Welcome to the Norwegian Nature Guide! – Part one of a comprehensive guide to Norway that I’m putting together.
Its picturesque mountains, beautiful fjords and never-ending forests usually blow most people whom have visited Norway away. It’s not hard to see why everyone gazes out in disbelief that such a place exists. This country has so much to offer but not everyone knows about its hidden gems, unfortunately. So, it’s time we change that! This nature guide will be covering:
Welcome to my Fatherland, I hope you find this helpful in planning your next trip to Norway.
The following places mentioned are spots that I have personally visited and/or hiked and would definitely recommend to everyone. Being such a massive country, majority of the points of interest are scattered around but these are all easily accessible and along various touristy routes.
The hiking opportunities probably make it one of the top reasons why it is a favourite amongst nature lovers. There is an abundant array of hikes to pick from, you’re never going to run out of options. With longer days and warmer temperatures, summer is the season to set out into the great outdoors and explore by foot. Majority of the hikes are only open during the summer due to safety and there are other activities to experience during the winter months.
The following three hikes are the trinity for international travellers visiting Norway for the sole pursue of hiking. They range in difficulty; distance and time taken so hike according to your fitness level. These are the more popular and tourist orientated hikes (still loved by locals) making it easily accessible by public transport. Should you like more information, details and personal experiences on the following, each heading has a click-through taking you to an individual extensive guide.
Distance: 8km round trip
Time taken: 2 – 4hrs around trip
Season: All year around. In winter, crampons are available for rent from Preikestolen Tourist Centre
This is hands down one of the most visited natural attractions and most hiked trail in the country. During the summer, there are tours taking you here from Stavanger centre and it’sca packed with hikers. Since it is the easiest of the hikes, people of all ages can be seen doing it, even dogs do it! The paths are clear and easy to follow but be mindful of the 4 stages of steep incline. Nonetheless, the effort vs reward makes this an amazing starting point to your Norwegian adventure. Be sure to bring your camera, as you’ll be treated to a beautiful view overlooking Lysefjord!
Location: Jørpeland, Rogaland (Western Norway)
Closest major town: Stavanger
Getting here: During the summer months, Tide offers multiple daily transportation to Preikestolen from Stavanger Centre for 300NOK. Alternatively, if you decide to drive, follow the E39 eastbound and go in the direction of Røldal, catching the ferry from Lauvvik to Oanes and follow the signs. This route takes 1.5hrs and the parking at Preikestolen as of November 2016 is 150NOK per day.
Distance: 10km round trip
Time taken: 3.5 – 7hrs around trip
Season: Summer (April – September)
You may have seen this boulder before in a drone video that was released (and went viral) recently. The subject in the video is none other that Kjeragbolten. This boulder wedged in between two rock faces is such a must-have instagram photo that people are willing to wait in line for over one hour to snap a photo! It is not for the faint hearted and is a dream for the adventure seekers. Depending on your fitness level, this hike can be challenging. There are 3 levels of steep inclinations where chains are used to pull yourself up, while this is an absolute killer on your legs and knees the day after, it’s completely worth the hike. A great spot to look over the town of Lysebotn and over Lysefjord.
Location: Lysebotn, Rogaland (Western Norway)
Closest major city: Stavanger
Getting here: Similarly to Preikestolen, Tide takes you from Stavanger Sentrum to the starting point of Kjerag for 590NOK round trip. Driving there will take about 2.5hrs – simply follow E39 eastbound towards Kongeparken and turn off at Route 45 (towards Sirdal) and once you’ve passed the Ski Centre – continue on the FV975 in the direction of Lysebotn, through the back country roads and there’s parking lot on your left hand side. Once again, day parking will set you back 150NOK as of November 2016.
Distance: 22km round trip
Time taken: 8 – 12 hrs round trip
Season: April – September. DO NOT attempt in winter.
What list would this be if Trolltunga weren’t on it, right? While a lot of people have completed this hike, it is definitely not a walk in the park.
This hike calls for proper hiking boots and preparation (food and clothes wise) as this 22km round trip takes anywhere between 8 – 12 hrs and should only be attempted during the summer months where days are long, the weather is warmer and there’s a lot of hikers (in case of an emergency). The trail is well maintained by the Norwegian Hiking Association and is continually being improved, which is incredibly useful especially the first kilometres ascend. The surrounding views are breathtaking, take it all in. Since you’re in the wild, camping is permitted (and for free!) so breaking this hike in half will be easier on your knees – just remember not to leave any trash behind! All in all, this hike is extremely doable; maybe do a bit of training leading up so you’ll enjoy it more. Trust me, a bit of training goes a long way – this is coming from someone whom has done it thrice.
Location: Tyssedal, Hordaland (Western Norway)
Closest major town: Odda
Getting here: There is a bus that can be taken which stops at the first parking lot (6km) from the starting point. If you’re driving, head to the town of Odda and continue northbound on Route 13 towards Tyssedal and follow the signs up the mountain. You will pass one small parking lot half way up the narrow road but keep going until you reach a lake and a massive parking lot in front of Trolltunga Active – this is the starting point of your hike. There are different prices for parking here, depending on how long you take. As of September, an entire day of parking (24hours) will set you back 400NOK.
There is so much hiking to be done in Norway that it is almost impossible to include all of them in a short list like this. I am constantly discovering different trails and points of interest around the country but haven’t found the time to visit them yet. Hopefully I will complete more local and off beaten track hikes post graduation.
Gaustatoppen and Galdhøpiggen are both tall mountains standing at 1883m and 2469m respectively. Considering they are both the tallest mountains in their respective county (the latter being the tallest in Norway), the hikes are doable and views rewarding.
Standing at 1 883m, Gaustatoppen is the tallest mountain in the county of Telemark, located near the town of Rjukan (2.5 hrs east of Oslo), an area I spent quite a lot of time during my visits to Norway. This isn’t a challenging mountain with clear terrain, it takes 4 hrs to complete the 10km return journey. The Gaustabanen, a cable car taking you up inside the mountain is a good alternative if you encounter bad weather of prefer an easier option. The Gaustabanen is open every day during the summer and costs a fee to take. At the top of the mountain, there is a little cafe where you can sign your name in the visitors log book, tuck into some good Norwegian waffles and on a clear day, you can enjoy a birds eye view overlooking a sixth of the country.
Also known as the tallest mountain in Northern Europe, standing at 2 469m, it can be found in Jotunheimen National Park. While this mountain can be ascended without a guide, if you lack hiking knowledge or experience in the mountains, I would highly recommend it. On your journey to the top, you will cross a glacier and your guide will rope you to each other for safety. This is a slightly more challenging hike especially for a little pocket rocket like myself (I stand at 1.57m), as some of the steps will ensure you stretch. The taller folks wouldn’t encounter this problem. The tours take place during the summer months and proper equipment and clothing is advised as the mountain range is covered in snow all year round – we were met with a white out during the hike back in the summer of 2012. This hike will take 6 hours to complete.
During the summer, the ski centre on Galdhøpiggen is open so if you fancy tearing up the slopes, you’ve got the opportunity to do it all year around in Norway!
The talking point of everyone’s travels to Norway.
The starting point of most people’s journey into the fjords is through Bergen, coincidentally known as the Gateway City to the Fjords. If you’re looking at a map, there are countless routes taking you through the fjords and without a doubt, whichever route you take, it’ll be amazing no less. Just a heads up, some of these mountain paths can be a very tight squeeze and depending on the time of year, icy as well so drive careful and enjoy the views but please do not slow down while on the highway to take photos, pull over if you want to snap photos.
The best way to view this fjord is from the top of Preikestolen and Kjerag, which offers undisturbed panoramic views. Alternatively, when you get off the ferry from Lauvvik, drive around the area as you’ll be able to drive along the fjord.
From Aurland, drive towards Lærdal (over the mountains) up a winding and narrow road with one too many hairpins taking you to probably the most beautiful viewpoint over the fjord. This is my personal favourite fjord (and viewpoint) as you’re welcomed to views of the town and uninterrupted views seeing down the fjord. There is a small area to stop and snap some photos on the way up but drive carefully and slowly here as most parts of the route is only wide enough for one car!
This is a UNESCO listed fjord and said to be the inspiration behind Disney’s Frozen. If you’re driving from Bergen, head east on E16 towards Gudvangen where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the fjord. If you would like to see the fjord from the water, a ferry is available taking you around the fjord, surrounding you with its majestic beauty.
This fjord has really deep blue coloured water and it’s beautiful! If you fancy camping with a view, there are several campsites set up along the sides of the mountain (at about mid point) and they don’t cost too much more than the regular campsites. It is easy enough to spend the day away driving along the E16 and stopping at one too many areas to take in all the beauty.
This is another UNESCO listed and probably the most iconic of all the fjords. It is situated in the Møre og Romsdal county and home to the Sever Sisters Waterfalls (one of the most photographed waterfalls in Norway). There are several fjord cruises which can be arranged taking you to view the fjord or if you rather kayak through the fjord, that is another option. Rentals can be done in villages along the fjord. At one of the many view points, the Queen Sonja’s Chair is installed by Fjord Norway, overlooking the town and ferries can be seen going in and out of the harbour like little toy boats.
The best time to see the Norwegian waterfalls at its full force will probably be in late spring – early summer, when the snow starts melting and water rushes down to the rivers, lakes and open sea. Thanks to the infrastructure in Norway, a lot of the tourist routes take you past these waterfalls so it can be see on the way to places. There are parking lots on the side of the road so you’ll be able to stretch your legs and snap a couple of photos along your journey.
An amazing waterfall that you’ll see on your journey along National Road 13 – south of Odda. This 165m waterfall is unique in its own right by featuring two individual streams that converge in the middle. There is a parking space on the left side of this photograph where you can step out and enjoy this scenery.
Månafossen is the tallest waterfall in the Rogaland county standing at 92m. To get to the viewpoint in the photo, it takes about 15 – 30 mins up a steep incline with chains for aiding. The hike can be attempted all year around but in the winter months, the surfaces are covered in ice making the hike challenging. The path continues up and around to the other side of the falls taking you to a farm called Mån.
This is said to be the famous waterfall in Norway. If you’re in the Hardangervidda area, it is easy to make a detour to check out this waterfall. The photo above was taken in the Spring where the water was still frozen but once the snow starts melting, this scenery transforms into a 182m plunging waterfall with lush greenery. There is a hike available taking you to near the foot of the falls but can only be done during the summer as the paths are too slippery to be attempted in the winter months.
This 110m waterfall sits off the E16 between Voss and Flåm and while it’s not the tallest waterfall in the county, it is still a marvel to look at.
Imagine going to bed and the sun is still shining brightly through your blinds and waking up to the sun high in the sky. It’s a bit of an odd sensation but that’s what happens during the summer months especially in the Northern parts of Norway. It is quite amazing watching the sun slightly touch the horizon and come back up but it may take you quite a while to get your body used to it. I personally saw it whilst visiting my relatives in Bodø.
This is probably on everyone’s bucket list – the Northern Lights. Depending on the solar activity, it can be witnessed quite far south but head further north increase your chances of seeing it! A favourite for many visitors is Tromsø – considered to be the northernmost city in the world. While there is no guarantee to see the Lights, they are breathtaking to witness. Be sure to rug up as temperatures plummet during the winter.
Oh, wow! Not sure about you but that was a lot of ground to cover for the first instalment. There you have it, a local’s guide to some off the beaten nature spots in Norway that will be sure spice up your itinerary. What were some of your favourite suggestions?
Peace, love and good vibes.