Telemark is a green region in Southern Norway with an impressive nature. Rugged coastlines, stunning national parks, rocky valleys, forests, waterfalls, and clear lakes are abounding here. Besides its beautiful nature, Telemark is a region with an authentic culture: Folk music, traditions, and old crafts are still very much alive.
With this ideal mix of nature and culture and within easy reach of the cities of Oslo and Bergen, Telemark is a perfect area to enjoy a short holiday. In this article, we will guide you to on how to spend some unforgettable days at the coast, in the green hills and high mountains inland.
Day 1 - from Oslo to Kragerø and Jomfruland
The trip starts in Oslo, Norway's lively capital. From here, drive southward along the Oslofjord to Langesund, one of the area's most well-known coastal towns. Take a stroll in the small centre and cosy harbor. Langøytangen Lighthouse (Langøytangen fyr) is the local landmark of Langesund, located on the idyllic island of Langøya, that is just miles north of Langesund. Here you find a nice walking trail, swimming beaches, and fishing grounds, perfect to spend the day.
Tip! If you love cheese, head to the cheese factory Langesund Ostemakeri, located in the center of Langesund. It produces and sells delicious local cheeses!
Continue exploring the coast farther on. A short drive of 45 minutes brings you to the harbour town of Kragerø (45 minutes). It is a colorful, picturesque village featuring charming white and wooden painted houses, floating boats, and mountains in the background. You can enjoy cycling, sailing, walking, or relaxing on the many sandy beaches that dot the coast nearby.
Ferries can bring you out to the islands outside Kragerø. The island of Jomfruland is especially fascinating, with its pebble stone beach on one side and sandy beaches on the other side.
The ferry ride from Kragerø to the island of Jomfruland is 30 minutes!
Day 2 - a journey on the historic Telemark Canal
Today it is time to explore Norway's green country side of Telemark and in particular the Telemark canal. It is a 105km-long stretch of lakes and canals that connect the town of Skien with Dalen. The channel is a living heritage site. It has 18 old lock systems preserved in their original form. Most of them are still operated manually. A popular activity is making a cruise - in beautiful, antique-looking boats - on the canal. You will sail through a beautiful landscape passing former lock-keeper houses and guards' cottages that proudly stand on the channel's banks. You can start the cruise in Skien or Ulefoss (which is 30-minutes drive further north).
If you prefer to experience the canal actively, opt for biking the 'Kanalruta' along the Telemark Canal. It goes all up to Dalen, but you can, of course, also bike a part of it. Besides, you can explore the lakes of the Telemark canal in a canoe. In Lunde (15 minutes from Ulefoss), you can rent all types of canoes at the Telemark Kanalcamping.
From Ulefoss, it is a short ride up north to Gvarv (15 minutes), Norway's fruit village and capital of apple production. Spend time picking raspberries, cherries, and gooseberries, tasting homemade ciders and buying fruits and baked goods at farm shops. Meet the farmers, see what they are making and bring them home directly from the farm where they are produced.
Don't miss a visit to the world's northernmost vineyard Lerkekåsa winery and gallery to sip their exquisite wine. You can even stay here for a night in an exclusive wine barrel. Gvarv is hosting every year The Norwegian Apple Festival on the last Saturday in September. So if you’re visiting the area end September, plan to join this wonderful festival.
Day 3 - Rjukan and Gaustatoppen
Today you drive further inland up to the higher mountains. But not before making a short stop in the quiet town Notodden. It is idyllically located and offers lots of outdoor sports, yet the main highlight of the town is the Heddal Stave Church, a beautiful building from the 13th century, a must-see on your trip to Southern Norway. The many turrets and roofs make the building very photogenic and an fabulous example of stave church architecture in Norway. The town attracts as well many visitors during its Blues Festival that is held every year, early August. It is one of the largest blues music festivals in Europe.
Continue the ride in the direction of Rjukan, a UNESCO heritage site! The town is surrounded by steep mountains and goes without direct sunlight for almost six months of the year. However, in 2013 this has changed! An ingenious set of mirrors was installed on the mountain, reflecting sunlight onto the town square to give locals some lightness on dark winter days.
Just before arriving at Rjukan, you will find the Gaustabanen. This cable car takes you in 15 minutes to the Gaustatoppen at 1,883 meters, Telemark's highest mountain. The mountain tramway runs inside the mountains and was initially built as a secret military facility. Going up thought the mountains is a unique experience. Once at the top, you can overlook the surrounding landscapes with clear blue lakes and colorful forests. In summer, the hike from Stavsro to Gaustatoppen is a wonderful tour. It is suitable for most people and takes about 3 hours. A good option is to hike up and go by cable car down!
If you come in winter, you can either take the cable car and ski down or head to the nearby resort town Gausta and take the chairlifts up the slope for lots of ski fun.
Did you know?
Telemark is the birthplace of skiing! The region got its name because of the graceful style of skiing known as Telemark skiing. It dates back to when skiing was a form of transport, and chair lifts were just a dream.
Day 4 Hiking in Hardangervidda
Today you can enjoy another day of outdoor adventure! Rjukan is the southern gateway to Hardangervidda National Park. This large mountain plateau is well-prepared for hikes in summer and cross country skiing during winter. You will find marked trails for wonderful day trips in nature.
A famous day hike is walking the Solstien (The sun path). You start with the cable car Krossobanen and go up to Gvepseborg - the foot of Hardangervidda. It is a short hike, ideal for families!
Another pleasant hike is walking the Saboteur trail. This is the path the world-famous Norwegian resistance used during World War II. The tour starts from Rjukan Fjellstue and is 8 km in total through spectacular nature and with some stunning views. If you got warmed up during your walks, you can even go for a swim in a bright blue mountain lake!
Day 5 Drive back to Oslo
Before heading back to Oslo, take some time to explore Telemark's rich culinary traditions. Food production is blooming across the entire county of Telemark. Coastal Telemark provides shellfish and fish, while farmers inland produce fruit, juice, pastries, bread, and exquisite cheese. Just 12 km west of Rjukan in Bergstaulen Seter, you can try the typical Norwegian brown cheese, but a very special one. The brown cheese of this farm has been award as the world's 2nd best cheese in 2018! Packed with local treats, start your trip back to Oslo (via Drammen). It will take about 2.5 hours.
How to get there and go around?
Telemark is within short reach of the cities of Oslo and Bergen, allowing easy flight connections from the main European cities. To get around, it is advisable to rent a car to get comfortable around along the coast and inland and enjoy the quiet roads in beautiful nature.
Where to stay?
Telemark has a rich assortment of accommodations from hotels, cabins, apartments, small B&B and family friendly camping and glamping. You will something suitable to your needs. One thing is sure you will be close to nature! Whatever type of accommodation you prefer or how strong your sense of adventure, you can be assured that you will not be disappointed.