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Hiking Preikestolen The “Preacher’s Pulpit” in Norway

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Posted on / by Alex Berger

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

For years I’d seen photos of a stunning rock cliff face that leaned out over a massive fjord.  The sheer majesty of the formation and the presence it conveyed – even in photos – captivated me.  I knew at some point I’d have to track down where the images and videos were shot and find my way there.  The spot has been featured in base jumping videos, wingsuit videos and more than a few rugged adventure photo sets. Despite it’s relative popularity, the actual name and location of the spot was anything but easy to track down. In many ways it’s one of Norway’s worst kept secrets.  Once you know what to look for it’s easy to find – but until then it’s not something you’ll just accidentally stumble upon.

As my Norway trip started to take shape, I knew that if at all possible a stop at what I later came to learn was commonly referred to as Preikestolen or the Preacher’s Pulpit  was an absolute must.  To my surprise I learned that Preikestolen was best accessed via a mid-sized Norwegian town I’d never heard of: Stavanger.  The city is the 3rd largest in Norway and regularly hailed as the Nation’s Culture Capital due to its thriving music scene.

Eager to see Preikestolen, I based my Norway visit around a stop in Stavanger even though it meant I had to cut out my planned exploration of the Northern half of Norway and a return to the Arctic Circle.

The Fjord - Stavanger, Norway

My morning began with a hint of uncertainty.  Taking advantage of the private room and a quiet night in, I’d done my laundry in the sink/shower the night before.  As experienced travelers no doubt are well aware that means clothing hanging from every possible surface and a room that looks like it has been struck by a tornado.  According to the website, I’d be doing a Tide.no tour.  For 200 NOK the self guided tour included round trip ferry transport from Stavanger to Tau, then Bus transport from Tau to the Hotel/basecamp which is located about 3.8KM and 1,000 feet in altitude from Preikestolen. The catch?  I wasn’t entirely sure which side of the old port in Stavanger the ferry left from.  Even after doing a bit of research online I was still somewhat uncertain.  Though, luckily, I remembered wandering past what looked like a Tide ferry terminal the day before.  Using that as a base, I caught the bus and struck out for what I hoped was the 9:30 ferry.

The Fjord - Stavanger, Norway

Sometimes its better to be lucky than smart.  As it turned out, a combination of the two worked to my favor.  I arrived shortly after 8AM, slightly out of breath, found a ticket window and got directions.  The attendant informed me that tickets for “Tour 4” could be purchased on the boat and that it would be departing at 9.   After a moments hesitation and confusion over the 9AM departure time (all of their paperwork said 9:30) I forded across a nearby street, wading through the heavy flow of traffic and found a small SPAR supermarket selling a relatively cheap hotdog.

Eventually I found myself on a large car ferry. The ferry itself was nice and offered a great view from the top deck as well as fairly comfortable seating inside for those eager to escape the sun or light ocean breeze.  As it turns out, there are actually two ferries that make the Stavanger – Tau trip.  One at 8:45 and the other at 9:30.  The 9:30 aligns directly with the Tau -> Basecamp Bus, but both are equally convenient.

The Fjord - Tau, Norway

The trip to Tau was gorgeous.  The weather was perfect.  Slightly cool, crystal clear blue skies, with a slight breeze to keep you feeling refreshed and invigorated, I couldn’t help but relish every moment as our ferry (turned budget cruise ship) wound its way through several small channels cut between beautiful rock islands.  Many of which had small lighthouses or picturesque villages sandwiched into tiny coves.  From time to time I’d spot a small sailboat making its way across the fjord’s flat waters – each looking as though it was an old oil painting come to life, all set to the backdrop of large mountains turned a light blue by distance and the ocean’s haze.

Wild Jellyfish - Tau Harbor, Norway

Tau Harbor was simple.  A long cement quay for the ferry to land at, an old industrial looking structure along one side of the harbor, and a secondary sailing harbor backed by several picturesque homes hidden across the harbor behind a second, smaller breakwater.  It was anything but exciting but a great place to relax for 30 minutes.  I took the opportunity to explore the water’s edge.  The water was a rich green but also crystal clear and full of fish, seaweed and a number of Jellyfish.  In truth, just about every harbor in Norway I visited was full of Jellyfish.  Some were small, most were pancake sized and others the size of a soccer ball.  Though no doubt a pain for locals, the Jellyfish added an exciting curiosity and other-worldly beauty to the overall experience.   Note the incredible clarity of the water in the image above.  I snapped it from the small dock pictured in the previous image, right before being driven off by two full sized Swans and a mid-sized gray Swanling.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

From Tau the Bus drops you off at the basecamp (not sure of its actual name).  It sits overlooking a beautiful lake and is home to a large parking lot, hotel, cafe, bathrooms, a small treat and tourist knickknack store and of course the start of the Preikestolen Trail.  From start to Preikestolen the hike covers 3,800 Meters (just under 12,500 feet) and is about 3.8 KM each way.  From the parking lot to the top of Preikestolen there’s a 1,090 foot altitude difference which the map above showcases fairly accurately.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The path is well maintained but challenging.  In addition to steep inclines it consists of a mixture of lightly graveled paths, wooden boardwalks, natural terrain and large piled rock fields.  While the majority of the path is doable without the use of your hands there are more than a few spots where you’ll find yourself using hands to stabilize yourself as you scramble from small boulder to small boulder. Despite the path’s difficult nature there was a wide cross section of people hiking the trail.  Some old, some young.  Some thin and fit, others not so much.  The biggest deciding factor seemed to be pace and water.  When hiking the trail, make sure you take more than enough water with you and move at a pace you’re comfortable with. Don’t rush.  I had a liter as well as a 20 oz soda and was thoroughly parched by the time I finished the hike.  Having enough water, and taking your time on the treacherous footing should allow just about anyone to make the hike assuming – of course – that they’re up for a7 (almost 8) KM hike over rough terrain.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The path is what I’d call a sprinter’s path.  It sprints up large inclines quickly before leaving hikers to meander along relatively flat spaces across beautiful boggy meadows or polished granite hilltops with incredible views of lakes or fjords stretching out towards the horizon.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

As you break through the halfway point you’re forced to make one final great push.  The hill pictured above is slightly steeper (if only slightly) than some of the other areas.  You can see the moss covered, fern decorated rocks which make up the path and perhaps get a feel for what to expect during the “sprint” phases of the hike.  Mind the ankles – it can be a bit dangerous.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The reward, however, is well worth the effort.  After completing the last difficult scramble, you find yourself upon the spine of one of the hills.  You’ll also get to enjoy your first view of the Lysefjoren.  It’s spectacular. There’s really no other way to describe it.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Well, when I said final push…I didn’t truly mean final, final.  Once on the spine of the mountain, you wind your way up a far more gradual incline.  With only one or two relatively small rock scrambles, you wind through a mixture of scenery like that in the photo above and lush green forest before getting dumped out next to three small lakes in an area largely devoid of trees. The lakes double as swimming holes for those brave enough to risk the frigid Norwegian water and were home to massive schools of tadpoles.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

With the lakes to my back, I began to make my way towards what I hoped was getting close to Preikestolen.  Shortly after the lakes I was greeted by a wooden sign with two options.  One was the cliff top path, the other was the hill top path.  I opted for the cliff top path, which looked like it would wrap around the remaining crest of the mountain, instead of cutting up and over it.  A decision I’d suggest anyone making the hike consider.   The hill top path makes for a far better return trip as part of a giant loop.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Though most of the remaining path was fairly easy, there were a few challenging spots.  There’s nothing that gets the heart pumping quite like a chain link hand rail, uneven rocks and a several hundred foot drop to the left.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The weather was incredible.  Hardly a cloud in the sky, relatively survivable humidity and a gentle breeze – which while absolutely perfect was more than a little toasty.  By the time I reached the 2/3 point I’d surrendered my shirt and was relishing every step.  There’s something spectacular about a good hike in an amazing setting surrounded by crystal clean air with blue skies in every direction.  Throw in a few spectacular cliffs and a massive fjord in the background and you’ve got paradise.  As I continued along the cliff top the path cut inland briefly, turned a few corners…

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

…and then rounded a ledge and stopped me in my tracks.  The sheer cliff face fell away to my left, some 1,800 feet down to the Fjord and there ahead of me I could just make out the small dots of fellow hikers exploring and enjoying Preikestolen.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Even though my final destination was finally within eyesight and reach I still paused briefly to rest and take in the cliff I was standing immediately next to.  I knew that Preikestolen itself would be incredible, but couldn’t help but be awed by the sheer drop off I was standing next to.  So, I did what anyone with a reasonable fear of heights would do.  I sat down, swung my legs out into the breeze, tried not to whimper like a little girl, and took a photo…then paused and enjoyed the moment and view of the fjord below.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Still feeling a bit light headed from my glance over the cliff I collected myself, dusted my pants off and started towards Preikestolen.  I didn’t have to walk far before being greeted by the cliff in its full majesty.   Keep in mind that what you’re looking at in the image seems tall, but loses some of its power and scale.  From clifftop to water is about 1,900 feet.  If you figure 10 feet per story, that’s the equivalent of 190 story building.  Not half bad ehh?

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The fjord that sits at the base of Preikestolen is the Lysefjorden and is accessible from Stavanger via a variety of fjord cruises though I have to admit, after seeing it from above, I doubt that I’d be satisfied taking a ferry based tour.

As I settled in on top of the 82×82 foot flat top of Preikestolen to enjoy my lunch I couldn’t help but pinch myself. This is why I’d come to Norway.  This is what I’d dreamed of – and the best part?  It was living up to every ounce of my expectations.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Preikestolen is effectively a giant square which protrudes from the surrounding cliff.  The cool thing about this is that it also has one corner which is perfectly laid out to serve as a seat.  One very lofty, heart pounding, slightly windy seat (pictured above).   So, not to miss out on a once in a lifetime experience I gathered up my courage, overcame my fears and carefully scooted my way out to the point, then dropped a leg over either side and sat straddling the point.  Luckily, I’d befriended a Korean couple on the ferry and run into them again at the Pulpit, which left me feeling comfortable enough to trust the husband with my camera.  No small feat (or request on my part) since it required he backtrack a few hundred feet to another smaller point to take the photo.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

After spending an hour or so at the Pulpit I started my trip home.  For the return trip, I decided to take the hill top path knowing it would take me up onto the remaining portion of the mountain, which overlooks Preikestolen.  The 100 or so foot climb up above the Pulpit was well worth it as there was a series of stone cairns which decorated the top of the 2nd cliff.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

As you can see in the image above, the Pulpit’s surface area is of a decent size, but not overly large.  It was also somewhat busy, but not bad when considering how incredible the weather was and that it’s effectively a world famous landmark.  Still, I can only imagine how stunning it would be to stand out on it alone under a full moon at night.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

The hike back down over the top of the hill offered a spectacular view of the Fjord/bay back towards Tao and Stavanger.  It also brought with it a bit of excitement.  As I crested the final hill and prepared to wind back down towards the lakes I was greeted by the sight pictured above – a rescue helicopter circling the lakes, and preparing to pick someone up.  A small crowd had gathered around what I can only imagine was a hiker who had slipped and broken a bone, or perhaps feinted from the heat.  Either way, the helicopter settled in next to one of the lakes in hover mode, dropped a cable, and picked up the injured individual before winding them up, and then heading back towards town.

Preikestolen "The Preacher's Pulpit" - Norway

Beyond a gently rolled ankle and feeling terribly parched the rest of my hike back down to the base camp was every bit as beautiful and delightful as the trip up had been.

The hike as a whole was spectacular and a must do for anyone visiting Norway. It was truly incredible.  If you’re thinking about doing it and have any questions (or comments) or have done it yourself please leave a comment!  I’d love to keep the memory alive with continued discussion!

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

44 Comments

  • agentcikay/ciki
    August 7, 2010

    Preikestolen is awesome! best way to get over my acrophobia! Gorgeous pristine place.. i really need to visit. Thx for sharing this great post:)

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    August 7, 2010

    That it is! It's an amazing adventure! When you make it up there, do share! There's another great hike nearby as well which is a bit longer and i didn't have time for. It's to a higher cliff face, and there's a nearby boulder sandwiched between to cliffs.

    Reply
  • André Silva
    August 9, 2010

    Uau!
    Awsome pics! This is exactly the hiking I will do in September!
    Probably I will go there on September 13th.
    I will start my trip in Oslo, Bergen, Jostedal(Glacier) and finish it in Stavanger. I am still taking some tips, but with your depoiment above, I have everything that I need!

    Thanks a lot!

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    August 9, 2010

    Thanks Andre! That sounds amazing. I'm more than a little jealous. Glad the above helped, don't hesitate to let me know if you have any other questions. You've got an amazing trip to look forward to! Hope the weather cooperates!

    Reply
  • Barks
    August 9, 2010

    Glad the Korean guy succeeded with your camera because you've both taken some awesome pics to go with the article. We did a family trip to Norway in 2008, and I remember well the need to scale back to reality our original idea of travelling round the whole of Norway. We looked at the fjords from water level and I think this was a good decision. I'm not good with heights, and the very idea of a 5 year old dangling his legs over the side is making my palms tingle while I type this.
    Enjoyed the blog post.

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    August 9, 2010

    Thanks Barks! I was definitely relieved to see he took a series of shots and did a solid job. It's always amazing how hit or miss it is (usually miss) when you ask someone for a shot or two. It amazes me how many times i've asked someone for a quick shot in front of something amazing only to look at the photo they took and see that it's my face and little/nothing else. I usually target couples, and people with DSLR's when asking people to snap a quick shot. So far it tends to work out fairly decently – definitely one of the challenges for a solo traveler.

    It really is a large country, and surprisingly difficult to get around. I found the rail legs/layout to be the largest obstacle. It also sounds like you made the right choice, it's a pretty treacherous hike to have a little one on.

    Thanks for reading and the comment! Safe travels and open roads!

    Reply
  • André Silva
    August 12, 2010

    Alex, what else did you see at Stavanger ? How long did you took from going out of your hotel, climb the rock and go down ? Should I take the whole day to do that ? Thanks!

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    August 12, 2010

    Definitely set aside a whole day. If you start with the 9:30 ferry. You should be able to get back around 5-6PM. I think I was down the mountain by 3:45, but then missed the bus and had to wait for the 4:45 Bus. Assuming the ferry/bus was about an hour/hour and a half to get back to Stavanger, it definitely consumes most of the day. Speed/pace though might be faster if the weather was a little nastier, so it just depends. Keep in mind you're going to be hiking about 7.5 KM up/down hill in addition to traveling there and back, so it's a decent day's exercise which will probably leave you ready for a nap.

    The city of Stavanger is fun. I spent a day or two just walking around and wandering it/relaxing. There are also two other fantastic hikes near by that are more difficult than Preikestolen – if you have the time it's worth considering them.

    Reply
  • André Silva
    August 12, 2010

    Thanks Alex! I will arrive in Stavanger at september 12th, around 15:00, but will do the hiking only on the next day, so I think that I will find some things to do there!

    Thanks again!

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    August 12, 2010

    Definitely! Take some time to wander around the city, hit a supermarket for some cheap food, and see what's going on. I was there during a huge outdoor Beach Volleyball Tournament so the whole city was crazy busy, but I think they have pretty regular events like that. I hear the bars are also great! I was just in a very weird hostel which made being social/doing the bars difficult.

    Reply
  • André Silva
    August 16, 2010

    Hey Alex.
    You said that you got a tour with tide.no
    Is it necessary ? Do they only give you the ferry and bus tickets or they give you some assitence in the hiking ?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  • AlexBerger
    August 16, 2010

    It’s a package, and came out to be the same price without the combo. They don’t offer any assistance, it’s more a transportation package, than an actual tour.

    Reply
  • André Silva
    August 16, 2010

    Thanks again!

    Reply
  • André Silva
    October 7, 2010

    I was there! Beautiful! I will send you the pictures!

    Reply
  • Polished Concrete PALM BEACH
    October 30, 2010

    Absolutely inexplicable!! This is next to ecstasy!!

    Reply
  • Hughes Ollie
    December 18, 2010

    I am thinking of hiking to Preikestolen as you did. I will be going in March 2011. Will the weather we okay then? Did you hike up to Kjeragbolten? If so what can you tell me about it?

    Regards Ollie

    Reply
    • AlexBerger
      December 21, 2010

      Not sure to be honest. I’d do a bit of googling, my hunch is it will be fairly cold, but could go either way. On the upside it will be doable and probably be less crowded/more spectacular/pristine. If it is a little icy, be careful and have a blast at it. Didn’t make Kjeragbolten unfortunately due to time constraints. Well worth doing though from all i heard/saw. Have an amazing trip and let me know how it goes!

      Reply
    • Judy
      November 13, 2011

      Hi Ollie, I am planning a trip the first week of April and really want to hike Preikestolen. Did you go in March? Can you tell me about the weather and the transportation? We won’t have a car. Thanks! Judy

      Reply
  • Asbestos Removal
    December 29, 2010

    Very insightful and interesting. I hope some of the execs read and heed your suggestions.

    Reply
  • Cairns Backpackers
    March 3, 2011

    Amazing write I want to appreciate the author. I liked to read that. Thank you so much for sharing the post with all. You are bookmarked.

    Reply
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  • Milly
    August 14, 2011

    Great guts and glory for sitting at the edge of the cliff!

    Reply
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  • Anniepet
    March 14, 2012

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful pictures. My girlfriends and I want to hike the Pulpit Rock on May 29th. You mentioned that you opted to take the Cliff top path instead of the Hill top path . You also talked about a ledge. I’m assuming the ledge is only on the Cliff top path and not on the Hill top path. Can we take the Hill top path both ways? We don’t mind taking a longer time for our hike as long as we avoid the ledge on this hike. Are there other ledges that we need to know about? Thank you for your time.

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      March 15, 2012

      Fantastic! You’re going to love it! I’m actually inclined to say that the cliff top path is actually more height-phobia friendly. While you do spend more time along the cliffs and near sheer drops, the paths are fairly wide and secure (example photos here and here (far right). Cliff top conjures mental images of narrow walkways along cliff faces, with sheer drops just inches away which you won’t find outside of one small, secure, wooden walkway (photo). However, if you decide the hill top path still sounds better, it’s entirely possible to take it both ways. Keep in mind that the hill top path actually comes up and then drops back down to the Pulpit and is fairly steep in several places, where the cliff path just wraps around at the approximate height of the Pulpit.

      Reply
  • Judy
    March 15, 2012

    Thanks for the great information. I am planning to hike Preikestolen on May 5 or 6 with my 3 teenage daughters, youngest will be 14. I am not worried about the distance/difficulty part, but I do have problem with the paths dropping straight down!! Are there any dropoffs like that on the Hilltop path, or is it “safer”?

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      March 16, 2012

      I’d place the two paths at approximately the same level of safety. While you’ll be near some pretty hefty dropoffs, my recollection is that the path was always fairly wide in these locations and often had enough room for several people to walk side by side. Outside of the wooden walkway above, I don’t believe you’ll ever need to get closer than 4 feet to the edge if you don’t want to, and will have significantly more space most of the time. My recollection of the hilltop path is somewhat tainted, as the path I opted for up the first part of it (from Preikestolen when heading back) was fairly steep – but I believe that was because I wasn’t actually on the proper path, and was instead on a side path to a photographer’s lookout.

      I would say that the primary danger actually comes from the risk of slipping on one of the small boulders that makes up the path, or being careless once actually at the Pulpit itself. Even at that though, the path itself is pretty safe, well traveled, and clear cut. Keep in mind that in shots like my boot shot over the edge, I’m sitting on the side of the path comfortably (despite having my feet over the cliff) with significant room behind me and people are still able to pass easily without any concern of bumping me. Outside of one or two places where it narrows down, the cliff top path is actually fairly wide open.

      I hope that helps! You’ll have an amazing time, and I think they’ll love it! I hope the weather cooperates!

      Reply
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  • Beatrix
    July 13, 2012

    Going to Preikestolen has been on my bucket list for many many years. Really enjoyed reading your story and in awwwww over your photos. I am sure that place is 1000 times better then on photos… I hope it’s in the cards for me while I am still on the beautiful planet . Ty for sharing your story, it has been helpful imagining such a beautiful place.

    Kind regards,
    Beatrix

    Reply
  • Vinod Sharma
    August 10, 2013

    Hi Alex
    A fantastic write up of your trip to Priekostolen. I plan to do this trip with a few friends soon so this report is most helpful. I have had my sights on this trip and the hike to Kjeragbolten for the last couple of years, so really can’t wait to go. If we don’t get the logistics done for Sept 13 , will definitely go June 2014.

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      August 15, 2013

      Thanks Vinod! That sounds like a wonderful trip! I hope you’re able to make it this summer. Always great to be able to visit a place you’ve been dreaming of for a few years isn’t it!?

      Reply
  • Matthew Fine
    February 3, 2014

    I have always wondered what that place was called! Absolutely breathtaking photos and sounds like you got lucky on your timing. I used to be an avid rock climber and even that would not prevent me from getting vertigo

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      February 4, 2014

      Thanks Matt! Yeah, timing was great and the weather was fantastic. Definitely one heck of a view! It’s well worth a visit if you find yourself in Norway.

      Reply
  • Mukesh
    March 13, 2014

    Hi,

    Nice write up. I am from Oslo and planning to do a solo trip here during Easter. I am a budget traveler so can you help me with some input on cheap accommodation please.

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      March 14, 2014

      Hi Mukesh, thanks for reading and enjoy the visit! This was several years ago, so i’m not sure how the accommodation landscape has changed. However, I stayed at a hostel located near the hospital. Check out one of the hostel booking sites on my travel resources page (upper right corner of the site). Hostelbookers should have some good options.

      Reply
  • Serene
    July 3, 2015

    Thanks very much for the informative travel report. I enjoy reading it. Which path is wider? Cliff top path or Hill top path? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      July 5, 2015

      Hi Serene, thanks! I’m not sure since I’ve heard they made quite a few improvements to the path over the last few years.

      Reply
  • Rich
    March 12, 2016

    Alex, well since you asked for comments to keep the memory alive Thought I’d share my journey to Preikestolen with you!
    The Beautiful trail to Preikestolen And of course .. Preikestolen- the Pulpit Rock- heavenly view of earth … Hope you enjoy!

    Reply

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