Carl Viggo Holmebakk

13 spectacular views to seek out during your next Norwegian self drive tour

Are you planning a summer self-drive in Norway? There are several gorgeous opportunities to enjoy both stunning landscapes and jaw-dropping architecture along the way.

Originally published in Norwegian on on 22 May 2020 by journalist Nina Nordbø. English translation by Ivy Thompson, 50 Degrees North Destination Specialist

Since 1994, Norway has invested millions on developing and designing scenic picnic-spots that showcase the very best of Norway's scenery along the national tourist roads. Some of these have become tourist attractions in their own right.

Landscape architect Werner Harstad says it was the varied vistas and dramatic views along the tourist roads that determined the 130 picnic-stops. "The picnic-spots almost chose themselves based on the tourists' need to stop and enjoy the view during their drives", he says.

He is site-managing several of the mountain-passes along the national tourist roads, and points to both the Me- and Sogne-mountains as great examples of views determining the locations of the picnic-spots: Both were originally intersections with enough space to park your car. With frequent and consistent use over time, the intersections eventually became a stop that drivers would seek out.

Enjoy 13 of the newest and most spectacular picnic-spots Norway has to offer:

Mefjell på Sognefjellet

● Attraction: Picnic-spot with views towards Fanaråken
● Artist: Knut Wold

In the middle of the mountain by the Storevass-intersection you'll find a picnic-spot with views to the surrounding mountains. The stone sculpture by Knut Wold is a popular feature in photos of the beautiful mountain-plateau.

Høllesli in Ryfylke

● Attraction: Views towards the Lysefjord
● Recently completed: Picnic-spot with parking
● Architect: Lie Øyen Arkitekter

By Høllesli you enjoy views of the mighty Lysefjord. Previously known for dangerous traffic-conditions due to cars frequently stopping for the views in an 80-zone, the new picnic-area with ample parking allows you to safely stop for photos and breath of fresh air.

Domen in Varanger

● Attraction: Views towards the shoreline and horizon
● Opened in July 2020: Bird-watching hide and parkering
● Architect: Biotope

Perching on the edge of the mountain, the design of the small bird-watching hide in glass and timber was inspired by the local climate and wildlife. No matter the direction of gusty winds, you stay protected from the elements while taking in the amazing views of the cliffs, ocean and the nearby Vardø Town.

According to local folklore, the mountain-pass was known as the place to meet the Devil himself, with the entry into Hell found in the mountain below. During the witch-hunts in the 1600s, 63 women and two men from Finnmark were executed here after accusations of dancing on Domen and relations with Satan.

Farstadsanden along the Atlantic Road

● Attraction: Trail to open area with beach
● What will you find: Parking and restrooms
● Architect: Rever & Drage

The Farstad Bay with it's unique landscape of sand dunes is a protected area due to the rich local wildlife. You can discover many wonderful stops along the scenic Atlantic Road, one example is Askevågen: Climb an iron staircase to a lookout covered with glass-walls facing the ocean, a beautiful, simple and non-imposing tribute to nature herself.

Flye 1389 above the Valdresflye

● Attraction: The mountain top
● Opened in July 2020: Café, Picnic-spot and parking
● Architect: Knut Hjeltnes Sivilarkitekter

The brand new Tourist Association Cabin is located at the very top of Valdresflya and offers fabulous views into the Jotumheimen mountainous area. This is the 5th scenic view-point across the Flya.

The cafe has one communal table to seat 20 people, and the space can comfortably accommodate up to 40 people. It will also be used as an activity-centre for hikers and trekkers wanting to explore the area by foot or ski.

The Refsnes Beach in Jæren

● Attraction: Outdoor area and beach
● Opened in August 2020: Restrooms and parking
● Architect: Lie Øyen Arkitekter

The small beach is located north of Obrestad Lighthouse and Old Hå Rectory and offers soft sand and perfect swimming-conditions, albeit cold at times. The new car-park is in close proximity to the beach.

The picnic-stop by the Refnes Beach is the 6th location in Jæren and provides an excellent starting-point for hikes surrounded by wild, natural beauty as far as the eye can see.

The Vørings Waterfall on the Hardanger Mountain Plateau

● Attraction: Stair bridge, look-out og trail
● Architect: Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk
● Estimated opening-date: 1. September

When the lookout was completed a couple of years ago, it created a stir locally. In 2020 the attraction was expanded to include even more exciting spots for butterflies in the tummy and excitedly wobbly knees. The new stair bridge is Instagram-worthy and is predicted to pull more visitors to the waterfall.

Moskenes in Lofoten

● Attraction: Spectacular nature by the Akkarvik Promontory
● Opened in July 2020: Picnic-area by the ferry-dock with toilets and waiting-room
● Architect: Manthey Kula as

This is one of 12 attractions you can discover during your drive through scenic and popular Lofoten. Driving across Moskenes you'll find the promontory with magnificent views across the ocean to the south-east. The design of the buildings on the site are inspired by the incredibly steep mountains in the Vestfjord-region.

Bukkekjerka on Andøya Island

● Attraction: Picnic-area, restrooms and trail
● Architect: Morfeus Arkitekter

The name Bukkekjerka stems from the native tongue of Norway's indiginous Sami-people: "Bohki" means gorge and "giergie" means rock. Several trails lead you from the picnic-area to the Bukkekjerka rock-formation above; a protected Sami-heritage of cultural significance.

In pre-Christian times Bukkekjerka was considered sacred, a place where the Samis made sacrifices to the Gods in the sea-cave. In the past 50-60 years an outdoor mass is hosted here annually, on the picnic-area towards the South where the ground has been consecrated.

The Sohlbergplass in the Rondane National Park

● Attraction: Views towards the mountains
● Architect: Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk

The viewing-platform offers wonderful views towards the Atns Lake and the famously round mountains of Rondane. The view has the same angle as Harald Sohlberg's renowned 1914- painting; "Winter Night in the Mountains". The Solbergplass is one of 5 stops along the national tourist-road across the mountain plateau.

The Ureddplass on the Coast of Helgeland

● Attraction: Viewing-terrace, parking and restrooms
● Architect: Haugen/Zohar Arkitekter AS
● Lanscaper: Landskapsfabrikken

The Ureddplass has received international attention and accolades; it's toilet-block once referred to as "The world's most beautiful public loo" by British newspaper The Telegraph. The view across the fjord, the Stor Sea and the Lofoten Wall is exoticly breathtaking even for the most well-travelled.
The area is named after the WW2 submarine Uredd (Unafraid), that hit a mine in the Fugløyfjord during the war. A monument has been raised as a tribute to the lost soldiers, who were on a mission to sabotage the power plant in Sulitjelma.

The Borestranda Beach in Jæren

● Attraction: Parking and restrooms by a beautiful, long beach
● Architect: Lie Øyen Arkitekter

At 3 km long, the Borestranda beach is the longest white beach in Jæren. You can enjoy stunning views across to the open ocean, and the area is known for it's beautiful light, inspiring the early Norwegian landscape painters such as local Kitty Kielland.

Borestranda is a popular surf-beach, and the National championship has been hosted here several times. Swimmers and surfers are asked to take extra caution as the rip-tide is strong.

Almannajuvet i Ryfylke

● Attraction: Gallery, mining cafe, toilets, parking, trails and stairs
● Architect: Zumthor & Partner

The Sauda zinc-mines were in operation from 1881 to 1889. Today the mines function as a museum and gallery space. The simple, functional buildings on the former industrial site tells a story about the closed mines and their heritage. The cafe and gallery in Allmannajuvet are normally open from June till September, and makes for a great starting-point for hikes alone the old worker's roads and into the mines themselves.

Photo Credits: Carl Viggo Holmebakk, Jarle Wæhler / Statens vegvesen, Per Kollstad / Statens vegvesen, Lars Grimsby, Kjetil Rolseth / Rolseth Foto, Steinar Skaar, Helge Stikbakke, Per Ritzler, Erik Sæter Jorgensen, Fredrik Flogstad, Hugo Fagermo, Lie Oyen Arkitekter and Biotope.