the mountain with an elevator inside
Looking at the impressive Gaustatoppen from far and close, from the inside and finally also from the top
The most impressive mountain in Norway?
On the way back from our stay at the Dalen hotel (see there), we decided to drive a bit further north to Rjukan in the Telemark county to get an impression of that region, its highest mountain Gaustatoppen, but also the sun-mirror-installation in the city center we had heard about.
When we approached Rjukan, the road winds down from the high plateau at Møsvatn and passes by a famous water power station: here the Nazis produced heavy water and tried to transport it to Germany in their attempt to build an atomic bomb. Luckily they did not succeed, because they were sabotaged by the Norwegian resistance a couple of times.
The impressive building has not changed much since then and there are still water power stations that operate today. In the formerly biggest power station in the world (1911) is now a museum that hosts plenty of exhibition items from back in the days and, more interesting, explains in detail the history around the heavy water produced here.
Krossobanen Cable Car
We decided to take the cable car, called Krossobanen which takes you up to the foot of the Hardangervidda.
Little fun fact: It was the first cable car in Northern Europe build in 1928 by the company Norsk Hydro. The simple reason for building it was to give the people living in the town (and mainly working for the company) the chance to go up to this platform to see the sun during wintertime. So you really can imagine, that it is a pretty narrow valley Rjukan is located in. I will come back to that later on.
The view from up there is truly stunning: you can see along the valley, the city of Rjukan below you, the water power station with the huge pipework going up the mountain side and, as the main attraction, Gaustatoppen. In clear weather which we had on that cold spring day a magnificent sight.
Bungee jumping in the summer
Those who want to add a little bit of thrill to their vacation, can try a bungee jump in a great scenery here: Nearly every weekend but only in the summer, you can do it at the end of the Rjukan valley where the street already starts climbing the mountain. Just follow the sign "Strikkhopp", direction water power station.
We could not let that pass, obviously, and tried it out: Truly breathtaking, at least for us who have never done it before. Not sure we will do it a second time but worth the excitement and for sure nicer than to jump from a boring crane in an amusement park.
Rjukan city center and the magical mirrors
Back down in the valley, we drove to the market place in Rjukan where you can enjoy the sun in winter even though it does not get over the horizon: 3 large mirrors made out of aluminium are installed up in the mountains. They move slowly and thereby reflect the sunlight down into the market square. Pretty damn bright, like a small sun - though just on a few square meters.
After not warming up in the bright but not warm light, we followed the valley for a few kilometers further to the East and then turned right onto the road leading to the Gaustablikk Høyfjellhotell, the gate to the Gaustatoppen - the highest mountain in that region offering a lot of winter and summer activities alike.
During our first and second visit to Rjukan, we did not have time to get to the top of Gaustatoppen, but, third time lucky, we finally managed. And it was not really hard because we simply took the train inside the mountain. But the remaining 50m we bravely mastered on foot although it was really icy and slippery. To b expected at the end of March, everything was still covered in snow and ice.
The train inside the mountain
The original motivation for the train inside Gaustatoppen was indeed tourism because the area had been a popular destination, already in the late 19th century . But when plans were out in 1953 to build a train inside, NATO recognised quickly its military benefits and took it all over. It stayed in control until 2004!
Since 2010, trains are going everyday, more or less the year round, every 15 minutes or so. The ride, actually in 2 trains, one goes straight into the mountain, the second one steep up, takes about 20 min. And it is really narrow, so maybe nothing for people who have issue with that.
On top, you can walk another 100m up to the cafe next to the huge antenna, where you have an even better view. It says you can overlook 1/6 of Norway from here, thanks to the height and central location. Anyway, the view is stunning!
The more sporty way of getting up to the top is either by skies in the winter or simply hiking in the summer. The latter takes about 2.5 hours from Stavsro. It is not particular difficult, but the difference in altitude is 700m.
Distance from Oslo
175 km / 2,5 hours by car from Oslo to Rjukan, 20 min from Rjukan to the Gaustablikk Høyfjellhotell
The hike up to the Gaustatoppen (without elevator) takes: around 2 h up & 1,5 h down, but from Stavsro
Or just take the elevate inside Gaustatopp!
Looking at the Gaustatoppen from the end of the Krossobanen
The area is a great cross country & down hill skiing area
Overnight stay we can recommend
Gaustablikk Høyfjellhotell, stylish, slightly 60ies
Our personal extra tip
Bungee-jumping from the bridge next to the Hydro power station, during the weekends in the summer (in the map the most Western point, next to the marked museum)
Points of interest close by:
Enjoying the sun in the market place in Rjukan, reflected from the big mirrors up the mountain side
UN World Heritage Site
Rjukan is part of the Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site
Click on the map for opening the right clipping in google maps in a new window