Stalheim is a truly amazing place and so worth a visit! It’s a small place with massive mountains and impressive scenery only 2 hours drive from Bergen.
Located between Voss and Aurland it lies at the entrance to the UNESCO world heritage area of the Nærøyfjord, and has unbelievable opportunities for exploring the valley, the fjords and the mountains.
We have been to the area several times for skitouring in Jordalen during the spring time, however, we have never stayed at Stalheim Hotel before. Courious about skiing in Jordalen? Then you might like our post about skitouring to Skarsnosi.
It is not without reason that the Nærøy Valley all the way up to Stalheim Hotel has been added to UNESCOs World Heritage List. This area is truly amazing, like being in a postcard!
Stalheim is a natural stop enroute when travelling to or from Bergen to several locations in Norway, and in fact, this is the reason why the location at Stalheim became the perfect Hotel location.
Stalheim has an interesting history dating back to the Middle Ages when the old Stalheim had a “coaching inn” and several guest houses on this piece of land.
No wonder this was a popular location for an overnight stop, with the impressive view and feeling of being high up in the valley. Because of this Stalheim Hotel also became a popular location for artists and travelers from all over the world.
But Stalheim Hotel was also marked by tragedies; the first 3 hotels all burnt down to the ground, then rebuilt. After the last fire in 1959 the hotel that is there today was built in 1960 and has stood ever since.
When the new hotel re-opened in 1960 it quickly became known as the place to stop for lunch or dinner in the area. Particularly day-tourist who stayed in huts nearby or passing through always made sure they had time for stop for lunch at Stalheim. We found the breakfast and dinner to be of high quality and appreciated the white table cloths and fine level of the service.
Read about Stalheim Hotel’s history here.
The first thing that strikes you when arriving at Stalheim is the impressive location of the big red hotel building and the amazing scenery around it. One can easily understand why Stalheim has become known worldwide for not only its incredible location and views, but also for all opportunities in the area and the great food at the hotel.
Once you enter the hotel and step through the reception and lounge area a huge terrasse with the view of the valley meets you.
Do not be worried about grey or rainy weather during your stay at Stalheim, as the area is really mystical and impressive in all kinds of weather. One perfect thing to do in grey weather, especially in the springtime, is chasing the waterfalls around Stalheim. There are two particularly beautiful waterfalls within walking distance from the hotel.
Descriptions of chasing waterfalls at Stalheim follow later in this post (see below).
Read more about Stalheim Hotel here.
Exploring the area around Stalheim Hotel
We were lucky to have a sponsored stay at Stalheim Hotel and managed to spend the time well. During our stay we did hiking in the area, fjord hiking by the Aurlandsfjord, visited the historic sites at Stalheim, including trenches from the World War II, explored the Stalheimskleiva road, and chased the two magnificent waterfalls!
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Waterfalls and winding roads
The area around Stalheim Hotel is just impressive. There are two high waterfalls and the old road named Stalheimskleiva is twisting its way down the valley from the Hotel.
At the bottom of the Nærøy Valley below Stalheim Hotel you find the Stalheimselvi river and the waterfall of Stalheimsfossen. This waterfall is created by the gushing waters of Stalheimselvi river. The river pours over the cliffs next to Stalheim creating a vertical drop of 126 meters.
The Stalheimsfossen waterfall
To reach Stalheimsfossen you can walk approx. 30 mins from Stalheim Hotel down the Stalheimskleiva road all the way to the bottom of the valley, then another 10 minutes along Stalheimselvi river into the waterfall.
An alternative is to go by car down the main road from Stalheim to the bottom of the valley. The walk starts where the new E16 main road meets the old Stalheimskleiva road (closed for maintenance per 2022). This allows for only the short walk off approx. 1,5 kilometres along the river and into the fall.
In the springtime and early summer the waterfalls are especially impressive, as you have the snow melting in the high mountains creating real gushing waterfalls. Later in the year, especially if the weather is dry for a while you might not find the waterfalls as big and powerful.
It is possible to walk from Stalheim Hotel down the Stalheimskleiva, the old winding road that goes down to the valley. Stalheimskleiva is an interesting sight with 14 turns winding its way up the hillside. When hiking to Nåli you can view the Stalheimskleiva from a distance.
A few turns down you will find World War II history with an old trench used by the Germans during the occupation of Norway (1940-1945). Step inside and imagine being there a German soldier keeping a watch out for attacks.
In fact, during the restauration of the road there has been found a whole lot of old explosives hidden within the brick wall of the road. The Germans must have made this as a trap ready to be blown if the allied would attack by arriving through the Stalheimskleiva route. This part of the road is named «Minesvingen». You can read more about the roadworks at Stalheimskleiva here.
Stalheimskleiva road also takes you to where you can view the Sivlefossen.
In other words, walking the Stalheimskleiva road is a bit of a tour worth taking, but you need to watch out for the trenches as they can easily be missed as part of the terrain.
Read more about Stalheimskleiva on Stalheim Hotel’s web page.
The Sivlefossen is 142 metres long and can be seen a few turns down the Stalheimskleiva road. We could see the waterfall well from the distance at the side of the road. Make a note of the fact that one cannot drive the Stalheimskleiva road due to maintenance, so one has to walk from Stalheim Hotel or up from the bottow of the valley.
Sivlefossen is created by the river from Brekkedalen, the valley north of Stalheim Hotel. There is another footpath leading into Brekkedalen that we will explore next time. However, we did go past the river of Sivlefossen when hiking to Nåli and could see the waterfall from above, just near the Sivle Gard.
Hiking from Stalheim Hotel to Nåli
A really nice hike from Stalheim Hotel is the route to Nåli. It gives you a great view of the Stalheim area, including the majestic Stalheimskleiva road, the Stalheimsfossen waterfall, and not least the Nærøy Valley and the mountains. One also sees so clearly how spectacular of a location Stalheim Hotel really is!
The hike is not very demanding and does not have a lot of uphill, but takes you along the ridge of the mountain almost at the same height above the valley as Stalheim hotel. It requires some experience of hiking in uneven terrain as the footpath is narrow in some steep areas where there is no real barrier to the cliffs.
You get an impression of how it must have been like to live here in the old days. The route takes you past Sivle Gard which also hosts guests. The rural area is really pretty, and we did not meet any other people during the hike except the farmer on Sivle Gard.
As you hike along the path you will get to a few pretty viewpoints with great views of the entire area. The highest point was about 500 m.a.s.l. and the hike was about 2,8 kilometers each way. We made it to Nåli in about 30 minutes and took our time stopping at the different viewpoints on our way back.
Nåli means “needle” and was an old homestead located halfway between Stalheim and Jordalen. It was inhabited from approximately 1870 until 1930, and was a popular place to stop for a break on the route between the two valleys.
We recommend doing the hike to Nåli upon arriving at Stalheim after a long ride in the car or bus, or if you are a morning person it is the perfect morning hike. For someone used to running on trails the route to Nåli can also be recommended for running.
Since we are used to hiking for us this was an enjoyable easy hike with nice views, more than a hike for the sake of exercise. The surroundings are impressive, and we even saw a golden eagle, apparently not unusual in the area!
Stalheim Hotel has also described the hike to Nåli. There are several hiking options right outside Stalheim Hotel, something for everyone, including Brekkenipa, Fyresnipa and Stalheimsnipa. Here you can read about DNTs hike to Nåli.
Fjordhiking by the world famous Aurlandsfjord – Stigen Gard and Beitelen
What an amazing experience!
Imagine hiking straight up from a tiny key by the fjord, only accessible by boat, on a steep footpath up the hill to 400 m.a.s.l and then arriving at an old farm almost completely self-supplied with produce.
The scenery, the mountains and the fjords are just spectacular. We suddenly found ourselves on the path to the olf farm Stigen Gard above one of the most impressive fjords in the world!
We drove from Stalheim Hotel in the morning and arrived in Undredal 30 minutes later (30 kilometres). From Undredal key we had arranged for a private boat transfer to the small private key by the shore below the farm Stigen Gard from where we could access the footpath. The boat ride took about 15 minutes from Undredal. One can also access stigen by kayaking or by boat from Gudvangen, Aurlandsvangen, or Flåm.
With plenty of wind and sea this morning our waterproof clothes came well into use during the boat transfer. However, safely at shore we quickly had to undress during our climb up toward Stigen Gard.
The footpath is steep and requires experience of hiking in steep and uneven terrain. You also need proper hiking shoes or boots. However, there is no need to do climbing a such, but it is probably an advantage if you are not afraid of heights.
Once up by the Stigen Gard (at about 400 m.a.s.l.) we stayed outside the property (which is private) and found a nice viewpoint overlooking the fjord and the farm area. Here you can write your name in the book in the post box. We spent about 40 minutes from the bottom to the farm, including plenty of stops to take photos.
From the farm it is possible to continue higher up where you can reach Beitelen (675 m.a.s.l). You continue up behind the lower farm and get even more impression of how the farm life up here must have been.
Then you arrive at the Nye Stigen Gard (the New Stigen farm) located in between the mountain cliffs above the fjord. The footpath to Beitelen continues past here and there are sign posts along the way. Read more about Beitelen here.
From the top of Beitelen you get even more spectacular views of the fjords. Here you find yourself in the middle of where the Nærøyfjord meets the Aurlandfjord and they both meet the rest of the Sognefjord.
The Stigen Gard farm lies on this fjord mountain shelf all by itself, and probably dates back to the years before the Black Death in 1349. After about 200 years, in around 1600s, the area around the farm was restored and farmers started to live there again.
The soil was particularly fruitful due to the optimal location of the mountain shelves and the orientation towards the sun. The farm was divided in two, the upper and lower Stigen farms.
In the 1700s the farmers were allowed to buy the land and could avoid the expensive taxes to the state. This led to a better and more contingent operation of the two farms.
In 1845 there were two families living at Stigen Gard, in total 19 people. If you want to read more about the history you can visit Fylkesarkivet leksion here.
Stigen Gard is now run by Dee Cunningham and Hege Strømme who took over the farm in 1992. Since then they have invested a lot in restoring it after 20 years of neglect. It is possible to book overnight stays at Stigen Gard, combined with for example kayaking.
After returning by boat to Undredal we enjoyed a stroll around the picturesque village before returning to Stalheim Hotel where we continued our lovely stay.
Stay tuned as this post will soon be updated!