Road to Norway
Few have heard of it. Fewer still have driven it. Motoring journalist James Mills uncovers the secret driving paradise of the Lysebotn road.
The Lysebotn road is not very easy to get to. It’s in a part of Norway that’s so far off the beaten track a road was only opened there in 1984.
We’d heard rumours of the road’s existence, but the reality is that few have driven the 25.5km (16 mile) route that coils, serpent-like, through the mountains and boulders that make up the rugged terrain of south-west Norway. Soon enough, we could confirm that the rumours were true: the Lysebotn road really is all it’s cracked up to be.
This is why we gently roll to a halt at the barrier at the Eurotunnel, the first car in the queue for the first crossing of the day. The sun is still asleep, but we’ve no time for such luxuries as a lie-in if we’re to reach Hirtshals, northern Denmark, in time for an evening sailing to Kristiansand, southern Norway.
Eventually, we reach our base, the Høyfjellshotell, at Fidjeland, with Lysebotn road just 5km away.
The hotel is as perfectly placed for fair-weather hikes as it is for the ski season. Our pursuits are considerably less energetic, but no less exciting – enjoying the thrill of driving on one of the world’s greatest roads.
A yellow direction sign acts like a homing beacon to those who have made the pilgrimage to this part of the world: Lysebotn. This is the start of the road built to service the Tjodan power station. The start of the lifeline to the village of Lysebotn, which previously relied on boat travel to reach civilisation at the end of the Lysefjord. The start of what we have come to experience.
The climb to the peak starts gently, the road arcing through lush woodlands; all around us the rich contrast of evergreens and yellowing leaves, shimmering in the damp, chilled air. The rumble of a cattle grid passing under the tyres signals a change, though; the angle of ascent steepens and the landscape closes in around the windows, shadows dancing over our paintwork and the walls of rock towering above.
What a location to be putting a car through its paces. The Lysebotn road tests man and machine, tightening in places before rising to a series of plateaus with the road reaching as far as the eye can see and gentle kinks littered between bursts of straight roads. Boulders dragged through here by a long-departed ice age lie by the side of the road, rising up out of the moss and heather with a silver sheen that makes this look like an alien landscape bubbling with mercury.
In the autumn, you can count on one hand the number of cars you see here. Yet as always, you drive with due consideration for the next twist or turn the road throws at you, positioning the car for maximum visibility and opening up the line of sight so it can power out of turns.
Break the Silence
Powering away from the final hairpin, the Lysebotn road throws its next surprise: a 1.1km tunnel drilled through the foot of the mountain, twisting through 180° as it goes. The engine and exhaust fill it with a surround sound listening experience, but just as your eyes and ears adjust to this novel ride in the dark, daylight looms and you’re spat out on to the valley floor and the sleepy hamlet of Lysebotn.
Pulling up at the jetty and tracing our route down, it really has been a road trip of a lifetime. The scenery that the Lysebotn road has to offer is out of this world and of a scale that you really can’t appreciate unless you come here and immerse yourself in it.