If you are looking for a great scenic road near the mountains, I do recommend Valdresflye. Everyone has heard of the Jotunheimen National Park, but you can’t exactly drive through the middle of it. The best way to see the park is to get out of your car and go for a hike. However, if you take the Valdresflye Scenic Road, you do get a glimpse at Jotunheimen’s beauty.
Valdresflye is a mountain plateau in the easternmost part of Jotunheimen National Park. Reaching a height of 1,389m (4,557ft), it’s the second-highest mountain pass after Sognefjellet, a road famous for its bad weather. Valdresflye is a lot safer than Sognefjellet, and it is open longer than Sognefjellet.
Valdresflye Scenic Road is not a long road (49km/30 mi), so you can take the time to park and go for many of the marked hikes.
If you are interested in historical sites, along the road you pass many ancient summer farms and mountain pastures.
I got to do the Valdresflye National Scenic Road in September 2020, when I was travelling from Fagernes to the Gudbrandsdalen Valley. Below you’ll find all the info you need to do the drive yourself!
Practical info can be found at the bottom of this article
On this road trip...
Is this drive for you?
- This drive is great for: people who want to see Norway’s beautiful nature
- This drive lacks: Towns, famous landmarks
- Scenery: Incredible
- How hard is this drive? The road is narrow and twists and turns. Additionally, the weather can become severe very quickly.
- Start: Hegge Stave Church
- End: Vågå
- Distance: 49km / 30 miles
- Drive time (without stopping): 1 hour
- How long did it take us? 1.5 hours
- Tolls: No
- Ferries: No
I recommend driving through Valdres Valley between Fagernes and Ryfoss before heading to Hegge Stave Church, though there is a direct road (Fv51) from Fagernes to Hegge Stave Church. The detour is worth it.
Info on that drive can be found on my page about the E16, one of Norway’s highways. Click here.
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Overnight option: Fagernes
Before doing the Valdresflye Tourist Road, I recommend spending the night in Fagernes. There’s a lovely hotel there plus lots to see and do!
Start: Hegge Stave Church
Hegge Stave Church is a 13th century stave church located on the hillside near Heggenes village. It has undergone many repairs over the years, altering its appearance dramatically. The staves inside are still original, though.
Head north on the Fv51, towards Beitostølen.
View from near Hegge Stave Church
Beitostølen is a small town located 900m (3000ft) above sea level. As of January 2020, the population was 360. It is largely a tourist area, with several large hotels, cabins, shops and restaurants.
Due to the proximity to Jotunheimen, as well as its height, Beitostølen is among the most snow-sure winter sports resorts in Europe, and ski season usually lasts from November to April.
There are alpine slopes and cross-country trails totalling 320km. In summer, Beitostølen is very popular with hikers.
The village has hosted the FIS Cross-Country World Cup and the Biathlon World Cup competitions.
There is the Beitøstolen Health Sports Centre, a rehabilitation for the disabled. Ridderrennet, an international ski race for the disabled, is held at Beitostølen every year.
Today Beitostølen is the second largest tourist destination in Innlandet County after Lillehammer.
Continue on the Fv51. Shortly after driving through Beitostølen you’ll see the sign for Valdresflye, which means you are now on the scenic road!
Stop for photos!
There are plenty of places to park on the way, and I highly recommend making use of them. The first part of this road is the most scenic.
Bygdin Mountain Hotel
The history of the hotel goes back to 1867, when two brothers had an idea to build a hotel here and generate tourism. Originally their hotel was in a different location; when the road was finished and it didn’t go past their hotel, they moved it to the current location. The building was completed in 1897 and is now the oldest pat of the present-day hotel.
Bygdin Hotel quickly became popular thanks to its good standard and location on the mountain pass. In winter, planes would land on the frozen lake with tourists.
The first major renovation of the hotel was in 1910-1912, and you can still see this renovation in some of the historic rooms, the salon, and the entrance.
During World War II, the hotel was used as an officer’s quarters. German and Austrian troops came here to practice warfare in the mountains. Up to 20,000 men and 600 horses passed through the area. At the hotel, a lot of furniture, paintings and valuables were confiscated. The piano was recovered after the war; it was found all the way in Trondheim. The piano is in the ladies’ lounge today.
In 1964 a new brick building was added to the property. New owners took over in 2017, after stopping at the hotel to buy a waffle and deciding to buy it! The new owners are making efforts to preserve its historic character.
You can stop here for a bite to eat and to admire the hotel.
This is the highest point on the road, at 1389m above sea level (4557 ft). The cafe inside has food from Valdres and Gudbrandsdalen, plus incredible views over the mountain peaks. You can rent hiking equipment here.
The peaks of Jotunheimen
Shortly after the cafe is another chance to stop for photos and admire the peaks of Jotunheimen National Park.
At the same photostop where I took the above photos you’ll see Steinplassen, a monument to all the cairns found on mountains.
Bessheim Fjellstue & Hytter
Bessheim is a historic lodgings.
The site was a sæter, which is a kind of old building and base that had everything anyone would need when in the mountains. It was important to those coming to their summer farms, but also for fishers and hunters. They would find equipment here, plus shelter if there was a storm.
As the area became more popular for hikers in the second half of the 19th century, the sæter became a good place for those seeking shelter. Eventually the sæter’s (there were three here) grew into lodges. The first building built for tourism was in 1890. The lodge ceased being used for cows and goats in the 1960s – yes, historically these lodges were also for animals!
There is one sæter still on the property, Sandnesstuggu, which you can rent for the night. The hotel has remained in the family since 1890, with the current owner being the great-great granddaughter of the woman who built the lodge in 1890.
The image is taken from their website.
Hindsæter Hotel is a small, historic timber hotel from 1898. Much like Bessheim, the hotel was originally a sæter; a farm that welcomed guests. As more people began to come here in the late 19th century, the farmer owner built a hotel. The landscape is historic, with old timber houses, stone fences, ski guards and grazing animals. The hotel even has its own hydropower plant.
Ridderspranget, or ‘The Knight’s Leap’ in English, is a ravine formed by a river that has gnawed deep into the bedrock, so erosion has only taken place in the riverbed. The name comes from a legend about Sigvat Leirholar, one of the king’s advisers, who received a letter that a beautiful girl was to marry a knight. The girl did not want to marry the knight, so Sigvat decided to set her free! He picked her up and fled with her – the knight cased them but Sigvat jumped after Ridderspranget with the girl in his arms and they were free.
It is a short and relatively easy walk to get to Ridderspranget.
Hikes in the area
There are plenty of hikes around this part of the road you can do. Simply use the website ut.no to find them. The website is in Norwegian, but the maps and details are fairly easy to understand in English.
Randsverk is a small settlement with mostly cabins and campgrounds. There is a supermarket here, too!
They have a lovely website, which you can view here.
In Randsverk you’ll find signs pointing to Jotunheimen National Park, but keep in mind that the road is gravel. You can also find the road down to Gudbrandsdalen.
Skulpturstopp is a project where renowned artists are invited to create works of art somewhere in Norway. There is one here. The sculpture is called “Norwegian Wood Lattice Bisected by Curved 2-Way Mirror” and is by the American artist Dan Graham. It is the first work unveiled as part of the Skulpturstopp project.
The road ends at the E15. If you turn left, you can get to Lom, Geiranger and other towns on the West Coast (Olden, Loen, Stryn, Ålesund, etc). Just note that the road closes in winter.
We turn right to get to Vågåmo.
Our final stop is Vågåmo, a picturesque small town located just off the E15. Information on Vågåmo can be found via the link below.
Where to go next
From Vågåmo, we drove south through the Gudbrandalens Valley, where we spent the night at Ringebu.
The following day, we drove to Roros.
From Vågåmo you can reach Geiranger and the Western fjords of Norway fairly easily – just note the road is only open in summer.
Where to stay
Several unique hotels are mentioned in this article. If you were to stay in the area, I’d highly recommend staying in one of the ones mentioned above.
Food & services
- The best place to buy food is Beitostolen, though the hotels along the way have cafes and/or restaurants
- Flye1389 is a good midway point for food and restrooms.
- At minimum, towns will have service stations that will serve baked goods and some hot items, like hot dogs!
- We don’t have roadside stops in Norway like you do in the United States or Australia, for example. There are no signs on the highway pointing to the nearest McDonalds. In fact, there are no fast food options on this drive.
- Get food at a service station or supermarket, or spend some time at a ‘kro’ (our version of a roadside diner) or a local cafe. Everyone is friendly!
- Some of the towns will have a place to get food, others won’t.
- Service stations have restrooms
- The road between Beitostolen and Vågåmo closes in winter
- Always check road information at Statens Vegvesen (our road authority) before driving. Click here to view their page. It’s in Norwegian but easy to figure out. They also have a Twitter and some cars have announcements on the radio
- Even when the road is open, there is a chance of snow or ice on the ground
- In summer the road will be full of travellers in cars, caravans, and even by foot. The road is narrow, so expect delays.
- All the roads are single lane. If you get stuck behind a truck or caravan, in most cases you have to wait it out
Tell me what you think!
If you have done this drive, or have any questions, let me know in the comments 🙂