Spectacular new step-bridge 'floats' over Norwegian waterfall

Francesca Street, CNNUpdated 21st August 2020
(CNN) — Rushing water cascades below an elevated footbridge that looks like it's floating on air, with panoramic views of hazy mountains and a plunging, deep valley underneath.
This is the dramatic Vøringsfossen waterfall bridge, a newly opened tourist attraction offering incredible views of the spectacular landscape near Eifjord in Hardanger, western Norway.
The project, designed by architect Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk, has been over a decade in the making. Now it's finally ready for brave visitors willing to traverse the 99 steps connecting the two sides of the stunning Måbødalen valley, in exchange for an unparalleled view of the tumbling waters of Vøringsfossen.
The bridge is just one part of a series of new developments around the waterfall aiming to make the popular spot even more attractive to visitors. The entire project, which also includes new viewpoint platforms and footpaths, will cost over $4,400,000 and is due to be completed by 2022.
"The bridge is, of course, the heart of the project, that connects two sides of the river and the waterfall together," Hølmebakk tells CNN Travel.
Hølmebakk and his team wanted the design to seamlessly fuse the natural and the man made -- they closely studied the local landscape, scanning the terrain with digital equipment, ensuring they didn't damage the environment.
Some, the architect admits, may see the concept as controversial. And those with a fear of heights may want to steer clear.
But for many the bridge will become yet another reason to visit Vøringsfossen waterfall, already one of Norway's top destinations.

Romantic tradition

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The bridge almost looks like a footpath floating in mid air.
STIAN LYSBERG SOLUM/NTB Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images
The eyecatching, floating-on-air design is inspired by Norwegian folklore and the country's Romantic tradition, says Hølmebakk.
Turning this concept into a reality wasn't easy -- alongside more conventional building methods, the team had to use helicopters and mountaineers.
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The bridge isn't for the faint hearted.
Courtesy Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk
Building work began in 2015 but, because Vøringsfossen is located in the mountains, work could only take place during the short summer season.
Hølmebakk recognizes that some may still feel the bridge interferes with the natural beauty of the landscape -- but the architect says the bridge has been sensitively designed, and also points out the walkway offers a safer way for adventurous travelers to admire the beauty of the waterfall.
Completed-bridge-Norway
The walkway is designed to blend in with the natural landscape.
Courtesy Carl-Viggo Hølmebakk
It's suitable for children and older people, but it is not wheelchair friendly. Hølmebakk says there is an accessible foothpath currently under development as part of the larger project.
By 2022, there'll also be a cafe on site, perfect for catching a breath after the adrenaline rush of walking across the bridge.

Architectural marvel

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The local landscape remains the star attraction.
STIAN LYSBERG SOLUM/NTB Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images
Hølmebakk has seen the bridge at each stage of construction, but he says he still marveled the first time he saw it completed and stepped onto the walkway.
The scale, he says, is pretty incredible and crossing it was "fantastic."
Still, Hølmebakk stresses that the bridge will always come second to the surrounding landscape.
"The architecture is not the main part, but the beautiful nature, and the waterfall."