Stavanger sits on a long promontory that pokes a knobbly head north towards the Boknafjord, whose wide waters form a deep indentation in the coast and lap against a confetti of islets and islands. To the east of Stavanger, longer, narrower fjords drill far inland, the most diverting being the blue-black Lysefjord, famous for its precipitous cliffs and an especially striking rock formation, the Preikestolen. This distinctive 25m-square table of rock boasts a sheer 600m drop to the Lysefjord down below on three of its sides.
Getting to Preikestolen by ferry and bus is comparatively straightforward, but cruising the Lysefjord by ferry requires a little forethought – best with the help of Stavanger tourist office (see p.000), who sell the boat tickets. Note also that no matter what the publicity hype says, you do not get a decent view of Preikestolen from the waters of the Lysefjord.
Leaving the Lysefjord behind, the narrow road up from Lysebotn (closed in winter) offers spectacular views as it wiggles and wriggles its way up the mountainside. Eventually, after 7km, just above the last hairpin, the road arrives at the Øygardstøl café, which has panoramic views back down towards the fjord. Øygardstøl is also the starting point for the hiking trail which leads west to the Kjeragbolten, a much-photographed boulder wedged between two cliff faces high above the ground. It’s a tough route, so allow six hours for the round trip – and steel your nerves for the dizzying drops down to the fjord below.
Lysefjord’s most celebrated vantage point, Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), offers superlative views, though on sunny summer days you’ll be sharing them with lots and lots of others. How much you enjoy it depends on your vertigo: the bold/foolhardy dangle the odd limb over the abyss, the more cautious stay away from the edge – and there are no fences or barriers. From the car park at the end of the road, where you’ll also find a hostel and a mountain lodge, it’s a four-hour hike there and back to Preikestolen along a clearly marked trail. The first half is steep in parts and paved with uneven stones, while the second half – over bedrock – is a good bit easier. The change in elevation is 350m and you should take food and water; the hike is not feasible in winter unless you really know what you are doing.
Hikes from the Preikestolen car park
From Preikestolen car park, a short sharp hike leads down to Refsvatn, a small lake encircled by a footpath which takes three hours to negotiate, passing birch and pine woods, marshes, narrow ridges and bare stretches of rock. It also threads through Torsnes, an isolated farm that was inhabited until 1962. The lake footpath connects with a rough path that careers down to the Refsa quay on the Lysefjord.