A guide to the Norwegian trifecta of Preikestolen, Kjerag Boulder and Trolltunga in the colder months.
A few years ago, Norway became top of everyone’s adventure hit-list. The dynamic landscapes, massive seasonal variety and culture of outdoor living are to blame. Not to mention the region’s undeniable instagram-ability.
But what happens to these places in the ‘off-season’?
The ever-popular Discovery Route connects the mighty Norwegian trio of Kjerag Boulder, Preikestolen and Trolltunga. During the summer months, you’ll be treated to long days of hiking amongst beautiful green landscapes overlooking snaking fjords, waterfalls, salmon rivers and cliff faces plummeting into the sea. You’ll also be sharing the views with hundreds of other tourists.
However in the winter this route takes on a harsher yet more serene character. These hikes are also only doable in the winter with an experienced guide. We caught up with our local guide, and he told us a little more about the Norwegian attitude to outdoor living, and how having a guide is essential to understanding your landscape. You can read that interview here.
As rivers freeze up and green pastures turn to white, a real uncrowded winter adventure presents itself to those who care to look.
You can start the route from either Bergen or Stavanger, both of which have frequent, direct connections to major UK airports including Manchester, Gatwick, Heathrow and Aberdeen via Norwegian and SAS airlines.
To hit all three spots, you’ll need to hire a car for a driving experience like no other. Here’s some information on driving in the Norwegian winter.
Tips for driving in winter
- Like most European countries, drive on the right-hand side of the road.
- Most car rental places will provide you with a manual car, so if you wish to rent an automatic, make your request well known in advance.
- Traffic is manageable and drivers are generally well-behaved due to stringent driving tests.
- Roads are well gritted generally, but keep a moderate speed and be careful.
- It is mandatory to drive with the headlights on, even during daylight hours.
- Allow a minimum of four seconds braking time, especially in winter.
- When driving on steep descents, (which you will), use your gears to regulate your speed as braking fluid can boil.
- Don’t underestimate driving times, and calculate time based on average speed of 60km/h. This is especially important with limited daylight and often over-optimistic GPS systems.
Kjerag Boulder in the winter
The first place on your hit-list doing the Discovery route this way around will be Kjerag boulder. This curious boulder was lodged in this rock face around 50,000 years ago. As the last ice age ended and the climate warmed, this rock was jammed between these cliff faces as the glaciers melted. This is a truly peculiar feature and provides a glimpse into the region’s geological history.
- If you opt for our Kjerag boulder trip, you’ll be collected at Stavanger airport before being transferred across to the Stavanger ferry port.
- You’ll then cruise the Lysefjord by ferry. This is one of the most famous fjords in the Stavanger and Ryfylke region.
- Buckle up, layer up, and enjoy this ferry ride as this stretch of water will provide unprecedented views of your targets, and the fjords in winter. You’ll spot the Kjerag boulder before ascending and gaining a totally different perspective of this mysterious phenomena.
- When you land on the bank of the fjord, you’ll embark on an 8-kilometre hike up to 825 metres above sea-level, zig-zagging up 26 hairpin turns from the Lysebotn village up to the Sirdal mountains, before staying at the sensational Kjerag base-camp. This section of hiking cannot be done in summer as the road is usually open.
- You’ll be based in the Kjerag base-camp for the next 2 nights.
Please be aware that you must not attempt this section of the hike by yourself in the winter in these conditions.
Why visit in winter?
- For a taste of real adventure! You’ll not only be hiking through thick fresh snow but camping on top of it, giving this trip a true winter expedition feeling.
- To avoid the crowds. Kjerag boulder in the summer can have large queues for the famous photo op. By journeying through the Norwegian winter you’ll be the only people for miles around.
- The scenery is arguably more stunning in the winter. A winter wonderland presents itself for those who opt for winter travelling.
Preikestolen in the winter
Preikestolen needs little introduction. Standing 604 meters above the Lysefjord and first visited as a tourist destination in 1900, the Pulpit rock is one of Europe’s most famous natural icons and has been named by CNN and Lonely Planet as one of the most beautiful landscape views in the world. The view from the top will stay with you forever.
- After descending the Nepalese sherpa-build stone staircase, you’ll be dropped off in Stavanger city centre where you can pick up your hire car.
- There is a 15-minute drive from your pick-up car location through to the ferry port, and you can see the directions here.
- The ferry runs every 40 minutes and is less regular on the weekends. Tickets are relatively inexpensive, and cannot be reserved.
From the port in Tau, you’ll have roughly a 20-kilometre drive to your accommodation at the Preikestolen Lodge. You should drive on the RV 13 via Jørpeland. Google maps might tell you 28 minutes, but allow much more for traffic conditions and photo stops, as there’s plenty to see along the way.
On the way, you should take the time to stop and see the following things.
- The prehistoric rock carvings at Solbakk, by the strand in picturesque Ryfylke close to the shore. It depicts various boats and sun like-figures that are presumably Norse Gods. It dates back to 50bc, and are of Viking origin.
- On the islet of Klungholmen near Jørpeland village is a stone circle which is a recent artwork by the Norwegian artist named Stian H. Skjæveland. At the centre of the eight-metre circle of 12 standing stones is a towering steel obelisk decorated with symbols, runes and ornaments, many derived from the Oseberg Viking ship. Klungholmen may be visited year round. Many consider it to be the Norwegian Stonehenge.
- It is also worth stopping in Ryfylke. It is full of pokey cafes and various places to stay if you’re looking to extend your stay for any amount of time.
You’ll then be waking up in the beautiful Preikestolen lodge. Preikestolen lodge has a sensational view of the Ryfylke moorlands and looks out across the Refsvatn lake. You can see more information about the actual hike here.
Trolltunga in the winter
The next destination is the most famous, and for that reason, it is the most crowded in the summer. Meaning ‘Troll’s Tongue’, the photo-op above summery green fjords is worth the trip, as hundreds have done before. But during winter, well, it’s really something.
Situated on the Hardanger Plateau, a winter paradise used by explorers to train for arctic expeditions, this winter hike will truly get you into the wild. It, therefore, should only be done with a guide and requires a good level of fitness.
The drive from Preikestolen lodge to Trolltunga hotel is a real bonus. Yet again, whatever your GPS of choice, be prepared to be lied to. Allow your full amount of daylight to the drive, as it will be more than worth it. You might be told 4 hours, but allow for 6. You can see the route here.
Things to see
- The Oyafossen falls are definitely worth a visit when they are frozen over. You can see a little more information on the directions and hike you can take here.
- High up on the south side of Hylsfjorden in Ryfylke, you will find the old farm Litunet, approximately 285 meters above sea level. The Directorate of Cultural Heritage protected the characteristic old farm as a historical site in 1973 and is a glimpse into the lives of the Norwegian ancestors.
- Sunnhordeland Museum is also worth a visit if you’re keen on getting more of a fix of Norwegian history. You can see more information about that here.
Trolltunga hotel to Bergen
After you’ve finished this section of the trek, you’ll have another sensational drive from Trolltunga lodge back to Bergen, where you’ll finish your trip. There’s plenty of activities in Bergen, if you wish to extend your stay.
You will have a choice of two routes back. Either you can continue on the RV 13. You can see that route here.
Things to see
- This beautiful route will take you predominantly past the Hardanger fjord on the left, and the Hardanger National Park on the right.
- If you wish to extend your stay, there is a hotel called the Kinsarvik Hotel, which is a seriously idyllic spot to stay.
- Similarly, Hotel Ullensvang is also a fantastic place to stay on the way and is also where Ex Machina was filmed.
- You’ll then take a drive across the Hardanger bridge, which is a sensational photo opportunity.
- There’s also an opportunity to check out the Skjervossen Waterfall. Walking under a frozen waterfall is a real once in a lifetime opportunity.
- This route will take you past Voss, which is an outdoor activity centre and is the base for our ever-popular kayaking, hiking and kayaking, hiking and wild-camping trips.
This route will take marginally longer, but it will offer plenty of rewards as a result.
Alternatively, you can go via the FV7. This will be the most direct route but is still a stunning drive. You can see that route here.
Things to see
- On this route, however, you’ll get the opportunity to check out the Steinsdalsfossen waterfall. During the summer, you can walk directly under the waterfall. However, walking under a frozen waterfall is a seriously unique experience with no chance of splash-back.
- Kvamskogen similarly is on this route. Kvamskogen is home to three ski resorts and 60km of prepared cross-country tracks if you’re looking to squeeze in some skiing on the way home.
What to pack
This tour will require some heavy-duty warm clothing and more layers than a Tarantino movie.
The following equipment will be provided on the tour.
- Professional guide carrying navigation, safety, first-aid, and winter/outdoor equipment.
- Snowshoe/ski equipment.
- Accommodation in winter tents including equipment (sleeping mat, winter sleeping bag including liner)
- Warm footwear and down jackets to be used in/around camp.
You should pack the following.
- Proper hiking boots/shoes*
- Outdoor clothing for winter: water-resistant/insulated trousers.
- Rain-proof jacket, woollen sweater, hat, and gloves.
- Small backpack with additional clothing layers/thermal underwear.
- Bottled water/plenty of snacks.
*It’s possible to rent both hiking boots and outdoor-clothing from your guides in Norway.
If you book with our guides, a comprehensive itinerary and kit-list will be sent to you.
This winter adventure will allow you to see norway’s most famous natural attractions from a totally unique perspective and far, far away from any crowds.