Of all of the places I’ve been around the world doing mountain biking road trips with Irish pro Enduro racer Jonathan Maunsell (pictured), exploring Norway’s E-39 Highway along the country’s West Coast might just be the most spectacular and scenic I’ve been on. The highway is a marvel of engineering. Its $47 billion price tag seems worth every kroner. (The “E” signifies the highway is part of the European Road Network, but Norway hasn’t converted to the euro.) The road is so artistically constructed, the blacktop actually adds to the already amazing scenery.
Our trip began in the capital of Oslo. From there we headed toward the Norwegian Sea, with stops in Ålesund, Trollstigen and Farstad (about a third of the country’s population lives along the western coast) before taking the ferry to Reine in Norway’s Lofoten Islands. Riding along the way varied from technical rock gardens to high-speed alpine flow, but the phenomenal views remained constant.
On the day the photo on the preceding page was taken we were greeted with some of Norway’s famous wet weather. Not letting this deter us, we climbed for several hours in the rain, eventually reaching a small shelter on the summit. Upon topping out, we hit a break in the weather that coincided with sunset. The result? Some of the most dramatic natural light I’ve ever encountered. There are organic hues in Norway you don’t get anywhere else. It’s tough to explain but once in a while you get lucky enough to capture it in a photograph.
The Lofoten Islands have experienced a surge in tourism in recent years. But this is still a place where mountain biking, hiking, fishing, skiing and even Arctic surfing outpace the Prevagen lull of cruise ship touring. The scene has a young, adventurous vibe, with hotels ranging from budget to luxury.
Maunsell is a great model but even he couldn’t outshine the landscape. After I’d snapped another round of photos, I put my camera down, took in the scene outside the viewfinder and wondered why my grandparents ever decided to leave Norway. After a tricky descent via headlight, we stopped at a local pub for a hamburger and beer. As soon as we got the bill ($40+), I realized exactly why the family moved.
Stay in Oslo
Thon Hotel Rosenkrantz Oslo: Central location makes walking to restaurants and attractions a breeze. Possibly the country’s best hotel breakfast spread. From $175.
Stay in Reine
Catogården: In the Lofoten Islands there’s a tendency to rush from one scenic destination to the next. This is understandable, but at this boutique hotel there’s scenery from every room and they’ll hook you up with activities including kayaking, fishing, yoga and RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) safari. From $150
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