Sometimes, when I’m travelling and doing something particularly cool, I pause for a moment and realize that I feel like I’m in a movie scene. It’s an overwhelming feeling of awe that my life can be so amazing, gratitude that I get to live this way, and shock that the world is so beautiful. The best of these moments came during my magical experience hiking Pulpit Rock in Norway, which is an incredible cliff overhanging the Lysefjord.
I have tried to write this post so many times, and I am having trouble putting into words how amazing this hike was and what it meant to me. The amazing thing is that other hikes in Norway (Trolltunga, Kjerag, and so many less-known ones) look even more incredible – if Pulpit Rock had such an effect on me, I can’t even imagine what others would be like.
About halfway up the hike, I had climbed enough steps that I could see over the trees and I was already awestruck. If the halfway point had been the entire purpose of the hike, I still would have been blown away – even the scenery along the way in the ‘boring’ parts was magical. I was wide awake despite my early start, blown away that just over a week ago I had been in Canada living my totally regular life and working at a cafe. Now I was here, hiking in a Norwegian fjord all on my own. Moments of realization like that are some of my favourite parts of travel; I’ll be going about my business and suddenly just pause to take in what a wonderful life I lead.
As I realized I was about to reach Preikestolen (the Norwegian name for Pulpit Rock), my favourite song from the Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack, Step Out started blasting through my earphones. If you’ve never seen that movie or heard the soundtrack, check it out; it’s inspiring to the max. The song always seems to be building to a crescendo just when I’m about to reach one of the most amazing moments of my life – the summit of Ben Vrackie in Scotland, Pulpit Rock, a view through the fog on a mountain in Austria..if you have a travel playlist, put it on there.
Invigorated by the tone of the song and the realization that I was about to get that iconic Norwegian view, I sped up despite the exhaustion coursing through my out-of-shape body. It was unseasonably warm and there was hardly a cloud in the sky; walking across the moors to get to that last part I felt as though nothing in the world could be more perfect. I climbed those last few stops and I think I literally gasped. I’ve heard people describe the Grand Canyon in Arizona as so surreal and massive that it looks like a painting. I felt exactly the same about Preikestolen. The fjords were so perfect that I didn’t think there was any way they could be real. The fact that something this amazing is on our earth and it doesn’t require an insane trek to get to (logistical details at the end of this post) is just mindblowing. When I think about all the other things on our planet that are just as gorgeous or MORE gorgeous than Pulpit Rock, I am overwhelmed by all there is to see and how lucky we are to have all of this to want to see.
People have complained that Pulpit Rock is becoming overtouristed and is way too crowded to feel peaceful. I only saw two other people on my hike up, and there were probably 5 or 6 people at the actual rock at any given time. When I was headed down, however, I started to see evidence of some crowding – stay at the base of the trail and get started as early as you can, like I did, and you hopefully won’t hit the crowds.
My favourite thing about this hike was how uncommercial they’ve left it. There are just the right amount of signs to keep you on track and let you know the length of the trail, but they are not distracting. Best of all, at the top there are no fences, no signs, nothing. You can pretend you are an explorer, discovering this place for the first time, independently…and isn’t being an intrepid explorer everyone’s childhood dream?
I’ve never been scared of heights, but even I was a little freaked out at the edge of the rock. I strongly considered taking one of those iconic pictures I’ve seen on Instagram with my legs hanging over the edge, but a slight wind and the comments I knew my mother would make managed to deter me. I did, however, talk to a lovely Dutch woman and convince her to take some pictures of me which I’m totally in love with. Solo traveler tip: most places it’s pretty easy to prop your camera somewhere and set up a self timer, but here that may not work if you want that particular view. You’d have to set your camera somewhere precarious and set a self timer of over a minute before sprinting back up to the rock. Asking someone to take a shot is kind of a large request since they have to wait for you to get out there, but even if they’re annoyed the pictures are so worth it – I will treasure these forever.
I stayed on Preikestolen until I decided I needed lunch, but I could have stayed all day. I even considered hiking it again the next day, and I kind of wish I had. However, I was beyond sore from a) the hike and b) deciding it would be a good idea to go kayaking after I arrived back at my hostel.
Now, more on my hostel – a place I totally recommend you stay. Nowhere will get you closer to the starting point of the hike, and therefore help you avoid the crowds as effectively. From Stavanger, a Norwegian city with a major airport and lots of rail connections (I flew in from London for about 85 USD), take a ferry to Tau and then hop on the bus that connects with each ferry to get to the hostel. I’m still unclear on how the bus system works, but I was the only one taking my bus and the woman driving was very kind. She basically just gave me what I needed and told me where to get off, so it all worked out. You check into the hostel at a gorgeous and luxurious mountain lodge at the top of the hill (if you can afford it, stay there!!) but the actual hostel building is closer to the water. The complex is on a lake and at every single hour of the day, the view was incredible.
I was actually the only traveller staying in the hostel, but the first night there were some Sherpas from Nepal there to work on improving the Preikestolen Trail – pretty cool to hear their stories! There is a kitchen facility in the hostel, and I would 100000% recommend buying groceries in Stavanger before you get on the ferry. Food in Norway is unbelievably expensive and even through buying groceries still hurt my wallet, it’s cheaper than eating out. The only restaurant you can access from the hostel is in the lodge, and I paid over $40 for a falafel salad the one time I let myself eat there. Yup. I brought pesto, pasta, broccoli and couscous, and while my diet was very bland during my stay at least I didn’t blow my whole Norway budget on two days of eating.