If you drive along the roads of Fjord Norway in summer and autumn, you will find many stalls where you can buy a punnet of something delicious. In addition to fresh fruit, you will also find apple juice and jam that have been made along the fjords – and not least cider.

Hardanger and Sogn are particularly well known for their cider and fruit wine tradition. Many local manufacturers have started selling their products in state wine-monopoly shops and in grocery stores. "Cider from Hardanger" has become the first alcoholic product in Norway to become a protected geographical indication. Cider has become very popular in recent years, and Norwegians haven’t bought as much locally produced alcohol since the 1930s.

But it all started a long time ago: A total of 54 apples were found in the queen’s grave during the excavation of the Oseberg ship. References are also made to apple orchards in the Icelandic sagas. The ancient Norwegian fruit was considered so valuable that stealing another man’s apples was a punishable offence! We find the first written account of growing fruit in Norway from Vik in Sogn. An episode dating from 1201 is mentioned in Sverris saga, which makes reference to an ‘Aldin orchard’ (Aldin is Norse for apple). Magnus the Lawmender’s city law from 1276 referred to "the King’s apple orchard" at Håkon’s Hall in Bergen. Growing apples appears to have subsequently become a widespread practice in Fjord Norway.

When people started producing cider and fruit wine is rather uncertain however. The Hamar Chronicle from around 1550 states that fruit wine and apple cider were sold before the Reformation. However, the Vikings already had a strong drink made from apples, berries, honey and herbs that they called "bjor".

In Fjord Norway, you can go on a cider safari in Hardanger and taste the traditional fruity ciders that are typical of the area, or you can head for the Sognefjord and enjoy a multitude of ciders made from pears, berries, rhubarb, hops, malt, honey or bitter cider apples. Both destinations will introduce you to the local history, culture and production methods. You can buy local cider in a number of restaurants, which is a great alternative to foreign wines, both as an aperitif and to enjoy with your food.

© Matador Network

Cider safari

To make it easy for you, there are several cider package tours to both Hardanger and the Sognefjord. You can find even more exciting cider products in the list below:

Package tour with an overnight stay in Hardanger

Historic Hotels and Restaurants offers package tours with an overnight stay, which include a cider cruise on the hybrid boat ‘Vision of the Fjords’, cider tasting and two farm visits. Read more about the cider safari with an overnight stay here.

If you don't want to stay overnight, you can join the cider cruise in either Lofthus or Odda, and visit one or several cider farms. Read more about the cider safari without an overnight stay here.

Cider safari in Hardanger - departure from Bergen (or Oslo)

Fjord Tours has made it easy for those wishing to depart from Bergen. One ticket will get you from Bergen to Norheimsund, where the boat ‘Vision of the fjords’ awaits to take you to Lofthus. Here you go on a walk between fruit farms and taste fresh Hardanger cider. The boat then takes you on to Aga, where you get to taste some of the best ciders in Norway, and perhaps in the world! Lunch is included. This tour can also be booked from Oslo, which means you have to take the train to Bergen first. You can book the round tour at Fjord Tours here.

Cider tasting in Balestrand

If you’re in the Sognefjord area, we recommend visiting Ciderhuset where they organise cider tasting during the summer and have their own restaurant and shop, as well as organised activities such as culture walks, cookery courses and guided tours of the mountains around Balestrand.