I have always loved spring in Norway. No, not the time when you think that the spring has finally arrived, and then the winter hits again. And again. I mean the time when the landscape sheds its dull winter color, turns bright green as the new leaves burst out of buds. Watching the nature waking up again is always a special time filled with promises of upcoming summer adventures.
We weren´t planning to spend this year in Norway. Last autumn we shipped our converted van to Chile and we were about to spend a year traveling the Panamerican highway. But plans changed. Due to the COVID-19, we got stranded in Argentina and we eventually decided to leave our car there and go back home to Norway, where we would be allowed to leave the house and go hiking.
To cheer me up, Ivar promised me that when we are back home and the mandatory quarantine is over, we will take a road trip to Hardanger to see the blossoming fruit trees.
I have always wanted to visit Hardangerfjord in May and take photos of apricot, cherry, and apple trees in blossom, but it was way too far for a weekend trip from Trondheim, where we had lived. Luckily for me, we were spending our quarantine at a cabin close to Haugesund and from there it is “just” a two and half hour trip to Ullensvang, where you can see the beautiful orchards.
National Tourist Route Hardanger
Have you heard about National Scenic Routes in Norway? No? The project started in 2004 and its goal was to choose roads going through spectacular Norwegian landscapes and consequently increase tourism in rural areas around them. As of today, there are 18 National Scenic Routes in Norway, and about half of them are in western Norway (Fjord Norway).
The routes were officially opened in 2015 but the Norwegian Public Road Administration is constantly improving and developing them. The picnic areas and restrooms along these roads are often designed by famous architects to enhance the visitors’ experience. Seriously, let me know if you have ever encountered more charming public toilets then those along Norwegian Scenic Routes!
One of these scenic routes starts at the beginning of Oddadalen valley that is known as “Valley of waterfalls”. The most photographed of the seven waterfalls in this valley is Låtefossen. It is a spectacular 165-meters tall waterfall that plunges down the mountainside in two separate streams that merge under a stone viaduct built in the 19th century.
There is a parking place with restrooms right next to the waterfall so you do not have to walk far for your perfect shot. I would, however, recommend to walk across the bridge and follow the path up to a small viewpoint. You will get a nice view of not only Låtefossen, but also Espelandsfossen which is another waterfall located just on the other side of the road.
At the viewpoint, there are remains of a long-forgotten building. I was wondering who had such a spectacular view from their kitchen and why the house became dilapidated. Today, I found out after some internet research that it used to be a café.
The surrounding of Odda had been a popular tourist destination a long time before the nowadays famous Trolltunga started to attract crowds. Back in the days tourists were transported by horse carriages from Odda to Låtefossen, where they enjoyed a coffee before returning to their rooms at a hotel or a cruise ship.
I have to say that I wouldn´t mind the old days coming back. I can imagine myself sipping a hot chocolate on a terrasse of a small cozy café overlooking the gorgeous waterfalls. Nowadays, there is a small kiosk at the parking place selling souvenirs, but that building is more ruining my view and pictures than adding some charm and coziness to the place.
Odda: The ugliest town in Norway?
Lonely Planet once claimed that Odda was Norway’s ugliest town. When you first arrive in the town you will understand why. First, you are greeted by the remains of a large carbide-factory that was built in 1906. When you drive past it to the beginning of the Sørfjorden; a branch of Hardangerfjorden, you will see other big factories.
While in the 19th century Odda was one of the most favorite tourist destinations in Norway, in the 20th century it became an industrial town with polluted air and waters. The nearby waterfalls, that were attracting tourists from all over the world were laid into pipes to provide electricity for the factories in the town. Not only the air quality was bad, but the factories used to dump their waste straight into the fjord.
But fear not, since that time the air and water pollution in Odda and its surroundings is closely monitored and the smoke that you can see coming from the zinc factory is just water vapor. Even the British journalist from The Guardian made a remark that Odda is no longer the ugliest town in Norway.
Why is Hardanger famous for apple trees?
The cultivation of apple trees in Hardanger has a long tradition that goes back to the 13th century when the monks from the Cistercian Order established a grange close to Ullensvang and taught the local farmers to grow fruit.
The Lutheran Reformation in 1537 led to the closure of the monastery. Nowadays, there are no remains of the monastery. The only reminder of the monks’ presence in Hardanger is 616 stone steps known as Munketrappene (the Monk Steps) that are part of a trail leading to the Hardangervidda mountain plateau. And of course, more than 500,000 fruit trees that make more than 40% of fruit production in Norway.
Where is the best place to photograph blossoming in Hardanger?
When you drive from Odda further along the eastern shore of Sørfjorden, you quickly leave the industrial part of the fjord behind and you will start to drive through the first orchards that run in long lines from the fjord up to the lower slopes of the mountainside.
There are rows and rows of cherry, plum, or apple trees. There were mainly cherry trees blossoming, and the apple trees were just about to start blooming when we were there on the 19th of May.
We drove almost the whole way to Kinsarvik while scouting the best photography locations and enjoying the views of blossoming trees from the car. In the end, we decided to drive back to Lofthus, where we liked it the most.
From there you can take a 6 km long roundtrip through the blossoming orchards. The walk with a fitting name “The Fruit Trail” starts at the supermarket and takes about 1,5 to 2,5 hours.
As we were on a tight schedule and had to return to our cabin close to Haugesund the same day we did not walk the trail, but we stopped by a lovely church in Ullensvang and took most of our photos in the nearest surroundings.
Tips about fruit blossoming in Hardanger
- The beginning of the blossoming in Hardanger varies every year. It can start as early as at the end of April and last until mid-May. Or it can start at mid-May and last until the beginning of June. The blossoming period is about one month long. Therefore, if you plan your visit for mid-May you should be pretty safe to see the trees in bloom.
- If you plan your visit to mid-May you will also get a chance to experience the most important Norwegian holiday. On the 17th of May Norwegian celebrate their Constitution day with parades, marching bands, and lots of icecreams. Plus you will see many Norwegians dressed in their national costumes called bunad.
- The weekends in May can be busy. So, do not forget to book your accommodation in advance. At the end of the article, you will find some tips for camping, budget, and luxury accommodation in the Hardangerfjord area.
- There are different types of fruit trees in Hardanger. The first ones to blossom are cherry and plum trees, followed by pear and apple trees.
- Be careful while driving. The roads along the fjord are very narrow in some parts and they can get very busy, especially in the summer. What is more, there are also not many possibilities for (safe) parking along the road.
National Tourist Route Hardanger: From Utne to Jondal
If you follow the road to Kinsarvik you have several options on what to do next.
- Go for a hike through the Husedalen valley to a series of stunning waterfalls on the Kinso River.
- Continue the road number 7 towards Vøringsfossen waterfall, which is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Norway.
- Take a ferry from Kinsarvik to Utne and continue admiring more orchards and charming villages along the next stretch of the National Tourist Route Hardanger. After that you can take a ferry from Jondal to Tørvikbygd.
We decided to continue the National Tourist Route between Utne and Jondal with a small detour to Agatunet farm cluster. Usually there are guided tours accompanied by craft demonstrations during the summer season, but sadly they were closed due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
I guess we will have to come back for some apple most and cider tasting. Ideally any Friday, when the local women make the traditional Hardanger krotakake flatbread.
We took a small walk in Utne. It is a charming small village on the confluence of the Hardangerfjord and the Sørfjorden that is surrounded by orchards. If you want to stay for a night in the area I would highly recommend booking a room in Utne hotel. It is the oldest hotel in Norway, that is in continuous operation since 1722!
Don´t expect a big hotel complex, it is a small white painted wooden building that looks like a place where a grandma from a fairytale would live. Anyway, even if you do not stay in the hotel, clear your schedule at 6 pm and book a place for tasting some delicious locally produced apple cider.
Attractions and Activities in the Hardangerfjord area:
Hiking possibilities in Hardanger
- Easy hikes: Bondhusvatnet lake, Buarbreen glacier, hike to the foot of Vøringsfossen waterfall, Idylliske Fossasete lakes, Lilletopp in Tyssedal
- Day hikes: Munketrappene (Monk’s stairs close to Ullensvang), Queen Sonja’s Panoramic Trail, waterfalls in Husedalen valley, Reinanuten, Trolltunga
- Multiday hikes: Folgefonna glacier crossing
Our tips for accommodation along the Hardangerfjord:
Budget accommodation: Ullensvang Gjesteheim
Enjoy This Post? Pin It!
Sources of information:
- Odda – The industrial town (Karsten Eitrheim, Endre Skaar, Nils Georg Brekke)
- The Industrial History of Odda: Norsk vasskraft- og industristadmuseum
- Låtefoss: Norsk vasskraft- og industristadmuseum
- Climate change could lead to more Norwegian fruit (Anette Tjomsland, Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research)
- Munketreppene, Monk Steps (Hotel Ullensvang web page)