Who could fail to be enchanted when the long winter loosens its grip and nature abounds with colour and fragrance? The spring blossoming in Fjord Norway is a fantastic time to experience the lowlands and fjords, whether you’re headed for Hardanger, the Sognefjord, Nordfjord, the Geirangerfjord or the magnificent fjords in the north of Fjord Norway. On this trip, we guide you to the loveliest gems in the fjord landscape between Stavanger and Bergen.
Inspired by the rainbow
On the first day of the trip, you will experience the most incredible flora you’ve ever seen in Norway’s nature, guaranteed.
Since the 1960s, plant experts in Fjord Norway, led by the Bryn family, have created a tropical paradise in the fjord basin between Stavanger and Tau in Rogaland. You can see tropical plants otherwise not found in our northern climes, due in part to the area having the mildest climate in Norway and in part to clever shelterbelt planting. Its collections include a garden of Hollywood palm trees, a bamboo garden, Japanese banana trees, Spanish cork oaks, and cactuses. Some 50,000 plants are also planted every year. According to head gardener Olav Bryn, the gardens are inspired by the rainbow.
There are two daily departures to Flor & Fjære from the quay in the centre of Stavanger. The trip includes the return boat trip, a guided tour of the tropical gardens and a gourmet dinner at the island’s restaurant, which has been serving discerning guests since 1995. You can taste herbs and vegetables from the garden, which accompany regional meat dishes and delicacies from the sea.
Hjelmelandsvågen → Jelsa →
If you can tear yourself away from the gourmet city of Stavanger, it’s time to head for the fjords through the new Ryfast tunnel towards Hjelmeland and Ryfylke.
The one-hour drive offers a real change of scenery, from the low, coastal landscape to the high mountains and deep fjords of Ryfylke.
The spring blossoming in Ryfylke is particularly intense on the little island of Helgøya in the Årdalsfjord. The island will be joined to the mainland in mid-June 2022, when it will be possible to drive to Fister and Grønvik.
When you drive across the mountains between Årdal and Hjelmeland, you’ll be greeted by views of a magnificent cultural landscape of blossoming apple and plum trees, emerald green fields and sheep grazing along the mouth of the Jøsenfjord. The 500-metre high mountain Bandåsen towers in the centre of the island of Ombo, which is covered by blossoming fruit trees and lush deciduous forest.
You can see very many of the blossoming fruit trees in Hjelmeland if you turn off towards Vormedalen on the Rv 660 road and drive on to the farm Fevoll. The farm makes its own cider under the name Omcider, and you can get a guided tour of the orchard and taste the cider in the farm shop. Take the opportunity to learn about different types of apple; Gravenstein, Summerred, Ellis Bitter, Aroma or Rubinstep, a late Czech type that makes a fantastic sparkling cider.
After an idyllic ferry trip to Nesvik, the journey continues through a sparsely inhabited fjord landscape, across small mountain passes and through valleys of blossoming fruit trees to Jelsa, Ryfylke’s best preserved historical village beside the sea. The centre of the village is dotted with historical wooden buildings, and the highlight is the renaissance-style church built in 1647. It also features white sandy beaches, boat hire and kayaking trips with Fjord Expeditions, and an excellent restaurant at Jelsa Hotell. The hotel is open from Easter onwards. There is an express boat to Hebnes and Jelsa from Stavanger.
The vineyard Midtsommar is another unique attraction at Hebnes, which will welcome visitors for the first time in 2022. The owner has planted thousands of vines of the hardy grape types Solaris, Rondo, Leon Millot and Regent, as well as the fantastic Haskap grape, which is suitable for making red wine.
If you have time left after the wine tasting and dinner, you can find a viewpoint facing the fjord in the west, where the sun bids a magical farewell to Ryfylke when the weather is fine.
Odda → Aga → Utne →
The agonies of choice
Spring is a real revelation throughout Fjord Norway, but the fruit trees blossoming in Hardanger is in a league of its own. To get from Jelsa to Odda, the gateway to Hardanger from the south, you can choose between three spectacular routes. The E13 road via Suldalsosen and Røldal is a Norwegian Scenic Route, offering views across the beautiful, remote Suldalsvatnet lake and the mountain pass to Røldalsvatnet lake, before crossing the mountains between Røldal and Odda. The second alternative is the Rv 520 road, which, in addition to the mountain pass to Røldal, gives you a chance to take a break in Sauda, an industrial town without parallel in Norway. The third alternative is to take the Indre Ryfylkeveg road up to the Vindafjord, and, from there, follow the main road through Ølen and Etne along the Åkrafjord. The trip takes you through picturesque landscape, while the real natural highlight awaits.
Sideriet in the Sørfjord
The industrial town Odda is both beautiful and grim, not least because of the closed smelting plant and the industrial port that dominate the area. Nonetheless, the huge mountains with the Folgefonna in the west and the brilliant blue-black water of the Sørfjord make for an incredible sight, even by Fjord Norway standards.
As you make your way along the Sørfjord on the Fv county road, it becomes ever more evident that you’ve arrived in Hardanger. Surrounded by blossoming orchards of apple, plum, cherry and pear trees that flower in succession in May and June, Aga Sideri appears. You now have a chance to find out what 1,000 years of cider production in Hardanger has given us: Exquisite, elegant and strapping apple ciders that even French and Italian vineyard owners would be happy to acknowledge.
The magic of Utne
If the three-hour guided tour and tasting session at the farm has given you a thirst for it, you can buy bottles of Lagmann Sider, Humlepung and Bøddel. You can also taste more cider from Aga and other farms that evening at Utne Hotel. It is as much as jewel of a museum as an accommodation provider, with views in all directions towards the quay in Utne, the geographical heart of Hardanger. This hotel has been welcoming guests since 1722 (!) and is a notable establishment along the blossoming fjord. Enjoy the evening sampling local fare in the restaurant.
Øystese → Norheimsund → Bergen →
Fruit cordials, honey and cured meat
The car ferry to Kvanndal leaves just a few metres from the door of the venerable Utne Hotel. The trip across the fjord offers views of snow-capped mountains towering above the fjord, a sight for the gods.
From Kvanndal, drive roughly 30 minutes along the Hardangerfjord west to the village of Øystese, where you can make even more memories. You can buy fantastic produce from local farmers and food producers at the Gardsbutikken farm food shop, such as fruit cordials, cider, honey and traditional baked goods, and smoked and cured meats. You won’t leave Øystese empty-handed as the local shopkeeper likes to proclaim.
If you leave the farm shop without arms full of local delicacies, don’t fret, you have another chance! Spildegarden offers a whole range of Spildemost products, the farm’s own non-alcoholic apple juice, made with scientific precision and awareness of different types of apples. Spildemost Discovery, for example, is made from the English apple of the same name. We’re talking an apple juice that goes with beef dishes and pungent cheeses, with an aroma of banana and pineapple and medium long and fruity notes. If you’re interested in the Gravenstein apple, Spildegarden offers both fine drinks and exciting history about the legendary type of apple that is said to have come to Hardanger from Denmark in 1792.
RIB boat trip to Botnen
From Øystese you can join a RIB boat trip. On this trip you get to see the blossoming orchards from the sea, at a speed of up to 60 knots with sea spray in your face. The intense 90-minute trip takes you along the fjord and through the 10-km Fyksesundet sound, which squeezes its way between perpendicular mountainsides and cascading waterfalls to Botnen, a natural gem with azure water.
Then, continue to Norheimsund, which has more to offer for those with time to kill. Steinsdalsfossen waterfall is situated beside the main road after you pass the centre in the direction of Samnanger and Bergen. You can walk behind the waterfall and see the cascading water from the inside on the way up to the viewing platform on the other side.
The drive from Norheimsund to your final destination Bergen is more than just a transport leg. You pass Eikedalen, Kvamskogen, Gullfjellet mountain and the beautiful mountain landscape that makes the area a favourite with the people of Bergen. When you’ve passed Arna, you will again see the beautiful colours that make spring in Fjord Norway worth waiting for.