Watch wriggling salmon up close. Nasjonalt Villakssenter - Kvåsfossen salmon centre in Lyngdal is home to Norway's largest salmon staircase inside a tunnel. Deep inside the mountain, you can watch the salmon 'live' behind huge glass windows.
'The most important reason for visiting us is the desire to experience something completely unique, something you'll not find the like of anywhere else,' says Cecilie Christine Hunt.
She is assistant manager at Nasjonalt Villakssenter - Kvåsfossen. The salmon centre is located in the municipality of Lyngdal in Vest-Agder. At the centre, you can watch salmon up close as they swim up a salmon staircase consisting of 46 'steps' and a rise of 20 metres.
Experiences at Nasjonalt Villakssenter - Kvåsfossen include:
The main attraction at Nasjonalt Villakssenter - Kvåsfossen is Norway's longest salmon staircase inside a tunnel.
A salmon staircase is a man-made device for enabling fish to pass an obstruction. It is important for the fish to get past the waterfall and up to Hægebostad (the neighbouring municipality) so that they can spawn in the Lygna river. Lygna is one of Norway's best salmon rivers.
The solution to the problem faced by the fish was to blast a 220-metre long tunnel curving around the waterfall. 46 ledges were cast, each containing a pool of water. These are the 'stairs' that allow the fish to swim or jump up the 20-metre climb.
You can walk along part of the salmon staircase inside the mountain. This allows you to appreciate the stylish design, and if you are lucky you get to watch the salmon on their eager 'journey' up the staircase.
You walk through a 60-metre long tunnel to get to the Fjellhallen or Mountain Hall and the spectacular 'salmon cinema'. Here, you will see four enormous thick glass walls which give you a fantastic view of life in the river, parts of the salmon staircase and every stage of the salmon’s development. Fun for both adults and children alike.
You can also see the fish spawning and overwintering in the large pool which is visible through the glass wall. 'We've been lucky enough to have salmon in the pool pretty much all year, actually. The fish appear to be very happy. They seem to like the attention. Perhaps they're the smart ones and they’re actually watching us humans,' wonders Cecilie C. Hunt.
Besides salmon, there are also sea trout and eels at the salmon centre. There's plenty of room for whole school classes or groups at a time in the mountain hall at the salmon centre.
The tunnel was also used to house a large elk display with stuffed elks, although there may well be something different on display next time you visit.
The visitor centre at Kvåsfossen is a special building that towers above the edge of a 15-metre deep gorge. The enormous façade windows get you breathtakingly close to nature and the river. The salmon staircase is located inside the mountain beneath the visitor centre.
The renowned architectural firm Rever og Drage Arkitekter designed the building, which has attracted media attention both nationally and internationally.
There is also a shop/café in the visitor centre where you can sit and enjoy the view over a coffee.
Immediately outside you can 'walk the plank'. 'The plank' is the name of the terrace which projects out from the visitor centre immediately above the gorge. The terrace has a lattice floor which enables you to see into the depths below. The plank is of course a popular place to take a selfie.
Kvåsfossen itself is one of the highest waterfalls in Southern Norway.
Like birds? You have a pretty good chance of spotting Norway's national bird here. The white-throated dipper nests at Kvåsfossen. When water levels are low at the waterfall, you can see several potholes (vertical holes in the rock), known as 'jettegryter' in Norwegian. These were created during the Ice Age. However, the word 'jette' means troll or giant, and it was once believed that it was trolls who created these potholes.
Legend has it that there was a troll who ravaged the area thousands of years ago. In the middle of the river, you can see the enormous 'Kvåssteinen' stone, which now forms part of the foundations for the bridge over the waterfall. The troll is said to have placed the stone in the middle of the river to prevent the salmon from getting past. The giant was probably very fond of salmon. Today, people help the salmon make their way up the river. So there's always a chance that the troll might once again make an appearance.
You can use the well-marked nature trails in the area if you want to enjoy even more nature on foot. The mountain walks to the summits of Morsfjell and Ørneknipen will reward you with spectacular views. The mountain walk to Neseknipen is also popular, or perhaps you might like to try a walk along the path by Hafshølen.
The salmon staircase in Nasjonalt Villakssenter - Kvåsfossen, consist of concrete stairs built into a 220 metre long tunnel at the Kvås waterfall in Kvås, Lyngdal.
There is a large glass viewing room where people can go in and see the salmon swimming up the stairs. Lights make it easy to see the fish and the tunnel is also lit.
It is located on route 43 from Lyngdal and is very easy to find. From Lyngdal, you simply follow the Lygna river all the way up to the waterfall. On the way you will pass various tourist attractions including Kvelland Winery and camping places.