Norway's fjords on foot

Swap the traditional cruise views to explore the trails above the famous Norwegian fjords


They call this piece of rock Trolltunga, the Troll’s Tongue — aptly named as it sticks out 700 metres above the water below. It’s not very wide and I summon all my courage to get closer to the edge. After all it’s taken me over five hours to hike here and I’m not going to miss a unique photo opportunity.

Most people’s experience of the Norwegian fjords is from the deck of a cruise ship but with wide roads and little traffic, a self-drive holiday from Stavanger to Bergen is an easy way to rediscover those marvellous views, along with the chance to hike some of Norway’s most famous trails en route.

Flying into Stavanger, the pretty port is my base for the start of the trip, where tall-masted sailing boats are moored in the harbour and rows of 18th century white wooden houses rise up from the water’s edge. Normally it’s full of cruise ships but the pandemic has temporarily put a stop to that.

This is Norway’s oil city, the North Sea oilfields not far away, so you can eat well at the city’s high end restaurants too.

But my goal lies outside the city. My first day leads me through two of Norway’s long road tunnels, the longest over 13km, as I head east to Lysefjord. At 42km long, it’s one of the most beautiful fjords.

The target here is Preikestolen or Pulpit rock, high above the water and it’s a popular climb with a people of all ages — it does start off steeply, before levelling out at around 600 metres. From this point, it’s an easy walk across white granite slabs with stunning views of the fjord below.

Soon the rock itself comes into sight as you negotiate a narrow path along the cliffs. It juts out into the air, high above the water, and there are no fences or guard rails.

Brave souls go right to the edge performing vertigo inducing acrobatics for the cameras. I’m content just to take their picture before descending again.

The next day I drive south following the coast, mist still clinging to the shore, past tiny fishing villages and solitary lighthouses. In the past, this was known as the most dangerous coastline in Norway but today it’s a pleasant scenic drive.

An hour away lies the attractive port of Egersund where I turn inland following the narrow road leading to a small parking area, and setting off on foot into the rolling hills.

There are no fjords today, just patches of water populating the boggy landscape. It’s an easy uphill climb and just after a small lake, I come face to face with Trollpikken, a huge upright rocky protrusion, named after the troll’s most intimate anatomy.

In the 90s, vandals planted explosives at its base with disastrous effect but it’s since been re-erected. Two young girls scramble up its sides for a photo and I’m happy to oblige.

Having explored east and south, it’s time to head north, leaving my base in Stavanger to venture through more tunnels and catch a ferry towards Åkrafjorden. Cruise passengers take day trips here to see the Langfoss Waterfall, its 2,000ft drop making it one of Norway’s finest.

Visiting after a dry summer, there’s not a huge volume of water but it’s still spectacular, crashing directly into the fjord. No surprise it regularly makes the list of the world’s ten best waterfalls.

An old mountain path links the fjord to a farm on the plateau above the waterfall, and I climb steeply through pine forest before stopping to catch my breath above the treeline. Below, Åkrafjord is laid out on the valley floor and high above I can just make out the Folgefonna Glacier.

At the top, hearing I’m English, a fisherman tells me that the RAF dropped copious supplies to the Resistance hiding here during the Second World War. He’s always on the lookout for leftovers but so far has been disappointed.

The owner of my lodgings in Åkrafjord is keen to show me another of the area’s secrets, this time a natural wonder that’s in the process of applying for Unesco World Heritage listing. It’s a challenging climb to reach the Rullestad Glacial Potholes, with metal rungs and chains to help you ascend a sheer rock face — definitely only to be tackled in dry weather.

Built into the rock face are the potholes, deep holes ground into the rock by water, ice and stones, during the last ice age. They occur as single and doubles and most are partially filled with mud and water.

My journey takes me further north, to the industrial town of Odda. Set at the top of Hardangerfjord, the second longest fjord in Norway, it makes a good base for exploring Folgefonna National Park and climbing to Trolltunga.

This is one of Norway’s most well-known hikes, partly because of its length, as you have to allow eight to 12 hours for the round trip. At dawn, fellow hikers are already gathering in the car park, ready to make the most of the daylight.

It’s drizzling sporadically and I climb on a broad wide track, past small lakes and waterfalls, the mist lifting sporadically to reveal Lake Ringedalsvatnet below.

I reach the slab of rock making the Troll’s Tongue in around five hours: jutting out from the cliff above the lake, the changing visibility makes it even more impressive and I’m persuaded to walk to the edge for a photo.

Around 200 miles from my starting point in Stavanger lies Bergen, my final destination. There are plenty of reasons to tempt me to linger along the route — apple juice in the village of Øystese on the shores of Hardangerfjord, where the microclimate is perfect for fruit.

And just outside the town is Steinsdalsfossen, another spectacular waterfall which you can walk underneath, but sadly there’s no time for me to linger.

Reaching Bergen, I celebrate by taking the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen and enjoy the spectacular view from 320 metres up. The paths from here take you further up to the hills around the city, with yet more to discover further north.

Or you could board a cruise ship, of course. But it’s not the same — nothing can beat the sheer exhilaration of seeing the fjords from above.

Getting There

Widerøe flies directly from London to Stavanger and Bergen, from around £150 return.

For more information about exploring the fjords, go to

Like this? Sign up for more with our 
JC Life newsletter here.

From fabulous recipes to parenting tips, travel and West End entertainment; insightful interviews and much more: there’s more to the JC than news!

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive