“I’m going to hike this!” I say to people, thumbing up a stock photo of the scenic panorama from Norway’s Pulpit Rock. “Oh awesome, how’s the training going…?”, “Uh” I splutter… “You hike a lot?”, “Um… hike? …No?”. I had to chase a spider from the toe of my hiking boots as I dug them out from the bottom of the cupboard.
Hiker? Me? No.
They say Millennials book holidays based on whatever ‘#travelgoals’ load onto their Instagram feed. I may have been a tad guilty of this spontaneity; embarrassingly living up to my stereotype as I fancied myself stealing a selfie against an epic view of the Norwegian Fjords. No, but seriously, I did do a bit more research than this, but Pulpit Rock or Preikestolen was a huge draw and I was soon utterly convinced that Norway would be my next destination after finding £56 return flights from London to Stavanger via Norwegian Airlines. In June I’d be saying ‘Hallo’ to my 25th country!
Discovering Stavanger and the Old Town
I was given a light ticking off on social after I posted on my travel groups seeking ‘recommendations for things to see in the small town of Stavanger’. ‘Small Town? Hey, by Norwegian standards Stavanger is a city!’ Whoops. Well, apparently it’s got a lot more to do than I first assumed.
Stavanger’s tourism appears to be greatly driven by the colossal ships that dock in the harbor as part of another Nordic cruise, so the bustle of the city really seems to come in in waves, dependent on whatever boats are passing through on any given day. Tourists generally tend to gravitate around the pretty harbor area, nearby Breiavatnet the city’s lake, with the historic old town to the west and the bars, restaurants and modern shopping streets to the east.
Speaking of the shops, sadly I won’t be busting any myths for you today; Norway’s reputation for being on the opposite extreme to ‘budget’ is not an exaggeration. Planning to eat out in Stavanger? Feel free to sacrifice an arm and a leg, sell both kidneys and be prepared to offer the chef your shirt from your back in return for a cheeseburger. Well, no but really, affordable options are hard to come by, for a main meal we’re looking at 300 NOK and around 100 NOK for a small local beer. After a scout of the local restaurants, I was giving myself an internal high five for booking an Airbnb apartment with a kitchen and for dedicating a third of my carry on luggage for pop tarts and three bags of penne.
But hey, It’s hard to care if I can’t afford a coffee when this city gives me views like this!
After religiously checking the weather predictions every day morning and afternoon three weeks before our flight (being British the obsession with weather is real), the forecast had settled on giving us only one day of sunshine, so we made the most of by Instagramming the hell out the city, taking a wander about the old town with its pretty rows of white wooden cottages, down by the dock spotting the jellyfish in the water and around the new town with its colourful bars and restaurants. Stavanger is gorgeous and the best thing about sightseeing is that at least it’s one thing we can do without parting with any NOK!
We walked around the coast path towards the Petroleum Museum which we visited on our last day before flying back out to London and found this awesome little park in front of the entrance. I had to do a bit of digging on Google to find out what it was all about and found it was explained as a ‘playful urban park’ which was inspired by resources from the offshore oil industry, according to Helen and Hard, the architects and designers behind this project.
Stavanger you might be expensive but you sure are cute!
Stavanger to Preikestolen – Hiking Pulpit Rock
Waking early to steady rain on the window of my Airbnb apartment wasn’t what I wanted to see on the day we’d earmarked for the hike to Pulpit Rock. We optimistically plowed on with a heavy breakfast of baked cinnamon rolls from the supermarket and pessimistically packed our rucksacks with extra layers and waterproofs.
In a good old fashioned travel fail, despite our best efforts in waking up at 8 am we ended up around two hours behind schedule due to someone (why are all the fingers pointing at me?!) inability to pay attention to road signs or read maps. In theory (and actually in practice for most switched on people) the journey to the hikes’ starting point is relatively straight forward; catch the car ferry across to Tau and then follow the road South, through Jørpeland on the road running parallel to the coast, not, as we did, take the wrong exit on a roundabout and, blissfully unaware of our blunder drive 45 minutes in land before realising we were the sole car on the road, heading into the back-end of beyond. So after a U-turn, it was back to Tau before finding our correct route to the Pulpit Rock car park.
Reflecting on our (my!) error in a glass half full kinda way, our set back ended up working in our favour (all in the plan, my friends!); the morning downpour subsided and the low hanging clouds began to shift, so had we reached the summit when we should have done, it was possible that we would have had zero visibility! Always silver linings guys!
It might have been partly the weather, partly the fact it was a Friday, or maybe it was still just early on in the season, but when we finally got to the trail it wasn’t half as busy as I’d expected. A blessing, as I’d rather have as few people as possible catch me doing my best sweaty tomato face as we powered up the hills. I say ‘hills’ because this wasn’t simply a steady incline but apparently a route that resembled a big dipper; once you’d climb one hill, the path would then appear to take you down again leaving you doubting that you were making any gains in height whatsoever. But hey, I’ve now got Hulk thighs!
Doing a hell of a good job at distracting you from the burn is the epic Norwegian scenery; at the peaks, you’ve got the endless panoramas and at the troughs, you’ve got the lakes, streams and moon-like rock formations…
Reaching the top came quicker than expected, after all the climbs and descends it was quite sudden to see that I was at the end of the route; to the left was this dizzying drop and just ahead was the famous rock jutting out over the water below. It was half grey and drizzly, but the clouds had lifted and we had this beautiful deep blue and vivid green panorama over the fjords.
What a time to figure out you’re a bit nervous being high up? Did I make it to the edge? Just a-freaking-bout. Pictures don’t capture profanity, thankfully, or I’d have to slap a PG rating on this blog post. It was actually more watching other hikers perch on the edge with their legs dangling to a 604-meter drop that was making my heart jump into my throat. So were you ever going to get an Instagram perfect, half moon yoga pose on the edge of Preikestolen from me? Hell no, a *thousands* times no.
Was it amazing though? Sweet Jesus yes! Worth it? So much! I did it! I totally did.
Chasing Waterfalls: Hiking Manafossen
This is where I can give kudos to the female travel community on Facebook; after appealing for recommendations for another hike near to Stavanger someone came up with Manafossen and after a Google Image search of what Manafossen looked like I was sold! If you’ve read my Iceland posts, you know chasing waterfalls is just about one of my most favourite things, so getting a chance to hike up to this 92-meter beast in Norway got a ‘hell yeah’ from me.
After steaming up the wrong road in the wrong direction on the previous day, you’d have thought we might have been blessed with slightly more luck today? But no, we managed to fudge up this journey as well! The journey to Manafossen is very easy, especially with the Google Map App showing me the way, but after driving down the same road for half an hour and hitting a big yellow dead-end sign where they’d closed the road off, it was clear that we’d have to reverse up and head back to the main road, resulting in a hefty detour that nearly doubled our drive-time. But you know what? The drive was pretty epic; I wasn’t going to moan too much at passing deep turquoise lakes, staggeringly lush fjords and through deep mountainsides.
After finally pulling up at the car park, and then realising our second fluff up of the day (Jamie had forgotten to pack his boots in car and resigned to the fact he’d have to scale the hiking trail in a pair of leather office shoes without a shred of grip… I tried not to laugh too hard) we started on the 20 minute climb up the steep hill towards the top.
Comparing the inclines to the Pulpit Rock hike, I had it so easy yesterday. This hike was short but far more challenging, having to really consider your footing and rely on hauling yourself up using the chain ropes.
But how about this for a reward? I couldn’t decide which hike I preferred, this or Pulpit Rock, but I loved that Manafossen felt more off the beaten track, so much so that we unpacked our picnic at the top and all four of us dined in peace without seeing a single hiker!
Considering our extra long drive to get here, we decided to continue our hike around the perimeter following the barely-there path towards the top of the waterfall where we’d heard you can paddle in the river. Passing only a couple of other walkers on the way it wasn’t long until we’d reached the river which was just about warm enough to wade in and certainly clear enough to drink from! There’s something so nice to be able to throw off your boots, jump into the water and clamber over the rocks. I read too much Famous Five when I was younger, but honestly, I just felt like all we were missing was Timmy and some ginger pop.
So, Is Norway Expensive?
How Much Did This All Cost?
Give yourself a medal! No, I didn’t think this blog post would be just that long either.
So, considering that much of my trips are often super affordable, how did I cope in one of the most expensive countries in the world? It wasn’t easy keeping to a budget, but it was helped by cutting costs on almost every aspect of the holiday.
Managing to get on one of the cheapest return flights of the month set us off on a good foot to keep the bank account happy. We bagged £56 return flights from Gatwick to Stavanger. We opted for a two bed Airbnb apartment for the four of us traveling, which ended up being £77 per person for the three nights. Car Hire was a must, and we went with reputable brand Hertz which was £63 per person, split between the four of us. This saved us buying expensive tours, airport transfers and having to take public transport. We then took the equivalent of £150 per person in NOK for purchases in Stavanger; Petrol cost us £7.50 per person, tolls cost us around a tenner (£2.50 per person), the car ferry was around £30 for the four of us each way (£7.50 per person), the Petroleum Museum was around £12, parking at Manafossen was £2 whereas Pulpit Rock parking was a whopping £20, but we split this four ways (£5 per person), the rest went on supermarket food (strictly cheap eat-in breakfasts and picnic type food for lunch) and the occasional splurge on an evening meal and drinks in Stavanger town.
The total for four days, three nights in Stavanger inclusive of all costs (travel, accommodation, and spending money) came to approximately £346 per person, traveling as a group of four adults. And you know what, that’s probably the most I’ve spent on a holiday since Iceland… but for Norway? That’s not too bad!
Have you visited Stavanger or elsewhere in Norway? Completed another hike in Europe? Also messed up on directions twice in two days? Have any budget tips for travel to Norway?