With an old town featuring rows of perfectly-kept white wooden homes, a picturesque harbour and lively waterfront, it’s no wonder Stavanger is a popular spot for those visiting Norway. But its proximity to one of the most spectacular fjords and biggest tourist attractions in the country is the real draw, making the historic city a perfect spot for visitors to base themselves while exploring the dramatic Lysefjord.
Located in the southwestern part of Norway, the 42 kilometre fjord which translates to ‘light fjord’ is home to idyllic islands, countless waterfalls, tiny farms nestled in the hillside and wildlife including birds, seals and mountain goats.
While there is plenty worth exploring in the area, the most famous attraction is undoubtedly Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), a plateau that juts out of the mountain a dizzying 604 metres above the sea. Nearly 300-thousand people make the trek each year from May through October, and incredibly enough are permitted to walk right out onto the ledge—if they dare. The result is an unbeatable view of the fjord stretched out below, along with epic photo-ops.
The Pulpit Rock hike takes about eight hours round trip from Stavanger after accounting for a ferry and bus ride to get to and from the base, so those tight on time (read: day trippers) might not be able to squeeze in the adventure. Fortunately there’s another way to see Preikestolen—albeit from below—by booking a sightseeing cruise from Stavanger.
For an exclusive experience private boats are available to charter, but most people simply book a cruise with Norled. The ferry company offers daily excursions during the high season, which includes commentary in several different languages. Their boat departs from Skagenkaien in Stavanger’s main harbour, and for around $50 per person visitors can enjoy a nearly three hour tour of the Lysefjord from the comfort of the cabin or out on the sundeck. It’s important to note that it can be very windy on the deck once the boat gets moving, so guests are encouraged to hold on tightly to their hats!
The trip starts off by passing gorgeous, uninhabited, rocky islands dotted with vibrant foliage and surrounded by sparkling, sapphire-hued water. Wooden houses with rooster-red roofs are nestled into the hillsides behind, and every curve in the coastline reveals a new idyllic scene.
The mountains then begin to appear in the distance, with some rising as high as three-thousand feet above sea level. The cliffsides on the granite formations are so steep that only mountain goats are sturdy enough to scale them, and visitors may be lucky enough to spot some of the cheeky fellows who clamour toward the water’s edge as the boat nears, bleating at the crew in hopes they’ll be kind enough to toss them some food scraps.
Norway is no stranger to waterfalls, and it’s no different in the Lysefjord where there are so many that one quickly loses count of how many they’ve passed. The falls gush out of the craggy rocks, creating a striking scene as they pour down into the sea.
One of the more notable stops on the tour is Vagabond’s Cave (Fantahålå), a gorgeous cove where dramatic cliffs surround an aqua-marine pool. As legend has it, the cave was named after a group of vagabonds who hid in the shelter for months trying to escape police—and based on the spectacular scenery, it’s not hard to see why they chose this spot to hunker down in.
Just beyond the cave is the main attraction and final stop on the cruise: Pulpit’s Rock. The craggy ridge juts out overhead, its rectangular plateau reaching out toward the sea. From the water it’s impossible to see the daredevils nearing the ledge, but easy to understand the allure of making the trip up. While the view of the Lysefjord from above simply can’t be beat, an afternoon spent cruising through the spectacular waterway is an incredible, memorable way to explore the scenery around Stavanger.
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Globe Guide explored the Norwegian fjords in collaboration with Viking Cruises and Norled. As always, hosts have no editorial influence over articles.