NORWAY is home to countless fjords, mountains, valleys and glaciers. And since there are hiking routes comprising all levels of difficulty, from the easy marked trails to the challenging climbs that are well off the beaten path, I decided that hiking was a good way to explore its wild and untamed landscapes.
Trolltunga - Hightail to the troll’s tongue
Our first stop was the Trolltunga, a dramatic cliff rock that juts out 700m above Lake Ringedalsvatnet in the municipality of Odda. Legend has it that sunlight is deadly to the trolls (mystical creatures of Scandinavian origin), but a defiant troll decided to mock the sun by sticking his tongue out at sunrise and was turned to stone. Geologists, on the other hand, say that the 10,000 year-old rock formation was created from glacier erosion.
Trolltunga is one of the most popular hikes in Norway, and arguably the most photographed rock in the world. It is a strenuous and demanding hike, covering a distance of 22km and an ascent of 900m. Most people would require at least eight to 12 hours to complete the return hike.
By 7am, the trail, which was marked by ubiquitous red “T” letters painted on cairns (rock piles), was already crowded.
It took us through various terrains, climbs and stream crossings, and there were incredible views at every turn. We reached the legendary cliff before noon and queued for half an hour to get that epic picture at the tip of the troll’s tongue.
The wait was not boring, though, as we were entertained by people doing all sorts of stances at the ledge, such as star jump, handstand and yoga poses. I mustered the courage to sit with my feet dangling over the edge, and it was certainly not as scary as it looked.
It was an arduous journey up to the tongue, and the way down was all the more brutal on the knees. That said, the awe-inspiring Trolltunga was worth the effort. If I were to do it again, I would camp overnight on the mountain to experience a quiet sunset and sunrise.
Buarbreen – to the Edge of Glacier
Also located in Odda, the Buarbreen is a majestic glacier arm of the Folgefonna, the third largest glacier on Norway’s mainland. There are full-day guided tours to walk on the glacier itself, or a three-hour round-trip hike to the glacier’s edge and back. Since our legs were still aching from hiking the Trolltunga, we opted for the latter.
This underrated hike turned out to be an unexpected highlight of our trip. It was tremendous fun scrambling over large boulders, crossing the suspension bridge and climbing steep inclines with the help of support ropes. In contrast to the Trolltunga, there were no other hikers in front of us and we had follow the red “T” markers to make sure we were on the right path.
The view of the glacier was excellent, with the blue ice becoming clearer as we approached the top. However, what really blew me away was the view of the Buar valley surrounded by steep mountains, with the raging river flowing out through the valley into Lake Sandvinvatnet.
The fact that we had the whole place to ourselves added to the experience. I sat on a huge boulder by the riverbank, closed my eyes and listened to the sound of the rushing water. Strangely enough, I found it more daunting than sitting at the tip of Trolltunga.
As we did not have professional equipment and an experienced guide, we did not attempt to ford the river to get up close to the Folgefonna. Hiking on the glacier’s azure blue ice and even ice-climbing inside the crevasses would have been another highlight, but we will have to go back again to do it.
Brekkefossen – a Hike to the Waterfall in Flåm
Our last hike brought us to Flåm, a picturesque little village nestled in the innermost sidearm of the Sognefjord. Nicknamed the “King of the Fjords”, this is Norway’s longest and deepest fjord.
With its rugged mountain peaks, cascading waterfalls and idyllic farming villages, it is said to be one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.
The journey along the Sognefjord to reach Flåm was spectacular, and the sight of a massive cruise ship docked in this tiny Nordic village was no less amazing.
There are several walking tracks in Flåm, with Brekkefossen waterfall being the top favourite. The hike was short but steep, and the rainy weather on the previous day had made the path muddy and slippery.
After climbing for over an hour, the rocky trail opened up to a grassy ledge, offering a panoramic view of the waterfall, Flåm and the mighty Sognefjord. The low clouds added a surreal touch to the landscape. A halfhour more of climbing, and we reached the top where we could touch the cascading water.
Surviving mainly on energy bars and chocolates during the hikes, we were craving for a hot and hearty meal, especially in the cold weather. At the Aegir BrewPub, a local brewery in Norse Viking style, we had the famous Viking plank platter, which consisted of five local dishes with beer pairings.
The smoked reindeer and shellfish soup were delicious, and were made even better by the flavourful beers. Indulging in these Norwegian delicacies was a great way to reward ourselves post-hike, and the perfect ending to our holiday.
We flew from Singapore to Oslo on Thai Airways, with a stopover in Bangkok.
From Gardermoen Airport in Oslo, we rented a car for the six-hour drive to Odda.
You have to drive on the right-hand side and most rental cars have manual transmission.
The scenic roads are often narrow with hairpin turns, so drive with caution.
Weather conditions in the mountains can change quickly, so bring warm layers and rain gear, and wear waterproof hiking shoes.
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