When staying in Lofthus, the first thing you notice is the gigantic Skrikjofossen with a height of 450 meters that comes thundering down from the Hardangervidda. But hidden in a sort of canyon is another huge waterfall, in a sideturn of the upper part of the river Opo. This waterfall is called the Rjukandefoss or Opofossen with a total height of appr. 580 meters. Other names of the fall (Bjødnabykse, Bjørnabykset, Melafossen) refer to parts of the waterfall, single dropdowns.
The Rjukandefoss is situated in Lofthus/Ullensvang (Hordaland). From Ullensvang a trail leads to the base of the waterfall. From here you will only see a small piece of the fall. From campingside Lofthus there is a trail marked with a red T that leads to to the top of the falls. The trail takes you into the Hardangervidda, via the Munketreppene stairs to Nosi (alt. 950 metres). The Munketreppene stairs are made by monks who lived here in the 13th century. A roundtrip tour takes about 5 hours.
A little bit further then the end of the Munketreppene you will see a view point at Rjukande. Then you are about 1,000 meters above sea level. At Rjukande you stand at the beginning of Opo waterfalls (and you feel gentle splashes of water on your face) I believe this gave the name to the place: Rjukande meaning foaming/steaming, or something similar. A video of the place you can watch here.
From Rjukande you stand at the beginning of the Opofossen. Watching across the valley you will also notice another majestic waterfall, Skrikjofossen.
It always has been a mix up how the waterfall in the Opo river must be called. Actually it is a serie of waterfalls with different names. Starting from the the top they are named: Rjukandefoss, Melafoss, Bjødnabykse and Opofoss.
A local legend is connected to the the name of Bjødnabykset (meaning Bear’s Leap). I have heard different versions of the legend, but the stories are about a shepherd / shepherdess encountering a bear. One version is that the shepherd chases the bear, and the bear leaps across the fall, another version is the bear chasing the shepherd, who has to leap across to escape death.
For those who cannot walk up the Munkestreppene, there also an easy walk to the bottom of the valley from Lofthus. At the end of the trail you can see both falls. An extensive description is found on the website of Hardangerfjord (thanks to the nice people of the tourist office of Kinsarvik). A video of the place you can watch here.
Also something you have to do is the trail that lead into the Husedalen.From Kinsarvik (municipality Ullensvang in Hordaland) it is a 5 minute drive over a very narrow road to a parking lot where the trail into the Husedalen starts. Here you can admire 4 huge/powerful waterfalls in the river Kinso (just after each other): Tveitafossen, Nyastølfossen, Nykkjesøyfossen and the best at last the Søtefossen.