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Hardangerfjord – Time to Explore

Tue, Jul 7, 2009

Travel

By Linnéa Mitchell

mime-attachment-15Just southeast of beautiful Bergen rests Norway’s second longest Fjord. Starting at the Atlantic Ocean, Hardangerfjord penetrates in a northeasterly direction until, 179 km (111 miles) inland, it meets the grand mountain plateau of Hardangervidda. With its striking contrast of snow-covered mountains, rich flora and fauna and deep blue water, it is easy to understand why so many of the romantic national symbols originate from here, including the Hardangerfiddle.

The area is known as the orchard of Norway, but perhaps most of all it is a popular destination for energising activities.

“One of the best things about Hardanger is the great variety of accommodation and activities on offer,” says Hans Jørgen Andersen, Managing Director of Destination Hardangerfjord. “From camping to first class hotels.” Located conveniently in the southwest, it only takes an hour to drive from Bergen or Haugesund.

The breathtaking views make it easy to just sit still and soak it all in. But for those who have action on their wish list, there is no limit to the amount of activity you can fit in: only your energy levels will decide. Starting with the fjord itself, you can go for a boat ride, rent a kayak, learn about boatbuilding at the Hardanger Museum Wharf (www.fartoyvern.no), go fishing or explore a modern salmon farm (www.akvasenter.no), the only one open to the public in Norway. Back on dry land, do not miss the largest mountain plateau in Norway, Hardangervidda, where you can take part in one of many mountain trips, alone or with a guide. “What is so interesting for foreign visitors is that the national parks are accessible,” says Andersen. “You can go camping in the wild and, after buying a license, go fishing and hunting as much as you like.”

Well worth a visit is Norway’s most popular waterfall Vøringsfossen, the twin waterfall Låtefossen and the romantic Steinsdalsfossen. Open both summer and winter is The Majestic Folgefonna, Norway’s third biggest glacier where you can make guided hikes, ice-climb, or ski in the summer sun. Finally, do not leave Hardanger without trying its famous fruit which has made mouths water for generations, free to taste at one of the farms in Lofthus and Ulvik.

“I can also recommend organizing conferences or events here if you want to impress your clients,” says Andersen. “You can tailor your own trip, for example meetings followed by helicopter sight-seeing, glacier hikes, summer skiing, fishing, hiking and much more. The clients are always satisfied,” he smiles.

A bit of an expert when it comes to adventures is OpplevOdda. Its population almost halved in 2003 because the factories went bankrupt, but today tourism and businesses are finding their way back. Situated between Hardangervidda, Folgefonna, Hardanger Fjord and Røldal (a ski resort with the deepest snow in Europe, www.roldal.com), it offers many activities such as hiking to the popular destinations Trolltunga and Preikestolen, ice climbing, biking, canoeing or river gorging. But the most recent addition to the list of activities is the TyssoViaFerrata – in the footsteps of the ‘Rallar’ (navvies). “It opened 31 May this year and I can really recommend it,” says Jostein Soldal, manager at OpplevOdda. It takes you back to the impressive building process of the famous power station Tysso 1 in 1906. Starting at the Norwegian Museum of Hydro Power and Industry (www.nvim.no), the climb is not only an historical journey through the hard work of the navvies, but also a lesson in the importance of water in shaping a society. “There is plenty to do here and it is easy to access from the many nice hotels in the area,” says Jostein.

One of them is Hotel Ullensvang, established in 1846 and still run by the Utne family in its fifth generation. The historic hotel is situated in Lofthus on the eastern shore of the Sørfjorden, a branch of Hardangerfjord. It was here that Edvard Grieg found inspiration for much of his famous work during his regular visits (his original hut is still kept in the hotel garden). “So many artists have been inspired by this spectacular landscape throughout the years and we hope that our guests will feel the same,” says Managing Director Barbara Zanoni Utne. Situated right on the waterfront, it is an excellent starting point for various excursions. As a first class style resort, it offers many in- and outdoor sport activities, such as tennis courts, rowing boats, golf simulator, boat trips and even its own little sandy beach. For the more peaceful traveller, it is simply a relaxing experience for body and soul. Evenings can be enjoyed in the elegant restaurant “Zanoni”, with a beautiful view over the fjord and Folgefonna, and if you still have energy left there is dancing to live music six nights a week.

Deep inside the innermost part of the Hardangerfjord, almost at the point where you cannot get any further, is Quality Hotel & Resort Vøringfoss, the “white pearl” of Eidfjord. Apart from having simply spectacular views, you have the majestic Hardangervidda right on your doorstep, and just around the corner is Norway’s most famous waterfall Vøringsfossen. You can also visit the famous Kjeåsen mountain farm, situated like an eagle’s nest on the steep mountainside – if you fancy driving five kilometres, half of which are through a black tunnel. “The location offers fantastic opportunities,” says Managing Director Arnvid Johansen.  “Especially since we work a lot with the multi-activity company Flat Earth (www.flatearth.no).” But you do not have to go to extremes to stay at the hotel. You can simply relax on the verandah overlooking the Fjord and enjoy a bite to eat from one of the two restaurants, offering fresh and locally sourced food. And why not visit its own art gallery afterwards, displaying the work of the famous Norweigan National Romantic painter Nils Bergslien.

The popularity of the whole Hardanger area is increasing year by year, with visitors from all over the world. So perhaps it is time to skip the crowded beach this year and steer your holiday northeast, especially since it is less than two hours to fly. Like the Hardanger locals say: “time to explore.”

Fact Box:

Hotel Ullensvang: www.hotel-ullensvang.no

Quality Hotel & Resort Vøringsfoss: www.voringfoss.no

OpplevOdda: www.opplevodda.com

For more general information visit www.hardangerfjord.com

How to get here: Fly Norwegian Airlines or Scandinavian Airlines to Bergen all year round.

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