The deep valley rich in history...
The history – in short
The valley Lærdal was inhabited and used by man already 6000 years ago (4000 BC). In Lærdal we find the first trace of man in the mountain area in Norway. Lærdal has always been the traffic artery between east and west in southern Norway. From the earliest times, the traffic traveled along paths, while the first organized road was the public postal route that came across Filefjell and through Lærdal in 1647.
In the 1780s and 90s, the Kingsroad was built across Filefjell and through Lærdal for carriage by horse and cart, and in the 1840s a new road was built that was connected to the Kingsroad – «Den Bergenske Hovedvej». In the 1870s, when dynamite was possible to use in road construction, even new roads came, partly built along Lærdalselvi (The river). Therefore, there are at least five generations of road construction through Lærdal today. Many tens of kilometers of these roads are intact. Several sections were delivered by the Directorate for Cultural Heritage in 2009. The King's Road over Filefjell has also won several prizes, between the national «Beautiful Road's Prize» in 2014 and the Europa Nostra Prize for Best Preserving Cultural Heritage in 2017. These historic roads are very popular hiking trails.
From the Middle Ages, the beach site town at the bottom of the valley (today's Lærdalsøyri) developed to a natural marketplace. The inner part of the Sognefjord is located in the middle of southern Norway, about midway between the coastline and the Swedish border. The seaway was to be preferred, and transport to inner parts of the eastern of Norway usually went from the innermost fjord boats, and here Lærdal had a favorable location, which led to the function as a market place and traffic hub. Here the traffic changed from sea to shore or vice versa. This is why a large market was arranged every year. Coastal farmers came with herring and fish and exchanged goods with the mountain farmers from Valdres, Hallingdal and Gudbrandsdalen.
This Lærdal market is first mentioned as early as in 1596, and later also functioned as a cultural event with dance and an annual party game for the Norwegian national music. More recent research has given proofs of trade and production way earlier – on Bjørkum about 15 kilometres east of the centre of Laerdal archaeologists found traces of such activity before and during the Viking Age (Some time between 650 and 950 AD). Also in the western parts of Hemsedalsfjellet traces of crafts from as early as the Stone Age is found.
The Lærdal market is being held today with the main market on the third weekend in June, the autumn market last weekend in September and the Christmas market in late November. In the 1800s, Lærdalsøyri was so vigilant that the authorities had plans giving Lærdal status as city ready in 1841. Nevertheless, the plans never was effectuated.
Representatives from Bergen City traveled to Eidsvoll in the spring of 1814 with a shuttle boat to Lærdalsøyri and then on with horse and cart across the mountain. This was the fastest route to the constitution assembly – Norway got its constitution the 17th of May the same year. And – soldiers from Trøndelag (mid-Norway) sailed to Lærdalsøyri to provide the danes war assistance in 1864. This was the fastest road to the mobilization area at Gardermoen.
When the Presidency Acts came on 1st of January 1838, Lærdal was established as a municipality consisting of Lærdal, Borgund and Årdal. In 1860, Årdal was separated as its own municipality, and four years later Borgund also became its own municipality. On January 1st, 1964, Borgund was merged with Lærdal again, as well as parts of the fjord hamlet Strendene, which then belonged to Årdal. In 1992, Frønningen was divorced from Leikanger and added to Lærdal.
In January 2014, Lærdalsøyri (the center of Lærdal) was hit by a big city fire. Some of the houses in the protected areas were lost in the fire, between others «Synneva Eri's house», which had the status of protection.
Lærdals has almost 2 200 inhabitants, just over half lives in or near the center. The rest of the inhabitants are spread up the valley in the neighboring hamlets of Tønjum, Ljøsne, Borgund and the fjord villages Erdal, Vindedal, Strendene and Frønningen - here there are mainly farms of different sizes with some housing estates in between. Since the local hospital for Sogn (the region of which Lærdal is located, as one of eight municipalities) is in Lærdal, many of the inhabitants work within the health sector. Lærdal also has an innovative agriculture. Growing og berries, fruit and vegetables - more than half of all the sweet cherries that are produced in Norway is grown in Lærdal; Also raspberries, carrots and potatoes are there large productions of. Elsewise there are many sheep farms - some in combination with green production, and there is also some milk and / or beef production.
There are also some larger construction companies in the village, and the tourism industry has grown the past few years. Otherwise, it is a mixed business structure.
When it comes to leisure and activities, Lærdal is a mecca for nature- and culture lovers. Lærdalselvi is one of Norway's most famous salmon rivers in the country with proud traditions back to the last half of the 19th century, when money-rich British salmon tourists started to find their way to the village. For many of the farmers, renting out of salmon fishing was an important income. The river was ascertained infected with the salmon parasite Gyrodactulus salaris in 1996, and in one period of well over 20 years the river had status as infected - in several periods the river was then closed for fishing. After several rounds of treatments, the river was declared healthy again in 2017, and it is now ordinary fishing for salmon and sea trout.
Lærdal also has attractive trout fishing - both in mountain lakes and the Borgund river (the upper part of Lærdalselvi, which the salmons does not arrive to because of steep waterfalls in between). For those interested in hunting, Lærdal also has a lot to offer; There is a strong culture for both deer hunting and reindeer hunting, partly also grouse hunting. The largest reindeer herd in the Lærdal mountains, in the area Nordfjella, got proven the deadly and transmittable sickness CWD in 2016 and the whole herd of almost 2,500 reindeer were removed by professional hunters by two years. The herd is scheduled to be re-established, most recently from 2023.
The deer herd has also been hunted intensively to reduce the number of deers with regard to potential spread of infection - this should be reduced to half of the 2016-level until 2021 the scientists has advices.
It is close between the steep hiking trails through the valley - for anyone who wants to trim up the mountainsides or just get the bird's eye view over the valley and the fjord. Popular, city-centered destinations such as Torsteinen / Oftedalen, Storehaugen and Hogneåsen can be mentioned. There are also many nice cycling routes in the valley - on asphalt along the road with little traffic as the road structure has redesigned several times in many rounds; here, between others Lærdalsøyri - Vindedalen and along old E16 from Bjørkum up to Filefjell (one must visit «new E16» on a few shorter distances). Also the gravel road / construction road into Raasdalen and up into Lærdal statsalmenning is popular to bicycle among those who want to have a tough challenge (Around 1500 height metres from Ljøsne to the road ends at Kvevotni).
There is a lot excitement to look at in Lærdal - the unique wooden house environment at Gamle Lærdalsøyri, Borgund stave church and the Norwegian wild salmon center, to name a few - more info about this, whether one wants to fish, hike or cycle underneath «Attractions and shopping».
Lærdal also has many fine and varied events and arrangements throughout the year - markets, food and music festivals and sports events, to mention some. On this website you will gain insight into and overview of the largest events in the village.