The third and most southerly route to the western fjords, the E134, covers the 417km from Drammen near Oslo to Haugesund, passing near Odda on the Sørfjord after 310km. Again, it’s a slower route, but it has the advantage of passing through the attractive town of Kongsberg before threading its way across Telemark, a county that covers a great forested chunk of southern Norway. In a country where the fjords are the apple of the tourist industry’s eye, Telemark is often neglected, but it can be stunningly beautiful, its deep valleys, blue-black lochs and bulging forested hills intercepted by tiny villages in a manner that resembles the Swiss Alps. The key targets here are Heddal stave church and Dalen, the site of the region’s most enjoyable hotel. Beyond Telemark, the E134 nudges its way over the southern reaches of the Hardangervidda plateau to cross one of Norway’s highest mountain passes, the storm-blasted Haukelifjell.
Dalen is the terminus of the passenger ferry that wends its way southeast along the Telemarkskanal to Skien (ferries mid-May to early Sept 3–6 weekly; 800kr one-way; t35 90 00 30, wtelemarkskanalen.no), a journey that takes a little under nine hours, leaving around 8am. Extending 105km, the canal links a string of lakes and rivers by means of eighteen locks that negotiate a difference in water levels of 72m. Completed in 1892, the canal was once an important trade route into the interior, but today it’s mainly used by pleasure craft and vintage passenger ferries. It’s also possible to make shorter excursions out by boat and back by bus. The jetty is 750m beyond the Dalen Hotel.