Skip to main content

History gives a new dimension to the experiences you have in nature, and you can now learn about Fjord Norway’s unique hydropower and industrial history by visiting the historical sites. They carry the knowledge of how Norway and Fjord Norway were built, and how Norway achieved the position it holds in industry today.

The hydropower plants, museums and visitor centres along the coast of Fjord Norway are called Norway’s cathedrals, and they hold a rich and exciting natural, cultural and industrial history dating back to the 19th century. You can in fact create your own tour that tells the fascinating history from when farms became villages and towns and the industrial revolution hit Fjord Norway with its great natural resource – hydropower.

Sønnåhavn – an old power plant in Sauda

Flørli - from hydropower to smelting plants

Today, Flørli is known for having the world’s longest wooden staircase, with 4,444 steps up to the Ternevassdammen dam and stunning views of the Lysefjord. The stairs date back to the early 1900s, when A/S Flørli Kraft and Elektrosmelterverk started producing steel for the German arms industry. The demand for steel was enormous, but building dams and pipelines with pure muscle power at 740 metres was a bigger job than initially thought. A few years into the construction process, a railroad track was built that allowed carriages to be sent up the mountainside, as well as the wooden stairs that have now become a major attraction.

In 1916–1917 the power plant in Flørli was ready, with its characteristic Art Nouveau style. Today you can learn about Flørli’s unique history and join guided village walks to learn more about the history of the construction, from the time Flørli was a vibrant hydropower community right up until the present day.

Sauda – hydropower and mining in Allmannajuvet gorge

The area around the town of Sauda and the Saudafjord has a fantastic history dating back to the end of the last ice age. It was at that time that people migrated to Scandinavia and settled in the south of Norway. The production and export of timber was an important part of commerce up until the 18th century, before mining took over in the 20th century, and urban communities linked to the mining and the metal industry developed.The old zinc mines in Sauda were in operation from 1881 to 1899, and during this period, 12,000 tonnes of zinc ore were extracted using energy from clean Norwegian hydropower. Today, the mining area is a museum where you can learn more about the fascinating history of this place.

In 2006, Sauda III, which dates from 1930, was one of 27 power plants that the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) deemed to be especially valuable cultural heritage sites from Norwegian power production. The power plant marked the start of a period of development along the Sauda river system in 1914. The history of power production in Sauda can be experienced through guided mining tours in Allmannajuvet gorge, or you can visit the residential district Åbøbyen, where you can see how the workers and clerks at the smelting plant lived.

Suldal – the symbol of Norwegian hydropower history

Suldal is one of the most important electricity-producing municipalities in Norway, and production there currently accounts for eight percent of the country’s annual power consumption. The century-old tradition of power production in Suldal started in 1913, when a power plant was built, with pipelines and a power station, pylons and cable networks. Sand power station was the first power station in Suldal, and became a symbol of power production in Fjord Norway when Norsk Hydro acquired the rights to the Røldalsvassdraget and Suldalsvassdraget river systems. The goal was to secure hydropower for their future aluminium plants in Karmøy. It eventually became the biggest industrial project in Norway. Construction of Northern Europe’s largest power plant , Ulla-Førre, began in 1974, and shortly afterwards the population had grown by over 1,000 inhabitants, which had a huge impact on the local community in Suldal. Ulla-Førre is presently the biggest hydropower plant in Norway, with an output of 2,100 MW, accounting for 7.5% Norway’s production capacity. In 2018, work began on building the 720 km long cable to England, which allows Norway to buy wind power from the UK, in exchange for Norwegian hydropower. The cable runs from Kvilldal in Suldal. The Blåsjø reservoir can store up to six percent of the annual power consumption in Norway, and can be visited during the summer season by car or bicycle. The area is also known as a great hiking area.

The route from Ryfylke via Suldal and to Sauda (via Røldal) has the best collection of historical and modern architectural works in Fjord Norway. One example is the design hotel Energihotellet at Nesflaten, which is a good starting point for experiencing Suldal. The hotel was designed by the architect Geir Grung as part of the development of the Røldal-Suldal power plant. The salmon studio in Lista is an important information centre for Norway’s power plant history, where visitors can experience how power production is linked to the work of protecting nature and animal diversity in the region. Suldal municipality is accredited as a Sustainable Destination.

Ullensvang/Tyssedal/Odda – the industrial towns on the Hardangerfjord

The industrial town of Odda in Ullensvang municipality is regarded as one of best starting points for visiting some of Norway’s most famous natural attractions, such as Trolltunga. There are many ways to experience the contrasts between man-made industry and the beautiful scenery. Tyssedal is home to the Norwegian Museum of Hydropower and Industry, a museum about a technical industrial cultural heritage site. The entire plant was listed by the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage in the year 2000. It tells the story of the exciting power production and industrial history of the early 1900s and about how hydropower production has left its mark the region, and shows the development in Ullensvang from the 1900s until today.

You can go on a tour into the realm of the navvies, and see how they worked. In the centre of Odda, you can learn about how the community evolved in step with the hydropower industry. In the rugged and interesting industrial building Lindehuset, you can see various exhibitions where photography, dance and sound tell the history of this fascinating place. The Kraftlabben science centre offers exciting interactive exhibitions and experiments for both adults and children.

Eidfjord – the power plants that doubled the population

Eidfjord is situated at the very end of the beautiful Hardangerfjord, along the Rv7 road – one of the main arteries between east and west. The municipality is best known for the amazing Vøringsfossen waterfall and the experiences offered by the Norwegian Nature Centre in Øvre Eidfjord. It is perhaps less known for the role it played in power plant history, but it was precisely because of this industry that the village’s population doubled when construction work started, and the two power plants Sy-Sima and Lang-Sima opened in 1980.

These two power plants were two completely independent systems, and they have no connection with each other. The plants are impressive for several reasons; the two power stations inside the station hall are located 700 metres inside the mountain itself. The station hall is 200 metres high and 400 metres long. Sy-Sima’s main water reservoir is its sister dam. From here, the water goes through a 14-kilometre-long tunnel to Rembesdalvatn lake, before continuing through a new 6.7-kilometre long tunnel to Kjeåsen. A steel-clad pressure shaft extends from here down to the power plant, the water branching out into generator unit 1 and 2. The two power plants constitute Norway’s second largest, measured in installed capacity. Sima power plant is open to visitors and welcome many visitors each year. A large number of tunnels and dams show the extent of the large power production, which is like a hidden energy treasure trove inside the mountains of Eidfjord.

Høyanger – the national park municipality running on hydropower history

In the 1900s, Høyanger played a very special role during the industrialisation of Norway. It was once a village with only 13 farmsteads and cotter’s farms, squeezed between the mountains at the bottom of the fjord arm, until the power from its waterfalls attracted industry. After several acquisitions and sales of waterfall rights up until 1911, the industry really took off in the Høyangerfjord. Power plant 1, which includes the power plant, pipelines, trolley line, steps and mountain reservoirs, was built in 1916–1917. The development of Høyanger as a community, as an industrial society and village, can be experienced at Høyanger Industrial City Museum in the Town Gate (Byporten) in Høyanger.

The infrastructure that was built tells a story about the power industry and how society has evolved throughout history. You may want to join the ‘power duo’ in Høyanger, two tours in one, which is themed around past and present power production, and stay overnight at Øren Hotel. You can go on a town walk and gain unique insight into the history of Høyanger, and the role hydropower has played in this small municipality in Fjord Norway.

Årdal – metal industry and advanced power technology

The national park municipality of Årdal, which comprises the villages of Årdalstangen and Øvre Årdal, is situated farthest in the Sognefjord, with Utladalen as the gateway to Jotunheimen National Park. Årdal is fast becoming a popular destination, largely due to its national park status and the historic Rallarvegen – the Navvies’ Road. The municipality is also known for its history of power production, a history that you can discover in various ways. Årdal opened its visitor centre in July 2022, where you can gain an insight into the metal industry from the 18th century until the present day.

You can learn about aluminium production, the use of advanced technology in heavy industry and the focus on sustainability in the industry. Årdal visitor centre can be found in the old Hydro buildings just outside Hydro Aluminium in Øvre Årdal, and the old power station from 1919 is part of the exhibition at the centre.

Bremanger – from sawmills and agriculture to fishing

The transition from an agricultural to industrial community brought with it something that was common in Western Norwegian villages in the 1900s: a melting pot of people from different parts of the country, and a class-divided community that is mirrored in the buildings, dialect and culture. In Bremanger municipality, in old Sogn og Fjordane county, were the farms Sende and Rise. Only 36 people lived here in 1801. They lived off hunting, farming, fishing, and forestry, and they also ran a sawmill. The watercourses in the region offered great potential for developing hydropower plants in the area, and Bremanger Kraftelselskap opened the first power plant in Svelgen in 1921. This marked the beginning of industrial development in the village, with Elkem Bremanger smelting plant at its forefront.

Learn more about electrifying experiences in Fjord Norway