The Fairytale Waterway in Norway

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The Fairytale Waterway in Norway

Eight spectacular flights of locks, with 18-lock chambers in total, elevate boats and their passengers by 72-meters (236 feet) en route from Skien to Dalen in Eastern Norway. Welcome to the fairytale waterway, Telemark Canal, in Norway.

When the Telemark Canal was completed in 1892, it created a continuous waterway all the way from the coast into the very heart of Telemark. The canal connected town and country and opened up Telemark to the world.

The Fairytale Waterway in Norway
All ships have covered decks, saloons and onboard restaurants

Discover the cultural heritage
Today, you can discover the cultural heritage and everyday life of this fairytale waterway, with its locks, narrow rivers and wide-open lakes, from the deck of one of the three canal ships or in your own boat. You can also explore the canal and the surrounding countryside by canoe, by bike or on foot, and visit museums, cultural heritage, charming restaurants and festival events.

The eastern leg of the waterway takes you via the picturesque Sauarelva river to Notodden, famous for its UNESCO-recognized industrial heritage and the blues festival.

Related: The Beautiful Rural Telemark Region in Norway

The canal ships
Throughout the summer season, you can discover the Telemark Canal aboard the canal ships which sail between Skien and Dalen, and Akkarhaugen and Lunde. All three ships have covered decks, saloons and onboard restaurants, and you can take your bike or canoe/kayak with you.

The Fairytale Waterway in Norway
What could be more fun than exploring this magical waterway in your own canoe or kayak?
Private boats on the canal
The locks are open to private pleasure craft from late June to mid-August. All the locks are staffed by experienced lock-keepers who are always happy to help.

The boat trip from the coast through the Skien and Løveid locks to Norsjø is a great way to get a taste of canal life. You can then continue via the Sauarelva river to Notodden or follow the canal all the way to Dalen.

En route you’ll find plenty of great bathing spots and places to go ashore.

Related: Food Traditions in Telemark Country

Cycling along the canal
Along the canal you’ll find plenty of signposted cycle routes for day trips and longer excursions. Perfect both for young families or for cyclists seeking more of a chaollenge.

The Fairytale Waterway in Norway
Along the canal you’ll find plenty of signposted cycle routes for day trips and longer excursions
Between Ulefoss and Hogga, the cycle path runs right beside the canal, skirting the historic locks. The national cycle route between Dalen and Ulefoss passes through an area with spectacular nature and cultivated landscapes. We recommend taking the canal ship in one direction or for part of the way. You can rent a bike or bring your own. All the canal ships can carry bikes.

Kayaking and canoeing
What could be more fun than exploring this magical waterway in your own canoe or kayak?

Paddling through the locks is a thrilling experience. Just follow the instructions of the helpful lock-keepers and you’ll be perfectly safe. We suggest passing through the locks in the downstream direction for a calmer passage with no spray. Descending gently from one lock chamber to the next feels fantastic. But if you prefer to go ashore and bypass the locks, trolleys for transporting canoes and kayaks are available at all locations. The canal is suitable for beginners and experienced paddlers alike. Kayaks and canoes are available to rent in various locations along the canal.

Related: The Most Remote Hotel in Norway

Hiking along the canal
There are plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs along the fairytale waterway in Norway.
Short hikes in gentle terrain include the Skotfos trail at Løveid, Skarravegen between Ulefoss and Vrangfoss, the Dalen trail at Kviteseid, Kjærlighetsstien (the lovers’ trail) at Gvarv, trails at the Notodden world heritage site and Bufjordstigen in Dalen.

Tough but spectacular hikes include Lårdalssigen near Dalen and Hægefjell mountain in Vrådal. Many of these hikes can be combined with a canal cruise.

The Fairytale Waterway in Norway
The canal connected town and country and opened up Telemark to the world
Vrangfoss locks and park
Vrangfoss, the largest and most impressive flight of locks on the canal, is set amid an attractive park. The five lock chambers raise or lower boats over a vertical distance of 23 meters. Overlooking the flight of locks, the former lockmaster’s house is now a restaurant with magnificent views. The barn houses a multimedia presentation on the history of the canal.

You can stay overnight in a cozy lock-keepers’ cottage right beside the canal. Take a stroll on well-maintained paths down to Eidsfoss lock and on the Ulefoss, or up to the former quarry.

For more information, visit the Telemark Canal Website.

The Fairytale Waterway in Norway, is condensed from the Telemarkskanalen tourist booklet.

All images © Telemarkskanalen and Visitbo

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