A superlative destination
Long before the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer put it firmly on the international tourist map, Oppland was a magnet for visitors, who came for the world-class skiing, the magnificent scenery of the Gudbrandsdalen and Valdres valleys, and of course the national parks and nature reserves.
Oppland is a county of superlatives, boasting Norway’s − and northern Europe’s − highest mountain (Galdhøpiggen, 2964 m), its biggest lake (Mjøsa, 365 sq km), and no fewer than five national parks; Jotunheimen, Rondane, Dovrefjell, Reinheimen and Ormtjernkampen... not to mention about a fifth of the country’s preserved buildings, its largest concentration of important farm courtyards, and almost a third of its most important stave churches.
In terms of total bed-nights spent in Norway each year, Oppland is one of Norway’s premier travel destinations. On the shores of lake Mjøsa, Norway’s inland sea, Lillehammer continues to reap the benefits of the investments made in amenities and infrastructure for the Games. The Gjøvik Olympic Mountain Hall, built for accommodating ice hockey matches during the Olympics, is the world’s largest of its kind. In season, visitors enjoy the best winter sports facilities in Scandinavia; in summer, a lively and modern but relaxing base for walking, boating and touring.
Don’t miss the Maihaugen open-air folk museum, one of the largest in Europe, and of course the Olympic museum. Take a trip across Lake Mjøsa with the world’s oldest paddle steamer, the Skibladner. Observe traditional glass blowing at Gjøvik Glassverk. Or take the RV33 from Minnesund through the beautiful landscape in the district known as Toten.
For skiing, why not start with the ultra-modern Lysgårdsbakkene ski jumping arena, Lillehammer’s outstanding landmark. From the bottom of the hill you can take the chairlift up to the top for a magnificent view. Or try the Alpine simulator for an unforgettable Alpine skiing experience... while seated.
The county’s artistic and cultural heritage is extraordinary. The folk music of the valleys has a worldwide following, while Norway’s three Nobel Prizewinning authors all had close ties to Oppland. Knut Hamsun was born at Garmo in Lom; Sigrid Undset lived at Bjerkebæk in Lillehammer from 1921 until her death in 1950, and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson bought Aulestad farm in Gausdal in 1874.
Nearby Hunderfossen amusement park is home to the largest troll in the world: 14 metres high, and that’s sitting down! Hunderfossen’s 50-odd attractions include a children’s farm, Fairytale Palace, water playground and rafting river.
For those who prefer the real thing, rafting in the Sjoa river, one of the best rivers in Northern Europe for white-water rafting and river sports, is suitable for thrill seekers and family groups alike. In summer, the river is fed by a steady flow of melt water from the glaciers. You can choose between an intense trip through the rapids that really tests the river’s forces, or a more sedate experience in calmer waters.
The Sjoa runs from Lake Gjende in the Jotunheimen Mountains, through Heidal and down to the Gudbrandsdalslågen river − one of Norway’s finest angling rivers. In fact, with more than 50 lakes and 100 kilometres of rivers and streams in the mountains in Lillehammer and Øyer to choose from, in Oppland you can catch everything from perch, grayling, pike and powan to local Mjøs trout.
All the national parks offer a variety of walks in breathtaking scenery. Almost 60 per cent of Oppland’s area comprises mountains of 900 metres or over. Dovrefjell is the home of a unique herd of musk ox, a species that had died out in Europe after the last ice age but has been reintroduced from Greenland. Look out also for wild reindeer, wolverine, and Arctic fox, and for indigenous plant species, such as the Dovre poppy, which are found nowhere else.