European route E39
- This article is an itinerary.
European route E39 is a European route stretching from Nørresundby in Denmark to Trøndelag in Norway. The main part of the road runs on Norway's west coast, and goes through some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Norway, mountainous, with deep fjords, as well as many cities and towns. Unlike in many European countries, where the European routes are not signed or signed poorly, the European route system is fully integrated into both the Norwegian and Danish road networks; the roads have no other national numbers.
This itinerary starts in southern Norway, despite the fact that the south end of the route is actually in Denmark. This is due to convenience; only a tiny part of the route is in Denmark. If you are in Denmark, however, a ferry goes from Hirtshals(the last Danish town on the route) to Kristiansand (the first Norwegian town).
Within Norway the route includes seven ferry crossings, more than any other route in Europe. The route crosses most of the great of the many fjords of west Norway, there are few bridges or underwater tunnels across these wide and deep fjords. Ferries are part of the route and not regarded as a separate means of transport. The road and route sign leads to the dock where vehicles wait for the next departure (first come, first serve principle). Scheduled buses, ambulances and some other special transport has priority on ferries. Road standard on the European route E39 is very variable, in some places tolerably well, other places narrow and winding. There are several ferry crossings along the route, and several toll booths passed. The next few years will E39 undergo a sharp improvement.
This perhaps Norway's most complex road as it cuts across the complex terrain of steep mountains and deep fjords. Norway's two pontoon bridges are both on this route. Most of the road is two-lane undivided, some more narrow and winding stretches remain, particularly between Lavik (ferry) and Førde. Substantial upgrade is currently (2014) in process. Because of the difficult terrain there is plenty of tunnels (even more after upgrade) and hills. Of Norway's well over 1000 road tunnels, about 100 are on E39. Traffic is generally moderate or light, except long lines of cars leaving ferry and except around major vacations. Drivers must be patient, speeding and overtaking is often risky and gain little.
The most southern part between Kristiansand and Stavanger runs through lowlands and moderate hills. The stretch from Stavanger to Halsa (near Kristiansund) runs across the famous fjords of west Norway.
Norwegian roads in general are of low quality compared to roads in most European countries. The only motorways in the country are in and around the largest cities, and mostly in the flat eastern parts of the country. E39 is motorway first in the Stavanger-Sandnes conurbation, and later in Bergen. Elsewhere, it is generally two-lane (one in each direction) undivided - sometimes worse and sometimes better.
Keep in mind that long stretches of the road go through desolate areas without towns and petrol stations. It is therefore necessary that your car is in good condition and that you are never close to running out of fuel. While E39 is a relatively busy road, being the main road between Bergen and Sogn og Fjordane, it may still be difficult to get help in case your car breaks down. Cellphone (GSM) coverage is of varying quality, but generally acceptable. There is G3 (UMTS) coverage in most towns above a certain size.
This itinerary starts in Kristiansand (not to be confused with Kristiansund). Route E39 runs near the following main airports (international connections and to Oslo Airport, Gardermoen, the largest airport in Norway):
- Kristiansand Airport, Kjevik
- Stavanger airport, Sola
- Bergen airport, Flesland
- Ålesund airport
- Molde airport (road runs very close to the airport)
- Kristiansund airport
- Trondheim Airport, Værnes (40 km east of end point of route)
- Førde airport (next to the road)
- Sandane airport (road runs under runway)
- Ørsta/Volda airport (close to road)
Railway stations connected to the route:
- Kristiansand (Oslo-Kristiansand-Stavanger line)
- Stavanger (Oslo-Kristiansand-Stavanger line)
- Bergen (Oslo-Bergen line)
- Rauma line terminates at Åndalsnes, 50 km east of the route
Kristiansand to Stavanger
- Sidetrip to Jæren and beaches
The low plains of Jæren is the one of the few really flat areas in western Norway and the coast is not protected by skerries and islands. The road along the coast from Egersund to Stavanger airport (Sola) offers a different kind of west Norway, including wide sandy beaches often with generous waves loved by surfers and kiters.
Bergen to Byrkjelo
- Sidetrip to Balestrand
Instead of going directly north to Oppedal ferry dock, road E16 to Voss then road 13 over Vikafjell mountain pass and across the great Sognefjord to Balestrand. From Balestrand continue along national tourist route (road 13) via Gaularfjell mountain pass and the romantic land of lakes and waterfalls until junction with E39.
Byrkjelo to Ålesund
In the interior around Stryn and Geiranger fjords are wilder and mountains higher than further west. Switch to road 60 at Byrkjelo and climb the hills towards Utvik and Stryn. At Stryn there are two options: The scenic mountain road to Geiranger or turn west and get back on E39 near Grodås (quick drive through the new tunnel to Volda and Ørsta).
Ålesund to Kristiansund
Instead of driving straight to Molde, a drive through Valldal and Trollstigen to Åndalsnes is one of the highlights in the area. The magnificent valley and wild mountains at Åndalsnes is worth a detour.
- Sidetrip to Atlantic road
From Molde an easy detour is along the very coast where an interestings stretch of road jumps from skerry to skerry on the edge of the atlantic.
Drivers must be patient. There is little to gain by speeding and overtaking. Norwegian traffic is generally very safe, partly because speed limits are fine tuned to conditions - there is always a reason for reduced speed limits. While some stretches of roads like these may look scary or dangerous, surprisingly few serious accidents happen.
From the north end of the E39 European route E6 leads you north to Trondheim in Norway, and continue north until the Russian border. Head south over the Dovre mountains to Oslo and the Swedish border.
From the Norwegian south end of E39 in Kristiansand, ferries to Hirtshals in the South, where the European route E39 continues in Denmark. European Route E18 leads you north to Oslo and further east to Stockholm in Sweden.