The steps are the only remaining trace of the monks who lived in Opedal monastery, a branch of the Lysekloster monastery near Bergen. The monks in Opedal monastery needed easy access to the Hardangervidda mountain plain, as this is where they grew crops and went hunting. It was also their only form of access to the eastern parts of the country. They therefore decided to build a trail from the valley to the top of the mountain plain. The Monk Steps are 616 large stone steps, carried and laid manually by the monks. The stones have been carried up to an altitude of 650 metres above sea level, and take you up towards the top of the plain.
The Lutheran Reformation in 1537 resulted in the closure of the monastery, and the remains of the building, a well, were destroyed in the 1930s.
The English monks taught the local farmers in Hardanger to grow fruit, and the fruits of their teaching can now be clearly seen in the 550,000 fruit trees in the region.
HARDANGER MOUNTAIN TRAIL – The Monk Steps (*/**) – Level IV
Duration (Hardanger mountain trail): 8 to 9 hours (round trip)
Duration Monk Steps: 5 hours (round trip)
Discover the beauty of Hardanger on this adventurous hike. The trail takes you through forest, past the famous Monk Steps before ascending to the Hardangervidda mountain plain with spectacular views of the fjord and the Folgefonna glacier, 1,040 metres above sea level. If you cross the river, you can descend via Frøyneslia. There are seven information boards along the trail to guide you. Alternatively, you can go back the way you came. The hike takes around 5 hours (round trip).
DRONNINGSTIEN – HM QUEEN SONJA’S PANORAMIC HIKING TRAIL (*) – Level IV
Driving time from Hotel Ullensvang to Røte: 10 minutes (one way)
Duration: 6 hours
This hike is the only one that is entitled to use the name of Her Majesty, the Queen of Norway. Over the past 20 years, this has become one of the Queen's favourite hikes around the hotel, and she takes it both on foot and on skis.
The hike starts at Røte (“Velteplassen”), six kilometres north of Hotel Ullensvang (between Lofthus and Kinsarvik). From Røte, you follow a tractor track to the Hardangervidda mountain plain, 890 metres above sea level. This is where the waymarked trail starts.
The local Lions Club has waymarked the trail according to instructions from Queen Sonja. This is truly a panorama trail, offering breathtaking views of the Sørfjord, Odda, the Folgefonna glacier, Hardanger bridge and Eidfjord.
You can also see all the way over to Kvanndal and Utne, and along the fjord to Kinsarvik. One section of the trail has 616 stone steps laid by local monks, who started the arduous work in 1210 and finished in 1537. The steps are now known as the Monk Steps.