Welcome to the region of alpine peaks and narrow fjords. The place when you can climb a snow-covered mountain in the morning and swim in the sea in the afternoon. The area where you can find hidden Hjørundfjord swing, and watch the mountains rising up to 1,700 meters straight from the sea. Sunnmøre Alps (Sunnmore Alps in English or Sunnmørsalpane in Norwegian), in western Norway, is a must-see for any outdoors lover.
Sunnmore Alps is the mountain range in Sunnmøre, in the Møre and Romsdal county. What sets apart this high mountain area close to Ålesund (Aalesund), from other mountains in Norway, is its unique alpine landscape located just by the sea.
For me, visiting the Sunnmøre Alps was a long-awaited encounter. Similarly to my fascination with Senja and a view to Segla from Hesten hike, it all started with a photo. In this case, it was an image of the Hjørundfjord swing with the backdrop of the pointy snow-covered mountains and the dark blue sea.
On the long May weekend, we packed our bags and went up north to see what the Sunnmore Alps have to offer.
We have managed to discover beautiful locations, green pastures sitting on the sides of the steep mountains, sheep grazing on the flower-covered fields, towns accessible only by foot or a boat, breathtaking views and even a few swings that have a much better view than your average kindergarten playground.
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Hjørundfjord in Sunnmøre
On one side of the Sunnmore Alps lies Hjørundfjord. It’s a 35-kilometre long fjord, a neighbour of the more famous Geirangerfjord. Not sure why Hjørundfjord didn’t earn as much fame as Geiranger since it’s surrounded by high mountains, waterfalls and glaciers, alpine farms perched in the green valleys and unique fishing villages. But maybe it’s for the better since it leaves the area tranquil and peaceful, which is what I like the most about it. This is the place for adventure seekers and admirers of wild untouched nature.
The fjord cuts through the landscape leaving the rugged vertical cliffs on both sides. You can admire them from villages of Sæbø, Trandal, Øye and Standal, or just from the road or a hike. Hjorundfjord is a star of the Sunnmore Alps region, and it’s worth visiting from both sides. Below, you can find even more suggestions on what to do in Sunnmore Alps and Hjørundfjorden.
Things to do in Sunnmore Alps
# Go for a hike in Sunnmørsalpane
Sunnmore Alps is a paradise for any outdoor activity, hiking and camping included.
You can find the hikes suitable for any level, from family-friendly walks to more challenging treks that involve scrambling and steep ascents.
One of the region’s famous hikes, Mount Saksa with the height 1073 masl., offers incredible views to two fjords Norangsfjorden and the Hjørundfjord. The hike starts from Urke and is quite steep.
Mt. Slogen, another one of Norway’s iconic hikes (like Kjerag, Trolltunga, Bessegen and a few more), has a height of 1564m. It’s a demanding hike, but worth the views that you get from the top.
Another great hiking area can be found in Molladalen valley, where easier hikes can be done by the whole family. However, you can also find there more challenging hikes like Jønshorn, Randers Topp or Mohns Topp. From Ørsta, an easy but nice hike is Helgehornet.
For more hiking opportunities, have a look at Romedalen, a valley surrounded by the high peaks, such as Fingeren with its characteristic finger-like shape.
Due to bad snow conditions, we go up the high peaks. Luckily, I found lower mountains, that also offered amazing views. I especially liked Galten in Folkestad near Volda. It’s only 570 meters heigh, but offers stunning views onto the fjords Dalsfjorden and Voldsfjorden. Sometimes is even referred to as the Sunnmore answer to the more famous Trolltunga hike in Vestland.
# Find a Hjørundfjord swing (or two)
It turned out that Hjørundfjord is a fjord of swings. I came there to see one and ended up swinging on two different ones. I couldn’t decide which one I liked more.
The first swing, that got famous after an Instagram post, is located in a small town of Trandal. Trandal is only accessible by boat or by hiking through the mountains. There are no roads connecting it with the outside. That was another reason why I wanted to visit.
The swing in Trandal can be found on the Christan Gaard farm, a beautiful area that also offers food in a cosy wooden pub, accommodation and music festivals in the summer.
There is a ferry going to Trandal from Sæbø or Standal. However, I do recommend double-checking the times either with the locals or by calling. For us, it turned out that they were doing some changes and all the times that were posted online were incorrect. Luckily, we managed to get there (and come back!). You can check the ferries online here or here, you can also find there the customer line phone numbers. The ferry is free for passengers on foot and it only charges for the cars.
Another swing that I’ve seen turned out to be near Sæbø. I accidentally stumbled on a photo of it when I was researching hikes in the area. It’s a much smaller swing, but the view is worth hiking up to, even without it. The hike is called Gunnarrasa, and is only 1,5 km but leads up the steep hill. Some people do it in 30 min, some in 1 hour. On top, you will find the rest area, a swing and some very old hammock (I used mine instead).
# Try the local cuisine
The fjords are full of fish and seafood, that you can taste overlooking the water. The forests and the mountains are home to wildlife, that is typically eaten by Norwegians, especially deer or moose. If you don’t eat meat, you can also find some vegetarian dishes to try. I recommend stopping in the small places by the road, or family-run establishments for the best flavours and fresh ingredients.
When we visited Trandal, we had a delicious meal in Christan Gaard farm. Everything was made from scratch on the farm from the local ingredients, bread included. It was very tasty and we even got some free coffee afterwards.
# Swim in a fjord
If you are brave and don’t mind cold water temperatures, you can try to swim in the fjord. I didn’t do it this time, but I often swim in the fjord in the south of Norway and around, even in Oslo in winter.
# Take a sauna session with a view
For the ones of you that find the fjord water too cold, you can always warm up first with the floating sauna in Sæbø.
# Stay in the Norwegian cabin
Traditional wooden Norwegian cabins are the perfect place to stay for a couple of days and take in the landscape.
In Sæbø, I can highly recommend Hustadnes Fjordhytter, where we stayed. Cottages are clean and cute, they have a private terrace and you can even rent a hot tub with the mountain view. For the small 4-people cottage we paid 350 NOK. Check availability and prices here.
# Visit the historic hotel that hosted Kings and Queens
Hotel Union Øye is a historic hotel located in the village of Øye by the Norangsfjord. Since 1881 it has been a favourite venue of royalties, writers and explorers, such as King Oscar, Princess Victoria, author Karen Blixen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Henrik Ibsen and the explorer Roald Amundsen.
The rooms are individually furnished. We have stopped there just for a coffee and cake and to admire the beautiful interiors. However, if you have time, I recommend staying there for at least one night. Check the availability and prices here.
# Go for a ski touring adventure in Sunnmore Alps
The mountains around the Hjørundfjord are some of the best locations for ski touring in Norway. And these fjord views! You can’t get that anywhere else in Europe.
# Try fishing in the fjord
Fishing in the sea is free in Norway, as long as you follow the local rules about the types of fish that can and cannot be caught. For fishing in the lakes and rivers, you need to buy a license.
Many of the small fjord villages’ income is based on fishing. In the fjord, you can find salmon, mackerel, herring, pollock and more.
You can even try the traditional Norwegian way fishing – line fishing just with a string and hooks. When I tried it for the first time, I got two huge fish in 10 seconds, not kidding!
# Take a cruise or kayak in Hjørundfjord
The Hjørundfjord offers amazing views from the shore as well as from the water. Rent a kayak from Sæbø or Øye, or take a cruise along the fjord to admire its beauty.
# Dive in the ruins of an old mountain pasture in the Norangsdalen Valley
Norangsdalen is a valley between Øye and Tryggestad. Some people describe it as the most beautiful in the world, and when you travel there you understand why.
In Norangsdalen you can also find a special lake. Lake Lygnstøylsvatnet has been created by a rock avalanche that blocked part of the Norangselva River in 1908. The old road and some farmhouses were covered with water. Now, it’s a popular place for diving and discovering underwater ruins.
Where to stay in Sunnmore Alps
Whether you are looking for hotels in Sunnmore Alps or you prefer camping in Sunnmore, including wild camping, there is the option for everyone. If you travel around Norway on a budget I recommend camping in the wild or choosing campsites or simple cottages, that I recommend below.
Where to stay in Sæbø
Hustadnes Fjordhytter – we stayed there in a traditional Norwegian cabin (hytte) with a terrace just by the water and the view to the mountains for 350 NOK per night. Check availability and prices here.
Bondalsel Camping – if you prefer a campsite, you can pitch your tent on this campsite for 150 NOK. We stayed there for one night.
Where to stay in Øye
Hotel Union Øye – the historic Hotel Union Øye is the most famous hotel near the Hjørundfjord. It has individually decorated rooms, and modern touches. It boasts a rich history of kings, queens, explorers and artists visiting the hotel for years. Check prices and availability here.
How to get to Sunnmore Alps and Hjørundfjord
The Sunnmore Alps and Hjørundfjord have been popular with Royals visiting it since the 19th century. This gave the route to the fjords name of the “Royal Fjord Route”. The “royal-like” drive leads from Alesund through the E136 road to E39 road, and then to the crossing of the Storfjord on the Solavågen-Festøya car ferry. After that, it goes to the town of Ørsta and ends at the shore of the Hjørundfjord at Sæbø. From there you can continue by ferry to Leknes, Urke and Øye.
The closest and most convenient airport to Sunnmore Alps is the one in Ålesund. The art nouveau city is also worth a visit, so it’s a win-win.
From Alesund, it just takes 2 hours to drive to Sunnmore Alps.
If you travel from the south, it’s 6 hours from Bergen, 10 hours from Stavanger and 7 hours from Oslo.
When traveling from Oslo, I recommend extending the journey and making a few stops on the way, since the road goes through some beautiful places like Stryn, or Loen and you can take detours to Lovatnet, Geiranger, and Trollstigen.
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Would you like to visit Sunnmøre Alps and Hjørundfjorden? Have you already been? What else can you recommend to do in Sunnmore Alps? Let me know in the comments!
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