Norway has a number of famous hikes. Probably the 3 most famous ones are the Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), the Kjeragbolten, and the Trolltunga hikes. The first two hikes are around Stavanger. When we were doing research we saw pictures of these beautiful overlooks of the fjords from cliffs along the hikes and were really excited to get going. From Oslo, we took the overnight train to Stavanger. I was sick on the train so wasn’t able to enjoy the view but Diem said it was beautiful around sunrise. I was still not feeling well and it was cold, rainy, and windy out so we just called it a rest day.
Our first full day, we decided to do the Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) hike. There are a number of tour companies that offer transportation and packages to do this hike but we read that we could just do it ourselves. We took the ferry (54 NOK – one way) to Tau and then a bus (175 NOK – round trip) to the Pulpit Rock starting point. We had a clear day and the hike is mostly through the woods on the mountain. The hike is 3.8 km long one-way and takes about 2 hours getting there and about 1.5 hours back. The path is well marked and has some steep points but really isn’t that bad. Along the way, we had a beautiful view of the mountains surrounding the fjord (Lysefjorden) and low clouds covering the water which made for some nice pictures. When we got to the end of the hike (around noon) the clouds were still low, blocking the fjord below. We were hoping the clouds would clear later in the day so we had lunch and waited a couple of hours but the clouds didn’t clear. We still got a lot of great pictures of us above the clouds on the cliffs but it would have been nice if we could see the fjord. The walk back was tough on our feet and knees but it went quickly. We made it back to the apartment around 8 PM and rested up for day 2 of hiking.
We originally thought that Pulpit Rock was the hike with the boulder hanging between the cliffs that we saw pictures of when researching Norway. Unfortunately it was a different, more difficult hike called Kjeragbolten. We decided it would be worth it to pay the 550 NOK (~$60 USD) through a tour company to get there and do the hike before we left. We thought we could get there by public bus by using the travel planner of the Kolumbus website but the website also shows tour company buses so the 2 zone pass we bought (135 NOK) was essentially worthless and we had to pay full price. It was a bummer and a bit of a hit to the budget but the hike was totally worth it.
The tour left Stavanger at 7:30 AM and we arrived at the starting point at 10:45 AM. We stopped once for about 20 minutes at a little restaurant along the way. The hike was about 10 km roundtrip and was a good deal steeper than the Pulpit Rock hike. In retrospect, we should have reversed the order of the hikes so that we were more rested for the more difficult hike, but hey, live and learn. We had another beautiful day and this time, the clouds didn’t block the fjord. We got some beautiful pics along the way and at the boulder. We didn’t get to spend that much time (45 minutes) at the boulder and a lot of that time was spent waiting in line to get a picture on top of the rock. There wasn’t that many people at the rock but everyone wanted multiple pictures and some people were more respectful of other people’s time than others. We actually could have spent more time there but we were worried about missing the bus on the way back. The hike is definitely the most beautiful that I’ve done and I think it should be a must-do item for anyone visiting Norway. Really both hikes are definitely worth doing. The Kjerag hike information says it takes 2.5 hours each way but really it takes 2-2.5 hours to get there and about 1.5 hours to get back. The bus was set to leave at 4:45 PM so the tour gives you 6 hours to do a 5 hour hike. For some reason the bus was actually delayed an hour leaving so we didn’t get back to our apartment until 8:30 PM. We were exhausted, made dinner, and packed. We had to leave around 4:30 AM to catch our ferry the next day.
The ferry to Bergen was hard to get to from our place in Stavanger. The bus only runs once an hour and it doesn’t drop you off in front of the ferry building, we had to walk over a mile to get to the ferry landing, carrying all of our luggage. The ferry ride left at 7 AM and was 5.5 hours to Bergen but it is a pretty nice ride. We sat in the Fjord lounge at the front of the ship which had a huge front window showcasing the beautiful landscape of tiny islands and coastline along the way.
Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, is directly north of Stavanger. It is famous for the seven mountains surrounding the city center, the Hanseatic Wharf, the fish market, and one of Norway's biggest cultural events, the Bergen International Festival, which is held there each year. We got to the Bergen and had to figure out how to get to our Airbnb which was about 60 Km away. When we were looking for places to stay, we saw that places in Bergen were really expensive and that some of the nice hikes were actually outside of the city and were more in the countryside. We found out it was about $15 USD and 1.5 hours one way to get to our place in the Kvam county. We actually got off at the wrong stop which was about 10 minutes away in the closest town. We got some groceries and then made our way back to our apartment. We got settled in and went to bed.
Our first full day, it was a cold rainy day so we stayed in, rested and worked on our blogs. We also realized that you really need a car to explore the hikes in the area since the hikes weren’t really accessible by public transportation. The main hike we wanted to do was Trolltunga which was about a 2-2.5 hour drive from our Airbnb. Additionally, after the drive, it was another 10-12 hour hike (23 km roundtrip). We read that the hike was also steeper and more difficult than the Kjerag. We spent some of the day looking at options to do the hike in a single day but it really wasn’t feasible. We were really bummed because the hike looked beautiful but we were already so happy with the hikes in Stavanger that we didn’t mind. If you want to do Trolltunga, plan ahead and stay in Odda or have a rental car.
The following day, the Airbnb host was really nice and offered to drive us into the closest town, Norheimsund, about a 15 minute drive away. We stopped at the Steinsdalsfossen waterfall which was pretty nice but didn’t take too much time to explore. The pictures we saw of the waterfall in the shops nearby showed a much fuller and bigger waterfall so I’m sure the waterfall is more impressive in the springtime when there is more water. After the waterfall, we walked into town about 20 minutes away. It was Sunday and we quickly found out that absolutely nothing was open. We had plans to explore the city and get groceries but it was a ghost town. So we waited for the bus to take us back to the apartment and then we relaxed again for the rest of the day watching movies. I actually didn’t mind because we needed to save some money because of the amount we spent in Stavanger.
On our last full day in the Bergen area, we took the bus to Oystese and found a hike to a waterfall (Orredalsfossen) Fitjadalen and then walked further to a lake at the top of the mountain. The waterfall was pretty cool and I climbed up on the boulders at the bottom of the waterfall and got in the river for a while. The lake was another 30 minute hike from the waterfall and is 8 km around. By the time we got there, though, we weren’t up for the entire circle so we walked around the lake for about 30 minutes, passing some old boats, some animals, and some old houses. The lake was very peaceful and we got some good views of the lake with the mountains in the background. After the walk around the lake, we went back down the mountain. When we went back to the apartment, we met 2 girls who were going to Trolltunga the next day. They offered to give us a lift if we wanted to do the Trolltunga hike with them. We tried calling Chase and the airline (SAS) to see if we could change our flights so we could hitch a ride with them but it was going to be too expensive. We were so bummed!
The next day we caught an early bus to Bergen around 6:50 AM and arrived in Bergen around 8:30 AM. We put our bags in a locker at the bus station then made our way to the Mt. Floyen funicular to take us to the top. We got to the funicular around 9:30 AM but there already was a huge line. There were a number of big tour groups there and a bunch more came while we were in line. We bought a one way ticket (45 NOK) to the top and finally got up there around 10:30 AM. There is a beautiful view of Bergen and the coast from the top. Even though there were a lot of people at the top, there is plenty of space to get a good picture of the view. There are also a lot of hiking paths at the top of the mountain but we didn’t feel like doing anything too difficult. We took a 10 minute walk to a small lake and stopped at a picnic table overlooking the lake to have lunch. It was pretty cold at the top because of the wind and we weren’t wearing any warm clothes. After lunch, we took a short hike we found at the top that we thought would go by the edge of the mountain but after about 30 minutes we headed back. We took a path down the mountain to the city center and back to the bus station. We had a few Norwegian Kroner left so we went to a grocery store to get food for dinner and then headed to the Bergen airport.
We ended up spending more time in Norway than we originally planned and even though Norway is a very expensive country, the beauty of the fjords is well worth it. We didn’t observe any Norwegians giving us attitude or acting like they were entitled or better than us but I can see that they would have lots to be proud of. I can see us coming back to hike Trolltunga, kayak in the fjords, see the northern lights, and explore Geiranger. As I mentioned in the previous post, Oslo was a beautiful city but if we came back to Norway we would spend it exploring the splendor of the countryside and not in the city.