Hiking and Driving through NorwayBergen, Odda, Stavanger, Lysefjord, Oslo in Norway
September 20, 2018 Travel
The last stop on my grad trip around Europe was Norway! I had been to Norway once before, when I was on exchange, and although it was cold and dark when I came in November, I fell in love with the beautiful fjords of Norway and knew I had to come back in the future to do some hiking. Last time when I came, I did one of the Norway in a Nutshell tours, which started in Bergen and returned to the city. It was really beautiful (and really cold), but really only gave me a small taste of Norway and left me craving more! So this time, I spent a week in Norway and we drove from Bergen to Oslo, with some hiking in between! I think the best way to see Norway is to drive around, you can get around by public transit but I don't think it is super convenient to get to the hikes, especially Trolltunga. We were there from June 2-9, 2018, and the itinerary we had planned out was as follows:
Day 2 - Explore Bergen, drive to Odda
Day 3 - Hike Trolltunga (27km, 10-12hrs), return to Odda
Day 4 - Drive to Stavanger, hike Preikestolen
Day 5 - Hike Kjerag (10km, 4-6hrs), stay in Lysefjord
Day 6 - Start driving towards Oslo, stay in Flatdal
Day 7 - Arrive in Oslo
Day 8 - Return home to Canada!
We flew in from Dubrovnik to Bergen, which arrived late at night due to some delays. We had a car booked with Europcar, who had contacted us earlier since we were arriving after regular hours. Our flight came in after midnight, but since we were in Norway in early June, the sunset was after 11pm, and when we arrived, there was still light out! It was crazy, I've never seen anything like it. By the time we picked up our car and drove into the city to our Airbnb, it was almost 2am and it was still light out. Since it was June, and close to the summer solstice, the sky is never fully dark at night, and the sun only sets for around 5 hours! Crazy!
After a night of sleep, we took a look around the city of Bergen before heading to Odda. There was a fish market around the center of the city, where there were stands of people selling raw and cooked seafood and meats. We tried a reindeer hot dog, which was served with lingonberry sauce and fried onions, and it was very tasty.
Afterwards, we walked up Mount Floyen, which took around an hour to walk up. There was a funicular that could take people up and down the mountain, and we took it down for the sake of time. We were really lucky with the weather, as it had been sunny and hot in Norway for the past couple weeks, which is quite unusual, especially for the city of Bergen, which is known to always be overcast and raining. With the great weather conditions, we were lucky to have a beautiful, clear view of the city from the top, unlike the last time I was there.
For lunch, we returned to the fish market, and ate at one of the covered sitting areas. I had fish cakes and a creamy fish soup that was delicious! After this, we headed back to the car to drive to Odda. From Bergen to Odda it was around 3 hours, we didn't want to get to Odda to late as we were planning on hiking Trolltunga the next day, and we wanted to be well-rested before the hike. The drive to Odda was very scenic (as all of Norway is), and we arrived at our Airbnb in Odda in the early evening. Odda is a good spot to stay if you're planning on hiking Trolltunga, as it's about a 30 minute drive to the start of the trail. Once we got to our Airbnb, we got ourselves some food and started prepping for our big hike the next day! We definitely made sure we had enough snacks and water for the hike, as well as made sure we had our gear ready to go early in the morning.
Trolltunga is one of the most famous hikes in Norway - but it is definitely a long one at approx. 27km round trip with a 800m elevation gain. Usually in early June, the top of the hike is still covered in snow, and you would need a guide to take you up, but since there was a heat wave this year in Scandinavia, the snow started melting early and we were able to do the hike in early June with no guide. To get to the start of the hike, we drove from Odda to a parking lot at the base of the hike at Skjeggedal. During the official hiking season (starts mid-June), you can actually drive up a bit along the pathway and park up there, which saves around 3km each way, which doesn't seem like a lot, but it is after hiking 20+km. However, there are limited spots, so you have to arrive very early to get those. Unfortunately this was not available to us since we were hiking in early June, so we had to walk up that path instead.
Now, I've never been in great cardiovascular shape, but over the past 5 weeks, I had spent almost every day walking all day, so I was used to being on my feet all day. That being said, by the end of the hike, my legs wanted to give up. Trolltunga isn't a very technically hard hike, but it is very long so endurance, as well as having enough food and water, is very important. The beginning of the hike is a pretty steep uphill walk/climb, and then after that it is less hilly with some smaller declines and inclines. As we climbed higher, the air got a little chillier, but I think it was the perfect temperature to hike comfortably - around 12-15 degrees Celcius under the sun. There wasn't too much snow at the beginning, until we continued upwards and could feel the air getting cooler and finally saw some snow. We brought a lot of water, but up at the top there is actually a lot of small waterfalls / streams where you can refill, and the water tastes super clean. Anyway, once you get over the initial uphill hump, the hike isn't so painful, and the view from up high is amazing, with all the snow-topped fjords and mountains. The whole hike is super scenic, and we were so lucky to have such beautiful weather for our hike. Honestly, if it had been raining, I probably would have been miserable the whole way. Something else to note is that we were under the sun basically the whole hike, there aren't many trees past the first couple km, so definitely wear a lot of sunscreen! Look how blue the sky is in these pictures, I definitely should have taken a lot more but was trying to save my energy :P
The hike to the top is about 13km, and it isn't really that rough. Since we were kind of early in the season, we were lucky that there wasn't a long line to take pictures on the rock. I've heard that there can be a one hour line during the peak season, so we could take lots of pictures and take our time relaxing at the top. I was really afraid walking up to the edge of the walk, since I have an intense fear of heights, but it actually wasn't that scary. The rock is inclined upwards, and is actually quite large, so it doesn't feel like you can fall off that easy, and once I realized that I was okay to sit on the edge. :P After taking pictures, we ate some of our snacks and took a needed break before the long hike back.
I have to say, the hike back definitely felt a lot longer, probably because I had already enjoyed the view on the way there. By the time we were at the start of the big uphill, my legs were dead and my knees were aching. I almost slipped a couple times hiking downhill because I was so tired at that point. I would say the last 3km that is just on the driveway was the most painful, because you're almost at the end and so exhausted, but it just feels like it's still dragging on forever. I think that originally, this hike was meant to be done over two days, and some people still do that and camp overnight at the top. Anyway, we eventually made it back to the car and headed back into Odda to get something to eat. Unfortunately, the food options in such a small little town weren't great, but we found a small restaurant to eat at, and it still tasted delicious because of how hungry we were.
The next day, we went to Stavanger. We had planned to hike Pulpit Rock if we were up to it, but after the previous day's long hike, we decided to take it easy that day. We walked around the small town, and went shopping, and decided to go to the grocery store to make some tacos for dinner instead of eating out. Everything in Norway is just so expensive, so it was definitely a lot cheaper to cook our own food in our Airbnb. I'm sad I didn't get to hike Pulpit Rock this time, but I am sure I will be back to do it some day! It is a pretty popular hike in Norway, and I've heard it can be quite crowded, as it isn't as long or tough of a hike as Trolltunga.
Kjerag & Lysebotn
The next day, we drove from Stavanger to the start of the Kjerag hike. The hike is a 570m elevation, and around 10km round trip. The start of the hike is a pretty steep climb up a bunch of rocks, and the whole hike is basically on rocks. There are chains on the rocks to help as well, although I found those handier going downwards. Once you get past the initial climb on the rocks, the rest of the hike is a little flatter, and is mostly rocky terrain but high up. I was too afraid to get closer to the edge of the rocks to check out the fjord, but I'm sure it was a nice view. It was another beautiful day, with mostly clear blue skies and comfortable hiking temperatures. We finally got to the end of the trail, to where the famous Kjeragbolten rock is located, a large boulder wedged between two cliffs. Honestly, I almost didn't want to stand on the rock, it looks so small and I'm so afraid of heights, but I had already hiked all the way up there so I figured I would just do it once, for the gram. I'm glad I did it since I didn't die, but I don't think I would do it again now, or let my future children do it. There is a ledge behind one of the cliffs to walk onto the rock, which I did on my hands and knees. Once you're on the rock, it doesn't feel as tiny and the top of it is actually quite flat, but it is still terrifying! I didn't look down once, and only did one pose with my hands in the air because I really just didn't move as much as possible. My friends were much braver, they did many different poses, sat on the rock, had two people on the rock at the same time, but not me! Nope nope nope! Thinking back to it now still makes my heart pound, and gives me that scared feeling in my stomach.
After eating some snacks and taking many pictures, we headed back the way we came to go back to the parking lot. I'm not a fan of hiking downwards (thanks to my fear of heights) so I'm glad there were chains on the rocks to hold on to, as the rocks were pretty steep and slippery. From the parking lot, we headed to Lysebotn, which you can see from the restaurant / gift store that is located right by the parking lot. Lysebotn is a really tiny town, honestly I think there were less than 20 buildings in the entire town and we could walk through it in 10 minutes, so there really weren't that many options in terms of places to stay or eat. We had booked a room at Lysefjorden Lodge, which wasn't too busy when we were there, but is probably quite busy later in the summer. We also ate there, as there weren't really many options in the town either, and it wasn't bad but nothing to write home about! A good, filling meal after another long hike.
We stayed in Lysebotn for the night, and then started making the scenic drive to Oslo. It takes almost 8 hours to drive to Oslo, so we had planned to stop in Flatdal so we would not have to make the drive in one day. We didn't do much there, just rested and checked out the small town and grocery store so that we could make some dinner. Norway is known for its fresh salmon, so we found some in the grocery store to bring back to our cozy Airbnb and cook for dinner. We were so lucky, the weather through our whole time in Norway was so nice, so we were able to enjoy our meal outdoors. The downside was that due to the heatwave, there were forest fires all over Scandinavia. Also, a lot of homes in Scandinavia aren't air conditioned, as it isn't normally that hot for such long periods of time, so it was a little warm in our Airbnbs in Norway, but not that big of a deal.
We headed to Oslo earlier in the day so that we would have some time to explore before we headed back to Canada the following day. It was a hot and sunny day in Oslo, so we kind of just wandered around the city and checked out some malls and buildings, but didn't do anything super interesting, just had a relaxing day! After wandering around, we had dinner at a restaurant that Google says is "traditional Norwegian food", called Den Glade Gris, which was very tasty!
Oslo marked the last stop of my 6-week trip through Europe, so it was definitely bittersweet. I had a great time traveling around Europe, but I was also very ready to go home and stay put for a bit and mainly to not have to pack my backpack anymore. I am so lucky that I was able travel like that after I graduated, both having the luxury of time and money, which I know is a privilege. I was also so lucky that I traveled with such a great group of friends, who managed to put up with me for 6 weeks without having any issues! I hope to travel more in the future, I think next, I want to explore more of Asia, specifically South East Asia, where I haven't been at all.