6 tips for hiking in Norway

A beginner’s guide to exploring the Norwegian nature

Hiking is kind of the national sport in Norway and it is also something you can do for free in an otherwise rather expensive country. So, when I spent my semester abroad in Bergen, I knew that I wanted to try it, too. Back then, I had absolutely no hiking experience besides minor walks with my grandparents. Consequently, I had no clue what Norwegian hiking trails would look like. Still, like many other students, I had the goal to hike up to the top of all the seven summits around Bergen. Here are some things I wish I knew before and also some things you should keep in mind as you explore the Norwegian nature.

1. Get yourself some proper hiking boots

get proper hiking boots first
Proper hiking boots are essential!

One of the best investments I made were proper hiking boots. As it rains quite a bit and the terrain stretches from gravel and stones to muddy and slippery, I would recommend proper waterproof, over-the-ankle hiking boots. I am very satisfied with the pair I bought and they had cost only around 140€. My feet were never wet – even when accidently stepping into deep mud or puddles – and I felt secure even when the path didn’t give me the confidence I wanted. Proper hiking boots are essential!

2. The piles of stones are not just for decoration

trail markings along the way
Pyramids of stones mark the trail

This is probably a no brainer for people who have been hiking before. However, I only started hiking in Norway, so I didn’t know that these stones had a deeper meaning. They are actually – like the red painted T on some stones– another way to mark the routes. So, if you don’t know where to go next look out for the red “T” and piles of stones.

3. Appreciate nature

At the beginning of every single hike I was wondering why I was even doing this. I was easily out of breath and it could get quite exhausting. At the latest at the top of each mountain, these thoughts were forgotten. The feeling of reaching the top paired with the breath-taking view was worth it every time. Enjoy the beautiful nature and don’t get lost trying to take the perfect Instagram shot. Take everything in and also value nature. Also remember to only leave footprints and bring your garbage back with you to preserve nature.

appreciate nature when hiking in Norway
The satisfying feeling of reaching the top of Sandviksfjellet

4. Keep the weather in mind

Always check the weather forecast before hiking! Especially when you’re a beginner but also when you are more proficient. The weather can change quickly from sun and a clear sky to thick fog. I’ve heard from people who started hiking in the sun and suddenly entered thick fog and couldn’t see further than two metres anymore. As you can imagine, this can get quite dangerous if you can’t see the trail anymore or the paths become slippery. So always pay attention to the weather while hiking! It’s okay to turn around midway and continue the hike on another day. Your safety should come first.

5. The hiking trails

hiking trail sandviksfjellet

As mentioned above, I had no experience in hiking and had no idea what to expect in Norway. In my imagination there were nice trails and the way up would be a breeze. The reality looked a little different. The hiking trails are very divers: There are even paths which can get steeper, there are huge step-like stones, small rocks, sometimes you’ll have to use your hands and sometimes you’ll have to cross a small stream.

hiking trail in norway
Another trail on one of our hikes

Be prepared for that and do not underestimate the hike or overestimate your strength and condition. I wasn’t very sporty at that time, so I was easily exhausted and needed to take little breaks quite often. But that’s okay, too.

snow hike trolltunga
You can also come across snow, like here on the trolltunga hike

6. Get a hiking buddy

Hiking on your own might be good for the mind and soul as you are not distracted by anyone, but in my opinion it’s even better with a friend! The first hike I took was with a large group of students. Shortly after the beginning of the hike, I had to discover that the other students were a lot fitter than me and I couldn’t keep pace with the group. So, I turned around disappointedly. Luckily, I found a new bestie who was on the same fitness level as me and wanted to take the same amount of photos and breaks as me. After the first hike together, we continued to take all our hikes together and it was perfect. I can only recommend to try and find a hiking buddy on your level. You probably won’t talk all the time, so you’ll still have time to appreciate nature and let your thoughts drift away. Still, you’ll have someone to share the experience and create new memories. Additionally, it’s always better to be not alone, just in case something happens or you get lost.

These are my tips and things I wish I had known before my first hike. I hope you enjoyed these tips for hiking in Norway and they were helpful and you will be better prepared than I was. If you want to read more about safety and hiking in Norway, check out VisitNorway for more handy tips.

Also, leave your essential hiking tips in the comments!

 

How to see the Northern Lights

One of my goals during my semester in Norway was to see the Northern Lights. And with northern lights it is probably the same as it is with love: It happens when you least expect it.

As the name implies you have to be in the North to have the best chances to see the northern lights. Then you need two more things:

  1. A high aurora level (which you can check on an aurora forecast online). The higher the level the further south you have a chance to see northern lights (this is only a very simple way of explaining the matter).
  2. More importantly: You need a clear sky. When the sky is covered in clouds, you cannot see anything no matter how high the aurora level is.

So in Bergen the chances to see northern lights are still quite little. Because a) Bergen is comparatively far in the South and b) most of the time it’s cloudy. Nevertheless, I was still hoping. Every now and then I peeked out of my window and stared at the night sky. Most of the times unsuccessful.

The first time I saw the Aurora Borealis

One night, however, there were lights in the night sky. At first I wasn’t sure if it was only city lights. But when I saw movement in the lights, I was sure that I had just seen Northern Lights for the first time. I was so happy I wanted and it felt somehow magical, even though they were very weak and I could barely see them. Still, it was the first time and thus it was special.

The second time we all saw the Northern Lights was also in Bergen. There had been sightings the previous nights and it was also expected to happen that night. So many students from my student housing came outside to a nearby park. The lawn was still wet from rain and our feet quickly became wet and cold. Nevertheless, we were standing in little groups in the cold, facing north and waiting for the appearance of the Northern Lights. Suddenly, there were sounds of “ohs” and “aws” and cheering. The Northern Lights had appeared as expected. The moment was only ruined by many students who tried to capture the moment on their smartphones. With the camera flash turned on. Don’t do that. It doesn’t do any good.

Northern Lights in Tromso
Northern Lights in Tromso

Northern Lights in Tromso

The last time saw the Northern Lights was in Tromso, which is in the far North of Norway. We were very lucky, because we were only staying a few nights in Tromso and the weather forecast had predicted a cloudy sky. The first night, however, there were now clouds or what so ever and we had a brilliant view of the Northern Lights. They were quite strong and dancing in the night sky. Only by that, the trip had already been worth it.

Was it worth it?

I am so happy that I got the chance to see the Northern Lights. It was something that I had always dreamed of and I would immediately return to Norway to get another chance to see them. I have to say though that they look a lot different in real life than on photos. Not as green and not as bright (at least they didn’t the times when I saw them). Some people might be disappointed but I wasn’t. I still think it was magical and I wouldn’t want to miss it. And of course I would love to see them again!

(also: sorry for the poor quality of the photos. It was the first time I took photos of the Northern lights, so I didn’t quite know how to do it. Additionally, I had not the best-fitted tripod for my camera)

Impressions of Bergen, the rainiest city in Norway

In 2015, I spent my Erasmus semester in Norway or more precisely in Bergen. Initially, I chose Norway because of the beautiful landscape, the university and I wanted to get a better chance to see the Northern Lights. However, I wasn’t so sure about the city of Bergen. It has a reputation for being one of the rainiest cities in Norway, if not the rainiest city. Would it always be raining? Is the city too small? But all my doubts were proven wrong. I loved Bergen and it was perfect for my semester abroad!

With around 270.000 inhabitants, Bergen is Norway’s second biggest city and it’s definitely worth a visit. If you do visit Bergen, you should bring a good pair of hiking boots and hike up the seven summits of Bergen (or at least one of them). The highest of them is Mount Ulriken with 643m. The others are Lyderhorn, Løvstakken, Fløyen, Rundemannen, Sandviksfjellet and Damgårdsfjellet. It was my goal to reach the top of all seven of them. Even though I had been a complete newbie to hiking, I still made it to the top of all of them. I have to say, however, that it wasn’t always an easy walk up and sometimes it was quite exhausting (maybe we weren’t the fittest hikers).

The top of Mount Løvstakken in Bergen, Norway
Hiking in Bergen – Mount Løvstakken

I have to say that hiking is probably the best activity in Bergen if the weather is nice, which it was quite often while I had been there. This is probably why I went hiking so much. When you are in Bergen and it’s sunny outside, you have to seize the day and make the most of it. Everyone keeps telling you that the weather will change soon, thus you get a bad conscious if you stay inside.

If hiking is not for you, you should explore the hanseatic wharf Bryggen. Especially when the sun is out, it looks stunning and the colours of the tiny houses shine even brighter. You can stroll through the small alleys between the houses and check out all the little shops, that over typical Norwegian things, like cosy Norwegian sweaters. Take in the scent of the old timber of the contorted houses and enjoy the special atmosphere.

The hanseatic wharf Bryggen in Bergen, Norway
The hanseatic wharf Bryggen in Bergen

But Bergen has so much more to offer, which you should experience yourself. I had a wonderful time in Bergen and I can recommend everyone to visit it themselves.