Eidfjord might not be at the center of the world, but this Norwegian town is certainly a midpoint when it comes to outdoor experiences.
Situated where the Hardangerfjord ends, Eidfjord is at the center of a region that is sometimes referred to as the orchard of Fjord Norway (Norway’s westernmost region). The mild climate along the 111-mile (179 kilometers) long Hardangerfjord sees apples, plums, pears and cherries being grown here. The blossom season in May and June is unique: The white, pink and red flowers of the fruit trees practically cover the mountain sides – all the way down to the blue fjord.
Located close to the Hardangervidda, Eidfjord’s 958 inhabitants (as of mid-2010) have at their doorstep one of Europe’s best-known National Parks. Covering 2,500 square miles, or 6,475 square kilometers, the Hardangervidda is also Europe’s largest mountain plateau. One of Norway’s largest glaciers can be found on the plateau, which is entirely above the tree line.
While Eidfjord boasts a number of restaurants, eating out or shopping is not the big thing here. Outdoor experiences are. Ever since the first tourists arrived in the 1820s, Eidfjord’s main attraction has been the spectacle of nature. Apart from the Hardangervidda, highlights include the impressive Vøringsfossen waterfall, every conceivable activity related to mountains (such as trekking, climbing and cycling) and fishing in one of the rivers found nearby.
The purpose-built cruise port (opened in 2005) is located at the center of town, which makes it easily accessible for cruise passengers who want to experience the destination by foot. The fjords, the mountains and the waterfalls are all within 30 minutes of Eidfjord. Also note that at the cruise port, free WiFi is offered for passengers and crew.
Several of the area attractions are within reach for those who prefer to walk. For directions, stop at the tourist information center, to the right at you exit the dock. Examples of attractions within an easy walk include the Hæreid Viking graves (see below – 20 minutes by foot from the town center) and the Old Church (built in 1309).
- The Vøringsfossen waterfall has for a long time been Norway’s most visited natural attraction, with its fall of 600 feet (183 meters). The distance from town is 12.1 miles (or 19.5 kilometers). There are also several other waterfalls in the region – some of them even higher than the Vøringsfossen. Duration: 1.5 hours, including the 40-minute drive to and from the port. (Note: The falls will become a Norwegian “National Icon,” one of only three in Norway, by 2020 (the two others are Trollstigplataet and Gjende), according to Marit Stadheim Boor, tourism manager Destination Eidfjord. The National Icon’s significance for cruise passengers are better facilities for viewing and experiencing the attractions, she says.)
- The Hardangervidda plateau. Well-known far beyond Norway’s borders, many tourists make their way to Eidfjord in order to visit the plateau (and the Hardangerfjord, which is Norway’s second longest fjord). For visitors who do not wish to go trekking in alpine climate, the Hardangervidda Natursenter (see below) is an alternative. The combined museum and visitor center gives an overview of this region of Norway.
- Sima Hydroelectric Power Plant is one of the biggest power plants in Europe. The power plant’s main hall lies 2,300 feet (700 meters) into the mountain and is 656 feet (200 meters) long, 65 feet (20 meters) wide and 131 feet (40 meters) high. Open for visitors, the power plant is situated some 4.4 miles (7 kilometers) from town. As a side effect of the construction of the plant, accessibility to the well-known Kjeåsen farm (see below) improved when a new road was built. The farm lies like an eagle’s nest on a steep mountainside, 1,740 feet (530 meters) above the Simadalsfjord. Duration: 1.5 hours.
- Eidfjord Old Church. According to a popular tale, the Old Church was built by the powerful Rike-Ragna in order to pay for her sins. Guided tours of this stone church, dating from 1309, are offered for pre-booked groups. Situated in central Eidfjord, the church is easily accessible.
- Hike to the Hæreid Viking graves is western Norway’s largest burial mounds from the Iron Age and Viking periods. Accessible by foot from town. Start the hike at the tourist information center near the cruise dock. Full duration of tour: 1.5 hours
- Hardangervidda Nature Center Eidfjord is a modern nature and cultural-historical experience center focusing on Norwegian culture, climate and environment. The center, to be found in Eidfjord Øvre (4.9 miles or 7 kilometers from town), also features a souvenir shop and a restaurant. In 2009, the Nature Center received the highest score in a regional survey of Hardanger tourist attractions. Duration: 1.5 hours, includes one hour at the center.
- On days when cruise ships call in Eidfjord, the so-called Troll Train is in operation. Departing from the tourist information office in town, the train offers a one-hour sightseeing tour in the central parts of Eidfjord. Passengers experience spectacular views of the fjord and the mountains, and also visit to the Viking burial ground and the old medieval stone church.
There are also numerous possibilities to go trekking, cycling, hunting and fishing in the area surrounding Eidfjord offered by Flatearth Adventures.
Shore excursions in and around Eidfjord include:
- The Vøringsfossen waterfall (see above under Do Not Miss)
- Hardangervidda – an experience that provides an immersion into the dramatic scenery and beautiful nature of Europe’s largest mountain plateau.
- Fjord cruises. For those who want to get even closer to the Hardangerfjord, cruises with local boats or ferries are offered.
- If you want to get closer to the Norwegian nature, some cruise lines offer kayak tours on the sheltered Eidfjord lake.
- Coach tours also offer splendid views of the Hardangerfjord, which is Norway’s second longest fjord and is sometimes referred to as “the Queen of the Fjords.”
- Kjeåsen Mountain Farm in Simadel. Experience traditional Norwegian farm life from the perspective of the owner of the farm. Good views along the 15-kilometer drive from the port. Duration: One to two hours.
- Nils Bergslien Art Gallery. A large permanent exhibition of the well-knkown local artist who lived here from 1853-1928. Duration 30 minutes, within walking distance of dock.
- Horse & Carriage Rides. Duration 30 minutes, four to five passengers.
- Bake & Taste. Learn to bake regional specialties during a hands-on workshop in the cellar of a home near the dock. Duration: 1 hour.
- Trebua. Near the Eidfjord Old Church, meet a local who carves fiddles. One kilometer from the cruise dock. Duration: 30 minutes.
- Hardanger Active. New activities for children and adults, such as geocaching, finding treasure using GPS; photo tours, photography lessons with a professional photographer.
- Fruit and Cider Route in Ulvik. Taste local products, such as cherries, plums, pears, apples and cider, and meet the farmers as you walk between four farms. Because of the mild climate, the region is known as the “Orchard of Fjord Norway.” 22 kilometers from the cruise docks. Duration: 2 to 4 hours.
Bergen, 93 miles (150 kilometers) from Eidfjord is the nearest larger city. Norway’s capital, Oslo, is 212 miles (341 kilometers) away. Both cities are accessible from Eidfjord by a combination of coach and train.
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