Aurlandsdalen (or the "Aurlandsdal") is a glacially-formed Norwegian valley, about 40 km in length (Geiteryggen-Vassbygdi), situated in Aurland municipality in the inner Sogn. One of the best-known tourist tracks in Norway follows the valley from Geiteryggen just across the border of Hol municipality and north east to Aurlandsvangen at the Aurlandsfjorden in Sogn. The valley narrows and becomes a tight, dramatic Western Norway valley. It combines the natural beauty of glacially carved valleys with diverse, abundant plant species, and a number of cultural monuments in the form of old farms and mountain dairy farms (regionally called "støl"s) to form a recognized tourist attraction. The richness in plant species is due to both the soil, rich in minerals formed from phyllitt in the rocks and cultural influence through the centuries.

The upper part of the river running through the valley is called Stemberdøla; in the lower part it is called Aurlandselvi [Norwegian rivers may change names as they pass from historic district to district.] . The route from Aurland to Hol has been the shortest connection between western and eastern Norway since prehistoric times. Thus the valley has been an important connection line for commercial journeys and cattle drives through and along the valley and over the surrounding mountain highlands.

Access to the valley

Aurlandsdalen can be reached either from Aurlandsvangen or from Vierbotn at "Geiteryggen" (which transliterates, perhaps descriptively, as goat’s back). Access to Aurlandsvangen is possible via "hurtigbåt" (rapid boat) from Bergen or via European route E16. "Geiteryggen" can be reached via highway 50 from Hol in Hallingdal.

The ancient passage through the mountains can be traveled on foot via Norwegian Mountain Touring Association (DNT) marked tracks: "Finse - Geiteryggen, Raggsteindalen" (at "Strandafjorden") - "Geiteryggen" or the track "Iungsdalen - Stemberdalen". Another DNT track leads from "Hallingskeid" through "Såtedalen", along north west side of "Omnsvatnet" and further over "Bakkahelleren" along "Geiteryggvatnet" to "Geiteryggen".

The original proposal for routing the Bergensbanen railway track had it passing through "Geiteryggen"; if these plans had been carried out the railway tracks would have followed this trace to "Hallingskeid".


Down the long valley, descending from the open mountain highland at "Geiteryggen" (1,232 m in elevation) the landscape becomes gradually more broken. At "Stemberdalen", (also called "Steinbergdalen, Stemmerdalen, Stodmerrdalen") at about 1100 m in elevation, the valley is wide and open with gradual mountains slopes and open areas covered with farm places. Earlier, before dams pooled the river into reservoirs, the river flowed gradually in broad turns which could be navigated by small boats. From "Stemberdalen" the valley again narrows with the hillsides steepening and the river channel increasing in gradient.

At "Østerbø" ("Øvstebø, Aurdal"), at about 900 m., for a limited stretch the timberline reaches up to the middle of the hillsides. The river widens to a calm lake, "Aurdalsvatnet", which is now regulated for hydroelectric power generation. From "Østerbø" the valley becomes steeper and more narrow as it passes downwards to "Vassbygdi" ("vass" = water, "bygd" = settlement, parish). The mountain flanks rise steeply from the bottom of the valley. The river has cut deep gorges, where it is diverted to the south, then turning north again at "Heimrebø", until it resumes it original course to the northwest. From here the river follows a gorge so deep that the valley bottom is impassable. At the depopulated "Almen" region, the valley is partly passable along the river. The valley then gradually widens until it meets "Midjedalen" in "vassbygdi". From here to "Aurlandsvangen", the bottom of the valley is relatively flat and even and the mountain flanks ascend steeply. Access to "Aurlandsvangen" is cut off by "Vassbygdvatnet"; the road bypasses the "Vassbygvatnet" through a tunnel.


Power development and environmental impacts

The "Aurland" river system was estimated to annually produce around 2 billion kW-hr of hydroelectric power. It was developed in the 1970s after a much disputed decision by the Stortinget (the Norwegian Parliament) in 1969. Oslo Lysverker (the Oslo utility) was behind this development. It was promoted as a demonstration of public power development.

The environmental impacts of the hydroelectric development are notable; the great waterfalls in the "Aurlandsdalen" have been silenced. The standing waves, spray and mist from the rapids and waterfalls has been substantially reduced. Due to diversion through tunnels, the water level in the river gorges is drastically reduced; dams restrain the thundering inferno that filled the gorges before the development. There are impacts beyond the loss of scenic beauty as well. The "Aurlandselvi" river is no longer one of the finest salmon rivers in Norway. Farmers no longer drive cattle, pigs and goats to spend the summer at "Østerbø" and "Stemberdalen". The pack horses, formerly a common sight in the valley, as Jon Fimreite and Knut Sønnerheim among others transported provisions and supplies to "Steinbergdalshytta" and "Østerbø", have become part of history.

"Aurlandsdalen" has become like the most of the other valleys, characterized by traffic, tourists and gradual urbanisation. Only the remote "Nesbø-Vassbygdi" region remains mostly undisturbed, if one ignores the strong reduction in the water flow in the "Aurlandselvi" and the visible stretch of highway between "Berdalstunnellen" (Berdal tunnel) and "Nesbøtunnellen" (Nesbø tunnel) visible in the hillside from the path at "Heimrebø".

Aurlandsdalen then and now

All-weather roads

An all-weather road was built through the valley to support the hydropower development. This road also served the purpose of connecting eastern Norway with the western Norway, remaining open all winter and removing dependency upon ferries. It followed, by and large, the old historic route between "Aurland" and "Hol".

Through this road, Bergen was connected to Oslo by way of Voss, Vinje, Nærødalen, Aurland and through "Aurlandsdalen" to "Geiteryggen". From there it passes through "Vierbotn, Sveingardsbotn" along "Strandafjorden" to "Hol" in "Hallingdal". By this road, it was possible to avoid the "Kvanndal Kinsarvik" ferry over the "Hardangerfjord" and the "Hardangervidda", which was difficult to keep open in the winter time. Even though most of the road could be built to standard width, the tunnels between "Vassbygdi" and "Stonndal" were not built to the standard width.

In November 2000 the new "Lærdalstunnellen" between "Aurland" and "Lærdal" opened the route of a new main road between Oslo and Bergen, reducing the impact on "Aurlandsdalen" and limiting further strain. Although the "Aurlandsdalen" road was one of the motivating factors for the 1969 decision, construction of the improved route made the need less important. But the environmental changes are essentially irreversible.

Old traffic arteries

The tracks between "Aurlandsvangen" and "Hol" were by far the shortest routes between eastern Norway and western Norway. From ancient times "Aurlandsdalen" thus was one of the most important connections between Vestlandet and Østlandet. It was only recently that it became possible to drive cattle along the valley floor, made possible by blasting of a new passage, "Sinjarheimsgaldene", in the cliff face at the "Sinjarheim" farm in 1870 and at "Nesbøgaldene" in the 1930s. Before 1930 cattle had to be driven over the mountain from "Nesbø" to "Østerbø". At both "Sinjarheimsgalden" and "Nesbøgaldene" one had use wooden ladders to ascend across the vertical rock faces.

Before 1870 the cattle drives had to take the long detour, either over the "Langfjellet" mountain and down to "Østerbø" or over "Stonndalen" to "Stemberdalen", or alternatively over "Låvidalen" to "Geiteryggen". From there the journey continued down to "Vierbotn" via "Sveingardsbotn" further along "Strandafjorden" to "Hol" in "Hallingdal".

Old tracks

The most important tracks were (see map - the numbers give no indication of their relative importance)::# (Red marking): The old and modern tourist track follows the valley. "Bjødnastigen" was closed for many years due to landslide. It is now possible to choose an alternative route to the path following the river under "Holmen" where the path separates at "Tirtesva" just after passing "Nesbø" farm (red). After the hydropower development, the path was relocated higher up on the hillside from "Steinbergdalshytten" to avoid submersion, proceeding until the new path meets the old path at the bridge across "Grøna". From there the path follows the historic track down the mountainside to "Østerbø":# (Not shown on the map): A historic route passed through "Aurlandsvangen", "Kleppane, Låvi, Låvisdalen", over "Grindsfjellet" mountain, past "Bottolfstølen" and "Raunedokken", over "Repparhaugene", through "Vetledalen" to "Rausmesdalen", further to "Hednedalen" and back to the track from "Vindedalen", and then eastwards to "Geiteryggen" along "Strandafjorden" to "Hol".:# (Orange marking): In "Rausnesdalen" there was a junction to another historic path that was extensively used. It went up to "Fossane, Langevatnet, Mellomvatni, Svartevatnet, Geiteryggen to Strandefjorden".:# (Violet markering): Another historic junction was in the bottom of" Låvisberget" where the track led down to "Vassbygdi" and further to "Midje", up "Nordalen" then turning east and further south east over "Langafonna, Grodalen" and downwards in the "Langedalen" past "Herdestølen" to "Østerbø".:# (Grey marking): An historic route proceeded up the precipitous "Eisingaberget" s) and further over "Langedalsfjellet" one avoided both "Sinjarheimsgalden, Bjønnestigen" and "Nesbøgalden".:# (Green marking): Those who chose to follow the valley had to cross the river at "Almen", proceed along the south side past "Teigen" and then back to the north side over "Bridlebrui" (green).:# (Blue green marking): Still another route proceeded through "Stonndalen". This route was probably in use from about 1850.


The configuration of settlements is typical for the rural farm culture of early Norway. Archeological indications show that the settlements are much older than the written sources indicate – some dating to before the Middle Ages. This section provides detail to allow perspective on the conditions and mores of former times.

As late as in 1850 there were 10 farms and cotters subfarms in Aurlandsdalen altogether:Almen, Sinjareim, Teigen, Berekvam, Skori, Nesbø, Vikaneset, Aurviki and two farms in Aurdalen (Østerbø).


First known farmer was named simply Per, and first appears in records in 1611. The typical name by which he would have been known was Per Sinjarheim (or Per living on Sinjarheim). The last recorded farmer was Ingebrigt Jonassen Rinde born 1873 – died 1935.


The cotters (crofters) subfarm under Sinjarheim was Almen. First known cotter was Magne Sult, also mentioned as Magne Olsen Almen, born 1718 – died 1753. Last resident at Almen was Simon Johannessen Belle born 1830 - died 1912. The farm today consists of a small house, Almastova and a small barn.

Almastova is a small one room jointed timber house at about 3.5 x 4.0 m. It is said that Almastova is the oldest existing wooden building in Aurlandsdalen. According to architect Arne Berg at NIKU the shape of the joints indicate that the building probably was erected about 1600. The building previously had wooden flooring, now lost. Beside the door there is an external chimney of stone masonry.

In 2004 Aurlandsdalen Kulturlandskap (Aurlandsdalen Culture Landscape) by Aurland Naturverkstad (Aurland Nature Workshop) 42.000 N. Kr. (£3,500) from Norsk Kulturminnefond (Norwegian Cultural Monuments Foundation) for restoration of Aalmastova. [ [; Restoration of Almen in 2005 no icon] ]


The earliest recorded farmer was Peder Ellingsen Teigen born 1632 - dead 1661. Last resident is Lars Knudsen Teigen, born 1796 - dead 1848.


The earliest recorded farmer was Gudbrand who pays taxes for Teigen 1603. Last resident was Øystein Olsen Berekvam, born 1901.


No record.


No record.


The earliest recorded farmer was Anders Nesbø, mentioned in documents from 1670. Last resident is Sivert Nesbø born in 1888 and emigrated to America in 1909.


No record.

Urdviki (Aureviki)

The earliest recorded farmer was Elling, mentioned in documents from 1718. Last in Urdviki were the family of Sjur Eriksen Urdvik (Urevik) born 1813 - dead 1850.

Øvstebø (Østerbø)

The earliest recorded farmer was Nils Urdal (Aurdal) who pays land taxes 1632. Dead 1638. Last resident at Østerbø is Knut Mikkelsen Østerbø, born 1846 - dead 1914.


The population in Aurland in 1845 was recorded as 2,811 individuals. Extensive emigration to America, deaths from the Spanish Influenza in 1918-1919 and emigration to the cities, especially in the twentieth century, resulted in a population decrease to 2,193 by 1960. As of 2004 the population had fallen further to 1803 individuals.


:*This article is based on a translation of the Norwegian Wikipedia article with the same name (see interwiki link to the left).


* "Ættebok for Aurland", bind 2 - fram til omlag 1900, Anders Ohnstad. Utgiver: Aurland sogelag. Bergen boktrykk 1964.( Norwegian. Family history for Aurland)
* "Aurland bygdebok", fram til omlag 1920. Anders Ohnstad. Utgiver: Aurland sogelag. Bergen boktrykk 1964. (Norwegian. Settlement history until 1920.

cite book
last =Bach
first =Tron
authorlink =
coauthors =Johannes Gjerdåker
title =Aurlandsdalen: ei kulturhistorisk vandring frå fjell til fjære
publisher =Cappelen
date =1994
location =Oslo
pages =
url =
doi =
id =ISBN 82-02-14675-5
(Cultural history.)

* "Den norske turistforenings årbok 1927". Grøndahl & søns boktrykkeri 1927. (Norwegian. Yearbook for The Norwegian Tourist Association. 1927)

cite book
last =Ohnstad
first =Anders
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =Aurland bygdebok: fra 1835 til 1985
publisher =Aurland sogelag
date =1990
location =Aurland
pages =
url =
doi =
id =ISBN 82-992261-0-4
(Settlement history 1835 - 1985.)

External links

* [ Archives for Sogn og Fjordane] no icon
* [ Aurlandsdalen] no icon
* [ Images from Aurlandsdalen] no icon
* [ Images from Aurlandsdalen] no icon
* [ Images from Aurlandsdalen]
* [ Images from Aurlandsdalen]

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