Norway has a lot of waterfalls.
If you’ve been to Norway, or are planning your trip, you’ll know there are waterfalls everywhere. Some waterfalls are ‘famous’, with signage, parking and maybe even a souvenir shop. They are famous for a reason: not only are they huge, wild, unique, or gorgeous. They were some of the first tourist attractions in Norway.
And Låtefossen is one of them.
The Odda Valley has the nickname “the valley of waterfalls”. The area was utilised in the 20th century to develop heavy industry around the waterfalls. Today, though, many of the factories are gone. The Odda Valley is a very scenic drive. Not all the waterfalls are accessible from the highway, but luckily Låtefossen is.
What I think makes Låtefossen one of the best waterfalls in Norway is a blend of its history and its natural beauty. This waterfall isn’t just a stream of water shooting off a mountain; it’s got a story. When I know the story of a place, I find that I always appreciate it more.
Below you’ll find my overview of Låtefossen, including its past and present-day.
In this article…
Tourism to the Waterfall
Odda grew as a cruise destination in the 19th century (you can read about this in my article about the history of Odda), and Låtefossen was a prized attraction. When cruise ships docked in Odda, farmers with horse carriages would collect tourists. They would make the journey up to Låtefossen, and a small hotel there sold coffee. Only the ruins of the hotel remain today.
English and German visitors were in awe of the waterfall. Here’s a snippet of what they said:
It is only when you stand on a small hill, where the restaurant is built, that you get the right view of this sea of foam, steam and spray, for the amount of water you do not see anymore. White water-veils wave over the waterfall and twinkles and lightning in all the colours of the rainbow in the sunshine. But this is not all: Directly opposite these two-dimensional, gigantic, ancient waterfalls, an equally beautiful, white, blurry, undulating mass, Espelandsfossen, plunges over a vertical rock wall. When you stand on a beautiful green spot in one of the most picturesque valleys in the world, and look at Låtefossen, Skarsfossen and Espelandsfossen that greet each other, then this is a picture that is too big to say, and which there is hardly any like in all of Europe.https://www.nb.no/items/URN:NBN:no-nb_digibok_2014021906378
In the early years of tourism, there was no bridge. The construction of the road between east and west Norway promoted the need for a bridge. Construction of the bridge ended in 1859. Yet it wasn’t long before the bridge became narrow for the large increase in traffic.
During the mid-1940s, the bridge was expanded by 2m – it is now 6m wide. The part that is in all the photographs today is from the newer extension; we don’t see the old bridge.
With an increase in cars, expansion of the bridge finished in the 1960s. The bridge you see in the photos is this new bridge.
Låtefossen is among 93 watercourses that are permanently protected under a conservation plan in Norway. Of the famous waterfalls in the Hardanger region, it is the only one that is not regulated for hydropower.
The source of the water is Lotevatnet Lake, which is 340m high up on the mountain. The lake flows down in two separate streams. They join together and flow under the bridge into the river Grønsdalslona. The height of the waterfall is 165m (541ft), though this is debated as topographic data shows this to be incorrect. 1https://snl.no/L%C3%A5tefoss
The strength of the waterfall depends on the seasons. It is the strongest in spring when the snow is melting. Moreover, heavy rainfall also results in a strong waterfall. My photos are from September 2020, when we’d had about two weeks straight of rain.
Vatnet = Lake
Fossen = Waterfall
There are possibilities to walk around the area and get a better photo. For example, the ruins of the old hotel provide a more unique overlook. However, the vast majority of people stay in the car park – I explain this more below.
The statue in the car park
There’s a German statue in the car park, not too far from where I was standing to take all the photos in this article. The statue is a memorial for Gustav von Hahnke, a German military officer, and it was erected by Kaiser Wilhelm II. It reads:
For Lieutenant Gustav von Hahnke. onboard the Hohenzollern 11.07.1897 who died in this spot.
He had been on a bike trip on the mountain when he fell. It took some time before his body could be recovered. Gustav vacationed with Kaiser Wilhelm II every year in Odda over the summer holidays.
I’ve visited the waterfall twice – in April 2018 and September 2020. When I visited in April, it was completely frozen and the bridge was covered for renovations. As you can imagine, I was not so impressed.
The second time I visited, in September 2020, the husband and I were doing our Ultimate Norwegian Roadtrip. I wanted to snap a quick picture before we made our way to Stavanger. I was very impressed with how strong the waterfall was. It’s cool to see it blowing over the road. And we had it almost to ourselves thanks to the pandemic that destroyed tourism in 2020.
You don’t need to spend much time there; we were there around 10 minutes. Of course, it was pouring rain and we didn’t want to venture too far from the car. If it had been good weather, I would’ve sought out the path to the hotel and spent a little more time there.
If you’re in the area, it’s well worth stopping at Låtefossen!
It is possible to take a public bus from Odda. From the bus station, take bus 930 called Odda-Seljastad for 18 mins (12 stops) until you get to Skarsmoen. From there, it’s a 1.5km walk to the waterfall.
Most people get to the waterfall by car; it is a 20 minute drive from Odda centre.
If you are driving away from Odda, the parking space is on your side of the road. The parking area is very small and there are no guidelines as to how to park your car. Basically, in summer it becomes something of a ‘free for all’ with caravans, buses and cars squeezing around each other to find a space to park. Even when I visited in September without tourism, I barely got a park due to so many caravans. Many of the TripAdvisor reviews mention how bad parking is. The best thing you can do is go early in the morning or late in the afternoon, or just cross your fingers that it’s not so busy.
The viewing point is practically the same block as the parking area. There’s no special platform or path to take to get to the viewing point. You park and make your way to the end of the parking lot.
You can’t walk onto the road that goes over the waterfall. It’s the main highway to/from Oslo, and there are trucks and cars speeding past.
Across the road from the parking lot is a kiosk/souvenir shop that’s open in summer. I’m not sure why they put it on the other side of the road as it means you have people running across a main highway to get to either spot. The restrooms are also there – they are only open in summer.
Wrapping it up
I hope this overview of Låtefossen helps you plan your trip to Norway.
Have you visited the waterfall? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to read your stories.