I just don’t understand why the Vikings ever left. With scenery this majestic, why would anyone want to leave? Yet leave they did, across the globe to England, France, Russia, and even as far as North America. With about a million visitors a year, many from the new world, the flow has reversed.
Picture Norway and the fjords of Eidfjord may come to mind. The landscape here sweeps up from the tranquil aquamarine waters of the fjord up the verdant green slopes of the cliffs to the craggy peaks, often above the treeline. This tiny town may feel larger when cruise ships are in port, but normally it contains less than a thousand inhabitants. The small port juts out onto the idyllic blue waters of the fjord and forms the perfect jumping off point for aquatic activities on the fjord, exploring the mountains, and even just a picturesque stroll through the old town.
In Eidfjord, there is no shortage of options for the fitness seeker, the adrenaline junkie, or the adventure seeker. Yet, families and those with small ones like us can also find plenty to do here. From the port alone one can depart on a floatplane to view the fjord from above, a kayak to view it from within, busses up to the mountain’s waterfalls, or hiking trails up to scenic overviews. Skip the cruise excursions and chart your own path here.
In the early morning, get ready for a workout to rival any crossfit. Head for a run up the trail to Hereid. Don’t worry about getting lost as there’s only one way up here and the trail is fairly well marked. Along the way, you’ll pass a lake that feeds out to the fjord and a small fishing hut. Fishing in Norway is considered a public right and there is no fee to fish in any salt water. Freshwater fishing requires a small fee to the local town. From the lake up to the Hereid plateau is not an easy hike and makes for an intense run. The half mile or so feels nearly straight up but it’s great for the calves.
At the top of the plateau is a farm along with several piles of rocks. It isn’t a rock farm, these are actually ancient burial mounds from the Viking age. The entire region is littered with them, but this plateau has one of the highest concentrations of them in Norway. The area was likely a large settlement during the Viking age. Hereid means high ground as opposed to the low ground close to the fjord.
On the way back down if you complete the full 3.5-mile loop is a very modern road that I didn’t see a single car on in two loops. Yes, I was foolish enough to make that climb twice. Along this road are views over the town and fjord that cannot be rivaled. Trust me when I tell you no one from the cruise ship will make it up here.
If you are on a cruise ship, take this opportunity to grab lunch back on the ship if it’s been more than two hours. It’s a cruise after all and aside from a fairly popular Thai food truck, there isn’t much in town.
Now, it’s time to get touristy. The perfect activity and way to see much of the town with small children is to take the Troll Train. This touristy train certainly won’t make you feel like a local, but it’s a surprisingly good way to see the town and the fjord from above. You can hop on right outside of the tourist center. While it won’t get you as high up for views as the morning’s run, you’ll still get some good ones from the road and get up close to more of the burial mounds. Along the way, the narration will explain some of the natural and man-made histories of the region. The train also stops at the small medieval church. Even without entering the nave due to floor repairs, one gets overwhelmed with a sense of history as the eons are palpable here, especially on a misty day.
Get out of town with a quick bus visit to the Voringfossen waterfall. About 20 minutes by bus outside of town, also departing from outside of the tourist center – it’s a small town – the viewing platforms from the top offer incredible birds-eye views of the massive waterfall, one of Norway’s most visited tourist attractions. For the even more adventurous, trails offer access to more serene views above the crowds. Be on the lookout for trolls though as they are known to inhabit the woods in this area.
Voringfossen is actually longer than Niagara Falls but lacks the poutine and casino appeal of the Canadian border I suppose. It makes up for it in grandeur with the massive pouring of water from the snowy caps of the mountains that pummel its way down the valley to the fjord’s tranquil water below. It’s incredible that so much water can power its way down from the mountains yet the fjord’s water remains mirror-like both in color and polished-like smoothness.
Also at the top of the falls is a cafe serving up coffee and Norwegian waffles. These heart shaped confections are less well known internationally than their Belgian counterparts, but may be more familiar to North American audiences with a fluffier composition and topped with fruit. Don’t miss out.
Eidfjord, meaning “land between two waters”, is aptly named. This scenic and relaxed fjord town is nestled between water all around, the fjord itself and the lake being the most prominent. A visit here isn’t complete without paying homage to the water. Whether partaking in an adventurous undertaking like kayaking or paddle boarding or taking it a bit easier on a guided tour of the region’s water, Eidfjord is the perfect destination to unwind and reconnect with nature. Though the town is small, it’s easy to get out and find oneself alone with nature. In this area, nature is awe-inspiring and humbling. There’s no better time to see it for yourself.