Rjukan is a town (population 3,400) in the Tinn municipality of Telemark, Norway. The town was founded in 1908 by Sam Eyde, who started the plan of building a city from scratch, after buying the renowned Rjukan waterfall to make electric power for fertilizer production. The Rjukan-Notodden Industrial Heritage Site is on UNESCO's World Heritage list since 2015.

Vemork hydroelectric power plant


Rjukan waterfall - rare occasion of full flow.

The small town of Rjukan emerged because of the hydro power and factories producing artificial fertilizer established there. The name Rjukan refers to the Rjukan waterall (literally the "steaming" or "smoking" waterfall), this waterfall was used at the Vemork hydro power station (largest in the world when it was constructed in 1911). The waterfall has a total drop of about 240 meters, of which about 100 meters is vertical. Because of the hydro power the waterfall is now seen occasionally during summer. The waterfall was in the 1800s regarded as Norway's top tourist attraction, and one of the first outside visitors reported that he had discovered the "tallest waterfall in the world" (a slight exaggeration). Others described it as a "lovely and mighty waterfall beyond imagination."

Rjukan sits in a deep, narrow valley beneath the high barren plateau, partly known as Hardangervidda. A single distinct summit, Mount Gausta (1883 m.a.s.), rise above the plateau. Mt Gausta is probably the summit that offers the widest panorama, it has been estimated that the panorama covers some 60,000 km2 (twice the size of Belgium). Sam Eyde proposed an idea of bringing winter light to Rjukan about a century ago. Due to its location in a deep valley, Rjukan does not see sun between October and March. A project of mirrors installed on top of an adjacent mountain turning toward the sun as it moves along the sky and reflecting its light to the town square was completed in 2013.

During the second world war the German occupants produced heavy water at the Vemork facilities in Rjukan. Heavy water could potentially be used to produce nuclear weapons and the allies decided to destroy the production facility. In a daring and bold operation, a group of Norwegian commandos flown in from Britain managed to enter the plant and blow it up (no shots were fired and nobody killed). The movie Heroes of Telemark (1965) is based on the operation and was produced in Rjukan by Kirk Douglas (with son Michael in one his first jobs in the film industry).

Get in

Drive by car (2 hours) or take a bus (2.5-3 hours) from the Norwegian capital Oslo.

By car

Recommended route is Oslo-Drammen-Kongsberg-Bolkesjø-Rjukan. Alternative route Oslo-Drammen-Kongsberg-Notodden-Rjukan takes 15 minutes longer. From western Norway, you take off E-134 to Arabygdi and then on to Road 37.


Steam ferry Ammonia in Mæl station


Rjukan village in the deep valley
Iconic Mt Gausta in Winter




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