Located within the county of Sogn og Fjordane, Gudvangen is a village in the Norwegian municipality of Aurland which preserves a former Viking village within a region that has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Area. Gudvangen derives its name from a term meaning “God’s place by the water” and served as a major economic and communication center during the region’s Viking era.
Several major religious institutions in the area predate Christianity. In the 12th century, the region was struck by the black plague, killing nearly all of its residents, and the area was not repopulated for several more centuries. In 1647, the area became a popular rest site for Royal Mail postal workers traveling across the Filefjell and Laerdal between Oslo and Bergen. A primitive road to nearby Bakka was constructed over the Nærøyfjord for mail boat access along this mail route. Throughout the 19th century, the region became a popular site for cruise tourists and Norwegian artists such as A. Tideman and JC Dahl. Regional tourism continued to boom until the advent of World War I, and following the war, the opening of a ferry route between Bergen and Newcastle, England further increased tourist activity.
Attractions and Amenities
Today, Gudvangen is part of the municipality of Aurland within Norway’s Sogn og Fjordane county, located at the Nærøyfjord’s entrance point into its fjord. The village is located along European E16 Highway and is near the villages of Bakka, Flåm, Undredal, and Aurlandsvangen. The village serves as a popular tourist destination and contains sites preserved by the UNESCO World Heritage list, as well a number of historic and commercial attractions. The surrounding Nærøy Valley has also been named as the world’s top natural heritage site by National Geographic magazine.
Tourist sites within the Gudvangen region include the Njardarheimr Viking Village, which showcases a replica Viking village located on the site of the area’s former traditional Viking marketplace. The village is open during the summer months and showcases a variety of historical reenactments and demonstrations bringing the history and culture of the Viking era to life. An annual Viking Market is held in July, featuring concerts and theatrical performances, fire shows, archery, and wrestling matches. Nearby attractions include the Flåm Railway, which is the country’s fifth most-visited tourist attraction and offers scenic train rides on a historic 20th-century railway route between the village and nearby Myrdal. The Flåm Railway Museum is located within the train’s historic station building and showcases the development of the railway, from its pre-World War I planning to its post-World War II completion and modern tourist operation.
Natural attractions within the region include the Nærøyfjord, which is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Area and is accessible for exploration via kayak. The village’s Magical White Caves, which feature a large mountain room with a green lake within a 250-by-150-square-meter cavern system lit by auroras, may be explored as part of guided expeditions lasting approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Minimum tour group size is 20 participants and explores the cave’s areas as part of a presentation that features special lighting and sound elements. The region’s caves feature the world’s largest deposits of anorthosite marble, a unique type of marble that contains both gold and aluminum. Private dining and sitting areas are offered within the cave for visitors looking for relaxation during excursions. The area also serves as a popular trailhead for a number of hiking sites offering views of the nearby fjord.
The Gudvangen region is home to the Lærdal Tunnel, located approximately half an hour from the village. Opened in 2000, the tunnel is the world’s longest road tunnel, measuring 24,509 meters long and serving as part of the E16 Highway system. Visitors may also drive over the mountain region along the Aurlandsvegen, which features the Stegastein viewing platform that offers spectacular views of the Aurland Fjord. Tourist ferries are offered between Gudvangen and nearby Flåm and Kaupanger, offering guided group exploration of nearby villages Bakka and Styvi. The nearby valley village of Undredal is also accessible via ferry or road, featuring the Undredal Stølysteri cheese production factory and the country’s smallest stave church.
Visitor accommodations are offered at the Gudvangen Fjordtell, which was designed by local craftsmen to honor the village’s Viking heritage and features heavy glass design elements. 40 rooms are offered, including budget rooms, along with a restaurant that seats up to 250 and serves locally-sourced seasonal fare produced with organic ingredients. A fully-stocked bar is also offered, along with a cafeteria, 200-seat outdoor terrace, and two gift shops.
Gudvangen Fjordtell, N-5747 Gudvangen, Norway, Phone: 00-47-48-07-55-55