“All roads lead to Lærdal” – and Lærdal is for many of us the gateway to the Sognefjord. On your way down the Lærdalsdalen valley you can stop and experience our heritage from the Vikings and the Middle Ages.
If you’re travelling by car or bus from Oslo, there’s a good chance you’ll pass through Lærdal on your way to the Sognefjord. And Lærdal is really worth a visit.
Visit Sognefjord is the official destination company for the Sognefjord area.
The road to Lærdal
The two most common roads to Lærdal go through Hallingdal and Valdres. Regardless of which road you choose, the two roads meet at Borlaug, at the top of the Lærdalsdalen valley.
Through the 33 kilometer long Lærdalsdalen valley, you can choose to drive the new road to get to Lærdal and the Sognefjord as quickly as possible.
But if you have time to spare and choose to drive the old road, you will see much more of both nature, cultural landscapes and cultural monuments. Borgund Stave Church and the old Vindhellavegen Road, which is part of the old King’s Road, are the most famous cultural monuments in the Lærdalsdalen valley.
Remember that the old road is narrow and winding and in many places there is room for only one vehicle in the width, so you must drive carefully and be prepared to stop and reverse to the nearest meeting place.
If you drive along the old road in the Lærdalsdalen valley, you can see and experience parts of the old King´s Road that are even older than the “old road”. The King´s Road over Filefjell was built at the end of the 18th century and replaced the even older postal road that was built in the 17th century.
The old Vindhellavegen Road is part of the old King´s Road between east and west in Norway. The old Vindhellavegen Road was completed around 1790 AD. and is now part of a 100 kilometer long hiking trail between Lærdal by the Sognefjord and Vang in Valdres.
Today, the old King´s Road is a popular hiking destination where you can choose different tour packages with accommodation that are adapted to the time you have at your disposal.
Borgund Stave Church was built around year 1181 AD. and is the most visited stave church in Norway. Close by is the old Vindhellavegen Road that runs between Borgund and Husum in the valley. From Borgund Stave Church there is only a short walk to Vindhellavegen.
The Sverrestien trail is an old horse road that was used until the old Vindhellavegen Road was built in year 1793 AD. This is where King Sverre Sigurdsson (1151 – 1202 AD.) and his Birkebeiner-army retreated after losing the battle against the peasant army at Voss in year 1177 AD.
The Sverrestien trail starts down at Husum by Fylkesveg 630, only 50 meters south of where the Vindhellavegen Road ends.
The start of the Sverrestien trail is well marked with signs, and the trail is well maintained and marked all the way back to the new Borgund Church where the Sverrestien trail ends.
So along the Lærdalsdalen valley you can actually experience several old roads, and all of them have in common that they are beautiful construction works from a bygone era that were made on the nature’s premises.
The Lærdalselvi river, which runs through Lærdalsdalen, from Borlaug to the outlet in Lærdal where the river ends in the Sognefjord, is one of the rivers that the salmon lords put their love on in the last century.
It is no secret that King Harald of Norway is a happy chap when he is in Lærdal and trying his luck fishing in Lærdalselvi. King Harald is a keen salmon fisherman, and has been fishing in Lærdalselvi since he was 14 years old. Today, Elveguiden offers salmon fishing in two fishing spots in Lærdalselvi.
At Håbakken at Tønjum, about seven kilometers south-east of the centre of Lærdal, we find Sognasmak, which is well worth a visit. Sognasmak is a shop and information center for local food and drinks from the Sognefjord area.
Sognasmak can be found at Håbakken in Lærdalsdalen, about 500 meters southeast of the entrance to the Lærdalstunnelen Tunnel. Håbakken is located at Tønjum, about seven kilometers south-east of the centre of Lærdal.
Many of the farmers and food producers based in Lærdal and elsewhere around the Sognefjord have gathered under the joint brand umbrella Sognasmak. The tasty meals served in hotels and eateries in the fjord villages by the Sognefjord have therefore not traveled far.
Sognasmak is a shop and information center for local food and drinks from the Sognefjord area, and is well worth a visit. Sognasmak has a large selection of local food and drinks, cheese and sausages and other local products that are also popular as gifts. Parts of the product range are seasonal, depending on when the harvest takes place.
In addition to the shop, there is also a café where you can buy coffee that is roasted by the Sognefjord and something good to eat. Waffles, buns and soup made from local ingredients are some of the things you can buy at the café.
Visit Lærdal and the beautiful old town of Gamle Lærdalsøyri. Experience Galleri Bryggja where the local painter and artist Kristen Olav Grøttebø show his beautiful paintings in the exhibition in his painting studio/workshop.
Also a visit to Fredag & Fretland is recommended. This is the local bakery and patisserie near by the old town in Gamle Lærdalsøyri.
There are several eateries and hotels in Gamle Lærdalsøyri and in the nearby center of Lærdal. There are also grocery stores, pharmacies and a petrol station in Lærdal.
And down by the fjord are both Lærdal Hotel and Lærdal Ferie- og Fritidspark with beautiful outdoor areas and with view towards the beautiful Lærdalsfjord, which is a branch of the 204 kilometer long Sognefjord.
If you are in Lærdal, we recommend that you treat yourself to a moment of well-being at the sauna AUGA, which is located down by the Lærdalsfjord. Remember to book an appointment in the sauna in advance.
If you are in Lærdal, we recommend that you stop and treat yourself to a moment of well-being at AUGA, a sauna located right down by the Lærdalsfjord.
The water from Lærdalselvi river, which is one of Norway’s best salmon rivers, flows into the fjord close to the sauna. Cold fresh water from the river mixed with salt water from the fjord gives you a refreshing feeling when you immerse yourself in the cold water after warming up in the sauna.
Not everyone likes to wade in cold fjord water. The sauna can be enjoyed regardless, and the view out to the fjord is unbeatable. That is well-being enough for many of us.
You can also combine guided kayaking on the Lærdalsfjord with a well-being session at the AUGA sauna afterwards. Bookings can be made via the adventure company Bulder & Brak’s website.
The sauna is wood-fired, and the sauna house is made from prawn wood found on the banks around the fjord. Remember to book an appointment in the sauna in advance.
In Norway, salmon fishing in the rivers has been important to people since the dawn of time. At the end of the 19th century, the salmon rivers also became an important source of secondary income for those who owned the rivers. That was when the English tourists discovered Norway, and the Salmon Lords became a well-known phenomenon. It was people from the English upper classes that travelled to Norway and the fjords to fish for Atlantic Salmons in the rivers.
Lærdalselvi river, which runs through Lærdalsdalen, from Borlaug to the outlet in Lærdal where the river ends in the Sognefjord, is one of the rivers that the salmon lords put their love on. It is no secret that King Harald of Norway is a happy chap when he is in Lærdal and trying his luck fishing in Lærdalselvi. King Harald is a keen salmon fisherman, and has been fishing in Lærdalselvi since he was 14 years old. Today, Elveguiden offers salmon fishing in two fishing spots in Lærdalselvi.
The National Wild Salmon Centre (Villakssenteret) is located between Lærdalselvi river and the center of Lærda, not far from Gamle Lærdalsøyri. In the Wild Salmon Centre you can see the salmon “live” when they go up the river. In addition, there is information about the salmon’s life cycle, from when the salmon roe is hatched in the river until it goes out into the fjord and further into the sea and until it is back in the fjord and in the same river in which it was hatched. There are exhibitions, pictures , film and sound etc.
Laksen bakery & café at Villakssenteret has a large selection of fresh baked goods, good coffee and homemade pizza. That alone is reason enough to visit Villakssenteret in Lærdal.
Season and opening hours, see Villakssenteret Website.
Borgund Stave Church was built around year 1181 AD. at Borgund in the Lærdalsdalen valley. This is the most visited stave church in Norway, and with its charasteristic design it has often been used as a “model” when other stave churches has been restored or built.
There is a visitor centre and café near by where you can buy tickets for a guided tour and to get information about the stave church.
The visitor center is open from mid-April to mid-October, this can vary. Check out the official website for Borgund Stave Church for more information on opening hours, tickets and guiding.
If you visit Borgund Stave Church, we recommend you also to visit the old Vindhellavegen Road, which is part of the old King’s Road between the west and east of Norway.
The old Vindhellavegen Road was completed around year 1790 AD. and is now part of a 100 kilometer long hiking trail between Lærdal by the Sognefjord and Vang in Valdres. From Borgund Stave Church it is only a short walk to Vindhellavegen.
The road across Aurlandsfjellet is a journey across a mountain landscape of snow and rocks with the occasional sprig of grass.
Aurlandsfjellet National Tourist Route is a 47-kilometer-long stretch of road between Aurland in the Aurlandsfjord area and Lærdal by the Sognefjord. Aurlandsfjellet Mountain Road is the starting point for many hikes in the area.
Stegastein Viewpoint is part of the road, 650 meters above Aurland and the Aurlandsfjord. Great view from the viewpoint towards the Aurlandsfjord and the surrounding mountains.
In winter, when the road over Aurlandsfjellet is closed, you can drive through the 24,509 meter long Lærdal tunnel from Lærdal to Aurland if you want to visit the area around the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord.
NOTE – The road from Aurland up to Stegastein is open all year, but in winter the road is closed between Stegastein Viewpoint above Aurland and Erdal by the Lærdalsfjord.
The Sognefjord, the king of the fjords, is the longest fjord adventure in Norway. The Sognefjord is 204 kilometres long and 1308 metres deep at its deepest.
Join a guided glacier walk on the Nigardsbreen glacier. Take a short hike to Mt Molden in Luster and you will get a fantastic view down towards the Lustrafjord. See the beautiful stave churches around the Sognefjord. Urnes Stave Church is one of them, it is located at Ornes by the Lustrafjord and is part of our common world heritage.
Join a fjord safari or a fjord cruise on the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord. Experience the view from Stegastein viewpoint above the Aurlandsfjord. Flåm Railway has been named one of the ten most beautiful railways in the world. This is the train journey from fjord to mountain, and many people take the train ride both ways.
In the middle of the Sognefjord, where the fjord is at its widest and the mountains starts to rise, you’ll find Balestrand, an idyllic village down by the fjord. The fjord village of Fjærland is located deep in the Fjærlandsfjord. It is so beautiful there that it is almost unreal. Fjærland is also called The Norwegian Book Town because of all the book sales in the tiny village.
Borgund Stave Church was built around year 1181 AD. and is the most visited stave church in Norway. Close by is the old Vindhellavegen Road that runs between Borgund and Husum in the Lærdalen valley in Lærdal. The old Vindhellavegen Road is part of the old King´s Road between east and west in Norway.
The Fjærlandsfjord, Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord, the Årdalsfjord and the Lustrafjord are all branches of the Sognefjord. These side fjords are perhaps even more famous than the Sognefjord itself, which is located in the middle of Western Norway. The Sognefjord is so long that it almost divides Norway in two.
Hotels and Accommodation at Borgund and in Lærdal
Husum Hotel at Borgund
Borgund Hyttesenter og Camping at Borgund
Lærdal Ferie- og Fritidspark in Lærdal
Lærdal Hotel in Lærdal
Lindstrøm Hotel in Lærdal
Lærdalsøren Motor Hotel in Lærdal
Sanden Pensjonat in Lærdal.