The Hardangerfjord, extending for almost 120km/75mi from Herøysund to Odda on the Sørfjord, is one of the best-known Norwegian fjords, its mild climate being a particular attraction. Along its shores are large plantations of fruit trees (particularly cherries and apples), which are especially beautiful when the trees are in blossom in the second half of May. The people of the Hardangerfjord are known as Háringers.
The chief town in the Hardanderfjord region, Voss (alt. 57m/187ft, pop. 6,000), situated at the east end of the Vangsvatn in the northern part of the fjord system, is an important junction on the Bergen Railroad, a considerable industrial town and a popular tourist center, both in summer and for winter sports.
St Olav's Cross
The Voss church (ca. 1270) has a fine interior. Southeast of the church is St Olav's Cross, erected in the 11th century to mark the Christianization of the region.
1km/0.75mi west of the railroad station is Finneloftet (ca. 1270), a wooden house which is the oldest secular wooden building in the country (museum).
To the north of Finneleftet is the farm of Mølster, with the Voss Folk Museum.It consists of sixteen original wooden buildings that date back to the 1600s as well as traditional handicrafts and cultural events.
Northwest of Voss lies Bavallen, one of the best-equipped alpine skiing resorts in Norway (cabin cableway 1,080m/1,180yds long climbing 550m/1,800ft; ski-jump, record distance over 100m/330ft).
E 16 runs southeast from Flåmdal to the Hardangerfjord, reaching its highest point (262m/860ft) in 10km/6mi, at the south end of the Opelandsvatn. 1km/0.75mile beyond this is the beginning of the 3km/2-mi-long road (constructed 1863-70) through Skjervet, a valley enclosed by massive rock walls. To the left is the Skjervefoss, a waterfall on the Granvinelv.
The road winds its way from Skjervet down for 10km/6mi to Holven (alt. 30km/100ft), with Granvin church (1720). One of the church's two bells is said to be the oldest in Norway.
From Holven, Road 572 goes off on the left to the village of Ulvik, one of the most popular holiday resorts in the Hardanger. There is a particularly attractive stretch of road in the descent from a height of 350m/1,150ft to the village. Church of 1858. State College of Horticulture, where Kristofer Sjursen Hjeltnes planted the first potatoes in Norway in 1765.Ulvik was the home of Norway's best-known lyric poet, Olav Hauge.
From Holven the road (partly blasted from the rock) runs along the east side of the Granvinvatn and comes in 4km/2.5mi to Granvin (pop. 250), at the north end of the Granvinfjord. Fishing and hiking are popular tourist activities as well as a visit to the Granvin Bygdemuseum, with over 1000 local objects on display.From here Road 7/13 runs south through the 10km/6-mi-long Vallavik Tunnel to the ferry station of Bruravik, which can also be reached from Ulvik. The ferry (10 minutes) crosses to Brumnes, on the other side of the Hardangerfjord.
From Granvin the road runs along the west side of the fjord to Kvanndal, from which there are car ferries to Utne, at the mouth of the Sørfjord (15minutes), and Kinsarvik (35minutes).
The road along the west side of the Hardangerfjord runs through the little industrial town of Ålvik (pop. 1,000), with a hydroelectric station powered by water from the Bjølsegrøvatn, with a fall of 880m/2,890ft. Beyond this is Ytre Ålvik, where there used to be a waterfall, the Bjølvefoss, whose water has been diverted to supply the power station.
12km/7.5mi from Hardangerfjord Ålvik the road crosses the narrow, 11km/7-mi-long Fyksesund at its junction with the Hardangerfjord on the Fyksesund Bridge (230m/250ys long between the towers, 27.8m/91ft high).
9km/5.5mi beyond Fyksesund Bridge is the village of Øystese (pop. 1,500), beautifully situated in the bay of the same name. Opposite the church is a museum devoted to the work of the sculptor Ingebrigt Vik (1867-1927). To the northwest rises the Torefjell (1,044m/3,425ft).
6km/4miles from Øystese is Norheimsund (pop. 1,500), from which there is a fine view across the fjord of the Folgefonn snowfields.Norheimsund is also the location of a well-known waterfall, Steinsdalsfossen, which draws visitors to the village.
Beyond Norheimsund the road leaves the Hardangerfjord and traverses the gentler scenery of the Steinsdal. In 2.5km/1.5mi it comes to the Steinsdalsfoss or Øvsthusfoss, a beautiful waterfall on the Fosselv. It is possible to walk behind the 30m/100ft high wall of water.
There is a magnificently engineered stretch of road, 3km/2mi long, through the wild gorge of Tokagjelet (many bends, four tunnels, steep rock walls).E 68 then continues to Bergen (85km/53mi).
On the Hardangerfjord route it is not necessary to leave the fjord at Norheimsund. Other possibilities are to follow the fjord to Mundheim and from there either continue via Eikelandsosen and Tysse to Bergen (an additional 56km/35mi), or via Eikelandsosen to Fusa, from there by ferry to Hattvik and then by road to Bergen (an additional 20km/12.5mi).
From Norheimsund the road continues along the west side of the Hardangerfjord, coming in 4km/2.5mi to the village of Vikøy and in another 4km to the farms of Ystheim and Vangdal (rock carvings of ships and animals).3km/2mi farther on, on the right, is the farm of Berge, with a large stand of oaks (a tree rare in Norway). To the right is a view of Vesoldo (1,046m/3,432ft).
From the farm of Berge it is 2km/1.25mi to the village of Tørvikbygd, from which there is a car ferry to Jondal (15minutes). From there skiing enthusiasts can continue to the summer skiing center on the Folgefonn glacier. The road from Jondal to Utne runs past numerous farms, allowing visitors to see something of the agriculture of the Hardangerfjord.5km/3miles south of Tørvikbygd is the farm of Ljones. 1km/0.75mi east, at Vikingnes, are a number of large burial mounds.
8km/5mi past Vikingnes the Hardangerfjord road comes to Fosse, from which there are fine views of Vesoldo to the northeast, the Folgefonn over the fjord to the east and the Hardangerjøkul to the north.
The Hardangerfjord road from Strandebarm continues by way of Oma (boatyard) to Mundheim, where it joins Road 48 coming from the south.
The Hardangerfjord road from Mundheim bears northwest, away from the shores of the fjord, and comes in 12km/7.5mi to Holdhus (alt. 130m/427ft), with a chapel (fine interior) which is believed to date from 1726. 6km/4mi beyond this is Eikelandsosen (pop. 600). Just before the village, on the right, is the Koldedalsfoss. Here Road 48 goes off on the right to Tysse.
Road 552 runs along the south side of the Eikelandsfjord to Fusa, from which there is a ferry to Hattvik (20 minutes). From there a road runs via Osøyra and Syftland to Bergen.
Off the shores of the Hardangerfjord are numerous islands, some of which can be visited by car or, preferably, by boat.
From Kvanndal, at the mouth of the Granvinfjord, a ferry crosses the Utnefjord to Utne and (not all boats) Kinsarvik. Kinsarvik (leisure park) lies at the mouth of the Sørfjord, which is given a particular charm by the contrast between the gentle scenery on the shores of the fjord and the wild and rugged mountain landscape which encloses it. The mild climate favors the growing of fruit, and there are great numbers of cherry and apple trees, particularly in the middle and northern reaches of the fjord.
Lofts - Monk's Path
From Lofts the Monks' Path, constructed by the monks of Lyse Abbey near Bergen, climbs steeply up to the Hardangervidda (900m/2,950ft). From the top there is a breathtaking view of the Hardangerfjord.
The road continues along the fjord through attractive country, seen at its best at the end of May when the fruit trees are in blossom. Above the west side of the fjord rises the great Folgefonn glacier (34km/21mi long and up to 16km/10mi across; highest point 1,654m/5,427ft).
The Hardangerfjord road from Folgefonn comes in 26km/16mi to Tyssedal (pop. 1,300), at the mouth of the valley of the same name (beautiful waterfalls on the Tysså), with an aluminum plant and a hydroelectric station which supplies power for local industries. Lilletopp, the plant at the top of the pipelines, was opened to public in 2004. The local chapel was built in 1965.
The Hardangerfjord road from Tysedal runs through a 1,520m/1,650yd long tunnel and comes in 6km/4miles to Odda (pop. 10,000), a considerable industrial town at the south end of the Sørfjord. 16km/10mi south, on a road which runs past the Sandvinvatn, is the Låtefoss, a mighty waterfall 164m/540ft high.The Folgefonna glacier, west of Odda, is one of the largest in Europe. East and south of Odda is the Hardangervidda National Park, home to Europe's largest flock of wild reindeer.
Agatunet Open-Air Museum, Aga, Norway
From Odda a narrower road (No. 550) runs north along the west side of the Hardangerfjord under the snowfields of the Folgefonn, coming in 29km/18mi to the village of Aga, with an open-air museum (Agatunet) in the form of a well-preserved farming settlement of some 40-50 buildings clustering round an old courthouse.The various exhibits and buildings date from the 13th century. Highlights include clothes and tools from the Middle Ages.
16km/10mi north of Agatunet is Utne, which has a cruciform church of 1858, with some furnishings from an earlier medieval church.
Hardanger Folk Museum
At Utne is the interesting Hardanger Folk Museum.From Utne there are ferry services to Kvanndal and Kinsarvik.The permanent exhibits highlight traditional crafts and folk art.
From Kinsarvik, Road 7/13 runs northeast along the southern shore of the steep-sided Eidfjord, the most easterly branch of the Hardangerfjord, and comes in 18km/11mi to Brimnes, from which there is a ferry over the Eidfjord to Bruravik.
Eidfjord (village), Norway
From Brimnes it is 11km/7mito the village of Eidfjord, magnificently situated on the south side of the fjord, with a view across it to the north of the snow-capped peak of Onen (1,621m/5,319ft).Eidfjord is a major cruise harbor and has several tourist attractions - the Sima power station, a typical example of a Norwegian hydroelectric station, and the waterfall Vøringsfossen.
From Eidfjord a road runs up through a 2.2km/1.5-mi-long tunnel to the mountain farmstead of Kjeåsen, which has no other communication with the outside world. From the farm there are magnificent views of the Hardanger peaks and down into the fjord.
2km/1.25mi from Foss Strandebarm is the village of Strandebarm, on the bay of the same name with fine scenery and beautiful bathing beaches. There was formerly a flourishing boatbuilding industry in this area, but there are now only a few craftsmen making the local type of boat, the "Strandebarmer". The local church was built in 1876.
From Sørfjord, Road 48 runs south along the east side of the Hardangerfjord for some 40km/25mi. In 10km/6mi it comes to Lofts, one of the most beautiful spots in the Hardanger (folk high school, experimental fruit farm).
Rosendal Garden, built in 1670, is located on the western side of a baroque palace. Within it is a parterre that has become a rose garden, and a park filled with a variety of trees.
Opening hours: May 1 to Jun 27: 11am-3pm; Sun: 11am-5pm; Sat: 11am-5pm
Jun 28 to Aug 17: 10am-7pm; Mon: 10am-5pm; Fri: 10am-5pm
Aug 18 to Sep 20: 11am-3pm; Sun: 11am-5pm; Sat: 11am-5pm
Jun 28 to Aug 17: 10am-7pm; Mon: 10am-5pm; Fri: 10am-5pm
Aug 18 to Sep 20: 11am-3pm; Sun: 11am-5pm; Sat: 11am-5pm
Entrance fee in NOK: Adult kr75.00, Group discounts kr65.00, Students kr50.00, Senior kr50.00, Child kr10.00
Lofts - Ullensvang
South of Lofts is the parish church of Ullensvang (13th C.; restored 1884 and 1958).
Rosendal Music Festival
This annual weekend festival takes place in late May. Various events are featured, including brass band concerts, all-night jazz sessions and street entertainment.