Stavanger to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) Norway
September 17-18, 2018
I arrived into Stavanger airport from Budapest a little late at 15:30 but had double checked the schedules so felt confident I’d make the ferry/bus connections to Preikestolen lodge where I’d be spending the night to do the famous Pulpit Rock hike at sunrise.
I was able to buy my Flybussen ticket online for 120 NOK right before boarding to avoid the higher cost of paying on board. If you’re in a hurry, double check the schedule as it only comes every 20 minutes during peak hours and less later at night (that short bathroom break could end up costing you the next bus). The bus was easy to find at post 5 outside of arrivals area. There is a public bus you can take if you have more time and want to save some money.
After approximately 25 minutes I was at the ferry terminal (the final stop) and wandered in to inquire about purchasing a ticket for the Stavanger – Tau ferry. I was told no need, I could buy it on board. I opted to take the 17:15 ferry which would allow me to catch the last bus to the Preikestolen mountain lodge… or so I thought.
Since I had about an hour, I wandered around Stavanger in the rain and grabbed a few groceries at the store just 5 minutes walk up from the ferry terminal.
The ferry ride was stunning. This is something worth doing even if you aren’t headed to Preikestolen. From Stavanger to Tau is only 40 minutes. The ferry boards from outdoors so if you’re wandering around the inside of the ferry terminal looking for pier 5, you won’t find it (unless they change the boarding area from time of writing). You don’t need to get there excessively early as the ferry only boards about 5 minutes before departure. They’re incredibly efficient! The ticket man came around and I paid my 60 NOK fare – credit card accepted.
When I arrived at the Tau ferry terminal I waited at the bus stop for the Go Fjords Tide bus at 18:05. It never came.
A local bus came and I inquired. He let me know the fall schedule had started and they no longer ran the 18:05 bus. I had double (triple?) checked their website which clearly stated the last bus leaves at 18:05 until September 30. Unfortunately I was operating off of this information as the detailed schedule link on their website was dead where I would have seen a little asterisk beside the 18:05 scheduled bus stating service ended August 30.
It says until Septmeber 30..
Stranded. In Norway. In the rain.
I wasn’t too worried as I’ve been stranded in far worse places before.
I got on the public bus figuring it would take me into town. Since my Norweigen cash had been stolen in New York, I was hoping to get around using credit card. The public bus is 35 NOK cash only but the kind driver let me ride it as he was empathetic to my situation.
I got off as far as the public bus would take me at the split of the highway towards Preikestolen in Jorpeland. The scenary between Tau and Jorpeland was incredible, I’d love to come back and explore this area more.
I had about 9 km remaining to get to Preikestolen.
I had a few options from here. I could hike it (the pulpit rock hike actually has a newer extension to Jorpeland, but I had my luggage to contend with) or try to find a taxi (I was standing at a highway roundabout with no nearby businesses) so I did what seemed logical in the moment and stuck my thumb out. A kind Norweigen man picked me up and drove me right to the Preikestolen mountain lodge.
I checked in and paid my 380 NOK for a bed in the dorm. This place is your best (only) bet if you want to hike Preikestolen (pulpit rock) at sunrise. It is an easy enough day trip from Stavanger but I wanted to beat the crowds.
The Preikestolen mountain lodge setting is breath taking. It overlooks a fresh water lake and is surrounded by mountains. There is nothing within walking distance so if you’re hungry, the restaurant is your only option.
The dorm itself is a basic cabin setting. The showers are in another building, the wifi doesn’t work and half the lights dont work in the hostel building but the location can’t be beat. It was clean and once I figured out how to turn the heat on, comfortable enough. Since it was a Tuesday in September (shoulder season) there was only one other person in the room.
The sunrise was set to happen at 7:15. I got up at 5:20 but chickened out of hiking while still pitch black. I waited for dawn to break at 6:30 and started my hike. A snake at the beginning of the hike had me questioning my sanity of doing this alone. I only saw 4 other people on the trail the entire hike up. It is only 4 km but took me 1.5 hours as I stopped to take photos every 2 steps. It is so rare to get the opportunity to have something like this all to yourself!
When I reached the top, there were a handful of others there. They had either left earlier than me or stayed overnight. I didn’t have to wait to get photos at the highly coveted Instagram worthy spot that I’d read can often take 45 minutes of waiting to get a turn at.
I hiked down and was able to get back to the lodge in time for my (free) breakfast. The Preikestolen mountain lodge breakfast offering is on point, even for a vegan.
At breakfast I studied the bus schedules to ensure I wouldn’t make another mistake. I opted to take the 10:30 Pulpit rock tours bus (also know as Boreal) as I could buy online same day to save some money. I had found a code (mission impossible) on their Facebook page for 10% off so only paid 135 NOK.
I headed out at 10:10 and watched as the 10:20 Tide bus (Go Fjords) came and went, and no 10:30 bus arrived. The other person at the stop tried phoning the bus company and it went to voicemail. I tried messaging and emailing them with no reply. The hotel front desk was able to get through to them at 11 and they said they’d send a bus in 20 minutes. Wtf?!
When the driver arrived I asked why he was an hour late. He told me he had been there at 10:30 and when I let him know I had been waiting since 10:10, he admitted he had left a little early. I did remember seeing the bus pull away just as I arrived at 10:10 but since it was a green Kolumbus bus (public transit bus) with no Boreal or Pulpit Rock tours signage.
The bus departed at 11:30 and got us to the ferry at 11:59, just in time to catch the 12:00 ferry to Stavanger.
Once I arrived in Stavanger I made the short 10 minute walk up the hill to the bus station. It has a lovely setting right on a pond, with a 711 in the terminal (and a cheaper, larger grocery store behind it) for last minute snacks.
The day was only half over so I had time for yet another bus fail! I had bought a ticket from Kystbussen online for the 18:45 bus to Bergen noting that their website said any ticket is valid for any bus that day so I could be flexible depending on when I finished the hike. I decided I wanted to take the 13:15 to Bergen in time to do a sunset hike there and when I boarded the 13:15 bus, I was informed I’d have to pay an additional 100 NOK to change. Apparently there is an open ticket you can buy online and when you have a scheduled ticket, the valid on any same day bus thing doesn’t apply. I went back and checked the website and couldn’t find an option to purchase this open ticket. Thankfully the bus takes credit card.
Despite all the transit fails, this hike is something 100% worth doing!
More info on the hike to Pulpit Rock:
If you’ve landed on this page you’ve probably already googled what you’re in for. It is 4 km up and rather technical. I met a guy who went round trip in an hour and a half but I took my time, took lots of photos at the top and round trip took me closer to 3 hours. Another man I met took 6 hours. It is really variable. Coming down is hard on the body and it can be rather slippery. Be careful! The biggest tip I can give you is to go at sunrise if you can swing it. The hoards of people coming up as I descended had me convinced I made the right choice. If you’re worried about going solo, they do have sunrise guided tours you can join.
In addition to the pulpit rock cliff, you’ll see many small lakes, streams and even a gushing waterfall in the distance. There are flat parts with paths and other parts where you’re climbing some relatively steep rocky inclines. Every step of this hike is beautiful. Except maybe where I saw the snake.
More info on the bus from Tau to Pulpit Rock:
Ok, now after my bus fail fiascos I have some information I wish had been easily accessible to me:
Tide bus aka Go Fjords is the white coach bus. They charge 125 NOK online if you buy one day in advance and 200 NOK on board same day. Their website information can’t be trusted so if you are on a strict timeline maybe call or email them to confirm things ahead of time. The website is Go Fjords but the bus will only have Tide bus written on it.
Boreal is also sold as Pulpit Rock Tours. They sell same day tickets online for 150 NOK but check their Facebook page for promo codes as I did for 10% off. I am not sure what the price on the bus is but since you can buy online same day you really have no reason to buy on the bus (you can literally buy the ticket while boarding). Because the two names isn’t confusing enough, the bus is the green local transit bus that says Kolumbus on it. The schedule cannot be trusted as I noticed when I arrived 20 minutes early and the bus had already left.
I imagine in summer high season the buses are a bit more reliable but the best advice I can give you is to stand at the bus stop and take the first bus that arrives. Unfortunately since you need to buy the Go Fjords (Tide bus) tickets online a minimum one day in advance to get the ticket for 120 NOK, you’ll have to decide if saving some NOK is a priority, or actually getting where you’re going.
As for the long distance Kystbussen, I still don’t know why they say you can change same day or where to buy this open ticket but at least their schedule on their website is accurate and the bus left on time for Bergen.
Next stop: Bergen, Norway.