Our Great Highlands - the SVR nature reserve
-Second largest nature reserve in Norway
-Home to reindeer and many arctic plants and animals
-Large areas of pristine wilderness
-Great trekking from cabin to cabin on marked paths
-Worldclass opportunities for backcountry skiing in winter
Setesdal Vesthei og Ryfylkeheiane Landskapsvernområde (SVR) forms the natural roof of southern Norway. These barren, treeless highlands extend from the towns of Evje and Tonstad in the south, all the way to Røldal and Haukeli 180km further north. With its 2347sqkm of protected area they form the biggest nature reserve of Norway after the mighty plains of the Hardangervidda just north of Haukeli.
The SVR highlands are well known as the home of the southern-most population of wild reindeer. With its highland and alpine vegetations, an entire mountain ecosystem extending to the arctic tundras has its southern ranges here. This notwithstanding, the landscape is as varied as it is big. In the south there are undulating highlands with pockets of birch forests amidst thousands of small lakes 800-1000m. These give way to grazy plains, heathlands and rocky outcrops at altitudes of 1000-1200m. Further north, there are the great dammed lakes that provide a significant share of Norways hydroelectric energy. The landscape becomes more rugged, with naked glacier-polished bed-rock, moraine ridges and a myriad of boulders lying scattered all over at altitudes between 1200-1400m. Snowfields survive the summer sun and clad the highest peaks between 1400 and 1600m throughout the summer.
On the Ryfylke west-side of the SVR nature reserve, the landscape is dramatic. It drops from the relative flat of the highlands, to jawdropping abysses in numerous gorges and fjords like the Lysefjord, the Jøsenfjord and Hylsfjord. This is great country for scenic top hikes with wide views over the fjords, farmlands and lush isles off the coast.
In Ryfylke, the SVR borders to a number of separate nature reserves that have received special status for their geological/landscape features, their botany or highlights. A couple of these are Frafjordheiane, Vormedalsheia, Lusaheia, Dyraheio and Kvanndalen. In practice, the protected area therefore extends to well over 3400sqkm.
From Ryfylke, the SVR and adjacent nature reserve are best accessible by Fv45 Hunnedal-Sirdal-Setesdal, by ferry from Lauvvik to Lysebotn, by road from Hjelmelandsvågen to Fundingsland, by graveled road from Gullingen to Blåsjø hydroreservoir, by graveled road from Nesflaten to Holmavatnet hydroreservoir or via the E134 from Røldal.
You are free to hike on the well-marked DNT Norwegian Trekking Association paths and spend the night in an idyllic mountain cabin operated by them or in your own tent of course. The cabins are generally well-equipped with beds and matrasses, a kitchen, wood-stove and food that can be bought from the storage. There are also fully serviced huts like Stranddalshytta, Preikestolen fjellstue, Haukeliseter fjellstue and Lysefjorden Turisthytte where you can order a warm meal and expect a medium to high standard accomodation.
Discover the highlands by bike and do the National Cycle Route from Setesdal to Sirdal and on to the ferry in Lysebotn - a trully great ride!
Hiking maps of the highlands can be bought at many tourist informations, some outdoor shops and the DNT store in Stavanger. Plan your several day trekking using the DNT planning map.