Beyond Vang, it’s just 11km to Øye, where the E16 begins its long climb up and over the Filefjell mountain pass amid a bare and treeless landscape dotted with lakes and sprinkled with mountain cabins. On the far side of the mountains, the E16 rips along the Lærdal valley bound for Borgund stave church (see Stave churches: Norway’s pride and joy), which is about 50km from Øye. For almost all of its long history, the church stood beside the main road, but not any longer: in 2003, a new set of tunnels bypassed the church as well as one of the most beautiful portions of the old E16, the twisting, 10km-long route through the rocky ravine trimming the River Lærdal. This ravine loop, now signed as an “Historic Route” with Borgund stave church at the east end, is an enjoyable detour that should only take about half an hour. From Borgund stave church, it’s about 30km to the eastern end of the massive Lærdalstunnelen, which links the Lærdal valley with Aurland, Flåm and points west to Bergen. The tunnel is part of the E16, but you can instead branch off here for the short trip north along Highway 5 to Lærdalsøyri and the Fodnes–Mannheller car ferry (for Sogndal).

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