(This post about visiting Laerdal was updated in 2019)
If you are planning to visit Norway and spend some time exploring this beautiful country there are so many wonderful places to add to your Norwegian itinerary.
With some of the most spectacular scenery in the world including fjords, snow peaked mountains, stunning villages and towns, as well as iconic train journeys, the northern lights and more to fill your time putting together a perfect itinerary for Norway is not easy!
In my Bergen to Oslo Norway itinerary which focusses on mainly visiting the west and south of the country I have recommended spending a few days in the beautiful town of Laerdal. This is a little off the beaten track but easy to include if you are exploring Norway using their excellent public transport system.
In this post I will detail reasons why you should include visiting Laerdal in Norway when traveling from Bergen to Oslo (or vice versa) into your itinerary. If you need more convincing take a look at 15 photographs that will inspire you to visit Laerdal which were all taken by a friend who lives in the town.
WHERE IS LAERDAL?
Laerdal itself is situated at the end of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Sognefjorden. It is about 206 km from Bergen.
There are a number of ways to travel from Bergen to Laerdal including taking a coach for the entire route or by train to Voss then transferring onto a coach. The trip will take 4 hours if you are commencing in Bergen. Laerdal is close to Gudvangen and the famous Nærøyfjord as well as the iconic Flam railway so is the perfect extension to any Bergen to Oslo itinerary.
If you are traveling on the Bergen to Oslo train line it is easy to alight at Myrdal and catch the Flam railway down the valley, hop on the ferry to Gudvangen and then catch a coach to Laerdal! Click here to read more about Flam and Gudvangen and a suggested one day itinerary.
5 REASONS YOU WILL LOVE LEARDAL IN NORWAY
LAERDAL IS IN BEAUTIFUL NORWAY
Norway is consistently ranked as one of the BEST places to live in the world in terms of quality of life.
While Norway is undeniably expensive for visitors if you are lucky enough to live and work there you will find a state that provides free education, looks after its old, its sick, pays for funerals, provides excellent maternity rights, respects gay rights (same-sex marriage became legal in Norway in January 2009) and more.
On top of that it is a country of stunning scenery, fjords, mountains and the midnight sun as well as its vibrant culture.
Laerdal is slightly off the beaten track so is not heaving with cruise ship tourists during the summer. The village is small and offers a more authentic Norwegian experience. There are a couple of supermarkets in town and some excellent accommodation options as well as things to do and see when you are there.
LAERDAL IS AT THE END OF THE LONGEST ROAD TUNNEL IN EUROPE
The Laerdal tunnel is 24.5 km long (the longest road tunnel in Europe) and connects Laerdal and Aurland. It really is an experience to drive through a tunnel that long. Scary in some ways too. There are three large caves at 6 km intervals in the tunnel for drivers to have a break or to help alleviate feelings of claustrophobia.
The tunnel itself is lit with white lights but the caves have blue lights with yellow lights at the fringes. This is to give the impression of sunrise.
There are no emergency exits in this tunnel but there are safety precautions in place. I will admit that I did not love going through the tunnel even though I did it 4 times. If you want to get to Laerdal I think this is the only route that doesn’t involve a boat or an aircraft! (or a rather mountainous climb!) but it does make you appreciate how cut off some of these villages must have been before the roads and tunnels were built.
VISIT THE BORGUND STAVE CHURCH
The Borgund Stave Church which is the best preserved stave church in Norway was built between 1180 and 1250 AD. There are only 28 stave churches left in Norway and if you have the opportunity I would certainly recommend taking a look around one.
The stave church in Borgund is no longer used as a place of worship but is preserved and protected due to its importance to Norwegian culture and history.
The church is easy to visit from Laerdal by bus which takes approximately 30 minutes to cover the 20 kms between Laerdal and Borgund. Alternatively if you are feeling energetic why not rent a bicycle in Laerdal and cycle to Borgund.
VISIT THE GAMLE LÆRDALSØYRI
The Gamle Laerdalsoyri village in Laerdal has more than 150 wooden houses dating back to the 18th and 19th century. It is unique to western Norway and is definitely worth visiting for the beautiful houses and the atmosphere of the place.
Sadly a fire broke out in January 2014 after I took these photographs and 30 buildings were destroyed. Over 90 people received hospital treatment but fortunately no one died.
LAERDAL IS LOCATED ON THE SOGNEFJORD
I am sure the first thing that you will think of when I say “Norway” are the fjords! Laerdal is situated on the south side of the Sognerfjord which is the deepest and longest of the Norwegian fjords. It is also very near to the UNESCO World Heritage Nærøyfjord.
I would suggest visiting nearby Flam and Gudvangen to take a cruise along the beautiful Nærøyfjord.
WHERE TO STAY IN LAERDAL
In Laerdal I highly recommend booking a stay at Lærdal Ferie- og Fritidspark. This is where my husband lived when he was working in Laerdal and the cabins are well furnished and equipped. Stroll from your cabin to the nearby fjord and keep a look out for the northern lights on dark winter evenings!
Staying in Laerdal will also give you time to explore all this beautiful village has to offer and is slightly off the beaten path for those who seek more authentic travel experiences.
This option is perfect for families and couples with larger cabins also available.
TIPS AND THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN VISITING LAERDAL!
- If you plan to visit Laerdal take a look at the official Visit Norway website for more information!
- If you are visiting in winter check out my packing list which comes from years of living in the Alps. Be aware that the houses can become extremely warm so layers are the best way to go!
- While downhill skiing is very popular (and there are resorts such as Voss which cater for this sport) cross country skiing is also very popular in Norway.
- Norway is not a cheap destination. Food and drink are particularly expensive so prepare to budget for the extra costs. There are a couple of supermarkets in Laerdal.
- Don’t expect to see the Northern Lights everywhere in Norway. My husband spent 3 months in Laerdal over winter and didn’t see them once!
- Don’t expect the roads to be gritted and de-iced if there is snow. Cars use chains on their tyres to get around during the winter months.
- Watch out for the wildlife. My husband had a large stag leap across in front of him whilst cycling to work.
- If you suffer from claustrophobia and plan to travel through the Laerdal tunnel be prepared. It is a long tunnel and has only 2 lanes. I listened to music and shut my eyes a lot.
FURTHER INFORMATION FOR VISITING NORWAY
If you are heading to Norway I have some great posts to check out to help with your planning. At the moment the focus is on Bergen, fjords, the Flam railway and Laerdal but keep an eye out for new posts coming soon! Why not subscribe below to receive tips, updates and more from me in my monthly newsletter? No spam just great information!
Subscribes also gain free access to my resource library which includes book lists and fact files and other useful resources to help plan your trip!
- Things to do in Bergen – an essential guide for anyone visiting the beautiful Norwegian city of Bergen including what to see and do, where to stay and other useful information.
- Have you heard of Laerdal? If not why not take a look at these beautiful photographs of Laerdal which will inspire you to add it to your Norway itinerary. If you still need convincing check out 5 reasons Laerdal really should be on your Norwegian bucket list!
- Heading to the fjords? Find out the best things to do in Flam and Gudvangen.
- Do you enjoy reading about new destinations before you go? If so you will love my best book selections for various countries including this selection of 9 books to read about Norway.
Tracy has lived and worked in 7 countries on 4 continents and travelled to over 50 more. A qualified school teacher with an interest in history, reading, photography, nature and wildlife she is always planning her next trip (preferably by train)
With a lifetime of travel experience, and a network of friends all over the world, she is also able to share genuine insider guides, recommended best book lists and train journey inspiration to help you travel authentically to some of the most beautiful places on earth.
Come and join me as I travel the world one country (and train journey) at a time!