Sjurhaugfossen was a roadside waterfall flowing on the Lærdalselvi River nestled deep in a gorge.
According to the Norgeskart map, the falls could be as little as 5m tall or if you count all the contour lines over its run, then it could be as much as 15m.
The literature tends to say this waterfall was 10m tall and that salmon can jump the falls to continue upstream.
Other than that, we’re actually not sure what’s so special about this waterfall as it seemed to be nothing more than rapids situated next to a historical route.
The route was part of the so-called Kongevegen (the Royal Road), which was once a steep and dangerous road between the town of Seltun and the famed Borgund Stave Church prior to it being re-routed in the 1870s.
That said, we didn’t have to go on the longer, more historical three-day trek to experience Sjurhaugfossen via the original 1793 road though it would have been more atmospheric .
Anyways, Sjurhaugfossen was kind of our waterfalling excuse to see one of Norway’s largest and best preserved stave churches at Borgund.
We didn’t take very long to experience the Sjurhaugfossen as we pretty much watched it from along the railed lookout areas peering right into the gorge.
We only went as far as the small bridge just upstream of the falls, which provided us a look at the depth of the gorge with the Lærdalselvi still cutting it deeper.
Overall, we wound up spending about 10 minutes before we had our fill and moved on.
The Borgund Stave Church
This could very well be the most well-known of the stave churches in Norway, even though it wasn’t a UNESCO World Heritage site like the ones in Urnes by the Lusterfjord.
However, it was said to have been built in the 12th or 13th centuries, and could very well be the largest as well as best-preserved (i.e. the fewest alterations) of the stave churches left in Norway.
In fact, this stave church and the surrounding infrastructure seemed to accommodate a higher flow of traffic since it sat in the Lærdal Valley along with the high-traffic E16 road.
So this was a busy stave church to say the least.
Due to its size and ability to retain its original form, apparently Borgund Stave Church had been modeled elsewhere such as the reconstruction of the Fantoft Stave Church near Bergen as well as other such churches in Germany and the United States.
The Vindhellavegen Part of the Kongevegen over Filefjell
We saw numerous signs with “Kongevegen” (or King’s Road) on them when we drove along the Fv630 from Borgund Stave Church to Sjurhaugfossen.
We only took this route since we had missed Sjurhaugfossen on our first trip to Norway in 2005, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t blow past it like before.
That meant we took the Fv630 to avoid using the Borgundstunnelen (even though we technically didn’t have to) just so we could slow down and take our time.
Anyways, this road followed the old E16 along Lærdalselvi through small hamlets as well as a small man-modified waterfall on the river itself near a car park at Vindhella.
Upon looking at the signs at Vindhella, that was when I came to realize that there was also a hiking trail that connected Vindhella with Borgund over the Vindhella Pass.
This trail turned out to be a steep 2.7km road following the original route when the Kongevegen opened in 1793 though it had been used before as an old goat trail that became a footpath.
Apparently, due to this heritage, the Vindhellavegen played an important part of the overall Kongevegen winning a couple of different awards – Vakre Vegar Pris and Europa Nostra Cultural Heritage Award.
Maybe on a future trip, we’ll actually do this walk and feel a sense of what earlier travelers wishing to go between eastern and western Norway had to go through.
Sjurhaugfossen was situated to the east of the town of Lærdal (or Lærdalsøyri).
To get there from the sentrum in Lærdal, we pretty much drove east into the Lærdal Valley along the Rv5.
After about 7km, the Rv5 became the E16 (just past the turnoff for the long Lærdalstunnelen).
In another 22km afterwards, we had to turn left onto the Fv630 (Kongevegen) immediately after leaving the Seltatunnelen.
The car park for Sjurhaugfossen was near this turnoff.
Overall, this drive should take less than 30 minutes.
If you’re coming from the Borgund Stave Church, then you can either take the quick way or the Kongevegen way.
For the quick way, you’d go north on the Fv630 for under 2km before heading west on the E16 through the Borgundstunnelen for 4km.
The aforementioned turnoff to get back onto the Fv630 was on the right.
For the Kongevegen route, you’d drive south on the Fv630 for about a little over 6km before you’d park at the car park for Sjurhaugfossen.
For geographical context, Lærdal was about 31km (under 30 minutes drive) south of Årdalstangen, 36km (over 30 minutes drive) north of Aurland, 41km (over 30 minutes drive) north of Flåm, 90km (under 2 hours drive) south of Skjolden, 206km (over 3 hours drive with a ferry crossing) northeast of Bergen, and 284km (over 4 hours drive) northwest of Oslo.
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