It all started in 1994, as a trial project aiming to offer motorists an alternative to the main roads, and stunning architecture along the way. An architectural council was set up, a team of international architects assembled, and before too long interesting buildings started to emerge along Norwegian roads. There are 18 National Tourist Routes (NTR) in Norway, all of which will have been fully completed by 2020. Running along the coast, fjords, and mountains, these routes embrace Norway and its beautiful countryside, offering world-class scenery and vistas at every bend. Along the way, exciting stops have been designed for taking breaks, parking for hikes and taking photographs. This visionary project, which covers 2,036 kilometres of road and will have been 26 years in the making when completed, is mainly financed by the Norwegian government, and represents an investment of 3.5 billion NOK.
- National Tourist Routes in Northern Norway
- National Tourist Routes in Fjord Norway
- National Tourist Routes in Eastern Norway
- The Atlantic Road (Central Norway)
- World-class architecture
- Stegastein viewpoint
- Juvet Landscape Hotel
- The architects involved
National Tourist Routes in Northern Norway
From the at times lunar landscapes of Varanger NTR in the very far north to the breathtaking scenery of the Helgeland Coast NTR in the south, the National Tourist Routes of Northern Norway are as spectacular as they are different. Natural highlights include Torghatten and Saltstraumen in Helgeland and the beautiful rugged peaks of the Lofoten Islands, among many others, while the witch memorial at Steilneset in Varanger and the toilet facilities (yes!) at Akkarvikodden in the Lofoten Islands are both buildings worth the detour in their own right. Other routes in Northern Norway include Havøysund, Senja and Andøya.
National Tourist Routes in Fjord Norway
Geiranger-Trollstigen NTR is one of the most popular roads in Norway, offering fantastic views of the UNESCO-listed Geirangerfjord and of the 11 hairpin bends of Trollstigen (the troll's ladder). But many of the other National Tourist Routes offer just as worthwhile and exciting driving experiences, with buildings like the Stegastein viewing platform along Aurlandsfjellet NTR, towering 650 metres over the Aurlandsfjord, and natural attractions like Vøringsfossen, Norway's most popular waterfall, a few kilometres east of Eidfjord along the Hardangervidda NTR, to name but a few. Other routes in Fjord Norway include Sognefjellet, Gaularfjellet, Hardanger, Ryfylke and Jæren, Norway's southernmost NTR.
The Atlantic Road
Stretching between the towns of Kristiansund and Molde across eight bridges, the Atlantic Road skips nimbly from island to island, showing nature and architecture in great interaction. Stop along the road to enjoy unrivalled sea views, take in the rich bird life and even spot seals. Or cast a line – many spots along the road are popular with anglers. The Atlantic Road topped the British newspaper The Guardian's list of the world's best road trips in 2006, and was chosen as "Norway's construction of the century" in 2005.
National Tourist Routes in Eastern Norway
Rondane and Valdresflya both offer great mountain vistas. The first follows the east side of Rondane National Park, passing through scenery that alternates between the cultural landscape on one side of the road and the mountain massif on the other. Sohlbergplassen is the most striking stop along Rondane NTR . From here the view of the Rondane mountains appears almost identical to the famous painting "Winter Night in the Mountains", by Harald Sohlberg in 1914. The Valdresflya NTR, meanwhile, crosses the Valdresflye plateau. To the north, one can catch a peek of the Jotunheimen National Park. The mountains here are steeper and wilder than to the south, where the landscape widens into serene, rolling hills.
Several of the buildings along the Norwegian National Tourist Routes have attracted recognition and plaudits from around the world. The new Trollstigen Plateau complex was in 2010 named Building of the Year (public facilities category) by ArchDaily, the world's largest website for architecture. Together with the Gudbrandsjuvet viewing platform in Valldal and Akkarvikodden toilet facilities on the Lofoten NTR, it was also nominated for the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Award in 2011 (the prize won by Norwegian firm Snøhetta in 2009 for the Oslo Opera building). Sohlbergsplassen on the Rondane NTR was nominated for FIB Awards for Outstanding Concrete Structures in 2010.
Trollstigen ("the troll's ladder") is a segment of rv.63, the road connecting Åndalsnes and Valldal. Open between mid-May and October, depending on snow conditions, it is one of the leading tourist attractions in the region, famous for its 11 hairpin bends. At the top, an incredible view overlooking the road and the 320-metre-high Stigfossen Waterfall awaits. Officially opened in June 2012, some 76 years after the original road itself was completed, the new Trollstigen Plateau was designed and built by Reiulf Ramstad Architects. Trollstigen is the largest single investment in the work of National Tourist Routes.
The National Tourist Routes boast many stunning viewpoints along their roads, and one of the most popular is the jaw-dropping Stegastein viewpoint along Aurlandsfjellet NTR, a wood and glass platform jutting out 650 metres high over the green waters of the Aurlandsfjord. Designed by Canadian architect Todd Saunders and partner Tommie Wilhelmsen, the platform stood ready in 2006, and has since drawn countless curious visitors.
Steilneset is a unique tourist attraction along Varanger NTR in Finnmark, Northern Norway. Here world-renowned artist Louise Bourgeois and Swiss architect Peter Zumthor have developed a memorial celebrating the many people who were burned at the stake in the 1600s, accused of witchcraft. Most of these victims were women. In Finnmark, as many as 91 people were convicted and executed. It is known that more than half of these executions took place in Steilneset. The attraction opened in the summer of 2011.
Juvet Landscape Hotel
Juvet Landscape Hotel is located a short walk from the Gudbrandsjuvet Gorge in Valldal, along Geiranger Trollstigen NTR. Designed by architects Jensen & Skodvin Architects, the hotel, a collection of small wood and glass units using the surrounding scenery as a unique backdrop, has won a number of awards for its distinctive architecture and location. Among them was the Houen Fonds Diploma, regarded as Norway's leading architecture award. Juvet Landscape Hotel was also the recipient of the 2011 Norwegian Tourism Award. The hotel has been featured in many international design and architecture magazines.
The architects involved
Many architects were involved in the NTR project, some already well-established names, others still at an early stage in their careers. Among them were Reiulf Ramstad and Jensen & Skodvin Architects, two of Norway's most high-profile and innovative practices; Snøhetta (the people behind the Oslo Opera), possibly Norway's most famous architect firm; and Todd Saunders, a Canadian architect living and working in Bergen. Helen & Hard, 70° Nord, Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk, Manthey Kula, 3RW and A-lab were among several others to have contributed to the project.
National Tourist Routes in Norway (official website)
Norwegian Public Roads Administration
A list of articles published abroad about the National Tourist Routes (various languages)
Did you know?
By 2020, nearly 3.5 billion NOK will have been invested in the National Tourist Routes project. The bulk of it will be covered by the Transport Ministry's budget. The remaining amount will come from other players, with counties and municipalities as the most important. Another billion is expected to be invested by private actors to develop services and activities in connection with the national tourist routes.
Suggestions for as many as 52 National Tourist Routes originally came in, covering some 8,000 kilometres of Norwegian roads.
Since 2007, the DETOUR exhibition, which presents architecture and design along the 18 National Tourist Routes, has travelled through Europe, Asia and the USA.
The National Tourist Routes project was showcased at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, to boost the Norwegian pavilion's motto "Powered by Nature".
The National Tourist Routes project is a collaboration of nine counties, 60 municipalities, other public agencies, businesses, communities and local enthusiasts.
The focus on Norway's National Tourist Routes abroad has been so huge and so significant that they have become part of the curriculum for aspirant training at the Foreign Office.
The Public Roads Administration has so far involved over 50 artists and architects, both young and established. The aim of the project is to create interesting shapes and functional stops, as well as find innovative solutions that will stand the test of time.