The trip was so last minute that I didn’t have the time to plan it in as much detail as I usually would. I decided to take this trip because of the strong aurora activity that was predicted for the Friday night, and Stavanger was forecast for clear skies. This meant there would be a good chance of seeing the northern lights, and what better place to see them from a Norwegian mountain overlooking a fjord?
I told my sister about my idea to go hiking and camping in Norway to see the aurora and she wanted to come too. It was a Monday when I made my plan to travel to Stavanger, we booked the flights on Tuesday using our Avios points (a great way to get cheap last minute flights), and flew to Stavanger on Friday.
We flew out of Heathrow and landed in Stavanger in the early afternoon. Once we picked up the hire car we headed straight to a supermarket to pick up enough food for the trip. The supplies included polar bread, which I absolutely love and buy any time I visit a Nordic country.
The plan for the first day was to hike to Pulpit Rock and camp in the mountains for the night. The drive over to pulpit rock wasn’t too long, and included a short ferry ride across one of the fjords.
The hike up to pulpit rock from the carpark is about 4km and took us about an hour and a half, which I thought was a good pace considering the hike is quite steep in places, we were carrying heavy rucksacks, and I made plenty of stops to take photos.
We arrived at Pulpit Rock just as the sun was setting, so we continued up a little further to find a good camping spot and setup our tent before it got too dark. There were a lot more people camping up there than I had expected, including some people who had pitched their tents right on Pulpit Rock.
It didn’t take long to find a good spot that was on some soft and mostly dry ground, rather than on solid rock like most people had pitched their tents on. I really liked the spot we found for out tent, and the view we had of the fjord.
After quickly putting up the tent, we climbed further up the mountain to take some photos before the sunset colours disappeared. Then we ate some food while waiting for the sky to darken and hoping for the aurora to appear.
Before the sky had completely darkened, my sister spotted what looked like some thin clouds that seemed to be glowing very slightly, and we thought it was probably a faint aurora. So I setup my camera to check to see if it really was and I took this photo.
I was so happy to see the northern lights, even though they were so faint. It felt like our gamble to come on this last minute trip had paid off, and we were in a beautiful location to enjoy the display.
I continued taking photos for the next couple of hours as the sky continued to darken and the stars brightened. The aurora did weaken a little, but the faint glow was always there to the north.
The milky way was quite bright to the south east, even though the galactic centre is below the horizon this far north at this time of the year. So I spent some time taking photos of the milky way too, though I probably should have tried to get a little higher up the mountain to get a better view.
I kept an eye on the aurora forecast to see if it would pick up during the night, but it didn’t look likely. So we headed to bed a little before midnight, but not before I took a photo of our tent.
I woke up a few times during the night to check on the aurora, incase it got stronger and brighter, but it seemed to just continue to glow faintly throughout the night.
I was up a little before sunrise and setup my camera just outside the tent, looking over the fjord, hoping to get a good sunrise photo. Unfortunately it was a little too cloudy, so there was no colorful sunrise. But it was still nice to just enjoy the view.
Once we packed up the tent, we hiked down a little to a spot overlooking pulpit rock and ate our breakfast with this view.
We posed for some photos on Pulpit Rock before continuing back down the mountain, and passed a lot of people on their way up, many of whom were carrying some interesting items.
It would have been interesting to stay at Pulpit Rock long to see what these people had planned for their rowing machines.
We also spotted a lot of people carrying various musical instruments. First I saw a woman with a some sort of brass instrument sticking out of her back pack. Then we kept passing people carrying various brass instruments and drums. By the time we got to the guys in the photo below, who were dressed up, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked them what was going on. They told me that they were going to be holding a concert on pulpit rock at noon. That would have been something great to see, but we were most of the way down the mountain and had to push on to our next hike and camping spot.
The original (rough) plan I had come up with for the second day was to hike up to Kjeragbolten and find a camping spot up there. I asked my sister to research the hike as we were driving, and she discovered that although the hike was the same distance as pulpit rock, it would likely take twice as long because it’s a more difficult hike, with long sections of steep, solid rock with chains to hold on to. We also discovered there was a road closure, which would add an extra hour to the drive to where the hike starts, so we likely wouldn’t be able to complete the hike before sunset. The long hike down and the longer driver back to the airport would also mean we might be cutting it close to get back to the airport in time for our flight.
While driving we came up with a new plan to continue to the waterfall we were heading to (Månafossen, on the way to Kjeragbolten), and see if we could find a good place to camp near the waterfall.
This turned out to be a really great option. The drive to the waterfall was beautiful, with the roads winding through the mountains, along side the lakes and fjords.
When we arrived at the car park for the waterfall we weren’t sure how easy it would be to find a good camping spot up near the waterfall and whether we should go and scout out the place first before coming back for camping gear. But when I saw a family starting the hike with big rucksacks and camping gear, we figured there must be somewhere to camp, and so we packed our rucksacks and started hiking.
It’s was a steep but short hike up to the waterfall, where we stopped for a rest and some photos, before continuing to hike above the waterfall. It wasn’t long before we reached the valley above the waterfall and found a good spot by the river to set up camp.
After setting up the tent, we set off exploring the area and found a wooden building with grass roof that serves as a conference venue with accommodation. At the back of the building we spotted a geocache that wasn’t hidden very well that we weren’t even looking for. So we signed the log and hid the geocache a bit better.
We had a few hours to just relax at the campsite before sunset, so we ate dinner and I sat and read a book for a while. It was nice to just be able to enjoy being outdoors, the beautiful surroundings and the sunshine.
It was another clear night, so I was out again taking photos of the stars, once it was dark enough.
I was up before sunrise again, hoping to get a colourful sunrise photo. I decided the river next to our tent was a good spot so I set up my tripod and camera and waited for the sun to come up. While I was waiting, I noticed something in tree directly above me. It was a geocache, so I climbed the tree to sign it. Then quickly put it back and took some photos as the colours appeared in the sky.
After packing away the tent, we hiked back down to the carpark, and stopped to see the waterfall, and to take some photos.
We hiked back down the mountain early so that we’d have some time to look around Stavanger before our flight. First stop was the sword monument. The weather was so nice when we got there, and the water looked so clear that I really wanted to go for a swim in the bay, even though the water was cold. Unfortunately I didn’t have any shorts with me, so I settled for a quick paddle with my trousers rolled up so I could collect some seashells.
The last stop was a quick visit to the old town which has some beautiful houses.
Of all the short trips I’ve done this year, this was one of my favourite. For a trip that was planned at such short notice, it really came together well. We had great weather, managed to see the northern lights, and got to hike and camp in some beautiful locations.