A tiny town in the Rauma municipality of Norway, and in amongst some stunning scenery.
The town of Ålesund is a popular stop for visitors to Norway. It attracts big cruise ships, plenty of tourists on trips around the country, and it has some spectacular scenery nearby. Not far from here is the little town of Åndalsnes, often overlooked by all but a few on their way between the bigger towns of Ålesund and Trondheim.
The scenery around Åndalsnes is breathtaking, said to be the best in Norway and it’s easy to see why. The tiny town of just over 2,000 people sits on the waters edge in a position which catches the sun for most of the day, with a backdrop of snow-peaked mountains. It doesn’t get much better.
I travelled to Åndalsnes from Oslo, which meant taking a train from Oslo to Dombås then changing on to the Rauma railway from Dombås to Åndalsnes. The Rauma line meanders through the valleys between the mountains for over an hour before terminating at Åndalsnes. Other options, if you’re not driving, are the buses from Ålesund, Molde and Trondheim.
Accommodation for a few days was an Airbnb across the river from the town centre, around 15 minutes walk from the train station. From the balcony there was a view back over Åndalsnes which caught the evening sun. And in the morning, the view was of spectacular snow-capped mountains.
Speaking of the town centre, there isn’t much to Åndalsnes. The surrounding area is mostly residential, with some commercial warehouses along parts of the waterfront. The immaculately clean centre of town has little to see: some clothes shops, a couple of salons/barbers, two hotels, a supermarket, a pharmacy, banks and a cafe/newsagents. Food wise I saw restaurants offering Italian, Thai and Chinese food. I didn’t see a pub. An Airbnb out of town felt like the right choice. A little further out of town is a campsite which looks to be a great place for some peace and quiet for a few days, again in the shadow of amazing scenery.
Åndalsnes seems a popular stop-off point for a day trip but it has a lot to offer for those who enjoy the great outdoors and want to take it a little slower. The obvious visitor stop for a short day trip is Rampestreken. This is a hike up to over 500m with a wonderful viewpoint over Åndalsnes and the surrounding area. In late April there was some ice and snow around which made for a couple of uncomfortable parts when the forest cleared and it was snow-covered rocks on the ground, but overall it’s a straightforward walk – an hour up and an hour down with plenty of spots to stop, admire the view and have lunch.
From the Rampestreken lookout there’s the option to continue walking further up. The peak is the end point of an 8km mountain ridge walk which finishes in Åndalsnes, and which has incredible views. Doing this when there’s ice on the rocks, though, it’s perhaps not the best idea and will be something I do on a return visit. I did try to walk further up from the viewpoint and on my first try I quickly hit some snow and ice which, due to the sensible part of me shouting the loudest, forced me to turn around. A couple of days later, after two days worth of sun, I was able to get much further up the mountainside but still eventually hit an area which had black ice covering the uneven steps. No thanks. Others did make it to the summit, aided by spikey shoes and a better head for heights than me.
On another morning I set off early for Trollstigen. It’s a lookout point at the end of a valley around ten miles away. A couple of miles in was a “road closed” sign, saying the Trollstigen pass was closed to cars. This meant a couple of hours of peaceful bliss along the valley road as no traffic passed by to interrupt one of the most tranquil walks I’ve ever had.
It’s one of the reasons I’m perfectly content to not drive. Sure, with a car you can see a lot more but with walking to Trollstigen I had a couple of hours with nothing but the sound of a distant waterfall, a few birds chirping and my own thoughts… occasionally interrupted by the thunder of an avalanche in the distance.
The Trollstigen road and lookout were closed due to avalanche risk. I had seen an avalanche the previous day, and the thunder, even from something which didn’t look that big, was epic. Walking along the valley I saw and heard a few “mini” avalanches as the sun crept over the mountain top and started to warm the snow and ice.
I didn’t reach the Trollstigen lookout point for the obvious reason, but walking along the valley with snow-capped mountains on either side, feeling like I had the place entirely to myself, it was wonderful.
Heading in the other direction towards Isfjorden provides yet more spectacular scenery and options for hiking: valleys, lakes, mountains. You’re spoiled for choice here.
I can see why people pass through Åndalsnes fairly quickly. If you’re limited for time then the likes of Ålesund and Trondheim are more obvious stops, but it’s also unfair to think that a day climbing to the Rampestreken lookout is doing the scenery around Åndalsnes justice. Take a few days, explore, walk, see more – slow down. The town has little to offer visitors but nature more than makes up for this.