I had a general idea of where I wanted to go and what I wanted us to do as we drove away from the city of Bergen and into fjord country. We were immediately met with a tunnel that was a 4 or 5 kilometers long and couldn’t believe how long it was. We seriously overvalued that tunnel, as we would drive through many more and some longer tunnels as we continued our day.
Once we got outside the city area, we stopped at a shopping area to pick up some quick McDonald’s breakfast and additional provisions as a grocery store. We then set out on our journey into the country. The majority of our driving took place on the route E16, and it would wind through tunnels & narrow valleys cut out by rivers & fjords, past farms & small towns, and often right alongside some of the fjords. One particular tunnel was a whopping 11 km long, which was a bit intimidating. It was certainly the longest tunnel we've ever been in and felt like forever to get through. But we made it out the other side and to our first main stop, the town of Flåm. We walked down to the water, took in the scenery, asked some questions in the tourist information center and purchased some souvenirs. I also grabbed a reindeer hot dog for a snack. We decided not to do a fjord tour from Flåm and instead look into doing one the next day out of Bergen.
The next planned stop was to the Stegastein Lookout above the town of Aurlandsvangen. The overlook jets out above the town to get a great view of Aurlandsfjord. While up there, I read a sign that mentioned a scenic route if we continue up the mountain. This route, known as Aurlandsfjellet (a National Scenic Route) would take us over to the next fjord. It didn't sound too long, and we didn't have anywhere in particular to be, so we thought we go for it. Worst case we could turn around and come back the way we came. We were definitely please with that decision, as we were soon above the tree line and driving across the top of the mountains. The views were stunning, and the landscape seemed otherworldly. Now this is certainly not our first time getting up above tree line in be mountain ranges since we used to live in Colorado (not to mention other trips), but it was still incredible. We stopped a few times to take pictures, and it was quite cold and windy. Eventually we made our way down, stopping at a waterfall we saw on the side of the road, then to the bottom in the town of Laerdalsoyri. This town sits near the end of Sognefjord, the largest fjord in Norway and second-largest in the world. We stopped for a few minutes to take it in, then got back on the E16 to head back towards Bergen.
Not long after getting back on the main road, we approached the mouth of darkness. Dwarfing the 11km tunnel we bravely traversed earlier in the day, this tunnel (Laerdal Tunnel) was 24.51 kilometers long! That's 15.23 miles! We were in shock. I had read there were tunnels in the region but I did not expect this. I don't remember how long it took, but I would be lying if I said we didn't have any nerves during the drive. It was so eerie. They do have a nice feature at the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 points where the tunnel becomes a larger dome with colorful lights. We are still well beneath the surface of the Earth but it breaks of the monotony a bit. We didn't realize when we were driving over the mountain pass earlier that we would then end up driving UNDER it on the way back. Makes sense in retrospect.
After what felt like hours we finally made it, and it was surprisingly still daylight outside. We thought that had to be the longest tunnel in the world, though I wouldn't have been surprised if there was something longer in the Alps or Asia. Later on that evening I looked it up and sure enough it is the longest motor vehicle tunnel in the world. The next closest in length are a few in Asia (Japan and China) around 18km each. Now there are rail tunnels that are much longer, but not ones you can drive a car through.
On the way back to Bergen we stopped in the town of Vossevangen for dinner. It seemed like a pretty big town but it was dead downtown. We could only find a few open restaurants, all of which seemed to be pizza places. We enjoyed some pizza then drove back to Bergen for the night.