The National Tourist Routes attraction comprises 18 selected drives through beautiful Norwegian nature. The experience is enhanced by innovative architecture and thought-provoking works of art at designated viewpoints and picnic areas. The development project is being carried out by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
- The National Tourist Routes attraction comprises 18 drives through beautiful Norwegian nature. The experience is enhanced by innovative architecture and thought-provoking works of art at designated viewpoints and picnic areas.
- Tourists travelling by road will be offered experiences that will entice longer stays and new visits.
- The objective is to make Norway an even more attractive destination, promote local business activities and strengthen rural life.
- The development project was commissioned by the Norwegian Storting and the Government, and it is being carried out by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
- A total of NOK 3.5 billion will be invested in the project, which involves 10 county administrations and about 60 municipalities in addition to local business communities.
- In 2023, National Tourist Routes will emerge as a fully fledged attraction with 250 picnic areas and viewpoints along just over 2000 kilometres of road.
- Innovation Norway and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are important collaborators in the work to promote National Tourist Routes and to increase knowledge about Norway, Norwegian nature and culture.
NOK 3.5 billion will be invested in the National Tourist Routes attraction from 1994 to 2023 (converted to the current prices). The Department of Transport and Communications will cover NOK 3 billion. The rest will be contributed by other participants; mainly the county administrations and municipalities. Most of the funds from other participants are party to a joint venture to develop 10 large attractions, whereof the tourism icons Trollstigen and Vøringsfossen are the largest ones.
The day-to-day responsibility rests with the National Tourist Routes Section at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration.
Jan Andresen (Graduate Engineer) is Head of Section, and he has been in charge of this work since 1998.
The National Tourist Routes attraction is a nation-wide initiative, and the Director General of Public Roads is the owner of the attraction. The day-to-day responsibility rests with the National Tourist Routes Section, which is affiliated with the Director General’s Staff. The section has 15 employees, it is located at Lillehammer, and some employees are located in our Western Region and Northern Region.
The Norwegian Public Roads Administration has established several schemes designed to ensure high quality of the National Tourist Routes:
- The objective of the Quality Council for National Tourist Routes is to be conducive to ensuring that the attraction is of a high international standard and to advise the Norwegian Public Roads Administration on questions concerning professional guidelines and conceptual choices.
- The Architecture Council ensures a high visual standard of the viewpoints and picnic areas along the routes. One architect, one landscaping architect and one artist participate in the Architecture Council.
- The Art Council is tasked with ensuring that the art installations along the National Tourist Routes are of a high international standard.
Additionally, the National Tourist Routes Section confer with expert from the fields of architecture and landscape architecture, art, road and traffic, construction technique, land acquisition, tourism, graphic design, web, planning and processing and management consulting.
Innovation Norway – an important collaborator at the national level - uses National Tourist Routes to market Norway: in catalogues, marketing materials, advertising campaigns and on the website VisitNorway.com.
We have also established cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses National Tourist Routes to build Norway’s reputation abroad, and the tourist routes have become a permanent part of the Ministry’s trainee programme.
The development of the National Tourist Routes attractions started in 1993, on an initiative from the Storting to take a closer look at the combination of road and tourism. Based on the results of the pilot project, the Storting gave the Norwegian Public Roads Administration the all clear to pursue the work in 1998. The efforts have since been pursued by the Government and the Storting through generations of National Transport Plans, the annual central government budgets for the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the tourism strategies “Valuable experiences” in 2007 and “Destination Norway” in 2012.
The overall and long-term objective is to make Norway an even more attractive destination and to promote local business activities and strengthen rural life.
The work started with the Tourism and Travel Project. This pilot project was implemented in the period 1994-1997. In 1998, the project recommended that Norway should commit to developing National Tourist Routes.
From 1999 to 2004, considerable efforts were made to pinpoint and define the initiative and to determine how we should proceed in order to meet the ambition of creating a new national tourist attraction.
During these years, we also studied similar initiatives abroad, such as Scenic Byways in the USA,
Romantische Straße in Germany and Le Route des Vins in France.
In 1999, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration invited every municipality, county administration and tourism organisation in Norway to suggest National Tourist Routes. We received suggestions for 52 road sections, with a total length of 8000 km. The result today is 18 road sections and 2000 km of road. The four trial sections of the Tourism and Travel Project became National Tourist Routes in 1997.
No, the selection was made by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration in collaboration with an external expert group and the Quality Council for National Tourist Routes. The Storting has endorsed the initiative though budgets and national transport plans.
The selected routes are diverse and travel through landscapes with unique scenery, along costs and fjords, mountains and water falls. The routes are intended as alternatives to the main roads, and the drive itself should be an enjoyable experience.
The roads are more or less the same as before, though some sections are being equipped with avalanche protection, improved or altered due to the safety and accessibility of all road travellers. Viewpoints are cleared and visual improvements are made to give the tourists travelling by road positive driving experiences.
Several of the tourist routes installations are being built on sites where tourists have stopped for a rest, had positive experiences and taken pictures for many years. The before situation is often characterised by long-term wear and tear on buildings, furniture and hiking paths. At several sites, the parking facilities were poor and the viewpoints were not adequately secured.
In other locations, we have decided to enhance the effects of the powerful nature by creating completely new viewpoints and attractions. We have also designed picnic areas that are adapted to fishing or hiking, a better view of the birdlife, or that allow the road traveller a good rest at a ferry landing.
We make the very most of each location, using the distinctive characteristics and mood of the scene as a starting point.
The architecture should be bold and innovative while at the same time communicating the mood of the scene. Uniqueness is important, but the architecture must also satisfy specific functions such as picnic areas, parking, hiking paths, views, information, waste management and toilet facilities. Materials and workmanship must also have qualities that ensure the permanence of the tourist routes attraction, that endure the passing of time and require low operation and maintenance costs.
The architects’ works must be functional, fresh and innovative with great consideration to the location.
From the Tourism and Travel Project period, we have emphasised giving young architects the opportunity to develop exciting tourist route initiatives. At the same time, we have also had the pleasure of working with well-established artists who succeed at continuously renewing their expression.
So far, more than 50 architects, landscape architects and artists have been involved. For many young architects, the National Tourist Routes attraction is a stepping stone, and many of them have won awards and achieved international recognition. Most of the artists reside in Norway, with the exception of world renowned architect Peter Zumthor from Switzerland.
In 2014, the NPRA has invited new artists, architects and landscape architects to a pre-qualification process to compete for 50 new initiatives that are to be realised in the period up until 2023. We did the same in 2007, and 15 persons/teams were pre-qualified. Due to financial circumstances, the result from that round is only now becoming visible along the road.
Land or property that is not already publicly owned must be acquired following negotiations with the private owner. If these negotiations are not successful, the property needs to be acquired through expropriation on the basis of an approved zoning plan and the plans relating to the initiative.
As the number of picnic areas and viewpoints has grown at the local level, the positive publicity in Norway and abroad has increased. The impact of the National Tourist Routes on Norwegian tourism has also increased. The faith in the tourist routes has encouraged other service providers to increase their efforts to provide tourists with an improved package of services. At the same time, there will always be some individuals who do not appreciate that an initiative is subject to such a degree of central government control for the purpose of ensuring a consistent quality product.
In 2012, all of the routes received National Tourist Routes status, and they could be signposted and included on all maps. This milestone was essential to maintaining local commitment. The initiative has a 30-year horizon, which implies that there will be quite some distance between the installations and service facilities on each individual road.
In 2023, National Tourist Routes will emerge as integrated tourist routes with 250 picnic areas and viewpoints along 2000 kilometres of road.
It started with the Tourism and Travel Project, a pilot project with four road sections. During the years 1994-1997, we learned much about how to develop scenic routes in Norway.
In 1998, the Storting endorsed the recommendation to pursue the idea of National Tourist Routes as a new attraction for Norwegian tourism. The same year, some of the most exciting initiatives in the Tourism and Travel Project received the National Building Award (Statens byggeskikkpris).
In 2004, the Director General of Public Roads delivered his instructions for the tourist routes initiative, and he delivered his decision about the 18 road sections in 2005.
In 2006, the exhibition Detours (Omveger) was opened – architecture and design along 18 National Tourist Routes – in Oslo. This was the forerunner for the Detour exhibition, which later toured the world (Normandy, Berlin, Bratislava, Bologna, London, Stockholm, Brussels, Paris, Philadelphia, Washington, Shanghai, Lyon, New York, Strasbourg, Copenhagen, Beijing and Saint-Étienne).
In 2007, National Tourist Routes received the Norwegian cultural heritage award (Norsk kulturarvs ærespris).
In 2011, Her Majesty Queen Sonja opened Steilneset Memorial in Vardø along National Tourist Route Varanger.
In 2012, the Minister of Transport and Communications at the time opened the tourism icon Trollstigen. At the same time, all 18 road sections were given National Tourist Routes status with appurtenant signs and information boards.
In 2014, the large tourist routes attractions Steinsdalsfossen along National Tourist Route Hardanger and Eldhusøya along National Tourist Route Atlanterhavsvegen were opened.
In 2015, the gold-plated service facility at Ersfjordstranda Senja along National Tourist Route and the new entrance area at Sognefjellshytta along National Tourist Route Sognefjellet were opened.
in 2016 we have opened the following atttactions: rest area with nature walk and toilet facilities at Skjervsfossen in Hardanger; toilet facilities at Orre, Jæren; the viewing platform "The View" at Gaularfjellet; nature walk with café; gallery and toilet facilities at Allmannajuvet, Ryfylke; the art installation Mirage at Torsnesstølen, Gaularfjellet; and the artwork Columna Transatlantica at Hågå, Atlanterhavsvegen.
Each individual National Tourist Route has its own identity, but each one is nonetheless a piece of an overall mosaic compiled of 18 sections. Mountains, fjords, waterfalls and coast are strong basic elements that tie together the various sections. To create an overall and clear identity in all marketing communication, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration has developed a design programme to build the trademark National Tourist Routes.
This is a development project in which the planning takes places in several stages:
- Draft project that analyses the task, describes the concept and the use of materials
- Pilot project where the concept is further enquired into, developed and detailed
- Detail project that translates the selected solution into constructional drawing
The professional work is a maturation process, and it may be necessary to test several ideas and enquire into alternative solutions as the work proceeds. The result may be that we have to go back and start over. Additionally, a zoning plan is drawn up for land approval purposes.
The National Tourist Routes travel through landscape with unique qualities of nature, and the drive itself should be a positive experience. However, several of the routes travel through vulnerable landscape, where the interaction between the road and the surroundings are decisive to meeting the quality requirements of this tourist attraction. In several places, this interaction is under pressure from technical interventions such as road development, development of electric power, soil extraction and buildings. As an example, more than half of the 18 routes are located along the coast and in an area that is or could be relevant to the development of wind power.
The idea of enticing tourists travelling by car with innovative architecture and thought-provoking art has received considerable attention in Norway and abroad. A number of the initiatives that have been implemented have received various awards for both design and use of materials. The fact that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration is planning and implementing this ground-breaking work also attracts attention.
Positive media coverage is one of several criteria to measure the success of the National Tourist Routes attraction. During the last three years, a total of 9700 articles about National Tourist Routes have been published in Norwegian media, with a PR value of more than NOK 223 million. The PR value is about three times the price of what the entries would have cost had we placed them as advertisements.
The National Tourist Routes Section is experiencing great influx of Norwegian and foreign architects and artists who want to participate in the project.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has shown great interest in using National Tourist Routes in their work to build Norway’s reputation internationally, and Innovation Norway and other tourism operators have also benefited from using National Tourist Routes in their marketing activities. Positive feedback from the tourists is naturally a very important criterion, too, to measure how successful this initiative has been.
The tourist routes initiative has also stimulated others to invest in new tourism services such as Juvet Landscape Hotel along Geiranger-Trollstigen or contribute to increased services at places such as Nusfjord in Lofoten, Havøysund and in Rondane.
We continuously receive requests from municipalities or local politicians about the possibility of new National Tourist Routes. As at today, there are no such plans. Towards 2023, we need to focus our efforts on completing the 18 selected sections.
Architect Peter Butenschøn recently published the book “The city and the public room” (Byen og det offentlige rom) in which he, among other things, has found inspiration from the thoughts and philosophy of the National Tourist Routes. Furthermore, other countries are interested in enquiring into the possibility of launching a similar initiative.
Experiences are like fresh produce. The guests’ expectations must be met then and there. The manner in which the picnic areas, viewpoints and the 18 sections are being operated, maintained and attended to is decisive to their success and value. Proper operation, maintenance and management presuppose a clear distribution of responsibility and collaboration among several participants. In short, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration is tasked with operating and maintaining the tourist routes sections with appurtenant stoppings points on national roads. The county administration in question has the same responsibility for county roads. The special tourist routes installations and the large attractions such as Trollstigen and Steilneset are attended to by the State, as part of the National Tourist Routes scheme.
Innovation Norway markets National Tourist Routes at the VisitNorway.com website and mobile app, in the annual Norway Catalogue and in various campaigns that run through the year. Across the country, the routes are being marketed by regional tourism operators such as Fjord Norway, NorthernNorway Tourist Board and Historic hotels and restaurants in Norway (De Historiske Hotel & spisesteder).
Additionally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses National Tourist Routes in their work to build Norway’s reputation internationally. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Innovation Norway also organise international media trips as an important contribution to increasing knowledge about National Tourist Routes.
Our own web pages, Nasjonaleturistveger.no, are also designed to inspire the tourists and to entice travelling so that more people choose Norway as their holiday destination. The website is an important tool to be used by the tourism industry to market Norway. The National Tourist Routes attraction also has a Facebook page with more than 14 000 followers.
Tourist routes information along the roads is also an important measure. Over the course of the last few years, we have placed more than 150 boards with photos and text at selected picnic areas and viewpoints.
The typical tourist is a German married couple in their 50s+ or a family from the Netherlands who travel by motorhome to Norway to experience fjords and mountains and the beautiful nature. The National Tourist Routes, with their narrow, bendy roads and beautiful nature also attract a number of MC tourists from Central Europe. Some of them also plan fishing, kayaking, hiking and birdwatching activities (applies particularly to the north). Additionally, there are some architecture-interested tourists who come especially to experience the innovative architecture at Trollstigen, Sohlbergplassen, Stegastein, Steilneset and other Places.
Several of the routes – such as Sognefjellet, Geiranger-Trollstigen, Lofoten, Hardanger and Helgelandskysten – have been attractive destinations for a long time, and they have further strengthened their position after becoming National Tourist Routes. Routes, such as National Tourist Route Rondane, have been discovered by a significantly larger number of people and have seen considerable growth in traffic. Most of the routes have received a lot of media attention after becoming National Tourist Routes, and the tourists have gradually discovered all 18 routes.
The foreign tourists travel to Norway first and foremost to experience the powerful nature with mountains, fjords and waterfalls. This is consistent with our philosophy, in which the drive through the various landscapes is the backbone of the attraction National Tourist Routes. Our main task is to increase the nature experience with innovative architecture and thought-provoking art at exciting stopping points. The architecture along the route could be anything from a modest expression, such as benches on a smooth, coastal rock, to huge viewpoint platforms that lift you up into the landscape.
Yes, a successful complete product includes food, accommodation, hosts and hostesses, activities and experiences. We have great expectations about a goal-oriented commitment from the local businesses and communities in all of the 18 tourist routes areas, supported by regional and national participants.