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Two-thousand kilometer bicycle ride from Trondheim to the North Cape. View Trondheim to the North Cape by bicycle in a larger map
Norway Links

Mechthild and Otto Reuber of Arnsberg, Germany, maintain a Norway website that contains up-to-date ferry schedules, lists of hotels, motels and campgrounds, and a wealth of other useful information. In German only.

Norwegian agency that promotes bicycle tourism

Norway tunnel map on www.cycletourer.co.uk

Ferry timetables in Nordland Kommune

Hurtigruten coastal express northbound timetable

Hurtigruten coastal express southbound timetable

North Cape Center

Nordkapp Camping near Honningsvag
 

Cycling in Norway: Trondheim to the North Cape (June-July 2009)

On the E6 at Kvænangsfjellet two days ride west of Alta
On the E6 at Kvænangsfjellet two days ride west of Alta

Norway has become popular among many long-distance bicycle tourists for a number of good reasons. It has extremely well-developed infrastructure with excellent roads and all the necessities and comforts a bicyclist needs. It offers spectacular and widely varied scenery, ranging from sparsely-populated inland mountain landscapes to the dramatic fjords and islands along its long North Atlantic coast. With a population of less than 5 million people in an area slightly smaller than Germany, most of the country is sparsely-populated, which means roads are usually relatively quiet.

Norway also allows travelers to camp “rough” on public land, as long as one doesn’t leave a mess and doesn’t stay more than a day or two. It is a safe country in which the solitary cyclist need not fear crime or violence. Especially popular cycling areas include the Telemark and southern coast west of Oslo, areas around Bergen, and the Lofoten Islands. The long ride to the North Cape, Europe’s northern-most point, is also an attractive challenge for riders looking for a ride that sounds a lot more demanding than it really is.

I rode from Trondheim to the North Cape in the summer of 2009. A gallery of photos from this trip can be found on Pikasaweb

E6 and campground about 8 km north of Storslett
E6 and campground about 8 km north of Storslett

Route

From Trondheim, I took a passenger ferry across the Trondheimsfjord in order to quickly get away from the E6, Norway’s heavily-travelled main north-south route. I then picked up the coastal route, or Kysriksveien Rv17, a 650-km road from Steinkjer to Bodø. In Bodø, I took a ferry to Moskenes, the large island at the western end of the Lofoten archipelago, and got on the E10 highway. I left the Lofoten at Fiskebøl, where I took a ferry to Melbu at the southern end of the Vesterålen archipelago. The next stage took me through the towns of Stokmarnes, where an old coastal steamer is the main attraction at the Hurtigruten Museum, Sortland and Andenes, a fishing town at the northern tip of Andøya Island. From Andenes I took a ferry to Gryllefjord on the beautiful island of Senja. Two days later I passed through Tromsø and continued west until I finally picked up the E6 at Kåfjord. This far north, the E6 has much less traffic and is perfectly hospitable for bicyclists. I followed it for about 450 km, through Alta to Olderfjord, where I turned left on the E69 for the final 130-km the North Cape. However, because the E69 includes the steep and deep 7-km submarine tunnel (more under tunnels) that connects the mainland to the island of Magerøya, I elected to take route 889 to Havøysund and then catch a northbound Hurtigruten to Honningsvag on Magerøya. This was an expensive option, but attractive because it avoids the tunnel and the busses, caravans and motorcycles headed for the North Cape. My total distance from Trondheim to the North Cape was about 1,900 kilometers, which includes side trips, errors and errands along the way.

Camping

Norway has plenty of campgrounds ranging from simple to well-equipped. I usually paid 120 to 180 NOK to pitch my tent, take a shower and use a kitchen. Most campgrounds have comfortable communal kitchens/dining rooms where campers can cook, use pots and pans, clean up and eat dinner at a table with chairs. Small cabins are also often available for 300 NOK and upward, depending on size and furnishings. I like a shower at the end of a day and running water in the morning, so I aimed for a campground when possible. But Norway also allows travelers to pitch a tent just about anywhere. This is a good way to save some money and there is something magical about camping alone in a beautiful location away from the usual assortment of retirees, families, pets and caravans one encounters on campgrounds. I spent one night on the island of Senja with my tent pitched on an embankment above sandy beach and a small fjord spreading away at my feet. Behind me, mountains rose to about 700 meters and at midnight, the sun cast a golden light over the scene as I brushed my teeth and prepared to go to sleep. Magnificent.

Roads, Ferries and Traffic

The roads are mostly in excellent condition. I used a 1:400,000 map published by Kümmerly+Frey, which was accurate, though information on campgrounds proved unreliable. Sometimes I passed campgrounds that were not on the map. Sometimes shown campgrounds were out of business or simply not to be found.

Touring couple on the island of Hadseløya
Southbound riders on Route 82 on the island of Hadseløya

Ferries connect the many islands along Norway’s long coast or provide time-saving short cuts across fjords or other irregularities along the coastline. These are serious ferries, capable of operating in most weather and equipped with comfortable lounges where one can buy food and beverages. Fares are calculated according to distance and are not exactly cheap. A few examples: 77 NOK for the fast passenger ferry from Trondheim to Vanvikan; 28 NOK for the short hop from Holm to Vennesund; 44 NOK for Forvik to Tjotta; 153 NOK for Bodø to Moskenes; 150 NOK for Andenes to Gryllefjord. Schedules are posted in the Internet and should be noted ahead of time so that you don’t find yourself missing a ferry by 5 minutes and then waiting two hours for the next departure.

Tunnels

Tunnels turned out to be less alarming than I had anticipated, mainly because there is so little traffic. The 3220 m Straumdal Tunnel on Rv 17 between Jektvik and Ågskaret is fairly typical. Deep under the mountain, the tunnel is wet, with water dripping down the walls, and cold (8 to 10° C in the summer). The tunnel walls are simply rough hewn rock. Lights hung from the ceiling every 20 meters or so provide a dim yellow light that does little to make the road surface really visible. At intervals of several hundred meters there were small emergency bays where a vehicle could pull off the main roadway, if necessary. In most tunnels, I encountered almost no traffic so I could stop in the middle of the tunnel and walk around and take photos. When that rare vehicle does approach, it is somewhat alarming. The noise, especially from trucks, is deafeningly loud and it reverberates through the tunnel and in the final seconds, as the vehicle approaches unseen from behind, you become increasingly aware of how narrow the tunnel is and how vulnerable and unprotected you are on your bicycle. All you can do is hope driver sees you and gives you a wide berth - which, of course, the driver always does.

Inside the Straumdal Tunnel on Route 17
Inside the Straumdal Tunnel on Route 17.This tunnel is 3232 meters long, close to sea level and virtually flat.

I managed to get through most of the long tunnels without being passed by more than one or two vehicles. Sometimes I encountered no vehicles at all, even in the middle of the day.

The Nappstraumen tunnel that connects the islands of Flakstadøy and Vestvågøy in the Lofoten is 1780 meters long and descends to a depth of 60 meters under sea level as it goes under the straight between the two islands. It has a narrow “sidewalk” on one side that the cyclist can use to get out of the roadway while making the slow climb out of the tunnel.

More daunting is the Nordkapp tunnel that connects the mainland with the island of Magerøya. This tunnel is almost 7 kilometers long and descends to a depth of 200 meters below sea level. It is also steep, with 9% or 10% gradients on the descents from both ends, and has much more traffic, including motorcycles and tourist busses headed for the North Cape. I chose to avoid this tunnel by taking an alternate route to Havøysund and then the Hurtigruten ferry to Honningsvåg, but other cyclists I met said the tunnel was not a problem. It apparently has a sidewalk on one side so that one need not ride in the roadway while struggling uphill to get out of the tunnel. Also, many cyclists make the tunnel ride late at night or early in the morning when traffic is lighter. Cars pay 145 NOK each way to use the tunnel, but bicyclists pass for free.

Internet and Libraries

Computers with internet are available for free in public libraries in Norway. Opening hours are limited.

Shopping, Food and Alcohol

Supermarkets are few and far between and function as miniature department stores that sell everything from food and apparel to appliances and hardware. The selection and quality of fresh produce diminishes as one heads north, but you will always find the basics that one needs to get through the day. Normal supermarkets also sell beer, hard cider and alcopops on Monday through Friday until 20:00 and on Saturday until 18:00. They do not sell wine or liquor, and they do not sell beer on Sundays. A 500 ml can of cheap Norwegian beer costs about 23 to 30 NOK and there is a deposit on the can.

Some other food prices I noted during my trip (summer 2009): 17.50 NOK for a 500 gram package of spaghettini, 19.50 NOK for a 175 gram bag of roasted peanuts, 34.90 for 300 grams of olives in a jar, 8.91 NOK for one green bell pepper.

Wine and liquor are available only from government-run stores called Vinmonopolets. These are well-stocked liquor stores with a complete range of spirits and wines and can be found in most larger towns and cities. A 1 liter box of decent South African Merlot cost 102 NOK.

The North Cape

After almost 2,000 kilometers through some of Norway’s most beautiful landscapes, the final lunge to the North Cape was a bit of a letdown. I arrived in Honningsvåg on the Hurtigruten ship, MS Nordlys, just before noon, did my shopping and then headed to Nordkapp Camping about 12 kilometers north of town. The date was July 17, 2009 and an icy wind from the North Pole just 2,100 kilometers away was blowing rain horizontally across Magerøya. I took a simple room in a motel-like barracks at the campground and hunkered down for the rest of the day. The weather had not improved by the next morning, so I bundled myself into my rain gear, locked my other equipment into my room, and set off for the final destination. Magerøya is a treeless place covered with a coarse green-brown grass interrupted only by the road and a few tiny settlements. Here and there I passed small herds of reindeer grazing by the side of the road. From the campground, I immediately had a long climb from sea level to about 300 meters elevation. Halfway to the North Cape, the road dips back down to close to sea level before climbing back up to 300 meters again. All hard work into the teeth of an unforgiving wind. A few kilometers before the goal, two motorcyclists heading south honked their horns and gave me “thumbs up” as they begin their journey home. After 25 kilometers, I finally pulled up to the toll booths and paid 215 NOK for the privilege of setting foot on what claims to be the northern most point of Europe. Actually, the northern-most point is a few kilometers to the west on a point that is accessible only by foot. I rolled past the many caravans, tour busses and motorcycles on the parking lot and parked in front of the North Cape Center to use the toilet and have a cup of expensive coffee. A few visitors congratulated me on reaching this desolate place by bicycle.

The tailwind helped make the ride back to Honningsvåg a little easier. The next morning I boarded MS Nordlys, which was now on its return leg from Kirkenes, and settled into the windowless cabin I had reserved months ahead for the 3-day trip to Trondheim.

From Trondheim, I took a train to Oslo where I caught an Air Berlin Airbus to Berlin. It is also possible to fly out of Honningsvåg or Kirkenes. For many other cyclists, the North Cape is just the half-way point. They turn around and return the way they came or find an alternate route south.