Thursday, 16 January 2014

A journey through Norway's incredible fjords


After leaving Oslo bright and early, we drove a long, long way, down to the very south of the country before continuing slightly up the western coast until we reached a town called Sandnes (not far from Stavanger). Our base for a night, Sandnes was the perfect jumping off point for a trip the following day to our first fjord: Lysefjord.

As well as being a breathtaking introduction to Norway's fjords in its own right, we had another purpose for including this 42km-long stretch of water in our itinerary - a hike up to Preikestolen, known as 'Pulpit Rock'. It's one of the famous scenes included in all the guidebooks; a lofty granite formation jutting out over the glistening water, usually including visitors dangling their legs over the edge. Standing over six hundred metres high, it was a view point we didn't want to miss.

The hike itself was quite challenging - the first twenty minutes are particularly daunting, with an extremely steep section to get the blood pumping, but then evened out for a while as we balanced atop boulders to cross wet sections and made our way gently up. A second very steep section in the middle had us panting once more as we climbed huge, seemingly never-ending, steps without much shade, but eventually made it to the final section, crossing large slabs of granite and past small ponds along the tops of cliffs until, at last, Preikestolen finally came into view.

The rock itself is every bit as spectacular as it appears in pictures, and over the course of an hour we crept ever closer to the ledge until we perched at the very edge, watching boats glide through the vivid turquoise waters below. The day was hot, light glinting down the length of the fjord as we alternated between gazing down the steep drop and watching the acrobatics of various other visitors as they began to arrive. We'd set off as soon as the trail had opened, reaching the top a couple of hours later, and I was so pleased we'd dragged ourselves out of the bed early as the temperatures soared. The trail had been practically empty on our ascent, but as we returned back along the path to the bottom, huge numbers of people were heading up, stripping down and panting in the heat.

After jumping back in the car, we continued on, our pace slow as we stopped for one breathtaking view after another. Travelling north, we eventually reached our next fjord, spending a couple of nights in a lovely guesthouse just outside of Eidfjord. As well as the fjord itself, we visited a couple of huge, crashing waterfalls nearby by foot; gentle hikes that helped stretch our legs after hours in the car.

Heading ever north, we followed the path of Innvikfjorden before finally arriving at Hellesylt, a small town situated at one end of the small but perfect Geirangerfjord, where we spent four active days exploring the local area. Each fjord we had passed during our travels was distinct and unique, and Geiranger was no exception. Here the waters were a deep green and continuously fed by multiple waterfalls cascading down the surrounding rocks. We spent our days taking the ferry along the twenty kilometre length of the fjord to the town of Geiranger and back, rented a two-person kayak from a local business and explored the fjord for hours at our own, leisurely pace (and getting completely drenched as the skies opened moments after launching ourselves into the water), and driving out to visit a local picnic spot by a nearby lake. Although the weather was quick to change and very temperamental, we thoroughly enjoyed our days there.

After leaving Hellesylt, it was back on the road towards Lom, a picturesque town with a couple of worthy museums, then down, down, down over a couple of days back to Oslo. It was a huge journey in terms of miles, but the wonderful thing about travelling through Norway is that even the drives are spectacular - as well as winding our way around fjords ringed with traditional red houses, we drove high over a snowy mountain pass, along lush green valleys and through incredibly long tunnels with colourful light installations designed to keep drivers awake. Every day was completely different and there was so much we just didn't have time to stop off and see.

In the next post, I'll be plotting our journey in map form, along with some tips for travelling through Norway by car.


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