Valdres is the common name for six municipalities in Oppland fylke (Oppland County) Norway. The municipalities which make up Valdres are Etnedal, Nord-Aurdal, Sør-Aurdal, Øystre Slidre, Vestre Slidre, and Vang. Geographically speaking, Valdres lies between Gudbrandsdalen to the north and east, Ringerike south east, Hallingdal to the south west and finally Sogn westwards. The local food traditions together with hundreds of mountain farms still run by the locals make the valley complex quite interesting for the tourist off the beaten track. Also, don't be surprised if you run into hotel owners from the Netherlands or Belgium. Quite a few non Norwegian families have settled in this area far away from the more orderly chaos in Central European cities.
In the south east, lower Valdres stretches from Dokka and Ådal to Bagn. Through the Begnadalen valley the Begna river runs with lots of fishing possibilities for pike and trout. Eastwards, Etnedalen valley runs all the way up to the mountains and meets the Aurdal valley which stretches up from Bagn. Further on, from the region centre Fagernes, the valley divides into Øystre (eastern) Slidre and Vestre (western) Slidre. From Øystre Slidre the next plateau level is Jotunheimen and Vestre Slidre ends abruptly in the Filefjell mountains.
Fagernes, the region centre of Valdres. This small town has several bus connections to and from Lillehammer, Oslo, Beitostølen/Jotunheimen and Sogn.
Jotunheimen, Norway's largest mountain area. In Jotunheimen, you can find a large national park and the area is great for hiking. The mountain Besseggen is famous from the story of Peer Gynt, written by Henrik Ibsen.
It is virtually impossible for people travelling through the area not to notice the local food traditions. A plate of rakfisk, salted and fermented fresh water fish like trout or char, is served uncooked together with fruits from the farm - potatoes, onion, lefse and sour cream. The locals tend to eat this delicacy from November through January, peaking at Christmas time - but the local stores sell rakfisk from September on.
In this region, you can easily find several stave churches. Most of them were built in the Middle Age period spanning from 1150 to 1350. In Valdres there are 6 stave churches left today - Øye, Høre, Hegge, Lomen, Reinli and Hedalen. One of the Norwegian stave churches, Urnes, is represented on the World Heritage List from UNESCO.
As for every major region in Norway, some of the dialect words may pose a barrier for tourists not used to other dialects than the one spoken in Oslo. Several words have completely other meanings here than in other parts of Norway, and there are other words which you cannot find anywhere else. There is also a dictionary available if you already know some Norwegian. Some years ago, the Valdres dialect scored as "the nicest dialect in Norway" in a national radio programme.
Examples of local wordsSquirrel - Norwegian: ekorn, Valdres: ikødn
All right (as in an all right person) - Norwegian: grei, Valdres: snodig (which in Norwegian normally means strange/funny)
Lonely - Norwegian: ensomt, Valdres: aule
Valdres Gjestegard (the old prison), Aurdal (between Aurdal and Leira), ☎ +47 61 36 23 61. Beef restaurant: Friday and Saturday nights. This building is a former prison - the cellars still with the prison cells intact. In the beef restaurant you can enjoy a good steak with wine or beer, the tables actually set in the prison cells themselves. Candle lights are lit - and privacy is enforced with the 1 meter thick stone walls.edit
Fagerlund Hotell, Fagernes, ☎ +47 61 36 18 58, . Local foods, great beef and a chance of dining outside if weather and temperature allows.edit
Generally, the rural areas of Norway are among the safest places in the world. Except from an occasional pub fight, police are not often exposed to major crime. Expect the police and local autohorities to be very helpful to tourists as long as you don't drink and drive.