Culture and history

The soil unveils layers of fascinating history. Flint arrowheads and the ashes of ancient campfires indicate that the first Norwegians hunted 10,000 years ago, just below the retreating icecap.

By the village of Herand, there are pre-historic petroglyphs with sun symbols and boats – yes, at a very early date the fjord became the main thoroughfare of western Norway.

Agatunet - © Arnstein Karlsen
Agatunet - © Arnstein Karlsen
Båtbyggarmuseum © Herand Landskapspark
Båtbyggarmuseum - © Herand Landskapspark

Fjordside hamlets and villages

Many of the farms date back to pre-Viking times. The old hamlet Agatunet shows that Norwegian farming was once a more cooperative effort. Did you know the first apple seeds were brought to Hardanger in the 12th century by Cistercian monks? Fertile soil, long summer days and an organic approach to farming explain why our local fruit is so tasty! During the harvest season fruit and berries are often sold by the roadside. The local culture is so honest that if the sales booth is unmanned, you can just help yourself and leave payment in the bowl.

Viking heritage and archaeological finds

Many archaeological finds have been made at site on the Folgefonna peninsula. Here and there are information boards that cast light on the “history” of the landscape. As you explore villages and hamlets, you will also notice that the most common roofing material is slate, which has been locally quarried since time immemorial.

Hardanger is legendary for its boat-building traditions. Some designs have changed little since the Vikings – you don’t improve on perfection.

Ancient paths

In Folgefonna National Park and the surrounding area, you can hike a network of well-marked trails. Some of these are century-old trackways, such as Keiserstien (the Kaiser’s Path, named after Kaiser Wilhelm who once walked here) and Isstien (the Ice Path, on which ice was transported down to a dock on the fjord, carried on boats to provide the refrigeration needs of coastal towns and villages). Elsewhere you follow the drove-paths on which centuries of farmers have brought livestock up to the summer pastures. Yet other paths, to and through scenic highlights, are established by generations of nature enthusiasts and the Norwegian Tourist Association.