Sunnhordland is where the wild sea meets quiet mountain plateaus, the
weatherbeaten skerries and rich farmlands, sheltered countryside, cold
glaciers and one of the country’s mightiest waterfalls, high-tech
facilities and monuments from the Stone Age, Iron Age, Bronze Age and
Here you can go skiing in perpetual snow, swim in the sea, fish for
trout in the rivers and for pollack in the sea, all in one day! From
thousand of islands in the sea to the glacier Folgefonna towering to
the east, Sunnhordland emerges as a diverse and challenging kingdom,
where history, nature and culture blend. There are many small and large
pearls here which together make up a beautiful piece of jewellery. And
it’s all there for you to enjoy! In this fact guide you will find the
information you need to spend your holidays in Sunnhordland.
Sunnhordland has some of the finest and most distinctive scenery in
Norway. In a few hours you can travel from open waters and the dramatic
ocean through a fascinating fjord landscape and end up on “Norway’s
roof”. Sunnhordland’s natural beauty lies ready and waiting for those
who are looking for exciting experiences and wish to explore it.
the outermost part of the region, the landscape is dominated by the
ocean and the coastline. Imagine watching the ocean waves pounding
against the rocks at Bømlo or in Austevoll. Or perhaps you find it more
tempting to watch the sun go down over the sea from Ryvarden
lighthouse? No matter the weather, a trip to these barren but vibrant
areas of our region will prove an unforgettable experience.
The fjord and the islands
As you move further inland, a
fascinating island and fjord kingdom opens up before your eyes. There
are thousands of large and small islands in the region - all of them
marked by the friendly and hospitable character of the people of
Sunnhordland. Norway’s second longest fjord – the Hardangerfjord –
starts in Sunnhordland. This 179-km-long fjord, often called the ”Queen
of the Norwegian fjords”, also contributes to the distinctive character
of the region.
Mountains and glacier
Furthest inland in the region, the
mighty Sunnhordland mountains tower heavenwards, with some peaks as
tall as 1700 metres. The mountains surround Norway’s third largest
glacier – Folgefonna. This magnificent glacier is “spread” over the
mountains of the Folgefonna peninsula like the icing on a cake. Some of
Norway’s most spectacular waterfalls cascade down the mountainsides.
Folgefonna National Park, the 25th national park in Norway, was opened
here in summer 2005.
Like its distinctive and varied scenery,
Sunnhordland also has a varied history for visitors to explore.
Sunnhordland was one of the first areas to be settled in Norway, and up
through the ages the area has had a special place in the country’s
history. That is why Sunnhordland is one of the areas with most ancient
monuments and the richest cultural heritage, dating back thousands of
Fishermen, hunters and boatbuilders
Fishing and hunting
have always been important when people have settled in an area. This is
also true of Sunnhordland, whose inhabitants have shown great prowess
in exploiting the area’s natural resources. Fish from the sea and the
fjords and game from bountiful hunting grounds have always been
important to people in this part of Hordaland. The people of
Sunnhordland have always been a travelling people, and boatbuilding
became an important activity early in the area’s history. It is still
an important industry, although nowadays they build modern ships and
the world’s biggest oil installations.
The people of Sunnhordland have always been
god-fearing – both in old Norse times and in more recent times. It was
no accident, therefore, that Olav Trygvason choose to go ashore in
Moster in 995 AD in order to take over the throne and start the
Christianisation of Norway. Moster is still home to one of the oldest
churches in Norway – Moster Old Church. Erling Skakke built Halsnøy
Monastery on the island of Halsnøy, one of the mightiest Augustinian
monasteries in Norway’s history.
The Viking era and the nobility
Given its central
location, it was almost inevitable that Sunnhordland would come to
occupy a prominent place during the Viking era. The region became a
central base for Viking chieftains who often went raiding in the west.
There are many places, therefore, where relics of this era can be seen.
The aristocracy subsequently made their presence felt and the building
of the Barony Rosendal was completed in 1665 – the only one of its kind
However, the most important element in any
region is the people themselves. The great activity that has
characterised Sunnhordland has of course created the basis for a lively
folk culture, which has fortunately been nurtured and maintained
throughout the region.