Exploring the Kingsroad

Walk the full stretch

Facts

Duration
3-6 days
Distance
110 km
Difficulty
Medium
Available periods
1. May - 15. October

Description

Kongevegen across Filefjell is a beautiful walk through Norwegian communications and cultural history.

Many a national icon has been inspired by the landscape and life along this road which connected Eastern and Western Norway in a way no one had previously experienced.

There are several paintings and photos from Kongevegen in the National Library, the Royal Palace and in various museums.

The 100 km walk will lead you from the inland villages uppermost in Valdres, via the Filefjell mountain, and down to the dramatic landscape innermost in Sognefjorden.

The Kongevegen across Filefjell trek has been split into 12 sections. The walk can take 3–6 days, depending on your walking speed and the attractions you would like to look at along the way.

In addition, there are four round-trips of major cultural or historical interest. Examples are Galdane–Seltunåsen or Vindhella–Sverrestigen.

Kongevegen across Filefjell was, in 2017, given EU's most prestigious cultural heritage award – the Europa Nostra Award.

The road was also awarded one of the Grand Prix laureates. In addition, it came second in the public vote.
In 2015, Kongevegen across Filefjell received «Vakre Vegars Pris» - the Beautiful Roads Awards.

 

IMPORTANT MAIN ROUTE

For as long as there have been people in country, Filefjell has been Southern Norway’s most popular travel route between east and west.

The explanation is as simple as it is logical – it is all down to geography:

People living along the coast could easily reach inland Norway by boat via Sognefjorden where they found a valley (Lærdal) with gentle terrain leading up to the lowest mountain pass in Norway (Filefjell), and then they reached another gentle valley (Valdres) – or the other way around.

Filefjell has thus always been the preferred alternative for travel and transport between Eastern and Western Norway.

In medieval times, the route was travelled by many of the Norse kings. Along some parts they followed Kongevegen, along others they used a different route – but the choice was always Filefjell.

When Kongevegen across Filefjell was completed in the 1790s, the old bridle and packhorse track was for the first time replaced by a four-metre-wide road suitable for horse and cart.

The stretch between Vang and Lærdal was to become the most spectacular section of the new road. Today, it is one of the Europe's most beautiful cultural heritage routes.

 

AVOIDED CONSCRIPTION

The Kongevegen (king’s road) concept forms part of our Danish-Norwegian cultural heritage, and denotes the most important thoroughfares converted to roads in the 1600s and 1700s. With new road legislation introduced in 1824, they changed name to «hovedvej» (main route) and were the equivalent of our modern-day European Highways.

The route across Filefjell had a reputation as one of the country's most difficult and dangerous. Throughout the Middle Ages and into the modern era, improved transport conditions for people and goods became an important focus.

However, it was not the common people who were the concern of the authorities in Copenhagen when they took action. The most crucial was to make the journey more comfortable for government officials who often used the route in their capacity as representatives of the Dano-Norwegian Realm. Better roads were also important from a military perspective.

In return for keeping the road between east and west in a good state of repair, farmers in Valdres and Lærdal were exempt from national service. The farms in Valdres and Lærdal were each allocated boundary markers for which they were responsible.

For the Valdres people this exemption from military service was in place for 250 years, whereas in Lærdal it lasted 50 years longer. When Kongevegen across Filefjell was completed in the 1790s, the king decided that maintenance was no longer required and the exemption ended for the Lærdal locals.

This, however, caused a revolt. In the end, the king sent his army and navy to deal with the rebels, and the leaders were arrested. The most prominent, Anders Lysne, was executed by decapitation.

 

UNIQUE TRIP

Kongevegen across Filefjell was an ambitious communications project of its time. It was based on «the French principle» – a construction technique involving straight lines wherever possible, high-quality drainage and a roadway built on foundation material. With the Kongevegen projects, engineers had entered the scene and would revolutionise road construction in Norway.

Start in Vang, and walk west towards Lærdal. Alternatively, walk east from Gamle Lærdalsøyri’s renowned harbour were Kongevegen travellers moved from land to sea – and the other way around.

Read about the sections or round-trips for details. Enjoy your trip!