Billed as one of the most visited attraction in Norway, Preikestolen or the Pulpit Rock is a 620m high rock cliff above the Lysefjord, which as the name suggests, looks like a pulpit. (Quoting The Castle: “Dad, what’s a pulpit?” “Where the minister gives his sermon from. How much?” “Eight hundred…” “Tell’em he’s dreamin…“). What makes the Pulpit Rock such a highly visited attraction is that it gives people the opportunity to literally live life on the edge as there are no safety rails or barriers preventing anyone from falling off the cliff face. In fact, many people tempt fate by nervously creeping towards the edge, some on their stomachs to peer over and straight down into the Lysefjord…
The start of the hiking trail for Preikestolen is highly accessible via public transport from Stavanger during the summer. Getting there is by means of a ferry from Stavanger to Tau, a connecting bus from Tau to Preikestolhytta) and then a 3.8km long, 320m rise hike to the rock. From mid May to September (check the exact open season dates here), ferry and bus connections are plentiful (the bus after the ferry is timed to the arrival of the ferry in Tau).
The long days in Norway meant that I was able to fly into Stavanger at 11:30am, take a short stroll around the city and have lunch, take the ferry and bus at 2:20pm, arriving at the trailhead at around 4pm and then reach Preikestolen at around 5:30pm with the sun still shining overhead. In fact, starting in the afternoon still leaves plenty of time to make your way back down for the last bus to Tau which leaves around 7:30pm if you so choose.
However for me, I was keen to make use of the ‘right of access‘ which gives anyone the right to sleep on uncultivated land for 48hrs. So on my way back down to the trailhead, I found a nice spot to pitch my tent and spend the night.
If you want to stay in the region and do some hiking before heading back to Stavanger but don’t want to camp in the middle of nowhere, a hotel and hostel is located 100m from the trail head and a caravan park/camp ground is around 1km away and accessible by bus.
There are many other hiking trails in the region for those who have time on their hands. From a hike around the entire Lysefjord which can take around a week, to continuing for a few more hours to Moslifjellet, they all all signposted and marked clearly with red T’s by the local trekking organization. The best map which I could find of the area showing such trails can be found here and if you want a hard copy map, they can be purchased from the Tourist Information Centre in downtown Stavanger, where you can also book your return bus transfer from Tau to Preikestolhyatta.
Note that if you arrive in May like I did, your public transport options apart from the Preikestolen ferry and bus can be quite limited (I.e. the bus service to Kjerag was not running) as full service for this area usually starts in the beginning of June. Generally, it would be a good idea to hire or bring your own vehicle, particularly if you’re not a single traveller.
Stavanger and Region
No trip to the region would be complete without a stroll through Stavanger Central and the nearby Sandnes and the west coast. If you’re here for 3 days and plan to use the buses, a 3 day pass is definitely worth it as it allows you to explore this entire region at your leisure.
After exploring the main harbour, Old Town, Norway’s “Notting Hill” and the Oil Museum (a really good museum to visit IMHO) I took a bus south to Sandnes and then to Dale to hike up Dalesnuten, which gives a spectacular view of the Stavanger region and the Gandsfjord.
The hike starts from the bus stop at Dale (take the No.18 bus from Sandnes) where you walk up the road, past the Mottakssenter. Turning right leads you onto a trail surrounded by forest trees covered in moss until you reach some old sheds and a fork in the road. Take the right path through the sheds, until you see the first sign marking the trail.
Though most of the time you’ll be walking through forest (wear water-resistant shoes – there’s a lot of mud and water), the last section to reach to the top is a rocky climb. Including the bus to and from Dale, this trail can be easily done in half day, probably even quicker if you had your own car and started from the Dalsnuten car park as shown on Google Maps.
If you have some spare time, it’s worth checking out the lighthouses along the western coast near Tananger, between the city centre and the airport, especially in the afternoon on a clear day… There is a massive walking trail that hugs the coast.
Preikestolen Hiking Trail
The trailhead is well marked and the track is quite easy to follow. There are some pretty big hills to walk up along the way and you’ll be walking across rocks and boulders the entire way up and down, so heed the local trekking organization’s advice and wear study shoes with some heel support. They also recommend that you allocated 4hrs for a return trip, an hour more if you want to take photos and chill out on the rock when you reach it.
Camping along the trail is also possible, with a few flat places near the top, near the two large lakes on the way up and at the first rest stop (I chose this place). Otherwise, there are some flat areas on the way out to Marksdennan where you could pitch a tent. Remember to bring some insect repellent, especially early in the season when there are plenty of rock pools and bogs from the melted snow which are breeding pools for mosquitoes and sanflies. From around 6pm the mosquito’s start to swarm in shaded areas (when I saw swarm, they really really swarm.. You could easily breathe them in!)
There is also a small shop at the carpark near the bottom if the track if you want to buy any supplies before heading up, however note that it only opens after 9:00am.
There is also a huge walking trail around the lake at the trail head, which branches off to Ryfylkevegen at the southern tip of the peninsula. Initially, I was planning to walk here after reaching Preikestolen and catch the ferry back to Stavanger, however the girl at the Tourist Information Centre informed me that the ferry was not running yet as it was too early in the season.
Transportation and getting around
Busses connect Stavanger Airport to both Stavanger central and Sandnes. Though you can take the ‘Flytoget’ airport shuttle for 150NOK ($30 AUD), you can catch the local No.9 bus for 37 NOK.
Both buses bring you to the main bus terminal which also has free WiFi- I mention this a lot because a lot of cafes and food places in Stavanger did not seem to offer WiFi. More of an exception than the norm if they did.
From here, the main city area and harbour is a walk around the lake and past the Cathedral. The Tourist Information office is located across the road from the cathedral.
Ferry tickets can be purchased on board the ferry (I was told there is always room on board) from the roaming ticket collectors and an adult one way ticket costing 47 kroner. Ferry’s can be boarded from the terminal gate right next to the Kolumbus Ferry Terminal (where there is also free WiFi) marked with a small sign saying “Tau”
Bus tickets can also be purchased from the driver (cash only) or pre-purchased from the Stavanger Tourist Information Centre. These cost 170 kroner for a return ticket. Buses are timed to the arrival and departure of the ferry, so you shouldn’t have to wait more than 15min for your connection.
With your pre-purchased ticket, you can take either the green local bus or the coaches run by “Tide” (pronounced something like Tee-day).
Not that the ferry and bus timetable shown here and given out at the Tourist Information Center correspond to the Tide coaches. Ferry’s which coincide with the local buses leave every 20-40minutes or so.
Arriving in Stavanger coincides with my first venture into Norway. From my first few days here, Norway’s reputation for being extremely expensive was certainly lived up to, especially in terms of the cost of food and accommodation. However, if you’re willing to walk around a bit, you can easily find restaurants which are on par in terms of price with places in Australia or the UK and if you’re willing to camp (not just in the wilderness, but at a serviced camping ground), it can be quite affordable. Otherwise, be prepared to fork out $50-$60 for a bed in a hostel and $100 for a room in a fairly basic motel.
Costs aside, Stavanger and the surrounding region is truly beautiful (and I rarely, if ever use that word). Especially when the weather is good and when the days are long (i.e. summer), you will be cruising through the rolling hills overlooking lush green plains and deep, crystal blue fjords and lakes. In typical Scandinavian fashion, the houses are immaculately white, with brushed aluminium fittings giving the area a sort of ‘futuristic’ “The Island”-like look.
Exploring the hills and fjords is just the icing on the cake and in case you’re confused at the lack of (English) information available online in terms of which fjord to go to, how to get there, where to stay etc. just follow the advice which I was given: just explore what is in your immediate proximity.. they’re all fantastic.
In terms of equipment, there is a saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad equipment… Whilst I was lucky to escape any serious rain (it did rain one evening, but quickly cleared up by the next morning), you can see that it’s important to be prepared for anything, even if it’s summer. It would be wise to carry some waterproof gear and definitely some windproof clothing and don’t forget about a good pair of water proof boots. Chuck in a pair of sunglasses to defeat the forever-shining sun and a hat and you should be set!