Åndalsnes is the starting point for one of the great motor drives in Norway: the Trollstigvegen, a 2-hour drive along Rte. 63 south to Geiranger. The highway climbs to 620m (2,034 ft.) over a distance of 8km (5 miles). The Ørneveien, or "Eagle's Road," down to Geiranger was a marvel of Norwegian engineering upon its completion in 1952.
Along the way, you'll encounter 11 hairpin turns. The last hairpin curve is called Ørnsvingen, or "Eagle's Bend," offering the greatest views in the fjord country -- that of the Geirangerfjord. The dramatic route will take you right into Geiranger. This road for daredevils has a 1:12 gradient. To make matters even more exciting, it's one lane for most of the hair-raising journey. Passing another car could be lethal unless you're careful.
If you're driving or even on a bus, vehicles stop in front of the thundering Stigfossen Waterfall, whose waters drop 180m (590 ft.).
Vegmuseum, Trollstigen (tel. 71-22-14-65), is a little museum at the pass, with exhibitions relating the story of how this incredible road came to be. It's open late June to mid-August daily from 11am to 3:30pm, charging an admission of NOK20 ($4/£2).
Another grand highlight of the area is en route to Dombås (Rte. 9). Both road and train lines follow the Troll Wall or Trollveggen, a major challenge for mountaineers, rising 1,800m (5,904 ft.). A combined Norwegian and British team "conquered" it in 1965.
The visitor center distributes more than a dozen leaflets outlining the best hiking trails through the Romsdalen Alps, a string of mountains enveloping Åndalsnes. The most dramatic route -- and our all-time favorite -- is the full-day jaunt that begins 50m (164 ft.) north of Åndalsnes and climbs to the summit of Nesaksla Mountain, rising 715m (2,345 ft.) over Åndalsnes. At the top, you're rewarded with another one of those awesome panoramas. On a clear day, you can see down to the Romsdalsfjord. From here, the climb continues to the summit of Høgnosa, at 991m (3,250 ft.), and on to Åkesfjellet, at 1,215m (3,985 ft.).
The Romsdalsfjord is one of the most scenic in western Norway, cutting a deep gash into the earth and extending west of Åndalsnes. The tourist office can arrange 4-hour fishing tours of the fjord at a cost of NOK300 ($60/£30) per person. An annual local license can be obtained for NOK270 ($54/£27) from the tourist office.
If mountain climbing is your thing, you can drive 2km (a mile) south of the center of Åndalsnes, following E139 to reach Norsk Tindemuseum (Norwegian Mountain Museum; tel. 71-22-12-74; www.tindemuseet.no); it's signposted. Dedicated to mountain climbing, the museum was founded by Arne Randers Heen (1905-91), one of Norway's most famous mountaineers. He was the first to scale many of his beloved country's mountains. These included Romsdalshorn at 5,101 feet. He climbed that mountain an amazing total of 233 times, the last time when he was at the ripe old age of 85. Admission is NOK30 ($6/£3), and the museum is open mid-June to mid-August Tuesday to Sunday 1 to 5pm.
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