There’s a place in Norway which has become the Selfie Mecca of the world thanks to social media and the internet. Tens of thousands of determined selfie hunters, YOLO-ers and self-proclaimed adventurers have completed the pilgrimage in the last few years to get that shot and I suppose I’m one of them now!
Disclaimer: Expect to see a lot of sarcasm in this blog. Don’t be offended, it’s purely intended as entertainment 🙂
I’m talking about Trolltunga of course. A small sliver of rock that juts out and over the fjord above Ringedalsvatnet. A whopping 700m above the surface of the waters below. The perfect spot to plank, hold a pensive pose, look wondrously or just generally look like you’re doing something adventurous with your life.
Social media has seen the number of hikers to Trolltunga increase a hundred-fold in the last few years which has Norway’s official tourist board for Fjord Norway a little alarmed. I don’t imagine the local workers enjoy it that much because I get the impression that the lake below Trolltunga, Ringedalsvatnet, is primarily a dam, and was originally intended as public water and energy infrastructure rather than a tourist attraction. So sharing the extremely narrow and precarious access road with loads of cars, buses and foot traffic can’t be fun.
But enough of that crap..
Trolltunga is in Hordaland, 148 km from Bergen and 351 km from Oslo, near the edge of Hardangervidda National Park. The nearby towns are Tyssedal and Odda. Tyssedal is the closest to the starting point, but most of the services are in Odda.
Distance: 22km return
Duration: 7-9 hours hiking plus possibly an hour or more at the top
Total Ascent: About 900m
Max Altitude: 1183m
Profile: This is signed along the way at some of the kilometre markers, but basically the climb is in the first 4km and after that there’s a little undulation along the top.
Map: The only place you might get lost is near the cabins on the flat between 1½ to 3 kilometres, but just keep heading for the gap in the mountains. The signs recommend a guide… I wouldn’t bother unless you’re going in the snow…
Season: A lot of Norway’s tourism services drop off after mid-Sept and days get short quickly after summer passes. Norway is not a warm place at the best of times so be prepared for cold windy weather up top. At the end of September, temperatures were near freezing overnight, but if you don’t like sharing natural treasures with the hoards, it’s worth it.
How to get there
It’s a 3½ to 4 hour drive from Bergen to the start point at Skjeggedal Carpark depending on whether you take roads or ferries, but the total cost of the tolls ends up about the same. It cost us about 300NOK each way.
Roads are windy and slow if you get stuck behind someone. Passing can also be tight too with trucks using the road. So all of this will slow traffic down.
Now if you thought the tolls were bad, at least they can be justified because building roads through and around fjords is damn difficult. I had never seen so many road tunnels before and definitely not a roundabout in a tunnel before driving in Norway.
Parking is where it gets really extortionate – even worse than airports!
- 0-5 hours – 100NOK
- 5-16 hours – 200NOK
- 16-24 – 400NOK
Basic they dictate that if you want to climb to Trolltunga you must pay 200NOK and if you choose to free camp were going to actually make you pay another 200NOK for it.
I thought about not paying, but then we saw cars being tagged with payment reminders. They aren’t official government parking tickets, but they claim to record your car registration details which could be problematic with a hire car. They ask for a direct bank transfer to settle the bill, but I figured I’d pay half to be “fair” and make them chase the rest if they cared to. It’s just a joke to charge 40€ for parking! Surely charging people so much to see nature is against the Norwegian constitution!
You can also take buses from Bergen to Odda and then take shuttle buses or taxis from there (+47-53 64 14 44 but I’m not sure that this is an official number).
Shuttle buses and taxis are available for as low as 100NOK/pp, but the minimum charge is 400NOK. They know how badly you want to go.
The road up from Tyssedal winds through a residential area first before you reach the private road up to the Skjeggedal Carpark. If you’re thinking of walking from Tyssedal to Skjeggedal have fun and more power to ya. It’s about 7km, it’s rather steep and it’s not a particularly scenic add on to your hike. Perhaps try hitchhike instead.
Bus vs car hire (prices as of Sept 2016)
If you have a friend, the car hire quickly becomes more economical and convenient. You may have different circumstances, but this is how it worked out. Bear in mind that this was late September, so July and August prices could be far more.
Price per person by buses and taxis is:
About 600NOK x 2 for buses each way Bergen Odda
100-400NOK x 2 for bus/taxi Tyssedal/Odda Skjeggedal
= 1400-2000NOK per person
You may also have to add accommodation in Odda or Tyssedal for two nights if you’re not camping up top.
The cheapest car hire we could find was:
1300NOK for 2 days hire for a small Ford Fiesta
300NOK x 2 for tolls and ferries
200-400NOK for parking
= 2150-2350NOK per car
Unless you’re planning an epic day trip then you’ll need to stay at least one night somewhere.
That’s one expensive selfie!
Hiking the Selfie Mecca
We arrived at Skjeggedal at 4pm and hit the trail shortly after. We left Bergen Airport around 11am, but took a detour past the Dale of Norway factory in, well, Dale. So all up about 4 hours of driving. After paying for parking we were on our way.
The first 1½ kilometres of the hike are the steepest, but the trail is well developed and mostly stepped. Ropes assist you in some slippery sections and it’s very clear where to go as the trail has been trampled to mush.
Dozens of exhausted people went down past us unable to respond to our greetings. Clearly they were very focused on getting to the carpark or perhaps after several hours on the trail they were desperate for the facilities at the bottom. Who knows?
Around 1½ kilometres into the hike you reach the first flat where there are a number of cabins. They are still miles from the end though and there is also no camping allowed in the first 3 kilometres of the trail. Staying there won’t cut down the hike that much anyway.
Look for the mountain pass that dips between the peaks straight ahead. That’s where you’re headed.
As we climbed the pass there was a chap running towards us who looked like he was wearing skin coloured clothing. That seemed odd, but as he got closer it dawned on me that he was naked. Dont worry, not completely though, he had shoes and a selfie stick.
I gave him a cheer for his GoPro video and he bounded down the hill like a kangaroo – I didn’t think they had those in Scandinavia. As he jogged into the distance I wondered how all the old Asian ladies that we’d passed earlier would react, and also how he can run like that without any…support for his junk over the course of what is a tough half marathon.
Apparently naked hikingis a growing trend with those who want to be “closer to nature”.
The 4 kilometre marker kind of sneaks up on you after the second climb. It definitely comes much faster than the first few. You’re essentially at the top at this point, but don’t take that as “it’s all downhill from here”.
You then pass through a landscape filled with mountain tarns where it really gets stunning and you’ll probably start to see the first tents. Concerningly we were still passing tired day hikers at 6pm and you couldn’t help but feel that the later it got the more unprepared and out of their element they were starting to look. You’re a long way from Kansas mate!
There are two emergency shelters along the trail. Before the second is another area that you might see campers because it’s about ⅔ of the way along and the view opens up like this.
The trail stays closer to the cliffs for a little while and winds around a few gorges where you should see the troll fences again. By that I mean power lines, which is another reason that I’m certain that this hike is not truly in Hardangervidda National Park. There are too many man-made features in the landscape whether it be dam walls, troll fences or rusty winch points screwed into rocks.
At around 10 kilometres it’s really a make it up as you go path. If you reach the reservoir at the top, turn right and head towards the cliffs. In the dark it was hard to see signage or the path. If the signs stop saying Trolltunga and start saying Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), then you’ve gone far enough. Head towards the cliffs, just watch where you’re going of course.
We arrived at 8.30pm, too late to see anything though, and with fog covering the mountains we set up camp on the bluff beside Trolltunga.
Unless you’re first up the mountain, if you’re doing a day hike you will have no problems finding the crowd around Trolltunga. I read that there can even be long lines of selfie pilgrims in the peak summer months. People were starting as early as 5am.
For us though, in late September, there were just a handful of friendly campers appreciating the sunrise until the first day hikers arrived at 11am.
The sun didn’t really start to light up the tongue until 10.30am where we took a second round of selfies and then headed back down.
The way back was a real snore. Sadly, lousy tourists had left toilet paper and rubbish around the place. The worst part was that some of it was even in the waterways that flow down into the fjord. It’s a dam, people drink that water! What the hell is wrong with people?!
We passed the remainder of the struggling day hikers who gasped for air and had nothing left to even say “hi”. We also passed a few Norwegians who looked like they were going to complete the hike in 4 hours total. Damn they were fast!
It was a real grind and the midday light was boring, but all the loop treks were multiple days long or much deeper into Hardangervidda.
It was a little over a 3½ hour slog to get back to the carpark just after 2.30pm. After taking care of business we hoped back on the road, but this time drove south to Odda to take a different route.
The road took us along the edge of more beautiful fjords and as we were waiting for the ferry from Jondal to Tørvikbygd we met this cute couple who were touring in their old Fiat 124 Spider.
We took a few scenic stops along the way and had dinner just outside Bergen. With the sun set and the hike done and dusted, we bunkered down in a cafe in the airport to wait for our red eye flight.