Around Stavanger – Lifjell (Sandnes)

Stavanger is very well known for its spectacular landscapes such as Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) or Kjerag Bolten, but there are numerous beautiful places that are less familiar to most of the tourists coming here.

If you are one of the curious visitors and have some extra time to spend, Sandnes with the surrounding hills will provide you with just a perfect dose of one-day trips well marked by local DNT (Det Norske Turistforening). More information with a map and trails can be found on their web page: www.ut.no.

Lifjell

 

How to get there?

Sandnes is a neighbouring municipality to Stavanger. If you do not have a car transport handy, the best connection is to get a local bus (check the timelines on www.kolumbus.no ). It is also possible to take a train, which may appeal to some of you 🙂 The train also opens the door to further destinations, but I will leave this topic for future posts. Check out the Norwegian railway for more information: www.nsb.no

As you get to Sandnes, you can reach closer routes on foot from the centre. However, Lifjell tour requires taking another bus (this time to Dale). The last stop is also your final destination and takes you to the start of the trail.

 

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Lifjellet round-trip

It is a perfect trip if you or the weather is somehow undecided 🙂 The full trip is about a 10-km hike, but there are marked paths that allow making it shorter or longer if necessary. If you are a kind of a person that likes to stay outdoors but with not much walking involved, you will find many pleasant spots to just relax. You can have your lunch in the forest, by the water or on the rocks, enjoying the view.

The hike itself, even though not very long, leads through a rocky terrain, which makes it more demanding. The very beginning of the path leads through a forest until it climbs on top of the rocky slope and follows along the fjord. This part is mostly a traverse and in few places, you can get a bit more exposure. In the most tricky spots, you can use the installed ropes and chains to get an extra support. However, remember that good boots are, as usual, a must! After reaching the ‘edge’ of the land, you will turn to climb Lifjell with a big antenna on the top . This is the highest point of the trip and provides a spectacular view of the area with Stavanger and Randaberg in the West. With a nice weather, you should be able to see the mountains of Sirdal to the East. There is quite a bit of descent ahead, but you can find pleasant snack or tea spots by the lakes before reaching Dale again.

The entire path is pretty well marked with standard red ‘T’ signs and plates with directions. But keep in mind, it is important to have a map with you or, at least, know the names of the main interest points you want to reach, so that you can follow the correct route! 🙂

Tip: you can buy a physical map in DNT shop in Stavanger centre, but you can also download the mobile version from DNT page for free.

 

 

 

 

 

Lofoten hiking 2015 – part 3: Bunes – Reine – Lofotr – and the ride around the Islands

Seeing the bad weather coming slowly from the sea, there was not much point in doubting the forecast for next two days.

Instead of hoping for the best we decided to embrace the situation and think of plan B. Thanks to technology, we managed to search the Internet for options. Since before the trip, we considered staying at least 1 day in Rorbu cabins. These are very characteristic for Lofoten: old fishermen’s houses, standing on wooden stilts in the water for the easier fish picking. Nowadays Rorbuer are mostly tourist attractions and provide accommodation for curious visitors.

However, because of their popularity, it is quite hard to get a place in one of them during the summer season. Again, we must have been lucky, as we found a cabin for this one night we needed.

The car rental is in Moskenes and apparently consists of more or less 2 cars for rent. The ‘Sunny’ became our lucky vehicle for the next 2 days.

Lofoten-hike3

 

Before jumping on the car, we still had time until the evening to explore Reine and its surroundings. Reine is a beautifully located town, very charming for pictures. It also felt like a real hit of civilization – after 4 days in a tent we could have coffee and ice cream!:)

To spend the day ‘our way’, we decided to climb the closeby peak – Reinaknuten for a better overview of the area.

The climb is short (ca. 1h) but very steep with a lot of loose stones, so need to be careful and watch the steps (and heads).

 

 

Reine.

 

View from Reinaknuten. Reine below.


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Getting the car required an evening trip to Moskenes. I scheduled with the car rental the time to pick up ‘Sunny’ and went with Gustavo, leaving Ania and Gregor with backpacks in Reine. As soon as we arrived at Moskenes, the long promised rain has arrived.

Switching to 4 wheels freed us from sticking to one island only, so we decided to make the most of the next two days and go in the direction of Svolvaer. The plan was to sleep the first night in a tent as far as we get, then explore the area of Henningsvaer and Svolvaer and go back through Viking Museum (Borge) to the Rorbu in Sund.

The main lesson learned very soon: mosquitos also like cosy spots covered from rain and the wind…

We decided to stop for the night close to Henningsvær, in a sheltered valley next to the road. About a million blood-sucking beasts decided the same, so pitching the tents was a real race with time. Even after closing the zipper I had an impression that they try to sting through the walls!

Day 6 brought the main weather breakdown. And washed the mosquitoes (yupeee!). The clouds that came would have made our stay in the mountains completely miserable but at the sea level, they appeared quite picturesque.

Following our plan, we packed to the Sunny car and drove to Henningsvær. This trip was cut short, as the rain wouldn’t stop. Going forward to Svolvær had to be cancelled if we wanted to have enough time for Viking museum.

Located in Borge, the Lofotr museum is a reconstruction of the largest known Viking house, excavated in the late 1980s. The visit to the museum is an interactive journey through the long forgotten world. You can see, touch and experience the daily-use equipment, clothes and furniture. After seeing the inside of the museum, you can go out to stroll through the farm areas and get to row the Viking boat! 🙂 More info about the museum can be found on the webpage: www.lofotr.no/

 

After the leap into the history, we headed towards civilisation – Rorbu. This meant few critical things (numbers 1 and 2 took over as the biggest desires):

  1. We can have a warm bath!
  2. We can wash and dry our used clothes
  3. We can cook a big common dish in big pots
  4. We can stand straight while doing all of these
  5. We can watch the rain and clouds from warm inside of the wooden cabin
  6. We can sleep in beds

I have to admit, that this one night, even though not planned before, changed a lot our Lofoten experience somehow making it fuller. Rorbuer are, in the end, a must-do in here. Also, having still few days of hiking ahead (and some more behind), it felt REALLY good to refresh!

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Nusfjord.

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Viking museum in Borge.

 

We had to say goodbye to the luxury and come back to our wanderer lives. We have spent day 7 completely on the road, checking out all places which seemed interesting, stopping for pictures and enjoying the gloomy, heavy clouds above our heads. There are many ‘galleries’, ‘museums’, ‘antique shops’ or ‘handcraft centres’ around, so we never got bored. It was also the unique opportunity to do some shopping and try local specialties. Dried cod is a trademark from Lofoten, known all over the world, so it would have been a sin to skip it!

Dried cod is the main industry on the islands. Wooden racks full of hanging fish are the common view in the islands this time of the year.

Lofoten hiking 2015 – part 2: Horseid – Kjerkfjorden – Bunes – Helvetestinden

After a fair ‘warm-up’ the previous days, we managed to put ourselves together and continue the tour according to the plan.

From Camp 2 on Horseid, the next destination was a small ferry terminal in Kjerkfjorden that allowed the transport to Bunes beach. This was supposed to be a ‘rest day’ to sooth the soreness from previous afternoon stroll. It looked promising: short hike to the boat and then even shorter from boat to Camp 3. However, the long day and beautiful weather won again with common sense and we decided on another little excursion – this time for better digestion after dinner. The views were much worth the effort. And besides – who knows if we will ever come back to this place?

Lofoten-hike2a

 

Day 3 woke us up with beautiful sun… and 2 jet planes passing just above our heads: entering the beach from the sea and crossing over the col we were going  to pass through.

 

We started slow, as the ferry goes only few times a day, and we decided upfront that we won’t make it for 11am. The next one was at 3pm, which gave us plenty of time to refresh in ice cold river crossing the beach, pack and slowly walk towards the ‘port’ (see timetable here: http://www.reinefjorden.no/rutetabell.htm). After few stops for coffee and sunbathing, we caught our ferry ride to Vindstad.

 

The path from Horseid to Bunes beach is not marked through the mountains and the main route goes through the sea. Some people manage to pass, but the peaks are very sharp and fissile, so you need to be prepared for a challenging climb.

 

Bunes beach is probably the easiest to reach from Reine and the main road and we could feel it by the number of people and tents (it’s only about 1h walk from the ferry terminal). It was not very easy to find a good strategic spot for our Camp 3. We chose the hill over the beach, just to avoid unnecessary climbing with our full backpacks, especially that we were determined to catch an early ferry the next day.

 

Instead, we dropped the excess of load in the tents and went down just with our cameras to touch the sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


On the way to Helvetestinden. View towards Vindstad and Reine.

View from Helvetestinden.

View towards Kjerkefjorden. On top of the mountain col.

Trip from Kjerkfjorden to Vindstad – about 30min of ‘different perspective’

Bunes beach. 


The dinner definitely didn’t feel as well deserved as the day before, but we spent a beautiful day with amazing views and were pretty content with it.

The thing is, we ALWAYS want more. Especially when it’s sunny! So there was this peak right above our camp – Helvetestinden (602m). You can guess our idea for a ‘post-dinner walk for a better sleep’ 🙂

 

The hike takes about 1.5-2h both ways. It is moderately challenging walk, starting with quite steep climb over the scree. The last piece before the top may be the most difficult as it is exposed and requires walking along a narrow ridge.

The views on the way and from the top of the mountain compensate every effort taken to reach it. Turquoise sea and surrounding peaks highlighted by the ever-setting sun will stay in my memory for a long time.

 

The weather in Norway can be very moody and I guess we were lucky to have it so generous during these few days. This was about to change as in the morning we saw the darker clouds piling over the horizon. It was time to start thinking about ‘plan B’.

 

 We started from going to Reine.

 

 

 

 

Lofoten hiking 2015 – part 1: Fredvang – Kvalvika – Horseid

There are flights from several Norwegian cities directly to Leknes or Svolvær, but we chose a more adventurous option, which included 4 means of transportation (why would we go for one only!). So we flew from Stavanger to Trondheim, spent a day wandering around, took a night train to Bodø, then ferry to Moskenes and a bus to the start of our trail. I have to say I really liked the ‘day in Trondheim’ idea – it awakened nice memories and gave me a chance to share a little piece of my student life with Gustavo. After 2 days of travel, we finally put our tents in the sun on a beautiful mountain pass near Fredvang.

Lofoten_hike1

 

 

On day 1 we woke up inside a cloud – great beginning of the trip in a wet tent. ’Luckily’ we were tired after the travel and managed to sleep half of that day through the bad weather. But you just can’t stay in a tent forever, can you? So we decided the rain was not going to melt us and moved out to face it. The interesting thing is that when you look from inside it always seems worse than it really is. Even though soaked all over, we managed to enjoy a trip around to neighbouring cliffs over Sandbotnen.

 

Waking up on day 2 was not much better than on day 1, but we came all the way there to walk a bit rather than stay in a tent just over Fredvang. 🙂 So we packed the backpacks, collected our wet equipment and started the hike. Since the first day was not very productive, we had a great idea to catch up on the second one (because the days are long, so we can!). We faced a moment of hesitation after a cozy stop for lunch at Selfjordhytta, but somehow managed to leave the temptation to stay there and went ahead.

 

 

What makes a difference for the hikes on these latitudes: you are released from the pressure of waking up early in the morning to use daylight and can live on your own clock. However, this may be very deceptive and can encourage you to walk for 15h just because it happened to be sunny…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old cabins in Fredvang.

Sandbotnen in Fredvang. Even rain didn’t manage to spoil it

Kvalvika beach. We were lucky to get a lower tide, as the passage over water was reachable. Not sure how much harder it is to pass with more water…

Kvalvika beach. View from the other side. And the sky started to open up!


Horseid beach. And the midnight sun
Horseid beach.

Using the sunlight and much better weather than the day before, we walked a big piece of trail, reaching the Horseid beach almost at midnight.

After the long day trip, it felt really good to pitch the tent and start the bonfire, while watching midnight sun swinging above the horizon. Now, I have to say that finding wood for fire on a beach close to a swamp is not the easiest task, so making it work felt even better! 🙂

The drawback of that pleasure was getting overexcited with the heat and trying to dry my shoes for too long, too close… At least they didn’t burn completely and I didn’t have to use sandals for the rest of the trip. I know, that pictures don’t show this, but temperature was close to 0 °C.

Day 3 started with amazing weather. Tired after the harsh ‘warm up’ from the day before, we headed towards the ferry port (Kjerkfjorden) to cross over to the next destination: Bunes beach.

Many of the beaches in Lofoten face towards North, which makes them really good locations to enjoy midnight sun. On the other hand, they become the darkest parts of the islands when the winter comes. For the same reason, all the main towns are located on the southern coast.

Lofoten

Some places deserve re-visiting and Lofoten is definitely one of them. I took my first trip here in 2010 while studying in Trondheim. At that time I crossed the islands with bike. Now, 5 years later, I came back to walk it through with Gustavo and 2 more friends (Ania and Gregor). The idea was to take a hike through quite spectacular Moskenesøya island.
The trip was part of our summer vacation, but the weather quickly brought our minds back to reality. During a 10-day stay, there was no single day that I would spend without a hat and a jacket. Even with the midnight sun, the temperatures did not manage to get too high, but we didn’t complain – it’s just part of the adventure! 🙂

I have divided the trip into 4 stages. Read more about each of them below. But first, the brief introduction to the topic.

 

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Brief intro

Lofoten is an archipelago of islands located on the North-Western coast of the Scandinavian peninsula. It is part of Norway and consists of 8 main islands and multiple smaller ones.
Although it lies within the Arctic Circle, the climate in Lofoten is rather mild considering its latitude. This is the result of the Gulf Stream and its extensions swiping the coast with warm water brought from Florida, USA.

Few interesting facts about Lofoten found around the Internet:

  • The sun stays above the horizon continuously from late May to mid-July (phenomenon known as ‘midnight sun’)
  • The sun stays below the horizon continuously from early December to January (phenomenon known as ‘polar night’)
  • It is the largest producer of ‘stockfish’ (fish dried on the racks, usually cod) in the world
  • The sea is rich with wildlife and contains the biggest deep water coral reef in the world (Røst reef)
  • To the South-West of the islands, there is a system of tides and whirlpools called Moskstraumen

 

Location of Lofoten Islands and main cities

 

How to get there?

Plane. The easiest, most convenient but also the most expensive of the options. There are several airports around Lofoten, the main ones are in Svolvær and Leknes. You can get a direct flight to the heart of the archipelago using one of the Norwegian airlines: SASNorwegian or Widerøe.

Ferry. Ferries are a common way of transport in Norway and cities in Lofoten are also well connected with the sea routes . The cheaper option is to get a regular ferry that starts in Bodø and goes to Moskenes. The trip takes about 4 hours. Another alternative is getting the Hurtigruten or express boat. There is a lot of information about means of transport available on Lofoten website: www.lofoten.info.

Train. If you decide on taking the ferry, you need to get to Bodø first 🙂 The best way (besides flying) is to take the train (NSB). The trip from Trondheim takes about 10h, so it is the best to get the night trip. Tip: the view outside of the window is very monotonous along the way, so you can relax and sleep without a heavy conscious 🙂

Where to stay?

There are several camping spots around, but being in Norway it is very convenient to just pick your favourite place and put the tent there. Yes, it is free and allowed to camp in Norway,  as long as you stay at least 150 metres away from the nearest inhabited house or cabin. Of course, if you decide for that, you need to behave and collect all your trash! You can find more information about the right of access here: www.visitnorway.com

If sleeping under the stars (or the sun if you visit in summer) is not your thing, you should try to book one of the Rorbu. These are old fishermen’s cabins located by the sea, usually standing partially on the wooden poles in the water, allowing easy access to fishing boats. There are plenty if them available around the islands (virtually in each town or village), but you need to be organized and book them in advance, as they are one of the big attractions for many tourists.

 

Main attractions

Lofoten is the paradise for outdoor activities and photography. The only problem that comes on the way is the weather: rather unstable, rainy and windy, however, sunny days and amazing landscapes compensate for even the worst conditions, so you need to stay patient, stock up with good weather proof clothes and start exploring.

If the weather is an issue, there are plenty of local galleries, small museums and cafes on the way. Some bigger places worth visiting are:

  • Lofotr Vikingmuseum in Borg: http://www.lofotr.no/
    •   see how the Vikings used to live based on the archeological discovery from the 1980’s of one of their houses.
  • Glasshytta in Vikten: http://glasshyttavikten.no/
    •  watch the process of melting and creating new glass objects. You can also purchase them afterwards or just sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee here or just opposite the road.
  • Galleri Lofotens Hus in Henningsvær: http://www.galleri-lofoten.no/nb/
    •  here you can admire more than a 100 of North Norwegian paintings, which makes it the largest collection of the kind.
  • Lofoten Tørrfiskmuseum in Å: http://www.lofoten-info.no/stockfish.htm
    •  one of my favourite – mainly thanks to a very attentive owner (Steinar Larsen), who speaks multiple languages and is very keen on explaining the perks of a fisherman’s life based on his own experience.

Fishing. Many people come to Lofoten mainly for this: either to catch or eat a cod. Although you can fish freely in the sea, you may need to take a boat to catch a big fish, which will be associated with extra cost. Fishing is not really my thing, so I can’t give too much of a first-hand advice.

Cycling is one of the most popular activities on Lofoten. The main road (E10) that crosses the Islands is often used by two-wheelers. However, it may be a bit busy during the high season, so it is better to choose an alternative route. One of such roads may be 815 on Vestvågøy, that I can recommend from previous experience 🙂 You can also take shorter trips around – just pick a map and plan your tour!

Hiking. There are numerous hiking paths crossing the islands. You can pick from longer and shorter tours leading to spectacular beaches and mountain peaks. If you are planning a longer trip (about a week), you may want to follow our path or a piece of it if you have just a few days.

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