We recently had the pleasure of spending a few days in Ulvik, Hardanger. We stayed at Brakanes Hotel located in the village of Ulvik in the innermost part of the Hardangerfjord, the second longest fjord in Norway. Here, deep in the fjords, the village of Ulvik is sourrounded by high mountains, most of them above 900 m.a.s.l.
Ulvik is a “playground” where it is possible to do all kinds of sea-related activities, swimming and beach life, in addition to high mountain hikes and exploring in the valley. As if that was not enough, Ulvik is also the only place in Norway with its own fruit and cider route consisting of three cider producing farms. The Hardanger region stands for 40% of all fruit production in Norway. That means you can taste freshly produced local products, such as cider, and learn more about the traditions of fruit and farm life in many of the old fjord communities. If you are into chasing waterfalls you will be able to do that in Ulvik too.
One reason we wanted to go to Ulvik was to visit the historic and traditional Brakanes Hotel by Fjordtind Hotels. The history of Brakanes Hotel goes all the way back to the 1860s when Brakanes was key to the boat transport between the villages deep in the Hardangerfjord. There was no road leading to Ulvik and all transport was by boat until 1901.
As the years went the family owned Brakanes hotel invested heavily in tourism. During the decades the hotel has developed, expanded, blossomed, and at times struggled as a result of the financial climate in the world. It has gone through challenges such as being bombed into fire during the second world war. The owners made sure Brakanes Hotel was rebuilt, but the architecture of the original wooden villa was gone forever.
The new hotel was completed in 1952 by architect Kristian Bjerknes from Bergen. In the 1960s Brakanes became one of the most prominent fjord hotels in Norway and invested heavily in marketing and improving the service level. Since then the hotel has changed owners, and today the hotel is owned by Fjordtind Hotels.
We had heard that Brakanes Hotel had not only a beach, but also a new sauna, water trampoline, kayaks, SUP boards, and a freshly groomed beach. With its location being in the middle of fjord hiking heaven, this would be the perfect place for us to spend a few days. Not to mention the vast options and possible mix of activities to do. The fun thing about water activities it is just as enjoyable in grey weather as sunshine, something worth considering when holidaying in Norway.
Arriving at Brakanes Hotel is a nice experience as you walk in through the doors and see the maginificent fjord view straight away. What a location! We were drawn to just walk straight through the lobby and into the garden even before checking in. The beautiful patio, garden, and beach belonging to the hotel is impressive, and the fjord and mountain view spectacular.
As coffee lovers we of course went straight to the coffee machine and helped ourselves, as there are a constant offering of freshly brewed coffee, something we appreciate. The sitting area on the ground floor certainly invited us to sit here in the evenings in front of the fire place. Arriving at our room the balcony view was lovely, being on the 2nd floor above the little red boat house.
Link to Brakanes Hotel
Hiking in Ulvik
One reason we wanted to go to Ulvik was of course the fjord hiking opportunities. As with most other villages in Hardanger there are high mountain peaks behind the beautiful fjord sea line. In Ulvik most of the terrain is actually high mountains, and mostly above 900 m.a.s.l. As we are hiking lovers we’ve been wanting to explore more in Ulvik for a while.
We had our eyes on the summits Kvasshovden, Kristinuten, Vetle Vassfjøro, or Midtfjell. These are mountains that offers great views, so we wanted a clear day to do a longer hike. Due to the weather with low clouds and some showers we instead chose to do a lower level hike to a place named Jobykset. And this we did not regret! What a view we got of the beautiful Osafjorden when arriving at Jobykset.
The hike starts from Ulvik village, or it is possible to drive to Tunheim and park the car. The trail is marked and signposted from Tunheim. From there it goes further along the Liavegen (the foot path and tractor road) towards the foot of the mountain Kristinuten and towards the viewpoint called Jobykset. Here the view of the beautiful Osafjorden really is spectacular.
Take care, though, as you enter the cliff area towards the fjord there are no fences to keep you safe, so watch your step, it is steep and far down. On the Liavegen trail from Tunheim to Jobykset you do not climb very much uphill as the tractor trail takes you further east towards Osafjorden.
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The trail from Tunheim to Jobykset is a roundtrip if you want, where the lower route offers a few more viewpoints of Ulvik, whereas the upper trail offers more forrest and a narrower foot path. We recommend doing the roundtrip, although both trails lead to Jobykset.
If you like running this route is a nice one from Ulvik village, run up through the fruit and cider route, to Tunheim, then continue to Jobyset. Another alternative is to walk from Ulvik village to Tunheim to get the nice view of the village, or to hike or run from Tunheim to Jonstøl, a pasture area above Ulvik (footpath only).
Hiking maps are available to buy at the tourist information centre in Ulvik.
A third reason we were excited to go to Ulvik was the many options of renting kayaks and the proximity to beautiful paddling scenery. As Ulvik is located in the inner part of the Hardangerfjord, with a little peninsula in front, the bay named Ulvikapollen has very quiet sea and beautiful surroundings, perfect for kayaking.
Also if you want to go further and is an experienced sea kayaker you can go out through the Ulvikafjorden and into Osafjorden. This looks like a very nice experience in the narrow Osafjorden, the very deepest part of the Hardangerfjord.
Due to the weather and to leave time for the fruit and cider route, we chose the first option and stayed in Ulvikafjorden for our kayaking trip. The sea was so quiet and the reflections so clear. We went around the little island called Snauholmen.
We really enjoyed the feeling of being on the sea looking up at those high mountains around us. From Ulvikapollen the view towards the Fruit and Cider route was nice, as we were looking forward to visiting the hills later the same day. There was a true magic on the fjord this day, and it was like we got to know Ulvik even better seeing it from this angle.
We can highly recommend kayaking when in Ulvik, regardless of level there is something for everyone. There are several options for renting kayaks in Ulvik; you can rent at Brakanes Hotel, at Strand Fjord hotel, from the tourist information, or by contacting Angr Kayaking. We booked our kayaks the night before.
Did you miss our post Sail and hike from Bergen to Kvinnherad ?
Water activities at Brakanes Hotel
At Brakanes Hotel there are several opportunties to stay occupied. There is a beach, sauna, outdoors steam hot tub, SUP, water trampoline and indoor pool. They have good and stable Stand Up Paddle boards (SUP) available for guests to use. This can be a different way to move along the prominade in Ulvik as you can paddle along they key side. Kayaks are also available at the hotel.
The beach at brakanes is fresh and inviting, and here in Ulvik the sea temperature is quite warm compared to the seas and fjords further west. But no matter what temperature the sea is, even if you do not go swimming, you can always get warm in the sauna while you enjoy the beautiful seaview.
If you prefer warm water there is a steambath tub available on the keyside in the hotel garden. During our visit this was temporarily closed due to maintenance. Beautifully situated I can imagine sitting there with a cold cider in the evening must be a good experience. There is also an indoor pool at the hotel that again offers the most amazing seaview from inside.
The shower facilities by the beach was fresh and modern. We appreciated the possibility to rinse off sand and salt before leaving the beach and going back inside. Bath robes area availble to rent at the hotel at a small cost.
The fruit and cider route in Ulvik
A fourth reason we were excited to visit Ulvik was the famous fruit and cider route. There are several fruit and cider producing farms in Hardanger, but the only fruit- and cider-route in Norway lies in Ulvik. The route consists of three farms lying on the sunny hillside above the fjord and village in Ulvik, a perfect setting for growing fruit due to the warm and sunny climate.
The fruit and cider route is a network of the three farms, and offers several unique experiences, and it is possible to walk from farm to farm. We wanted to learn more about the local life on a fruit and cider farm, and about the cider production and development during the years. We visited Syse Gard for a tour and cider tasting session.
Syse Gard is one of the three farms in the established Fruit and Cider route in Ulvik. Hosts are Gro and Hans Uglenes, who run the farm as fifth generation owners, although there are three generations living at Syse Gard at present: Hans’ parents Synnøva and Erling, and Hans and Gro’s children Erling jr., Guro and Ingeborg.
They have about 70 winterfed sheep in addition to growing apples, plums, and cherries on the farm. This means they produce many products such as juice, cider, jam, preserved fruits, and smoked lamb and sausages. Once you arrive at Syse Gard and see the shop selection you understand the range of production that is taking place here. It is not possible to leave Syse Gard empty handed once you have seen all the tempting products.
We joined a tour of about 1 hour on the farm, which started with a taste of fresh cherries straight from the orchard, and a visit to the smoking house where all the meats are dried and smoked. I had never been inside a real smoking house before. We were also told about the local beer they make on the farm, and even got to taste it, a very nice homemade brew. The hops were grown right outside the smokehouse!
We moved on to the orchards and saw the cherries and apples growing right outside their farmhouse. Learning about how the weather and climate affects the production, and more about the cycle involved in the stages of production.
Inside the showroom we sat down, learnt more about the history of the farm, all the products and the daily life on the farm. We heard about the fruit picking, their mountain pasture, and how they smoke meat, produce jam, and make cider. There are different kind of apples used to make different kinds of cider so tasting the cider was interesting. It was fascinating to learn what the process involves, and what a true nature product this kind of cider is. Syse Gard is actually Economuseum Awarded (2013) because of their focus on genuine and authentic production with old traditions and high quality. This means they are committed to show the entire production process from start to end and keeping old traditions and culture alive.
At Syse Gard there is a patio outside with beautiful view of the entire Ulvik valley and fjord, where you can sit and enjoy a bottle of cider or some pure apple juice and smoked meat. The entire experience and cider tasting made a real vineyard feel, in a true Norwegian style.
The cider products from Syse Gard are only sold at the farm outlet. All the other products can be purchase online and in certain selected shops around Bergen. -We did not leave empty handed!
Link to Syse Gard
We think waterfalls is a sign that the scenery is interesting and beautiful, since it requires steep hills and lakes to create one. In Hardanger there are many waterfalls, but it might be worth knowing about them or else they are easy to miss when driving through an area.
When visiting Ulvik you have the option to visit the Skjervsfossen in Granvin, Espelandsfossen, Verafossen, or if you are driving from or to the Hardangervidda, visit the magnificent Vøringsfossen, to name a few. If it is raining chasing waterfalls is a great activity, as you will get a wet spray anyway, and the falls are just as impressive in grey weather.
Did you miss our post Chasing waterfalls enroute to Hardanger ?
Taking a walk around Ulvik village is also a must when visiting. What struck us was the charm with the number of historic buildings, mills, small waterfalls and streams. You can walk along the prominade thinking back to when the English tourists strolled along here in the 1880s. The Olav H. Hauge building is characteristic and also houses a cafe in the cellar with a sea view patio.
To gain some view of the Ulvik valley take a stroll uphill any of the roads, and you will soon get a different view of the village and the fjord.
Ulvik being just 2 hours drive from Bergen, located between fjord and mountains, with all it has to offer, should really be high on your bucket list. We will not hesitate to return, there are still much to see and do in Ulvik that we did not have time to do.
With the climate in Hardanger being warmer and more sunny than in Bergen, there is no reason to hesitate. In fact, the days we spent in Ulvik the weather forecast said rain for most of the time, but we had more sunny spells than rain. According to the locals the rainy clouds might stop further out in the fjord, and not affect the inner areas like Ulvik so much. We experienced the same when we visited Botnen, the very end of the Fyksesund fjord, during our amazing rib boat trip with Hardangerfjord Adventure earlier this summer.
Again we are amazed at all the options we have around us, so near Bergen. We hope to inspire you to make a visit, and please just get in touch if you have any questions. If you go to Ulvik or follow any of our advice, it would be fun to tag us on Instagram and use the hashtag #bergen365 .
During our trip to Ulvik we had the room and breakfast paid for by Fjordtind Hotels, and we got to join the Fruit and Cider tour at Syse Gard free of charge. Neither of them has dictated any of the content in our blog or photos, nor had any influence on what activities we chose to do during our visit.