We flew with BA from London Heathrow into Stavanger and it was one of the easiest check ins & boardings I’ve ever done – the gate wasn’t announced until the plane was ready and then we simply strolled onto the plane rather than queuing in a crowded holding area like many other carriers seem to do. The flight over was uneventful and nearly all over the sea until we got closer to the Norwegian coastline when small islands began to appear below. As we began our descent into Stavanger, we could see several oil rigs moored in the harbour reminding us of the reason most people come here.Monday 19°CTuesday 12°CWednesday 10°CThursday 10°C
After collecting our bags (which literally came through the conveyer belt door as we walked up to it), we followed the signs for car rental and, in complete contrast to our recent Holland trip, quickly collected our car, found it in the connected car park and were on the road within no time. Other than small road improvement works, the drive into the city was quick and easy to navigate.
We had opted to stay in the city centre located Radisson Blu which, although typically a business hotel, had some great rates, a free connected car park, was within walking distance of the harbour and the old town and had a massive buffet breakfast included (though avoid the half frozen pancakes). After dropping our bags off in the huge upgraded corner suite room, we ventured out to explore the white painted wooden houses in the old town. From the turn of the 18th century, these wooden houses were nearly demolished after the 2nd World War but luckily mostly survived and the area is now full of boutique shops, craft and impressive flower gardens. Afterwards, as the sun was still shining, we grabbed a beer in one of the harbour side bars and got our first alcohol related shock – it cost nearly 3 times that it would in the UK. Later on during the trip we decided to get a bottle of wine to drink in the hotel room rather than pay bar prices but found it impossible to do – you can only buy wine from government off licences which are hard to find and appear to never be open when you do find one. Without going into the politics, it appears that Norway uses the revenue from these sales to fund the country and, amongst other things, give people a yearly fund to buy work clothes. Yes you read that correctly & it seems to work very well.
That night we ate in an Indian which was more of a take away but had a few tables – the food was excellent and despite it being more like a take away, the presentation and service was spot on. Given by the amount of foot fall whilst we were there, it has a deserved decent reputation. Would happily return and happily recommend it.
The following day after having a decent breakfast (including yellow bendy things – see photo!), we set off to do a day hike to Kjeragbolten which is a boulder wedged between two cliffs. As it was late spring/early summer, it was still a bit chilly but we jokingly said, “do you think we’ll see any snow?” – so imagine our surprise when we started seeing big patches of snow beside the road which soon turned into meters high snow banks through which the road had been cleared. The scenery was spectacular and kept getting bigger, better and more impressive as we drove. It was a relatively long drive from the city but very easy to navigate, the roads were well maintained and there was little traffic. After driving through the ever increasingly high snow, we got to the car park next to the start of the hiking trail and parked up. Although we had suitable hiking clothes including waterproofs, we had totally unsuitable hiking shoes, no poles and nothing useful for the snow – which we could now see stretching into the distance across the area we needed to go.
In hindsight it possibly wasn’t the wisest idea but we kitted up and set off up the first rocky scramble using the attached metal chains to pull ourselves up and to stop ourselves sliding on the ice-y rocks. As starts to hikes go, this was probably one of the hardest I’ve ever done (and my partner told me that she hated me for making her do it several times despite this being her idea!). We followed the foot steps of other hikers across the white landscape down steep snow covered hills, across more rocky areas and then finally over a long fairly flat section where the snow was much deeper and we kept sinking to our knees. The snow was so high in places that you couldn’t see the chains let alone hold onto them. The trail was also badly maintained in places as the poles attached to the chains were loose or non existent. This isn’t a trail for the unexperienced. By this point, the snow had got into our shoes which were soaking wet and pretty cold. The snow made the going slower than we expected and I have absolutely no idea what we were walking on or over. At this point, we considered giving up and heading back, but after making her go this far, my partner wasn’t prepared to give up! We were also noticeably under equipped compared to the Norwegians we passed and who pretty much ran.
We finally reached the edge of the cliffs which revealed the incredible views down into the fjord below and into the distance. About 1.5km below it was a pretty mind blowing view and definitely worth the hike there. The boulder was equally mind blowing – we wimped out of standing on it as it was covered in ice and there was only a single metal loop to cling onto to get down to it. We sat on exposed rocks on the edge of the cliff and ate our crudely constructed pack lunch from bits we had bought in a petrol station on the way. As views for picnics go, this will take some beating. After taking in the view a bit longer, we reluctantly started re-tracing our steps. We got overtaken by several Norwegians who slid on their backs down a long snow covered hill at pretty impressive speeds – partly highly amusing and partly really stupid! It was however a much quicker way to get down! The sun had long gone in towards the end of the hike and with about half a kilometer to go, the skies opened and the rain poured down. We quickly dried off and changed in toilets in the car park and ran to the nearby cafe to get a hot drink before heading back – the view from this would normally be impressive as well but it was now covered in clouds and the wind was blowing hard. The rain stopped during the drive back and revealed more awesome mountains, frozen lakes and never ending landscapes. That night, after crawling out of the shower with extremely tired legs, we made use of the room service and ordered pizza – which slightly oddly came in a take away box! We also found out that the pillow cases in the hotel could literally fit a person inside!
The next day, after a very deep sleep, we stuffed ourselves at the buffet breakfast (avoiding the half frozen pancakes) and stole a few yellow bendy things for our next hike (assuming our tired legs would make it). We walked down to the harbour and got a car ferry (as a foot passenger) across the bay to Tau and then got a bus from the landing quay to Preikestolen Mountain Lodge, the starting point of the hike. Door to door it took about an hour. You can prepay in advance (and print tickets off) or pay on the day which is what we did. You can’t reserve a seat on the bus but they are pretty frequent so just get on the next one if it is full. The same applies for the return bus which is timed to connect with returning ferries + you get to jump the queue on the waiting cars. Just don’t try to eat on the bus otherwise the rather grumpy driver will tell you off in Norwegian.
Preikestolen (the Pulpit Rock) is much more touristy than Kjeragbolten with a cafe, gift shop and large carpark at the start of the climb. Large tour groups also do this 3 – 4 hour round hike daily so be prepared to walk with lots of other people. In the summer, its possible to take a refreshing dip in one of the pools that you’ll pass – though given this was in June and it was still pretty cold, I’m not sure when “summer” actually starts! The path is much more man made, with steps built up steeper sections and hand rails along the tricky sections. The path winds up through forests before going across slightly more exposed sections but nothing like the Kjeragbolten trail. However once you get to the top and start walking along the final ridge to the Pulpit, the views are equally mind blowing with the fjord well below – a fairly large cruise ship was passing as we arrived and it looked tiny. The clouds were blowing around making the view disappear and reappear for a while before blowing away and leaving the landscape around visible for miles.
We sat a bit higher up to people watch as we ate another crudely created packed lunch before taking our own death defying selfies and photos with our legs dangling over the edge of the pulpit with nothing but thin air below for a long time. Apparently base jumpers use this as a take off point and the free falling must be incredible (terrifying) with a wall of rock one side and nothing the other side! We forced our tired and aching legs to move once more and descended down, found our bus, jumped the ferry queue and then found a much needed coffee on board as the ferry pulled away. After docking, we stopped en route to our hotel to get dinner in a Chinese – located up some rather odd stairs, it was a large restaurant and fairly busy. The menu was big, the drink prices even bigger and the portions a good size – one mistake I made though was ordering spring rolls assuming they’d be vegetarian friendly as they are in the UK; they aren’t in Norway. Other than that, it was a decent meal and quite frankly I would have eaten a vegetarian friendly horse at that point!
Tips and Tricks:
- Our Revolut cards worked everywhere as normal.
- The totally free offline maps.me app works a treat as always
- There are automated cameras on the bigger roads which automatically charge drivers using the AutoPASS system. If using a rental car, this will be charged to your card by the rental firm a few weeks after you take the car back. It won’t be a huge amount (depending on how much you drive) but keep this in mind when budgeting.
- Definitely take the right kit for hiking. Lots of the places are remote with poor signal and very few people.