Imagine you are floating through crystal clear water, looking down at what looks to be an enchanted forest, the remains of a settlement over a hundred years old, and seeing the roads and the stone fences used to herd sheep and transport goods over a hundred years ago.
Welcome to Norway’s Atlantis, welcome to Lygnstøylsvatnet.
Lake Lygnstøylsvatnet, situated in Nordangsdalen Valley at 152 meters, in the West of Norway, is one of the most amazing places to dive in Norway. One clear calm days anyone can stop at county road 655 and see the remains of old farm houses. If you put on mask and fins you can see a a lot of the old farms, but the experience is greatest for those who bring air on their back, and dive down through the old road, forest and farms.
Originally there should not bee a water to dive in, but something happened. 26 of may 1908, the 1218 meters high mountain Keipen cracked, and huge amount of rocks came crushing down the mountain side, and created a dam across the valley. The valley and the nearby city Øye was covered in rock dust. The river Lygna was blocked and the water had nowhere to go. Slowly the valley filled with water and people had to evacuate. The water continued rising, and few days later all the farm houses was under water and thus Lygnstøylsvatnet was created.
The old farms before the landslide (By: Knud Knudsen Universitetsbiblioteket i Bergen)
The Landslide blocking the river
When scuba or free diving, you will be able to see the remains of nine farm buildings, a bridge, a farm road, stone fences, a gate, and most importantly; a mesmerizing underwater forest consisting of bare apple trees, over a hundred years old, frozen in time. Lygnstøylsvatnet is a very distinctive and special cultural heritage. Being able to see the remains of old farmhouses under a lake is very unique.
The old forest
Finding the lake is quite easy; you just follow the Nordangsdalen Valley. If in doubt that you have reached the correct lake, just look for the placards stating that this is the Lygnstøylsvatnet Lake, and weather permitting, you might also be able to see some of the old farm buildings from the shore. There are a few parking spaces available by the lake. It’s not possible do dive there come winter due to a thick ice cover.
Henrikke getting ready to descend
Start by swimming close to the fences you will see at the starting point. Follow the fences a bit south, and you will arrive at the first bridge (or, it is really a tunnel for the river) at about 5-6 meters depth. It is fun to swim through, but be careful not to kick up too much of the sediments, or it will not be a good experience for the next one through.
Fences down to the road
The first bridge
After swimming under the bridge, it is nice to follow the riverbed into the breathtaking forest at about 10 meters depth. The forest holds the name “Trollskogen”, translated to English: “The Troll Forest”. The naked branches stretches up towards the surface of the water, and you get a mesmerizing feeling swimming thorough this phenomenon. All the trees in the water are very brittle, and very little contact is necessary to break them, so be mindful of your fins and arms. Do not touch or lean on the trees.
After enjoying the forest you can swim northwest and arrive at the road. Follow the road north, and you will arrive at the landslide and second bridge.
Henrikke swimming over the fence
Swimming through the intersection
Second bridge blocked by the landslide
Henrikke swimming with the huge rock from the landslide
After investigating the landslide and swimming through the bridge, you can go a bit shallower and get to the old farmhouses.
One of several old farms
Nicely preserved foundation of an old farm
Check out all of the nine farm houses until you are back at where you started.
Here is a movie I made from the scuba dives we had there that time, which was recorded over a period of 3 dives. The weather conditions were cloudy and we experienced some rain, but the underwater conditions were absolutely fantastic. You can see the video below.