Summer is upon us (in the Northern Hemisphere), and it’s time to start planning your next vacation. If you’re a hiking enthusiast, lover of nature and ecological tourism or just want to take a little stroll outdoors to enjoy some fresh air and scenery, Norway is the place for you!
Trekking is a long-established, popular pastime in Norway. With stunning vistas, dramatic mountains and deep coastal fjords carved by prehistoric glaciers, it’s no wonder the locals leverage the long summer days (midnight sun if you’re far enough north) to traverse this stunning landscape. As our writer Zach Caruso points out in his recent article ‘5 Reasons To Take a Hike’, there are numerous psychological and physiologic benefits to hiking, and the Norwegians take full advantage of their summer months. Home to forty-four national parks (all free and open to the public year round), highly developed hiking infrastructure and strict environmental regulation, Norway is the perfect place to embark on an active holiday excursion.
Although we don’t recommend attempting any of these hikes during winter months unless you’re highly experienced in cold weather mountaineering, here are a few of our favorites. These treks provide diverse, varying terrain and span a range of hiking abilities. They also offer epic photo opportunities, for those brave enough creep towards the bluffs, precipices and abysses along the way.
Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock)
Distance: 3.8km (2.4mi) roundtrip, 350m (1150ft) ascent
Duration: 2-4 hours
Location: From Stravanger, take the ferry to Tau, then head south on Rv13 to “Parking for Preikestolen” (Google Maps: Preikestolvegen 521, 4100 Jørpeland, Norway)
Due to its accessibility and proximity to Stavanger, Norway’s fourth largest city, Pulpit Rock is one of the country’s most visited vistas. There are a few steep spots, but you’ll find hikers of all ages and abilities along this route. From the car park at Preikestolhytta, it’s one to two hours each way, depending on your fitness level and ability. At the end of the trail you reach Pulpit Rock, a square plateau approximately 25 meters wide, and receive the reward of a phenomenal 604 meter (1,982 ft) overview of the Lysefjorden fjord!
Distance: 12km (7.5mi) roundtrip, 570m (1870ft) ascent
Duration: 5-8 hours
Suspended 984 meters (3,228ft) above an abyss, Kjeragbolten, a round rock precariously wedged between two sheer cliffs of a crevice, is one of the most iconic photo opportunities in Norway…for those brave enough to hop onto the boulder! Located on Kjerag Mountain, the trailhead is fifteen minutes southeast of Lysebotn. Generally, this challenging trek can be completed by anyone with a reasonable fitness level and ability; however, portions of the trail include anchored guide chains to assist climbing up boulders and semi-steep facades. Attempting this route in wet, foggy or high wind conditions is not advisable.
Distance: 23km (13.8mi) roundtrip, 900m (2950ft) ascent
Duration: 10-12 hours
Location: From Odda, head north towards Tyssedal on route 13, then follow signs to “Parking in Skjeggedal” or “Trolltunga Active” (Google Maps: Skjeggedal 20, 5770 Tyssedal, Norway)
The journey to Trolltunga is a challenging expedition that includes significant vertical climbs, slippery hillsides and varying terrain. While some trekkers finish this hike in 8 to 10 hours, most guide books state it as “a 10 to 12 hour hike that should be started before 10:00 am.” It’s a good idea to sport proper hiking boots and equipment if you’re going to attempt this arduous route. There are 20-30 rescues annually due to exhaustion and ill preparedness (23 in 2015). Expect to encounter snow or water, even in summertime; waterproof hiking gear is recommended. At the end of your voyage you reach Trolltunga, the “troll’s tongue,” a flat rock structure suspended 700 meters (2,300ft) above Lake Ringedalsvatnet. Dangle your legs over the edge for this photo op… just don’t lean too far forward!
Norway is a highly-developed, modern country with significant infrastructure and amenities. Consistently ranked among the world’s most expensive counties, it has a high per capita income and relatively little crime. It’s possible to use public transportation to traverse the country; however, we recommend renting (hiring) a car to drive between hiking spots. This allows you to set your own schedule, as well as provides a place to store for your luggage and gear. Consult websites such as the Norwegian Trekking Association and Visit Norway to help plan your trip.
A note on safety: To preserve its natural beauty, Norway has largely opted not to install fencing, barriers or other safety devices along hiking trails or vistas, including sheer cliffs. Fatalities linked to hiking and falls are extremely rare; however, be aware or your surroundings and abide by safety notifications you encounter. Also, know your limitations and thoroughly research any hike you intend to attempt. The weather along Kjergar and Trolltunga can change quickly, so be sure to consult local weather predications and plan accordingly.