Rjukan offers many outdoor and indoor activities. This includes hiking up the Gaustatoppen mountain which offers amazing views or riding the underground funicular. Add to this the famous Rjukan ice climbing opportunities, the sun mirrors, cable car, fascinating industrial history… The list goes on and on. Here is what to do in Rjukan, Norway.
Rjukan in Norway is a small mountain town located three hours away from Oslo. You will find here a beautiful area offering many opportunities for active recreation, the interesting history of the city, as well as mount Gaustatoppen from where you can see a large part of Norway.
Rjukan is located in the south of Norway, in the municipality of Telemark. In addition to typical mountain attractions, it is also a great place for lovers of waterfalls. There are almost 200 of them here (exactly 171). In winter, waterfalls freeze creating wonderful conditions for ice climbing. Therefore, Rjukan ice climbing attracts climbers from all over the world.
And what else can you find in Rjukan?
What to see in Rjukan, Norway
Living in Norway’s capital is great with many Oslo hiking opportunities. But sometimes, I miss a bit higher mountains and more adventurous activities, accessible within a day trip. That’s when I go to Rjukan.
Thanks to its close location to the Norwegian capital, Rjukan is a great option for a day trip from Oslo or a weekend away. And there are plenty of things to do here, both in winter and in summer.
Rjukan Ice Climbing
There are many reasons to visit Norway in the winter, and one of them is an excellent opportunity for ice climbing in Norway. If you are an adventure lover and outdoor enthusiast, this is an activity you need to try. Rjukan ice climbing is one of the best in the country.
In winter, Rjukan turns into an ice-climbing paradise. Thanks to its location and climatic conditions, ice is guaranteed in the vicinity of the city. Rjukan lies in a valley, where in the winter season, the sun does not reach. From the surrounding mountains, many smaller and bigger waterfalls flow into the valley. They freeze in winter providing a wonderful place to try ice climbing.
And if you want to see ice formation on the other side of Southern Norway, check out Ice Church in Fåvang.
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Read more: How to travel in Norway on a budget
The highest mountain near Rjukan, Gaustatoppen, is a peak of 1883 m above sea level. Gaustatoppen began to form as early as 100 million years ago, initially as a river settlement. The influence of high temperature and pressure, and then the erosion of rocks around, created the table-like mountain that towers above the area.
From the top of Gaustatoppen, you can see almost a 1/6 of Norway. Getting to the summit is not demanding (about 2-3 hours one way), but in the summer the place gets very crowded.
If you do not feel like trekking, you can go to the top of Gaustatoppen by the underground railway – Gaustabannen, which is a fun activity in itself. The price list and opening hours can be found here.
Read more: Where to stay in Oslo on a budget and more
Sun mirrors in Rjukan
Another tourist attraction in Rjukan is the sun mirrors.
The valley, surrounded by mountains doesn’t see the sun in the colder months. It must be pretty sad to live in the shadow for the biggest part of the year, you might say. Well, not anymore!
In 2013, mirrors were installed on the slope of one of the surrounding mountains. They reflect the sun’s rays in a way that they come into the city center. Thanks to this, Rjukan’s residents can enjoy the sun even in winter. If you want to see the mirrors, you can spot them from the town square. Can you notice them in the photos below?
As if Gaustabanen was not enough, Rjukan has another cable railway, located on the other side of town.
Krossobanen is the first railway to be built in northern Europe and one of the oldest in Norway. Within 5 minutes, you can get to the top station Gvepseborg at an altitude of 886 m above sea level. The price list and opening hours can be found here.
Hydroelectric industry and heavy water
Rjukan and Notodden are part of the UNESCO Heritage List, as an example of a new global industry in the 20th century. The location of the village among the mountains, rivers, and waterfalls was ideal for the development of a complex of hydropower plants, transmission lines, and factories.
The plant was built in order to power the fertilizer factory, but it also produced heavy water. This was an ingredient that Germany needed to produce the atomic bomb.
During World War II, when Norway and Rjukan were occupied by Germany, the Norwegians needed to intervene in order to prevent the enemy from using the heavy water. The story goes into more detail about how heroes from the Telemark region and the Norwegian army hid in the mountains and crossed them on skis. Thanks to them, the German plan didn’t come into place.
You can learn more about the story and the full history of Rjukan in Vemork, which is a hydroelectric power plant turned into a museum.
Gaustablikk ski resort
On the other side of Gaustatoppen, overlooking the mountain is the Ski Resort Gaustablikk, where you can have some snow fun in winter. It is the largest ski resort in Telemark, with 34 kilometers of slopes.
Where to stay in Rjukan
In Rjukan you can find a lot of options for accommodation. If you have access to a car, I recommend you to stay at the Campsite Sandviken Camping. There you can rent a traditional Norwegian wooden cottage, or put up a tent.
The campsite is located right on the lake with a beautiful view, and in winter you can use the sauna there. Check prices and availability here.
How to get to Rjukan
Rjukan is located about 2.5 hours away from Oslo. You can get there by bus in 3.5 hours, but you need to change buses in the middle. Unfortunately, this is not the best option, so if you can drive, I can recommend that. You can find cheap car rentals on Rentalcars.
In summer, on the way to Rjukan, take a road from the south in order to visit Notodden and Gaustatoppen, and then drive down into town. In winter, this road is closed due to snow, but you can still get to Notodden and to Gaustatoppen from the Rjukan side.
Notodden is also worth a visit, and especially a beautiful wooden stave church along the way – Heddal Stave Church.
Read more about Norway:
27 Most Interesting Day Trips From Oslo
The best things to do in Oslo in winter
Best Norway winter clothing – what to pack for Norway in winter
Norway on a budget – locals’ tips for cheap travel in Norway
Have you tried ice climbing in Norway? Would you like to give Rjukan ice climbing a go? Or maybe you want to try other activities in Rjukan? Let me know in the comments.
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