Right you guys…I was pretty lucky the other day, and I’ll tell you why. We’ve now been in Norway for around two months, it’s the height of Summer, and despite that we’ve mainly had two months of solid freezing cold and/or drizzle. It gets a bit miserable after a while, you know!? But the other day as we docked in Stavanger- a city in the South East of the country- the clouds cleared and the sun was blaring down like there was no tomorrow. I WAS LOVING LIFE AT LAST! A series of amazing events meant that we didn’t have to work that evening on the ship, so it was clearly destiny that that was the day we should VENTURE TO PREIKESTOLEN. For those not in the know about Norway’s natural sights galore, Preikestolen is basically a massive cliff which looms majestically over the Lysefjorden, and is currently one of the country’s most-visited natural tourist attractions (as we were just about to discover).
The journey from Stavanger involves a ferry and a bus ride lasting in total around an hour, so after being guided in the direction of the ferry to Tau by a very kind local lass in a neon outfit involving a great deal of leopard-print, we sat on the outdoor seats of the boat with the wind in our hair feeling generally very proud of ourselves but still crossing our fingers that we definitely were on the right boat. Everything was fine though guys- never fear! The ferry sped across the water of the fjord and before long we had arrived in the little town of Tau where some buses were waiting to collect passengers for the final leg of this weird pilgrimage we all seemed to be on together.
The bus ride through the countryside complete, we set off to begin the 2 and a half mile hike up the mountain. Here’s the thing, you guys. Although the distance covered isn’t that far, parts of the trail are so steep and downright dangerous feeling that it can take up to 3 hours one way. We did it in around an hour and forty-five minutes, which I thought was pretty alright considering I was very intent on stopping to appreciate the scenery every now and again, but there were others around me whose main goal was clearly to climb up and down again in as fast a time as possible. Which is all well and good, but I’ve never been to Preikestolen before, you know!? Sometimes you’ve just got to pause and admire your surroundings for a bit!
The trail goes up and down and all around like crazy, every now and again plateauing, which is nice to give your joints a bit of time to recover. At some points the ground is just a series of steeply placed boulders and loose rocks, at other times it becomes more of a dirt path, and the next moment there’s a wooden walkway built across boggy ground. It’s really pretty cool, and we picked the best day for it! I found that the best way to go about hiking to Preikestolen was to behave like a cross between a Power Ranger and a cat, particularly when faced with a solid rock face which you had to scale in order to continue. Leaping from thing to thing is really a joyous activity which I highly recommend to all!
Once we were about 3/4 of the way to the top we reached another plateau filled with water holes which people were jumping in to; they had clearly come prepared with swimming costumes, the clever buggers. (On a sweltering hot day jumping into ice cold water was clearly on everyone’s minds)
The thing that was very odd about the experience of being in such a wild location, is that we were two of approximately twelve-thousand other people who had also decided to hike that day. (That’s an exaggeration but honestly it felt like it at points) Professional Hikers with walking poles, old people who were amazingly able, old people who were in too deep but couldn’t turn around, young families with tiny children (you could tell the Norwegian ones because they were the people fearlessly flinging their children up waterfalls to bypass the crowds), a woman who had lost both her legs and left her wheelchair at the bottom to climb the whole way assisted by her friend, big dogs who were loving life, tiny fashionista dogs who appeared slightly baffled. It was all going on up there I tell you! The line of people was so full on that I felt as tiny as an ant, all just walking somewhere for a laugh. Mental.
At the top, things were actually pretty terrifying. It helped that my pal who I was climbing with was clearly clinging to the rock face in fear at the narrowest parts in the path (where the edge is mere centimetres away from you); trying to act casual and calm for her benefit made me feel less of a sense of impending doom than I otherwise would have done. The view of the fjord below and the mountains in the distance is truly something breathtaking, with the cliffs of Preikestolen rising almost 2000 feet above the water below. The Norwegian authorities have ruled against putting any kind of fence around the cliff edge as it would destroy the beauty of the area (I appreciate that), although it’s rather scary watching people crowd to the edge like a bunch of lemmings in order to dangle over the edge and take selfies. That was one crowded cliff edge I tell you!
Despite the element of danger (or maybe because of it, ooh) the hike up to Preikestolen was full on AWESOME. I edged as close to the edge as I possibly could, but clearly wasn’t brave enough to fully hang my legs over. The clamber down was even more Power Ranger style than the way up, mainly because I discovered that my legs shook less and I generally felt less pain the faster I went.
(I would be the yellow Power Ranger, FYI)
- You can buy a combined return ticket for bus and ferry from the ferry terminal or tourist information centre in Stavanger, for the equivalent of around £35. Because Norway is an expensive country, you know.
- There is a hostel located on the fjord at the beginning of the climb to Preikestolen which looked pretty darn great! So good for a longer stay in the area, and more time enjoying the outdoor activities available in the area.
- The best time to hike is between April to October- definitely not in Winter when the path is far more dangerous and the weather a lot harsher!
- Expect to spend around 4-5 hours in total hiking up and down, although obviously this depends on your fitness level, general experience…and, unfortunately the amount of traffic around you.