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 churches 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. Vang is the westernmost district and 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.