’re not taken from a
catalogue. They are handmade. “Other people can replicate the rooms, but they
can’t replicate the rock and the river.”
Only a kilometre away from the hotel, the
sinuous metal banisters of the Gudbrandsjuvet
viewing platform were designed by the same architect as the hotel, Jensen and Skodvin. The snaking metal network of
bridges and walkways holds you safely as you peer into the gurgling whirlpools
that skirt through the narrow and deep ravine below, while the adjacent cafe
offers uninterrupted views of the mountains.
Next stop is the Linge
Ferry Quay, 15km southwest, on the edge of the town of Storfjord. The
quay’s passenger waiting room, full of steel veneer and soft wood interior, has
the mark of Oslo architect Knut Hjeltnes.
Hop on the ferry, which takes cars across
the Storfjord, and drive 30km south to reach the viewing platform at Ørnesvingen,
designed by architects 3RW. The steel and wire
walkway is a perfect landmark from which to admire the Unesco World
Heritage-listed Geiranger fjord, 600m below, and the famed Seven Sisters
To finish this architecture-cum-nature
tour, the Golden Route takes you to Flydalsjuvet gorge at the southeastern end of
the town of Geiranger. Sit in the single, brushed steel and wood seat unveiled
by the Queen of Norway in 2006, which offers awe-inspiring views of the cruise
ships that appear like small matchstick boats on the crystal clear Gieranger
Parts of the Golden Route, particularly the high roads, close when the first snow
falls, usually in October or November, reopening in May or June depending on