Hike, bike, or boat through fjord Norway
Norway for adventurers
Cynthia Elyce Rubin
The Norwegian American
There is a saying that fjords are the soul of Norway. Certainly they are a natural part of Norwegian life with outdoor adventures reigning supreme. Fjords are a paradise for those looking for active experiences in beautiful surroundings. Plenty of opportunities exist for cycling, hiking, fishing, and kayaking.
Sogn Tours (www.sogntours.no) is a gateway to many fun and challenging activities. One possibility is to follow a bike route along the Sognefjord and across the mountains in the spectacular storybook countryside. The company provides bicycles and can recommend bike routes that are a perfect fit for any cyclist, whether a weathered semi-pro or an enthusiastic newbie!
On the north side of the Sognefjord where Lavik is located, there are two different bike routes available, both leading to villages in the surrounding area. Recommended is either the trip to the beautiful harbor village of Leirvik or the trip to Hyllestad, which is more challenging because of the steep inclines in some places, but it’s worth the trouble! In Hyllestad, there is also the exciting ‘‘Kvernsteinspark,’’ an ancient millstone park where you can enjoy a guided tour, grind your own flour, and bake bread over the fire Viking-style.
On the south side of the Sognefjord, easily accessible with a 20-minute ferry ride, there are two bike routes: to the quirky and unique Wildernessmuseum in Masness or to the Ikjefjord where there are also hiking routes.
Join guide Mona for a guided tour to Mount Robba, and experience the contrasts of the beautiful fjord landscape with the blue fjords cutting through the scenery, the green fields, lush valleys, and majestic mountains shooting up from the fjords.
The group meets in the parking lot at Gudmundsos in the morning. With Mona, you will hike through varied terrain to the top. From there you will be rewarded with a magnificent view over the fjord landscape and out to the rugged coastline with some of the most iconic mountain formations you will find in western Norway.
This is very accessible, but it requires a level of fitness because of the steep hills. The hike is about three to four hours, including stops. Bring water, good hiking shoes or boots, and clothes according to the current weather forecast. Lavik Fjord Hotell (lavikfjordhotell.no) offers packed lunches that you can order in advance.
You can also join a guided evening hike to Laviksåta. A local hiking guide meets you at the starting point for the hike just outside Lavik. Enjoy a spectacular view over the fjord landscape and out to the coast. Travel through meadows and some rockier areas. Once the terrain flattens out, you can really enjoy the scenery and the view. On the summit you will be rewarded with the view over the majestic Sognefjord as it winds its way through the landscape. Bring water and food. This takes three to four hours including breaks and is a moderately challenging hike.
Canoeing is an activity for the whole family. It is not too difficult, and the experience of being on the lake, gliding silently, is second to none. Sogn Tours provides family-sized canoes that can hold two adults and two small children. No previous experience is required. Bring water and a packed lunch, and paddle on the beautiful and always breathtaking Lake Sørestrand. Enjoy stunning scenery and the natural tranquility of Lavikdal.
For those who prefer a person-to-person adventure, join a group for a visit to local blacksmith Kjetil Torvund in Lavik. He is a craftsman with extensive experience making tools and fittings for the restorations of heritage buildings, stave churches, and other culturally important buildings throughout Norway. He has also worked on restorations of yachts and sailing vessels. It’s a wonderful personal experience with a true Norwegian craftsman.
Another visit is to Hyllestad with its old quarry that tells an unusual and fascinating Viking story. Famous for their navigation and sailing skills as well as ruthless raids, the Vikings were also gifted stonemasons and clever tradesmen. Tens of thousands of millstones left Hyllestad over the centuries. The production was so large that these stone quarries are among the largest cultural heritage sites in all of Norway. At Millstone Park, opened by Queen Sonja in 2002, you travel back in time. Stone was the “gold” of Hyllestad. Stonemasons worked at hundreds of quarries, carving millstone after millstone to be shipped out into the wider world.
Millstone Park is an outdoor museum in the largest stone quarry from the Viking period and Middle Ages in Northern Europe. At that time, the range of products expanded to include not only millstones but stone crosses and grave slabs. Stone crosses from Hyllestad are located along the coast of Sogn og Fjordane and Rogaland counties. These were all parts of an international trade network. Stones from Hyllestad were exported to all parts of Scandinavia, as well as Germany and the North Atlantic Islands. During this era, the millstone was a necessary item. There was no food without the millstone! If you wanted to eat bread or porridge, you first had to grind the grain using a quern or water mill to make flour. The millstone trade in Hyllestad was a good source of income for those who owned the land and held power.
The tour takes about an hour, during which time you will get your chance to grind grain on a hand grinder or quern, a hand mill for grinding grain, typically consisting of two circular stones. The upper is rotated to and fro on the lower one. It’s fun for the entire family.
Cynthia Elyce Rubin, Ph.D., is a visual culture specialist, travel writer, and author of articles and books on decorative arts, folk art, and postcard history, who collects postcards, ephemera, and early photography. See www.cynthiaelycerubin.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 31, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.