What separates this village from other Viking-era recreations is that the people living there are not actors.
This living cultural and historical site is where people have chosen to escape the 21st century and live as their Viking brethren did more than a millennium ago.
A Viking village in a UNESCO-listed fjord landscape
Every year, millions of people from across the world head to Norway to visit the breathtaking fjord landscape that litters the coastline from Oslo, in the southeast, all the way to the borders of East Finnmark, near the border with Russia.
However, the most spectacular are surely the surroundings of the small village of Gudvangen, where the Nærøydalselvi river empties into the 18-kilometer / 11.18-mile long Nærøydfjord.
The village of Gudvangen has links to the region's pre-Christian past, and it should be no surprise that this is now the center of a different type of pilgrimage that hundreds of people take every year.
Amongst the tourists flocking in their hordes here every summer, in their coaches and their fjord cruises, there is a very different type of person.
One that wants to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and live, quite literally, like a Viking. For near the small village of Gudvangen is located a very different kind of village: the Viking village of Njardarheimr.
A village with a difference
The story of how a Viking village became nestled amongst one of Norway's most visited fjords harks back almost two decades.
During the mid-to-late 1990s CE, a Viking market took place every summer in the town of Gudvangen.
The market became so popular that the area, which was already seeing a boom in tourism thanks (in part) to the fjord being included in the "Norway in a Nutshell" tour, that locals decided to construct a real-life Viking village to be made permanent.
The construction started in August 2016, with the village's first section officially opening on May 21, 2017.
Since then, buildings with an area of more than 1,500 m2 / 16.145 ft2 have been constructed thanks to the Gudvanden Development AS (GUAS). This is a local limited liability company that aims to develop the Viking settlement and promote economic opportunities throughout the Nærøy valley.
The Viking village is the brainchild of GUAS CEO Frode Tufte, whilst Bernd Hobom was the man behind all the design plans.
The village name Njardarheimr is normally translated as the home of the Old Norse northern God, Njörðr. This link to the Viking past has made the village increasingly popular in recent times.
During the construction of the Njardarheimr village, only materials found in the surrounding Nærøy valley were utilized. Illustration: LGieger / Shutterstock
The most realistic Viking village
What separates the construction of this Viking village from others in Norway, or indeed Scandinavia, is the absolute minute level of detail and authenticity present in every aspect of the village.
The construction of the village utilized materials only found in the surrounding Nærøy valley, just as the people living here in Viking times would have done.
A closer look at some of the buildings in this village, and you will see the level of authenticity that GUAS has aspired to.
Designs and carvings were all based on Viking Age findings, with the houses slightly adapted for local needs. Only local materials were utilized, whether this was only local timber felled in the valley to construct these buildings or the use of peat from the lake to help shingle the roof tiles on the Stave church.
The decorations throughout the village are consistent with an early medieval theme as the paint scheme utilizes mainly shades of oxblood paint. At the same time, all the ironwork (on locks or door hinges) was carefully forged, by hand, by a working blacksmith.
The GUAS states, on their website, that they aimed to "create a Viking village of high quality," and one look at the level of dedication, craft, skill, and love that has gone into every detail of every building in the village proves this.
A boat on the coast of the Nereyfjord, Gudvangen, located near Njardarheimr. Photo: Jana Janina / Shutterstock
No actors, just Vikings
Perhaps the most unique and interesting aspect of Njardarheimr is its inhabitants.
While there are many other Viking villages throughout the Vikings' former homeland in Scandinavia, most villages tend to have staff that don a fancy helmet, wield an axe or slip on a tunic and try to become Eric Bloodaxe or Lagertha for a 6-hour shift.
Njardarheimr is different as all the people living in the village live, work and breathe the same way their ancestors did here more than a millennium ago.
There are tours that show each side of the daily life of a working Viking village, whether this is visiting the village blacksmith to see what he is forging to visiting the Viking kitchen (Heidrun) to see what delicious (and authentically Viking era) fares are being prepared.
Simply strolling through the village and talking with the inhabitants, who have a deep level of knowledge of the Viking Age (c. 793 – 1066 CE), especially in Norway, is a special experience.
So until time travel becomes as easy as an app to download on your phone, the best place to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a Viking-era village is Njardarheimr, nestled amongst some of Norway's most scenic landscapes.
Visit Norway has more information on the village, available here, whilst the Njardarheimr has its own website, which is accessible here.
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