“This place looks like straight out of a storybook,” I exclaimed as our rib-boat approached the village of Undredal right in the middle of the World Heritage area.
No wonder breathtaking Norwegian landscape of the village of Undredal along Sognefjord and UNESCO Nærøyfjord served as the inspiration for Frozen, Disney Movie.
Undredal – First Impressions
We arrived at teensy-weensy, stunningly gorgeous and rustic village down by the Nærøyfjord superlatively tucked in a valley in Western Norway.
The bunch of colorful houses lying synchronously speak about the social bonding here. With a population of just around 100 people and about 500 goats, Undredal is famous for its authentic goat cheese that’s produced locally by traditional methods. Yes, they have 5 goats per inhabitant in Undredal.
Geographically, Undredal is located in Aurland municipality in Sogn og Fjordane, Norway. The tiny town strategically sits along the Aurlandsfjord, the arm of Norway’s’ longest and deepest fjord, Sognefjord. Aurlandsfjord extends into Nærøyfjord towards the south.
Our journey to Undredal started with a Heritage Taste Fjord Safari on the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord from Flam to Gudvangen. We wore the floatation suits, gloves, glasses, beanies and shoes provided by the tour operator. Our guide, Mark explained the safety conditions.
Fun Fact: The narrowest arm of Sognefjord, Nærøyfjord is one of the most dramatic fjords in Norway. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our rib-boat cruised tantivy through towering cliffs, charming hillside farms, drooping valleys, stunning and myriad gushing waterfalls (Kjelfossen being the most imposing), aquatic wildlife (seals amused us with their game of hide-and-seek), and twee fjord villages.
The water of Norwegian fjords is a gorgeous turquoise color. It looks all the more ravishing as the summer sun shines on it. We were transfixed by the stunning nature and the fjord landscape.
The best part was to see goats roaming free over the fjord-side slopes around the village. Our guide told us that the villagers leave them here in summer to graze freely on the grassy slopes of the fjord mountainsides and take them back as the winter approaches.
“Don’t they fall down into the fjord?” Mini-me asked the guide. “We rescue the goats if they fall in the fjord while grazing which is very rare,” answered the guide.” Our guide, Mark shared a lot of interesting facts and tales about Undredal and the Norwegian fjords.
Our turbo boat sailed along Aurlandsfjord further into Nærøyfjord towards Gudvangen, our returning point. It turned again into Aurlandsfjord towards the magical fjord town of Undredal.
Undredal Goat Cheese – Undredalsosten
The most iconic cheese of Norway, Brunost or brown cheese is a traditional goat cheese prepared from the leftover whey (white cheese byproduct).
The whey is boiled for hours to the point of caramelization of lactose sugar and thickening of whey.
Brown cheese is produced all across Norway but Western Norway is the hub of brown cheese production. You’ll find dairy farms snuggled against the beautiful mountainsides. They have been rearing goats and producing goat cheese for ages.
Undredal is known as the capital of this Norwegian specialty, brown cheese or Brunost. The locals of Undredal have done a great job in preserving the culture. They even have put up a statue of goat in the heart of the town to respect their legacy.
The locals of Undredal even celebrate their cheesemaking tradition once in two years around July as Geitostfestivalen (Norway’s greatest brown cheese festival) where they host interesting activities, live music, cheese tasting sessions, and farmer’s market.
We visited Eldhuset museum that showcases the entire process of cheesemaking and its history. We attended a program – Eldhuset Cookhouse where our pleasant host narrated the folk tales about goat cheese production and pasture farming traditions.
He sang a beautiful Norwegian Song to put across his thoughts. His sense of humor made the tales of the past and present all the more interesting.
Note: Eldhuset is open between May 1st to September 30th.
We were told that three varieties of cheese viz. Brown Undredal or Brunost (geitost); White Undredal (fresh and aged) and Brown Sweet are made here at around eight farms from the milk of a goat.
Brown cheese is sugary and so creamy that it melts in the mouth. It is served as thin slices and is eaten with butter as breakfast. White Undredal comes in two varieties – fresh and aged. Sogna, the traditional unsalted white cheese is the regional specialty.
All the varieties of cheese are made from unpasteurized and raw goat milk. Undredal Stølsysteri’s efforts to preserve the artisanal traditional raw milk cheese methods made it the first authorized raw goat milk cooperative dairy in Norway.
We savored the varieties of local cheese, smoked goat meet sausage, two varieties of local fruit juices and varieties of jams.
We picked up a few varieties of cheese from the local cheese center – Undredalsbui.
Other Places to Visit in Undredal
There’s not much to see in Undredal except its virgin natural beauty. Do your eyes crave for more than its immense natural beauty? Nah.
A guided tour by Undredal Guideservice takes you through the tiny town. You can talk to locals about the goat cheese tradition and challenges of agriculture in the region.
The tour starts with a Norwegian medieval wooden church, Stave Church. Undredal is known for the Stave Church which is the smallest church in Nordics and oldest one in Norway. The church was built around 1147.
The tour proceeds with a visit to an old school. The chef-d’œuvre of the tour is a beautiful stroll along the raging river and breathtaking fjord.
How to Reach Undredal
Undredal is around 10 miles (16 km) from Flåm. Flåm can be reached by car, cab, bus, train or boat from Oslo and Bergen. The nearest airport is Sogndal Airport, Haukåsen.
Up until 1988, Undredal was quite isolated. It was accessible only by boat through Flåm and Gudvangen.
The tiny town is now accessible by the ferry or boat between Flåm and Gudvangen and also by car or bus through E16.
The village is connected from Flam to Voss and Bergen towards West and Laerdal and Oslo towards East by the beautiful road with endless tunnels.
We visited the village via one of the most dramatic and popular fjords – Nærøyfjord by boat. A fjord safari with a stop at Undredal is a great option to explore this fairytale town.
The fact that it was inaccessible helped villagers preserving the local tradition. The ferry tours with a stop at Undredal and the Norwegian road connection actually have threatened the serenity of the quaint town. At the same time, the connectivity has paved a road to development for Undredal.
Travelers and tourist should understand the essence of responsible tourism and aim to improve the livelihoods of locals by boosting their local business.
As long as they practice the words “Take only pictures, leave footprints only” Undredal will remain as is – charming and idyllic.
Where to Stay in Undredal
Undredal has a handful of utterly charming stay options. I’d strongly recommend staying in one of the homestays in this cute fjord village overlooking the picturesque Aurlandsfjord over Flam.
Imagine staying at a place where the only sound you hear is of the waterfalls falling gently into the mighty fjord and the only sight you witness is of the pristine nature.
Here’s a list of places to stay in Undredal.
Visit Undredal Valley
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Best Time to Visit Undredal
Undredal is best visited in summer between June to August. Though, the tourists flock during these months being the peak season. I’d say visit during the shoulder season (mid-May to early June) to ditch the crowds and enjoy Undredal at its best – peaceful and quiet.
Undredal might be small but packs a lot of punch. There’s something special about it. A village nestled in the mountains by the deep fjords dotted with colorful wooden houses, I mean, you can’t escape its charm.
What are you thinking about now? Pack your bags and get ready to experience the Norwegian fjords and the village of Undredal in Norway! Wait! You might need a Schengen Visa (Europe Visa) for Norway. Read our ultimate guide to Schengen Visa that strives to make the visa process a cake-walk for you.
Like Undredal, there are a couple of other small fairy-tale villages along the Norwegian fjords. Have you been to any?
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