Stavanger was our first destination as it provided a good base to explore the nearby Lysefjord area with hikes to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) and Kjeragbolten (the boulder between two cliffs).
The city: We arrived to a lot of rain and so our first views of the city were somewhat grey and drizzly! The prettiest part of town – Gamle Stavanger – which means old town - was located on the western side of the harbour and is full of cute, wooden, white houses. Most of the shops and bars are on the opposite side of the harbour, along with this cute colourful street, Ovre Holmegate. There are lots of things to do in Stavanger, plenty of museums- including one focusing on the oil-exploration in the North Sea. However, we only used it as a base to explore the surrounding scenery.
Pulpit Rock Hike
To get to the start of the Preikestolen hike you have to take a car ferry from Stavanger Harbour to Tau. The car ferries are a way of life for Norwegians so they are incredibly efficient. Whether it was because of the rain, I’m not sure, but there was no need to pre-book your ferry tickets for this. We got to the ferry terminal at around 9am and were first in the queue. For ferry timetables and more information go to Nordled.no. If you don’t have a car, there are plenty of companies organising tours to Pulpit Rock, some were even based at the car ferry port in Stavanger Harbour.
We left Stavanger to a lot of drizzley rain and unfortunately this didn’t seem to be letting up during our 40 minute ferry journey. When you arrive in Tau it’s useful to have a map or Satnav as the directions to the start of the hike aren’t that obvious (we took a wrong turn at one point!)
We donned our waterproofs before setting off and stopped for an obligatory start of walk photo. The walk wasn’t too challenging – but it was VERY busy! The total walk time is about 3-4 hours. We were surprised to see how busy the route was, but also that a lot of people seemed unprepared for the terrain or weather (we saw someone in flip flops!) The rain slowed us down as at one point the footpath resembled a waterfall.
Despite our view being impeded due to largely being inside a cloud, we still had great fun on top of Pulpit Rock. You have to pass over a big crack in the rock and despite the weather you could still sense the massive abyss below when you hung your feet off the edge. The rock itself also makes a great picnic stop!
After lunch we headed back down, and even during that short time the amount of water on the footpath had got even worse so the going was slower than it might have been – especially with the volume of people.
Despite not getting that picture-perfect ‘this is why I want to go to Norway’ photograph we still had a really enjoyable hike!
From Stavanger to the start of the hike is a 2 ½ hour drive. You can get a ferry to take you down Lysefjord, not really cutting down any travel time but meaning there is less driving. However, the ferry from Stavanger only runs on certain days of the week and not really at a suitable time (www.fjord1.no) You can also get the ferry from nearby Lauvik, (www.bestilling.kolumbus.no ) but again there is only one that is early in the morning. When planning out trip a few months before, these ferry tickets had sold out. On reflection, the drive was not so bad so I wouldn’t worry if you don’t manage to get a ferry. There is also a bus company that runs trips from Stavanger daily during high season. (www.tide.no)
We realised how changeable the weather in Norway can be on our drive there as we passed though rain, sun and foggy cloud and a combination of all three. When we reached the trail head, it was cloudy but dry and so we decided to set off on the 5 hour hike.
As with most hike trails in Norway, the going gets tough pretty quickly. On the whole, it wasn’t that much of a strenuous walk (10km) – most people could manage the demand. But it was challenging. There were sections that were really steep – and hiking on flat rock – so you had to use chains to help you up. I’ll admit, I was a little scared of slipping at times, especially when it started drizzling!
The walk is made up of three climbs, up three ridges with some downhill sections in between. The steep downhill sections were also challenging in parts. The changing weather continued but we had a nice break in the clouds on top of the second section to give us our only good view of the day down to the fjord below.
On top of the third ridge there was a big, flat plateau to cross. At this point the fog was so thick we found it quite difficult to follow the trail. It then led to a ravine with massive rocks and water below – clambering over these, whilst keeping your feet dry, was difficult. But plenty of people coming the other way told us we were nearly there.
The first view of Kjeragbolten is somewhat surreal. To see such a large boulder wedged between two cliff faces. Even though we couldn’t see the massive drop below it was a crazy sight! I found it hard to watch people climbing on to it and talking photos. To climb on to the boulder itself you had to edge along a tiny knife edge ledge and then take a fairly big step on to the boulder. My nerves weren’t up to it and I settled for a photo in front of it instead. For the amount of people there – not many were taking the plunge of stepping on to the boulder.
After a well-deserved rest at the boulder we headed back down. Coming down, for me, was harder than going up, but I got in to the rhythm with some use of my hands…
A really fun (if tiring!) hike but, once again, no picture-perfect views - the Norwegian weather was still against us!
Just 6km outside Stavanger centre in Hafrsfjord there is the Viking Sword monument (Sverd I Fjell) which is well worth a short stop off! The weather was gorgeous and provided some picture perfect shots.