A former trading port between east and west Norway, the L√¶rdal of today is a picturesque part of the fjord Norway tourist trail.
L√¶rdal is a Norwegian municipality on the south side of the Sognefjord. Known for its historic centre, the L√¶rdals√łyri village is today a big draw for tourists. But years ago, it was an important trading post.
Its location near the head of the Sognefjord meant L√¶rdal was a short-cut for traders looking to transport goods from west to east. Ships could sail up the fjord and dock at L√¶rdal.
The goods could continue their journey over the mountains.¬†This was facilitated by the King’s Road (Kongevegen), a historic trade route over the mountains and through Valdres to Oslo. Today it’s a popular multi-day hiking route.
L√¶rdals√łyri village is the historical center of the ripe valley, but sadly, in 2014 many of its well-preserved timber homes from the 18th century were destroyed by fire, spread by the high winds of a winter storm.¬†Even so, the historical centre remains a charming walk as the process of restoration continues.
The village centre of L√¶rdals√łyri is listed as a national ‚Äúheritage village‚ÄĚ. Tourists come to see the historic centre of wooden houses and trading buildings from the 18th-century. Just over 1,000 people live in the village today, with the same again in the other villages making up L√¶rdal.
If your time in L√¶rdal is short, call into the tourist information office on √ėyraplassen. Open daily during the summer, the office provides advice on what to see, along with recommended driving routes and a small gift shop.
Staying in L√¶rdal is a popular choice for those looking to combine a mountain and fjord experience. However, there are no chain hotels here.
Instead, you’ll find rooms available at the charming¬†L√¶rdals√łren Hotel in the heart of the old village.¬†Meanwhile, camping, motel rooms, apartments and cabins are all available at the waterside L√¶rdal Holiday & Leisure Park.
On the night of 18‚Äď19 January 2014, L√¶rdal made global headlines for the wrong reasons. A major fire destroyed at least 30 buildings in the village. The fire began in a residence on Kyrkjegata. Strong winter winds quickly fanned the flames towards other buildings and a nearby forest.
Residents were quickly evacuated but 30 buildings caught fire over the course of four hours. More than 100 firefighters were dispatched from across the region. Firefighters from Flor√ł were brought in by helicopter, and two further helicopters from the Royal Air Force were brought in to assist the efforts.
Traveling to L√¶rdal from Aurland is half the fun, with two of Norway‚Äôs most breathtaking driving experiences to enjoy.
Throughout large parts of the summer, dramatic cliffs of snow line both sides of the 45-kilometer (28-mile) National Scenic Route Aurlandsfjellet between the villages of Aurlandsvangen and L√¶rdals√łyri, leading to its nickname, the Snow Road (Sn√łvegen).
Although the Snow Road is closed from October through April, the portion of Route 243 from Aurland to the Stegastein Viewpoint is open year-round.
The elegant viewing platform hovers above the pine tree forest, while its glass front gives a view right down to the fjord below. At the highest point of the mountain pass, the modern Flotane rest stop is powered by solar panels at its rear.
The alternative way to reach L√¶rdal using the E16 highway is much more direct but no less intriguing. At 24.5 kilometers (15.2 miles), the L√¶rdal Tunnel (L√¶rdalstunnelen) is the longest road tunnel in the world.
Because of the mental strain on drivers for the dark 20-minute journey, the tunnel is separated into four sections by large caves lit by blue mood lighting and yellow-lit turnaround points. Security stations count the number of cars entering and exiting to enable a quick response to any accidents. A dedicated air treatment plant removes dust and nitrogen dioxide, leading to surprisingly high air quality.
Norway‚Äôs best-preserved stave church, built in 1180, also happens to be its most aesthetically stunning. The major pull of L√¶rdal is the magnificent Borgund stave church, located 27km (16.8 miles) east of L√¶rdal along the E16, yet another picturesque road in the region.
The designers made the critical decision to build the church on a raised stone foundation to keep the timber frame from coming into contact with the damp ground during a Norwegian winter.
The very fact the church is still standing proudly over eight centuries later is testament to their incredible foresight. The basilica-plan layout is distinguished by a raised central nave and a shingle-covered roof.
As with many other Norwegian stave churches of the era, Norse mythology is reflected in the interior and exterior carvings, as Norway‚Äôs transition to Christianity took many hundreds of years to fully bed down. In the same vein, several runic inscriptions are visible on the western walls.
The construction and conservation techniques at Borgund serve as a model for other stave church restoration projects, and as inspiration for replicas all around the world. The entry fee also gives admission to an exhibition on other stave churches and archaeological finds from the Viking era in a modern building by the parking lot.