Whether driving or taking the train, the trip between Oslo and Bergen in Norway is breathtaking. Rolling, green pastures are surrounded by snow-capped mountains and rocky cliffs. Blooming flowers and vibrant greenery break through the stoney roadsides. Waterfalls flow freely, filling the air with the ambient sound of water rushing into rivers and streams. Among all this beauty, one of my favorite parts of the trip was through Hardangervidda National Park.
Hardangervidda National Park is the largest national park in Norway, covering over 1,300 square miles of land. It gets its name from Hardanger, the name of the district it’s located in, and “vidde” meaning “wide plain, large mountain plateau.” The landscape is a barren, treeless moorland filled with various bodies of water, Stone Age settlements, hiking trails, and is home to the southernmost stock of arctic wildlife in Europe. In fact, the wild reindeer herds found there are among the largest in the world.
Hardangervidda National Park is a great trip for seasoned and recreational outdoorsmen alike. There are hiking trails and activities for any skill level, so anyone can comfortably explore the natural beauty of Norway. My family and I only traveled through a small part of Hardangervidda, meaning there is still so much more of it I haven’t seen myself.
During our drive through Hardangervidda, I was amazed by the richness of the land despite being composed of lots of rocks and the occasional glacier left over from the previous winter. There were also thousands of stacks of rocks called cairns, a traditional way for travelers to indicate safe routes to others. But they can also be used to announce conquered paths and mountain peaks. I jumped in on this tradition multiple times through the drive, feeling the satisfaction of leaving my own rock behind.
Hardangervidda National Park has lots of resources for travelers and tourists alike, from activities like kayaking to self-service cabins available for rent. Some of the cabins even have grass roofs, something I’ve still only seen done in Norway. My cousin explained the use of grass roofs or turf roofs goes all the way back to the Viking and Middle Ages. Not only do they help improve insulation, but they also provide homes for insects and small animals, support biodiversity, and keep the walls of the home straight. Today, the centuries-old tradition of turf roofs is still popular throughout Norway.
The national park is surrounded by other amazing natural wonders. I am a lover of waterfalls, so we spent a good deal of time waterfall hunting. One of my favorites was Vøringfossen, a huge waterfall located just 40 minutes north of Hardangervidda. It is one of the most visited waterfalls in Norway with a total fall of 600 feet.
There is also Hardangerfjord, the second-longest fjord in Norway, which is a popular attraction for boat tours and kayaking. The water is a striking turquoise color with a mirror-like surface, which I learned was partly a result of the melting glaciers. I was shocked by how clear of a reflection the water was capable of producing!
Hardanger is an extremely popular area of Norway to visit due to the sheer amount of natural wonders to be explored. Hardangervidda National Park is often used as a scenic route when traveling between Bergen and Oslo. However, I highly suggest parking the car and leaving it behind for a while. There are better views to be found on foot!
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