One of Norway’s biggest tourist attractions, the mountain road full of hair-pin turns known as Trollstigen, reopened for the summer season this week. Cars were already lined up and waiting when the winter gate was unlocked and swung aside, despite bad weather, and some worry the crowds represent too much of a good thing.
Parking capacity at the top of the Trollstigen plateau remains limited and traffic clogs every year. The crowds and busloads of tourists have increased after the state highway department improved facilities and built an architecturally distinctive observation platform, which offers stunning views down the valley of Romsdal, just south of Andalsnes, when the weather is clear.
Local travel industry officials were making the best out of it. “This is a joyful day, now summer can come,” Hilde Gråberg Bakke of the local tourism promotion agency Romsdal Reiseliv og Handel told state broadcaster NRK when the road opened on Monday. Tourists including a busload from South Korea didn’t seem to mind peering through thick fog that obliterated much of the mountain landscape.
“Trollstigen is ready to receive all the hundreds of thousands of tourists who’ll come,” Bakke told NRK. She’s aware of the lack of parking. “It means that those who come on the busiest days can’t stop, and if they stop anyway, that causes problems for others.”
Construction of a new compex with a café and rest rooms, the observation platform and additional parking was completed in 2012. It soon proved to be under-dimensioned and incapable of handling all the tourists who arrived. On some summer days, thousands of cars drive up and down the road. More than half-a-million visitors drive over Trollstigen every summer.
The situation is especially problematic on days when many cruiseships arrive in the nearby Geiranger Fjord, which also is experiencing capacity problems, or at the local cities of Ålesund, Molde and Andalsnes. The huge ships disgorge thousands of passengers, many keen to be driven over Trollstigen, “and then capacity is burst,” Bakke admitted.
She’s hoping independent travelers will time their visits to late in the day or evening, when it’s still daylight but after the rush of cruiseship passengers has subsided.