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Destination: Hardanger highlights; puppy-love and the Hardanger Fjord Lodge

Let me confide in you with a secret. The initial time I stepped foot in Norway, I found myself madly in love. Yes, undoubtedly, with the awe-inspiring landscapes and cherry blossoms, but also with a captivating young lady. At 18, in the throes of naivety, still mentally a child, as is the way with most young men of that age; it was what they call puppy love. Yet, in that moment, it felt authentic. As time passed, that enchantment waned, but my fondness for Norway endured, truly blossoming in and around the Hardangerfjord. The allure of the beauty and expansiveness left an indelible mark, drawing me back time and again. I won't endeavour to present an exhaustive list due to the sheer magnitude, but I do wish to offer insights to enrich your exploration of this magnificent region.

Fjord Landscape Norway

Allow me the liberty of promptly acquainting you with the most enchanting lodging along the fjord coast. Let me commence by detailing the setting. Nestled along a narrow road, typical of the Norwegian fjords, this hotel in the diminutive village of Mauranger, boasting fewer than 30 houses, discreetly houses a world-class establishment. It's a well-kept secret, and you might inadvertently pass by; there's no sign or arrow, ensuring only those with a genuine desire stay. My emotions are stirred as I attempt to capture this place in words. Upon entering, meticulous attention to detail becomes apparent. The hues on the walls, floor tiles, furniture, and materials exhibit a sophisticated nonchalance. This initial impression permeates every facet, from the cuisine, where the attention to detail rivals no hotel chain, to the overall experience. I boldly assert, without hesitation, that this is the most characterful accommodation along the entire Hardangerfjord. When embarking from Bergen to explore the fjords, one owes it to all of Hardanger to revel in Norwegian hospitality at its zenith. Secure a night at the Hardanger Fjord Lodge; it promises to imprint a positive memory on your Norwegian journey and is a tribute to dedicated individuals infusing energy and love into such places. The surrounding area offers plenty of activities; consider a scenic walk through Bondhusdalen to the azure blue glacier lakes further down the valley.

Another highlight on your traverse through Hardangerfjorden is Rosendal, a comprehensive experience offering aristocratic allure, a splendid rose garden, a classical music festival, a quaint café, and the prospect of overnight stays. Providing historical context, Baroniet Rosendal was a singular barony in Kvinnherad, Vestland, established in 1678 by King Christian V of Denmark-Norway. Completed in 1665, the castle now serves as a living museum, offering tours, concerts, lectures, theater, art exhibitions, accommodation, and catering. In a nutshell, the estate, a bequest of affluent nobility, invites a delightful afternoon. Rarely have I encountered such a splendid collection of roses, and a '60s Jaguar E-type in the parking lot provides testament to the refined taste of the clientele, a realm I, despite my humble apartment and wornout Mazda 3, am delighted to join. Oh, and one can spend the night here too.

For those eager to conquer a fear of heights, a stylish method presents itself. In 2016, architect Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk unveiled a spectacular design, offering a breathtaking view of the immense Vøringsfossen and inducing a thrill with a narrow bridge over a vast chasm. Admitting to a modicum of acrophobia, not sufficient to deter me from traversing such bridges but ample to grip the railing and savor the panorama with a knot in my stomach. Yet, it's the epitome of waterfalls, and Hølmebek's design is nothing short of breathtaking. A must-stop on the descent from Hardangervidda, particularly in autumn when the softer light and yellowing birch trees in the lower valley enhance the experience. It's one of those places worthy of a spot on your bucket list.

Curiously absent from my discourse is Trolltunga, and that's by design. I find it somewhat overrated. Undoubtedly, the vista is spectacular, and the protruding rock offers an opportunity for a picturesque Instagram photo. However, the wait of half an hour, orchestrated by around 40 influencers taking a fair amount of time while diligently positioning their back-ends into the best angle for a modest Instagram following, seems contrary to the essence of a visit to Norway. Let's skip that, shall we?

The true allure lies in locally produced fare, and Hardanger, in particular, is a fecund source of an array of fruits and dairy products. Exceptional apple cider and cheese are crafted here. Spildegaarden, for instance, offers a glass of ice-cold apple cider and a delectable lunch in the spring sun. The lovely hostesses / owners greet you with a generous smile and a heavy Norwegian accent. Besides Spildegaarden there are numerous gems along the Hardanger Fjord that beckon exploration of locally produced drinks and food, too many to enumerate. Maybe read my article I wrote previously on farm shops, consult the map, and chart your course.

Heit Sauna Sørfjorden extends an invitation to a steaming sauna and a rejuvenating fjord bath. From my vantage as an experienced hiker, nothing surpasses the delight of unwinding muscles in a sauna with a panoramic view of the fjord, mountains, and snow-capped peaks after a day in the open. The sauna, perched at the quay's edge, offers a captivating panorama. A sauna master warmly greets you, ensuring the sauna radiates warmth. The Finnish-designed sauna stove, fired with wood, complements the experience. It's a bit of a rite of passage to take a dip in the icy fjord water. After a few immersions, a peculiar equilibrium is reached, and the demarcation between warmth and cold becomes imperceptible. A uniquely invigorating and almost transcendental encounter; reservations are prudent as this spot garners popularity.

For an exceptional dining experience, securing a table at Buer is imperative. Nestled in a narrow valley with a glacier view, its remote location metaphorically mirrors Buer's distinction as the premier restaurant in the entire Hardanger region. Helmed by a proficient chef from Voss and attended by a charming Danish waitress, it's an unequivocal recommendation! Here, a distinctive and thoughtful fusion of wine and dishes unfolds. The ambiance is warm, and each staff member radiates enthusiasm. The presentation and flavor of the dishes here truly attain world-class status. If the urge for dining out strikes, do yourself a favor and reserve a table at Buer. A commendable performance!

As a parting gift, consider an idyllic tip for complete relaxation during an overnight stay. Christel and Sverre now offer a diminutive 'lookout box,' affording a splendid view through the trees onto the Hardangerfjord. Beyond being exceptional hosts, it's a quaint retreat, unassuming and exclusively yours. And everything is there, squirls included! Jolly charming alltogether!

As previously noted, an attempt to encapsulate the entirety of the Hardanger Fjord in a single blog post would be ambitious (understatement). Expect more articles detailing specific places along the fjord. My objective is not exhaustiveness; rather, it's to furnish original tips to check of some of the Hardanger highlight for an enchanting trip through this gorgeous area. And do share your encounters with me. I'm on Instagram and LinkedIn.

**Getting there: it is most likely you'll arrive at Bergen Flesland Airport (BGO). From there public transport is a bit of a challenging way to explore Hardanger properly, so it is most wise to reserve a car in advance. Since Norway has one of the best fast-charging networks in the world, I would advise you to rent an electric car. Better for the environment, cheaper to charge and it gets you everywhere. Check here for availability.


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