Every year, many thousands of visitors to Stavanger and Fjord Norway want to visit one of the most popular norwegian tourist destinations – Lysefjord and the walk to Pulpit Rock (also known as Preikestolen or Prekestolen) – and many do not realise that this is two separate trips, on separate days – even though Pulpit Rock is beside Lysefjorden and you can look down 604 metres to the boats from the rock, and look up at the rock from the boat.
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I had planned to travel along the fjords in Western Norway for years, but it was not until this year that I did it.
Norway’s territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, bordered by Finland and Russia to the north-east and the extensive coastline to the west and northwest. What makes Norway’s west coast distinct is the myriad of various sized islands and fjords which are the permanent results of erosion from icebergs. They are so common that fjord – a Norwegian word – has been adopted into English to refer to long, narrow, deep inlets of the sea between high cliffs.
Text and photos: Quen Gjone
There are more than 1,000 fjords in Norway and Svalbard Island. The most popular ones are Geirangerfjord, which was recognized as a world natural heritage site; Sognefjord, the biggest near Bergen; and Lysefjord, which is largely recognized by Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), a huge cliff overlooking the fjord in Rogaland county. We excitedly added a small cruise through Lysefjord to our itinerary for exploring Rogaland and the beautiful Scandinavian country.
Welcome to Troll Cruise!
My chosen cruise has an interesting name – Troll Cruise! A troll is a supernatural being in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore with disheveled hair, a large aquiline nose, big round eyes, and buckteeth. Images of trolls are used to promote Norway’s brand. The Troll Cruise, which lasts 3 hours, departs at 11:00 everyday except Monday and Tuesday. There is a small bar serving Norwegian snacks such as smørbrød sandwiches; crispy knackebrød crackers with smoked salmon, egg, and cheese; and non-alcoholic drinks.
As scheduled, the Troll Cruise departed from Stavanger port, the capital of Rogaland county, toward Lysefjord. Each guest was given a brochure with information about the fjord and itinerary destinations in 8 languages. In addition, there are speakers providing related information about destinations in 4 languages including Norwegian, English, French, and German. Just admire captivating landscapes along the fjord as you always have information updated whenever the cruise stops at a new destination.
Floating on Lysefjord
Measuring at 42km long, Lysefjord was created by glaciers during the last ice age. During that time about 10,000 years ago, glaciers covered Norway. The ice layer was about 2,000m thick. When the large ice masses melted and rubbed against the mountainsides at extremely high speeds, they eroded the stone into distinct U-shaped valleys below sea level. These valleys filled with seawater and became narrow, high-walled fjords.
There are countless islands and islets in the fjord. Some islets are quite small, just large enough for a lighthouse. Some are large enough for the locals to build houses and farms. Hytte wood houses are occasionally to be found on the islands. Locals often stay in these houses to get away from the bustle and the hot days of summer. The fjord’s name – Lyse is derived from a Norwegian word lýsir which means light. It is believed that the name refers to the bright colored granite in the fjord.
The cruise travelled along the fjord and brought us to Fantahålå, or vagabond’s cave. The cave is named after a group of vagabonds who sought shelter while running from the local police. Of course, the escape finally came to an end, but since that time people have called the cave by a name that is not as poetic and beautiful as the scenery.
Not too far from the “vagabond’s cave” is Preikestolen, one of the most visited destinations in Norway. This 25 meter squared plateau stands 604 meters above the fjord. The top is quite flat, but it takes over 2 hours to climb there. Stone stairs lead to the peak, which is convenient for visitors, especially amateur trekkers. It’s regrettable that I didn’t have a chance to climb to this cliff. Looking upward, I just saw a tiny rock jutting out from the cliff. I was humbled by its profound height and felt like I was a dot standing before its majesty.
My final stop was Hengjane waterfall. Here, fresh mountain water plummets 400 meters into the fjord. When the cruise was close enough to the waterfall, a staff member used a bucket to catch the falling water for visitors to drink. We were excited to line up and taste it. It is fresh, cool, and sweet like 30 kroner ($5) bottles of mineral water at the supermarket.
The Troll Cruise headed back to Stavanger. My excursion through Rogaland county lasted another week, with other destinations such as the white old town Stavanger overlooking Sokndal port – a small city renowned for its antique wood houses, Helleren cliff with 2 wood houses, and many other attractions that aren’t mentioned in any English tour books. And I owe this place a promise that one day I’ll return to conquer the majestic Preikestolen.
Itinerary: From Oslo, you can fly (50 minutes) or travel by train (8 hours) to Stavanger. Sola Airport is about a 20-minute drive from the city center. You can book cheap domestic air tickets with Norwegian Air (www.norwegian.com) or buy train tickets of Norway State Railways (www.nsb.no).
Currency: krone, 1NOK ~ $0.12. Norway doesn’t use the Euro, so you need to exchange your money when visiting.
Cruise: There are many agencies operating cruises in Lysefjord. Some tours allow you to stop at Preikestolen for trekking, some cruises bring you to the famous Kjeragbolten stone. Rødne Fjord Cruise, with Troll Cruise, is the best choice for those who just don’t want to climb the mountain and take part in outdoor activities. For detailed information about cruises and tickets, please visit www.rodne.no.
Ferry – Bus – sightseeing boat information
The Lysefjord boat trips leave from central Stavanger and take 3.5 hours round-trip or longer. Take the sightseeing boats from vågen, the main harbour.
Sightseeing boats depart Saturday and Sunday all through the year, and every day from May to (including) September, with extra sailings in July and August
In June, July and August you can also take the car ferry to Lysebotn from Fiskepiren (the fast boat terminal) in central Stavanger and drive back via Sirdal and Hunnedalen to Stavanger – and do not forget that Kjerag is a spectacular hike from above Lysebotn.
The hike to Pulpit Rock begins at the car park at Preikestolhytta (youth hostel). To get there you need to take the ferry from Stavanger to Tau (37 kroner per person each way), then the bus service to the car park (55 kroner per person each way).
The bus service runs Saturday and Sunday from mid-May to mid-September, and every day from late-May to late-August. A 12 seat minibus costs 900 kroner from Tau.
By car, you can take the Tau ferry out and come back via Oanes and Sandnes – you could also stop off in Forsand to see the bronze and iron age remains at Landa.
The hike is possible from about late April to October – the timing depends on the winter snowfall.
Sightseeing: If you like outdoor activities, you can join tours to visit Preikestolen (250NOK/person) and Kjeragbolten (490NOK/person). More information at www.tidereiser.com.
Cuisine: Enjoy fish soup at any restaurant in the city. Seafood is a strong point for western Norway. Fish soup cooked in Northern European style is a must-try dish. The dish is made from seafood and vegetable broth with fresh cream, milk, and vinegar. It costs about 200NOK/bowl. One of the best restaurants is the one located in Fisketorget market in Stavanger, opposite to a colorful cafe.