Valdres is a romantic and wild highland region in western Oppland County, Norway. This region reaches the edge of the wild Jotunheimen and also includes more gentle and wide tundra-like highlands, while down below there are lovely lakes, great valleys and little villages all along. Valdres is also known for its food traditions as well as the picturesque church dotting the landscape.
The municipalities which make up Valdres are Etnedal, Nord-Aurdal, Sør-Aurdal, Øystre Slidre, Vestre Slidre, and Vang. Geographically speaking, Valdres lies between Gudbrandsdalen to the north and east, Ringerike south east, Hallingdal to the south west and finally Sogn westwards. The local food traditions together with hundreds of mountain farms still run by the locals make the valley complex quite interesting for the tourist off the beaten track. Also, don't be surprised if you run into hotel owners from the Netherlands or Belgium. Quite a few non Norwegian families have settled in this area far away from the more orderly chaos in Central European cities.
In the south east, lower Valdres stretches from Dokka and Ådal to Bagn. Through the Begnadalen valley the Begna river runs with lots of fishing possibilities for pike and trout. Eastwards, Etnedalen valley runs all the way up to the mountains and meets the Aurdal valley which stretches up from Bagn. Further on, from the region centre Fagernes, the valley divides into Øystre (eastern) Slidre and Vestre (western) Slidre. From Øystre Slidre the next plateau level is Jotunheimen and Vestre Slidre ends abruptly in the Filefjell mountains.
- Fagernes, the regional centre of Valdres. This small town has several bus connections to and from Lillehammer, Oslo, Beitostølen/Jotunheimen and Sogn.
- Jotunheimen, Norway's largest mountain area. In Jotunheimen, you can find a large national park and the area is great for hiking. The mountain Besseggen is famous from the story of Peer Gynt, written by Henrik Ibsen.
It is virtually impossible for people travelling through the area not to notice the local food traditions. A plate of rakfisk, salted and fermented fresh water fish like trout or char, is served uncooked together with fruits from the farm - potatoes, onion, lefse and sour cream. The locals tend to eat this delicacy from November through January, peaking at Christmas time - but the local stores sell rakfisk from September on.
In this region, you can easily find several stave churches. Most of them were built in the Middle Age period spanning from 1150 to 1350. In Valdres there are 6 stave churches left today - Øye, Høre, Hegge, Lomen, Reinli and Hedalen. One of the Norwegian stave churches, Urnes, is represented on the World Heritage List from UNESCO.
As for every major region in Norway, some of the dialect words may pose a barrier for tourists not used to other dialects than the one spoken in Oslo. Several words have completely other meanings here than in other parts of Norway, and there are other words which you cannot find anywhere else. There is also a dictionary available if you already know some Norwegian. In the '90s, the Valdres dialect scored as "the most beautiful dialect in Norway" in a national radio programme.
Examples of local words
- Squirrel - Norwegian: ekorn, Valdres: ikødn
- All right (as in an all right person) - Norwegian: grei, Valdres: snodig (which in Norwegian normally means strange/funny)
- Lonely - Norwegian: ensom , Valdres: aule
- From the north:
- Road 55 Valdresflya
- From the west (Bergen and Sognefjord)
- Road E16
- Fagernes Airport (Leirin - operated by DOT) (10 minutes from Fagernes). The local airport with daily connections to Oslo (30 minutes)
- Nor-Way Bussekspress (express buses). . Most express buses running through the region are operated by this company. Connections to Oslo, Lillehammer, Sogn, Jotunheimen and Hallingdal
- Valdresekspressen (express coach), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. . Route (Up to six daily departures): Oslo-Hønefoss-Valdres-Sogn and Oslo-Hønefoss-Valdres-Jotunheimen.
- Øst-Vest Xpressen (express coach), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. . Route (One departue per day): Bergen-Voss-Lærdal-Valdres-Land-Lillehammer.
- JVB (local buses), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 08-16. . Connections to Gjøvik, Gol, Lærdal and Gjende.
- M/B Bitihorn (local boat), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 08-16. . Summer season, route: Eidsbugarden-Torfinnsbu-Bygdin.
- Snowmobiles (snowmobile), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 08-16. . Winter season, route: Tyin-Tyinholmen-Eidsbugarden.
Valdres hosts several festivals:
- Norsk Rakfiskfestival, early November each year - Thursday to Sunday. This festival praises the local food rakfisk.
- Jørn Hilme-stemnet, a festival devoted to local music, named after one of the most famous fiddle musicians in Norway.
- Valdres Sommersymfoni, a European chamber music festival for talented young musicians
- Vinjerock, definitely a kind of it's own. Alpine rock festival in Eidsbugarden, Jotunheimen
- Valdres Gjestegard (the old prison), Aurdal (between Aurdal and Leira), ☎ . Beef restaurant: Friday and Saturday nights. This building is a former prison - the cellars still with the prison cells intact. In the beef restaurant you can enjoy a good steak with wine or beer, the tables actually set in the prison cells themselves. Candle lights are lit - and privacy is enforced with the 1 meter thick stone walls.
- Fagerlund Hotell, Fagernes, ☎ . Local foods, great beef and a chance of dining outside if weather and temperature allows.
Generally, the rural areas of Norway are among the safest places in the world. Except from an occasional pub fight, police are not often exposed to major crime. Expect the police and local autohorities to be very helpful to tourists as long as you don't drink and drive.
- Gudbrandsdalen - Valdres' big brother in the east
- Sognefjord - the great fjord just west of Valdres
- Geiranger or Stryn - nice drive across Valdresflya to Ottadalen valley
- Hallingdal - the parallel valley to west/south