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Exploring the Hardangerfjord

Exploring the coastline of the Hardangerfjord in Norway

Easy access from Bergen makes the lush green surroundings of the Hardangerfjord a popular destination for tourists. Here's everything you need to know to plan a trip to Norway's Hardangerfjord region.

While not as long, deep or well-known as the mighty Sognefjord, the 179km-long Hardangerfjord is nevertheless an impressive waterway.

To appreciate the fjord at its best, head inland where the fjord narrows as it passes the imposing Folgafonna glacier and National Park and approaches the vast Hardangervidda mountain plateau.

A Hardangerfjord road trip

A popular detour for people driving between Oslo and Bergen, the fjord is a popular domestic tourism destination thanks to the outstanding hiking opportunities among the charming small towns, blooming orchards and stunning waterfalls of the Husedalen valley.

Local farmers sell berries and other produce from stalls at the side of the road and in the small town centres.

Fruit trees of Hardanger by the side of the road.
Fruit trees of Hardanger (Photo: Jarle Wæhler / Statens vegvesen)

 

The Hardangerfjord is home to one of Norway's 18 National Scenic Routes. The 158km route is split into four sections, skirting both the Hardangerfjord and Sørfjord. If you're planning a fjord Norway road trip, try to include as much of this as you can into your itinerary.

Read more: The Best Fjords of Norway

Some of the route's highlights include the Steinsdalsfossen waterfall, the Kabuso art centre at Øystese, and the Hardanger Maritime Museum at Norheimsund. For a completely different driving experience, the mountainous Hardangervidda route begins 69km south-east of Odda.

Eidfjord

At the innermost point of the Hardangerfjord lies Eidfjord, a small community surrounded by mountains and water. It's the perfect place to stop for lunch or stay the night on a longer trip.

A house and clouds above the Eidfjord, Norway
Eidfjord. Photo: Peter Lloyd / Unsplash.

A short drive uphill brings you to the Hardangervidda Nature Centre, which profiles the environment of the vast Hardangervidda National Park that lies south-east of Eidfjord. The 20-minute panoramic film Fjords, Mountains and Waterfalls is a must-see especially if you are only passing through. Although if you are, you may be tempted to stay!

There has been human activity in Eidfjord for more than 1,000 years. In fact, there's the remains of Viking burial mounds not far from the current village. The Old Eidfjord Church was built in 1309.

Waterfalls in the Hardangerfjord region

The Hardangerfjord region is known for having some of Norway's most impressive waterfalls. The 182m-high Vøringsfossen has drawn tourists to the area since the late 19th-century, while Steinsdalsfossen is just as popular as visitors can walk right underneath the flow of water and still stay dry – usually!

Vøringsfossen appears to be remote, yet it's less than a one-mile walk from the roadside parking area. Due to snowfall in the region, the trail is only open from mid-May to mid-October.

Walking under Steinsdalsfossen waterfall in Norway
Steinsdalsfossen waterfall (Photo: Jarle Wæhler / Statens vegvesen)

While Steinsdalsfossen isn't particularly tall, the ability to walk behind it means it's a popular tourist attraction. It's also famous outside of Norway. Between 1889 and 1914, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany was said to visit the waterfall almost every summer.

Folgefonna National Park

Made up of three separate glacial plateaus, the Folgefonna National Park is a remarkable wilderness within easy reach of one of Norway's most famous fjords. The largest glacial fingers Blomstølskardbreen, Bondhusbreen, and Buarbreen, provide several entry points to the park.

Although appearing solid and safe, glaciers are dangerous places. Only attempt an adventure here with a qualified guide and full safety equipment.

Other than a 19th-century timber framed church (only open during high season) that has an appearance of one many centuries older, Jondal is an otherwise unremarkable village but the best place to stay near the park.

The Folgefonna glacier walk
Folgefonna glacier (Photo: Hogne Hundvebakke)

To enjoy some hiking away from the glacier, grab a map from the local tourist office and explore the surrounding area. The Vassenden-Vatnasete hike including Vatnasetevatn lake is a popular tour, with the four-hour roundtrip possible from May to October.

Not many of the world’s ski resorts are only open during the summer, so people of all nationalities take advantage of the unusual summer-only ski season at Fonna Glacier Ski Resort, 19km southeast of Jondal.

Sørfjord

A dagger-like spur of the Hardangerfjord cutting 38km southwards into lush countryside, the Sørfjord (often referred to as Sørfjorden i Hardanger to distinguish it from others) is one of the few narrow fjords you can actually drive along. The roads along either side are narrow but both passing and parking spots are frequent.

Hiking around the Sørfjord area

Follow in the footsteps of Norway's Queen Sonja by taking her favourite hike. The 8-hour hike high in the mountains between Kinsarvik and Lofthus offers terrific panoramic fjord views of where the Sørfjord and Hardangerfjord meet.

Due to the high altitude, the hiking trail is only open from July through to mid-September. It it's too much for you, a shorter version of the hike starts in Røte.

Odda and Trolltunga

At the end of the Sørfjord is the small town of Odda, the main commercial centre serving the inner Hardangerfjord region. While there isn't much of interest in the town itself, it does provide several accommodation and dining options to break up an active vacation or road trip.

The town is also the main overnight spot for travellers who wish to make the famous all-day hike to Trolltunga. So much so, that the town's tourism website features Trolltunga front and centre.

Låtefossen waterfall
Låtefossen (Photo: Hege Lysholm / Statens vegvesen)

Fans of waterfalls shouldn't miss the spectacular 165m-high Låtefossen waterfall just 14km south of Odda. The stone bridge and twin falls are both world-famous.

Be prepared to get wet! The water smacks into the rocks, creating an immense roar and sprays of mist. All of a sudden, you're soaking wet! Kids will love the fairytale-like aesthetic. Just be sure to keep a close eye on them!

Have you been to the Hardangerfjord area? What did you think of it? If you're planning a trip to the region, why not share your plans on Pinterest? We've got just the pin for that:

Hardangerfjord in Norway with beautiful flowers and snow-capped mountains

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a professional writer on all things Scandinavia.

2 Comments

  1. I’m surprised there’s no mention of Ulvik in this, which is known for the cider farms and is called the pearl of the Hardanger. Ulvik was home to the famous poet, Olav H. Hauge, and the writer/artist/hiker, Catharine H. Kølle (many of her things are housed in the University Museum of Bergen). In addition to the cider farms (and, of course, Brakenes Hotel), there are many hikes in Ulvik, an old church with hand-painted walls and altarpieces, the Olav H. Hauge Center, a swimming area, an old schoolhouse that was left standing during the war because it was believed to be a church, the old mill (dismantled from Bergen, shipped and put back together in working order), and a great tourist office with locally-made wares. There’s also Osa with the gallery, hiking, and Cafe, as well as Finse (aka Hoth for nerdy people) with a great glacier and even more hikes.

    I’d also like to point out that Odda is more than just a starting point for Trolltunga.

    1. I absolutely agree with you that is much more to odda than being the staring point of trolltunga. The town has a an interesting history of being a hot spot for tourists in the late 1800 hundreds and early 1900. For example emperor Wilhelm 2 of Germany often stayed in odda for seeing the nature. He has his own rock by Låtefoss. Odda was also a very important industrial town. The neighbouring town Tyssedal have a industry museum where they show how the electricity was made by water power and how the two towns where created in the wake of this. You have a big lot where a factory was in the middle of odda where you can walk around. And also it’s lots of hikes around the area which is not trolltunga. You have the glacier and the fjord. I absolutely agree with you that is much more to odda than being the staring point of trolltunga. The town has a an interesting history of being a hot spot for tourists in the late 1800 hundreds and early 1900. For example emperor Wilhelm 2 of Germany often stayed in odda for seeing the nature. He has his own rock by Låtefoss. Odda was also a very important industrial town. The neighbouring town Tyssedal have a industry museum where they show how the electricity was made by water power and how the two towns where created in the wake of this. You have a big lot where a factory was in the middle of odda where you can walk around. And also it’s lots of hikes around the area which is not trolltunga. You have the glacier and the fjord.

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