Flowing waterfalls, majestic mountains, vast lakes, deep valleys and the towering Hardangervidda mountain plateau all make up Norway’s largest national park: Hardangervidda National Park. A favorite amongst outdoor lovers, this incredibly beautiful Norwegian park is famous for hiking, fishing and skiing.
Let’s explore all you need to know about visiting Hardangervidda National Park, including where exactly this park is, how to get there, what animals you can see in the park, the best things to do and all the unmissable sights in Hardangervidda National Park.
What is Hardangervidda National Park?
As the largest national park in Norway and, in fact, the whole of Northern Europe, Hardangervidda National Park spans 3422 square kilometers. Established as a national park in 1981, Hardangervidda National Park is comprised of about 50% government-owned land and 50% privately-owned land.
The largest mountain plateau of its kind in Europe, Hardangervidda has been formed by ancient geological processes that have taken place over thousands of years, including the movement of glaciers and the gradual erosion caused by glaciation. This area of Arctic wilderness is one of the most beautiful open spaces in Europe, home to mountains, waterfalls, valleys, lakes and even reindeer!
If you’re wondering ‘what does Hardangervidda mean?’, you might be interested to know that the word ‘vidda’ means mountain plateau in Norwegian and Hardanger is a region in Norway that’s home to the Hardangerfjord and Hardangervidda National Park.
History of Hardangervidda National Park
The area around and within Hardangervidda National Park is believed to have been occupied by humans for thousands of years, with humans most likely arriving in the area after the last Ice Age (at the same time as the reindeer!). In fact, several Stone Age settlements have been discovered across Hardangervidda National Park.
Historically used as hunting, fishing, grazing and farming land, many farming communities in Hardangervidda National Park had an upland farmstead on the mountain plateau that they used in summer. These lands were usually several days’ walk away and many of these ancient farmsteads can still be found around the landscape.
Where is Hardangervidda National Park?
Located in the center of Southern Norway just east of the city of Bergen, the expansive Hardangervidda National Park spans across Viken, Vestland and Vestfold og Telemark counties. As Norway’s largest national park, Hardangervidda covers a wide area, lying in the midpoint between the country’s easterly and westerly regions.
How to Get to Hardangervidda National Park from Oslo
If you’re traveling to Hardangervidda National Park from Oslo, you’ll need to drive for around 3 hours 40 minutes. The 220-kilometer route takes you down the E18 until you turn onto the E134, then along Route 40 until you reach the park. Be aware that there are toll roads along this route.
How to Get to Hardangervidda National Park from Bergen
Bergen is the closest big Norwegian city to Hardangervidda National Park, located around 2 hours 30 minutes away by car. To get to Hardangervidda National Park from Bergen, you’ll need to take the E39 until you reach the E16, which you’ll follow for most of the way, then take Route 13. The overall distance is around 160 kilometers and the route does pass through some toll roads.
What Animals Are in Hardangervidda National Park?
As well as alpine flora and fauna, Hardangervidda National Park is home to Europe’s largest herd of wild reindeer roaming across the mountains. Reindeer in Hardangervidda follow their seasonal migration patterns within the national park unimpeded by roads or other human-made obstacles.
In this incredible natural area, you’ll also find Arctic fox, elk, beavers and mountain trout, as well as many species of bird, including the snowy owl, golden eagle, rough-legged buzzard and falcons. Please be aware that the animals you can find in Hardangervidda National Park are wild, so they’re often wary of humans and it’s advised to always keep a safe distance away.
Top Things to Do in Hardangervidda National Park
When you visit Hardangervidda National Park, there are lots of exciting activities you can get involved with and incredible things to see. Here are some of our top recommendations for what to see and do to make sure you enjoy your time in Hardangervidda National Park to the max!
Discover the Amazing Exhibitions at the Visitor Center in Skinnarbu
From an award-winning interactive exhibition about wild reindeer, to fascinating films about the history of the national park and a café boasting beautiful panoramic views, the Visitor Center at Hardangervidda National Park is well worth a visit during your time here. With guided nature trails, insect courses for children and new exhibitions each year, the Visitor Center is a great place to start your time exploring Hardangervidda National Park.
Ski Down the Incredible Mountain Plateau
For snow lovers and avid skiers, Hardangervidda National Park is the perfect place to be. With a vast network of marked ski routes linking numerous mountain cabins, this largest national park in Norway is an epic destination for a winter cross-country skiing adventure!
Hike Among the Gorgeous Scenery
Hiking is an incredible way to explore the breathtaking scenery of Hardangervidda National Park for yourself. You can choose from the variety of marked hiking trails in the park, crisscrossing through deep valleys, majestic mountains and cascading waterfalls. With a range of routes for all abilities, Hardangervidda National Park is the perfect place for a summer hike among the Norwegian countryside.
Enjoy Angling in the Lakes and Rivers
Norway’s best fishing lakes and rivers are located in Hardangervidda National Park. Angling in the park’s large bodies of water will give you a fantastic chance to catch some fish, including trout and Arctic char. You can choose to rent a cabin and/or a boat around the lakes if you choose.
Cycle Along Rallarvegen
Famed as one of Norway's most beautiful bike rides, the cycle road of Rallarvegen is a designated cultural monument. Built between 1902 and 1904 as a service road to facilitate the construction of the Bergen Railway, the 80-kilometer Rallarvegen has become a popular cycling route due to the breathtaking scenery along the way.
Visit the Cascading Voringsfossen Waterfall
One of the most famous waterfalls in Norway, the 182-meter high Voringsfossen Waterfall is located in the mountains at Hardangervidda National Park, cascading into the narrow, wild valley of Mabodalen. You can visit special viewing platforms to enjoy spectacular panoramas from above and all around Voringsfossen Waterfall. Be aware that the waterfall is usually partially or fully frozen during winter.
Explore the Construction of Bergen Railway in the Rallar Museum
Open from the beginning of July to the middle of September, the fascinating Rallar Museum shows the story of the construction of Bergen Railway between 1894 and 1909. The museum contains many photographs and films from the building of the railway – perfect for train enthusiasts!
Plan Your Own Epic Adventure in Norway!
Who’s excited to visit the beautiful Hardangervidda National Park and explore the rest of Norway’s incredible natural landscapes for themselves? The best way to enjoy your Norwegian vacation is for sure to rent a campervan in Norway and hit the road, ready to travel wherever your heart desires, all on your own schedule.
Got any questions about planning your ideal Norway vacation? Feel free to contact us and our friendly team will be happy to help you. We look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful country soon!