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Considered the deepest lake in Europe, Norway's Hornindalsvatn Lake is perfectly placed to host a western Norway holiday. Surrounded by mountains, glaciers and fjords, Hornindalsvatn Lake, like the steep fjords that slice through the Norwegian coastline, was scoured out by ice during the last ice age. Officially, Hornindalsvatn Lake is 1,686 feet deep at its deepest point, but that fact is in some dispute: the national telephone company laying underwater optical cable across the lake a few years ago insists they located an area that was 2,008 feet deep. Either way, the bottom of the huge lake is at least 1500 feet below sea level!
Even at 12,800 acres, the long narrow lake would hardly seem impressive in this area known for massive deep fjords. Only the deposits left from the original glacial dam have prevented Hornindalsvatnet, as it is known locally, from becoming a saltwater extension of the Nordfjord to the west. Instead, Hornindalsvatnet contains an estimated 9,809,630 acre-feet of pure, fresh, cold water gained mostly from snowmelt; glacier run-off streams do not drain to the lake directly, keeping the water exceptionally clean and clear. Add the fact that the lake lies along one of the best-known scenic tourist highways between Nordfjord and Stryn to the east, and it's easy to see why Hornindalsvatn Lake is a favorite holiday destination for visitors to western Norway's fjord country. The highway along the south shore is well-supplied with hotels and small caravan camps where area visitors can use the beautiful lake views as a backdrop for exploring all the area has to offer.
As the mountains rise directly from the waters in many areas, there are few towns directly along the shoreline. The City of Grodas on the eastern end of the lake offers most of the vacation lodgings and tourism attractions. Although there is a family-friendly swimming beach near Grodas, and several swim areas provided by hotels and campgrounds, the lake is not famous for swimming or watersports. There is no public marina, but several locations rent rowboats and canoes, and Grodas has a public pier. Ferry service runs regularly between Grodas and road-less communities on the north shore. Groups of five people or more can arrange lake cruises on scenic Hornindalsvatn Lake, and the largest local hotel provides facilities for water skiing.
Fishing is popular on the lake, with trout, char and eel most commonly caught. As with most extremely deep lakes in Norway, the lake actually holds few species of fish; the rivers and streams are far more productive. The out-flowing Eidselva River going toward Nordfjord is a famous salmon and sea trout fishery. Fly fishing here is notoriously rewarding in the still pools between stretches of rapids. Fishing permits can be obtained at the local hotels and tourist attractions in the area, along with maps showing where fishing is permitted.
Hornindalsvatn Lake is not developed with highly commercial tourist attractions and water activities. Its natural beauty serves as a scenic backdrop for the many hikes, cycling paths and side excursions available in the area. Climbing trails are offered on Mount Hornindalsrokken. The Municipality of Hornindal hosts events such as the world-famous Hornindalsvatn Marathon, held annually in July. The Anders Svor Museum and Art Gallery has about 450 sculptures and guest exhibitions on display. The Hornindal area is well-known for maintaining its folk culture in the form of wood carvers, fiddlers and folk music demonstrations. Riding stables offer horseback riding on the unique breed of horse called the fjord horse, known for their sure-footed gait and compact muscular bodies.
Traces of Viking history and grave goods can be seen in most of the local museums in the area. One remnant of early superstitions remaining from Norway's early history can be seen in Grodas in the Marriage or Virgin stone, a large stone with a hole carved in the center. Legend states that those to be married must visit the stone, and the prospective bride should crawl though. Legend says that if the bride manages the feat, then she is assured to be a virgin. If she does not, it is assumed she is already pregnant. Alternately, another legend says that dairymaids who had spent the summer in the country at their duties must pass through the hole upon returning in the fall, to assure they had been virtuous. Likely related to the proliferation of standing stones around northwestern Europe and the British Isles, little is actually known of the stone and how it came to be there - but the legend is repeated faithfully, usually with tongue firmly in cheek.
From Hornindalsvatnet, the holiday-maker can easily travel the few miles to the town of Nordfjord, where there are swimming beaches and cruises on the fjord for their amusement. The many arms of deep Nordfjord can often be reached by ferry or excursion boat. The towns in the area contain a collection of historic churches, and in some spots burial mounds of Iron Age rulers can still be seen. The Nordfjord Folkemuseum offers an excellent history of life in Norway in past centuries with preserved houses, everyday utensils and farm and fishing relics. Charter fishing can be arranged on both the fjord and the open sea to the west.
To the southeast of Hornindalsvatn Lake, the Stryn area offers many recreational activities, including hiking, swimming, cycling and Norway's largest summer ski resort on the slopes of the Jostedalsbreen glacier. The glacier itself, largest on the European mainland, is a national park destination: Jostedal Glacier National Park. Three glacier museums and visitor centers exist in the park, including one at Stryn. Here, visitors can see how the glacier is currently shrinking, exposing the ruins of farmsteads overtaken by the glacier in the 1750s.
There is no shortage of holiday lodgings near Hornindalsvatnet. Vacationers have been coming to this delightful area for many years and will find a variety of holiday houses, guest houses and apartments, cabins, bed-and-breakfasts, farm-stays, cottages and caravan camps along with thoroughly modern hotels.The Municipality of Hornindal welcomes new residents and advertises it has real estate available for building along with existing homes. The entire area is a photographer's dream and just the holiday adventure for the active couple or family. Come visit Hornindalsvatnet and drink in the crisp air, the clear waters and the friendly and historic culture of Norway's fjord country. It will guarantee your most memorable vacation ever!
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