By Andrew Gill, Foster Undergraduate who is participating in an exchange with NHH in Bergen, Norway
Norway has a lot of things going for it; whether it be happy people (some of the happiest in the world), an impressive oil fund, or free education for all (NHH has no tuition). But, in my opinion, more than anything else it possesses uncommon natural beauty. I was barely even off the plane on my first day before I was struck by rugged islands adjacent to the airport and the ring of peaks that surround the city of Bergen. Throughout my adventures in this country, I have been to several incredible places that, even for Norway, truly stood out. My top three, absolutely cannot miss hikes and places in Norway are Kjeragbolten, Preikestolen, and Geirangerfjord.
Kjeragbolten is simply a boulder wedged between two cliffs, over 1000 feet above the floor of the fjord below. Most easily reached by ferry to the town of Lysebotn from Stavanger in the summer or by car/tour bus in the early fall or late spring, Kjerag is a 12km hike with two very steep sections and a long, relatively flat section. We went relatively late in the season (late September) but the early part of the hike was still very crowded and very steep. Fortunately, if you are in good shape, you will quickly outpace most the tourists and get to enjoy a more private hike high above the beautiful fjord. The hike itself is strenuous at times but the reward at the end is well worth the effort. Standing on the boulder itself is a surreal and nerve-wracking experience. The boulder is less than a meter wide and features massive drops on both exposed sides. I’m generally not afraid of heights, but I got a little vertigo looking over the edge! Overall, this hike offers some unparalleled photo opportunities, a solid workout, and, in my case, a great destination for a long weekend road trip.
The day after I visited Kjerag, I made my way to the second leg of Norway’s trifecta of hikes; Preikstolen. Preikstolen (or Pulpit Rock) is a rugged block of granite jutting out of Cliffside over Lysefjord. Short drive or bus ride from Stavanger, Preikstolen is the easiest to reach and the least
strenuous hike (6km) between itself, Kjerag, and Trolltunga (the only one of the trifecta I missed). While the photo opportunity at the end of this hike is also less impressive (or at least less death-defying) than the other two, the view is incredible. Once out on the rock, we were treated to sweeping, unobstructed views of the fjord and the small farms nestled in the rocky countryside across the way. It was easily one of the best vistas I have ever seen and a highlight of my time in Norway.
Although I missed out on completing the trifecta at Trolltunga, I visited the incredible, snowbound
Geirangerfjord on another road trip in November. While the fjords are far more accessible due to seasonal ferries and (almost) as beautiful in the Summer, something about the snowcapped peaks and glaciers of west-central Norway just looks and feels right. That was the Norway I had pictured before I arrived and I was not disappointed. In a trip full of incredible views, glaciers, snowball fights, and suspect driving conditions, Geirangerfjord truly stood out. Known as the jewel of the Fjords, Geiranger is ringed by towering peaks and is only accessible by a single road in the winter. Its remote location did not discourage us and we were rewarded with the peaceful enjoyment of the fjords beauty, a luxury rarely found in such a popular location.
All in all, I would highly encourage anyone serious about enjoying Norway’s beauty to rent a car, grab some friends and just drive (and do it over and over again). Some of my other favorite places don’t even have names on the map since they seem so average for Norway. The country is quite simply best enjoyed when you have the freedom to stop and take it all in at your liking.