Hornindalsvatnet, Norway: The Deepest Lake in Europe
Hornindalsvatnet is located in Norway and is the country’s and Europe’s deepest lake, with a maximum depth of 514 meters. It is also regarded as one of the clearest lakes on the continent.
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|Lake type||Natural freshwater lake|
The lake is located in the Sogn og Fjordane county, one kilometer south of the county’s border with More og Romsdal county, within the border of Eid and Hornindal municipalities. It is the 19th largest lake in Norway considering its surface area.
Hornindalsvatnet is surrounded by mountains, glaciers and two fjords. Similarly to the neighboring fjords, Hornindalsvatnet Lake was scoured out during the last ice age. The sediments left from the initial glacial dam prevented the lake from becoming a saltwater expansion of the Nordfjord, located on the west.
The lake lies next to one of the most famous scenic tourist highways between Nordfjord and Stryn. It is also close to the European Route E39. Numerous settlements can be found on the lake’s coastline. The village of Grodas lies on the eastern end, in the Hornindal Municipality, whilst Mogrenda is located on the west, in Eid Municipality. The village of Heggjabygda, which is home to the infamous Heggjabygda Church, is situated on the northern shore.
Hornindalsvatnet has such clear waters because no glacier streams run directly into the lake. It gains its supplies mostly from snowmelt, so the water is pure, fresh and generally cold. The lake’s main outflow is the Eidselva River, which flows into the Eidsfjorden, a branch of Nordfjorden. Around the Nordfjord valley, in the vicinity of Hornindalsvatnet, many other lakes can be found, of which the largest are Breimsvatnet, Lovatnet, Oldevatnet, Strynevatnet and Sandalsvatnet.
Tourism and Local Legends
Although the lake is a pretty popular attraction, it is not that highly developed, locals trying to enhance its natural beauty instead of too many facilities. A few hotels and caravan camps can be found next to the highway along the southern shore.
The small town of Grodas is the one which offers the most vacation lodgings and tourist attractions in the area. Although there are several swimming beaches around the town, the lake is not exactly famous for being a swimming destination or a popular water sports site. There are, however, several locations where one can rent rowboats and canoes. Grodas also has a public pier and there are several ferry rides connecting it to the roadless, secluded communities along the coast. Organized lake cruises can also be booked in advance for a group of five or more people.
The Hornindal region is famous for preserving its folk culture, through wood carvers, fiddlers and folk music demonstrations. Traces of Viking history can be seen in small local museums in the towns. Remnants of early superstitions can be seen in Grodas in the form of the Marriage Stone (also known as the Virgin Stone). This is a large stone, which has a relatively large hole in it. Local legends state that the bride to marry must crawl through the stone’s whole. If she manages to go through it, it means she is a virgin, but if she doesn’t, it means she’s pregnant. Another legend states that the dairymaids who spent the summer in the country had to pass their duties through the hole when they got home, to ensure they were virtuous.
Fishing enthusiast should know that only a few fish species can be found in the lake (such as trout, charr and eel), but the rivers are much more productive. Hornindalsvatnet’s outflow, the Eidselva River is a famous salmon and trout fishery. Flyfishing is also very rewarding on the river’s still pools between the rapids. Fishing permits can be purchased at local hotels along with maps that show the spots were fishing is permitted.
Numerous hiking paths, cycling and climbing trails on Mount Hornindalsrokken can also be found in the region, along with riding stables, where one can ride the unique breed of fjord horse, known for their sure-footed gait and compact muscular bodies. Many branches of the primary Nordfjord can be reached through organized boat trips.
The many small towns of the lake basin are home to historic churches and burial mounds of Iron Age rulers. The Anders Svor Museum and Art Gallery exhibits 450 sculptures and occasional guest expos. The Nordfjord Folk Museum is a history museum of the life of locals in the past centuries, presented by preserved houses, utensils and other relics. Norway’s largest ski resort on the European mainland is a national park destination called the Jostedal Glacier National Park. It has a glacier museum where visitors can see how three glaciers are shrinking, exposing the ruins of farmsteads which they covered in the 1750s.