Of the countless fjords that create Norway’s lacework coastline, Hardanger—the Garden Fjord—is generally considered one of the most beautiful. Terraced fruit orchards cover its fertile banks as it stretches 113 miles inland. Particularly famed as a destination during apple and cherry blossom time, it transforms into an undulating blanket of pink and white blooms in the late spring when visitors flock here in annual pilgrimage not unlike Washington, D.C.’s.
The perfect base for exploring this exquisite corner of western Norway is found at the foot of the steep banks of the Hardangerfjord: the small Utne Hotel, accommodating guests from all over the world since 1722. Norway’s oldest, the inviting inn was run by the same family for five generations before being purchased by a cultural foundation in 1996, thus ensuring that its beautiful historic furnishings and textiles (not to mention its hospitality and charm) would continue uninterrupted well into the future.
Its ever-present amiable innkeepers keep it cozy, snug, and country-fresh. The traditional Norwegian interior of painted wood and decorative arts is the simple, airy backdrop for family antiques and photos and works left behind by the artists who have favored this spot since the late 1800s.
Nearby is the Hardanger Folk Museum, the town’s excellent open-air cultural attraction, featuring a cluster farm made up of 19th-century buildings.