A lover of cold, wild, mountainous places, Lonely Planet writer Kerry Walker headed to Norway's southern fjords to find the true meaning of "friluftsliv" (outdoor living). Here she shares a snapshot of her adventures.
Ever since I first set foot in Norway a decade ago, I've dreamed of visiting the fjords proper. Summer's crowds and cruise boats would not be for me, so instead, I decided to piece together my own itinerary from Stavanger to Bergen in late spring. And I found a region of rare beauty, with thundering rivers, flint-blue fjords and glacier-encrusted peaks - all ripe for adventure.
Rock up in May or early June, and you'll have much of the region to yourself. The fjords are at their photogenic best at this time of year, with the landscape bursting into blossom, waterfalls raging away as the ice melts, snow still on the summits and light nights allowing you to eke out every precious moment.
Where did you stay? What was the vibe?
I stayed in four different places. All back-to-nature escapes with incredible views. Haukali33/3 has a calm simplicity that recalls a bygone era. I spent a happy off-grid night in a turf-roofed husmannshus (cottage). Owner Reidunn has converted her grandfather's farm into a silent lakeside hideaway. Here you can swim, hike, mountain gaze and fish for trout in the family rowboat. By night you're rocked to sleep by the sound of a thousand sheep bells. It's glorious.
I was also lucky enough to stay in one of the slick new, architect-designed Star Lodges at The Bolder, clinging to the cliffs above Lysefjord. Hidden above a fairy-tale forest, with a front-row view of Ryfylke fjords, Tveita Adventure was pretty magical, too. And I'll never forget the night I spent 10m up in a pine tree above the town of Odda at the Sørfjorden at Woodnest - the treehouse of childhood dreams.
Most memorable meal?
Sushi at Michelin-starred Sabi Omakase in Stavanger, where chef Roger Joya puts Nordic riffs on some of the most exquisite seafood you'll ever eat. The seductively lit restaurant is tiny, with space for just 10 lucky guests. In the open kitchen, chefs prepare each bite-sized course with meticulous care. Langoustines and oysters, reindeer sashimi, salmon belly nigiri with wild garlic - it's all utterly delicious.
Where did you get away from the crowds?
The Folgefonna glacier in Folgefonna National Park, a mountain-rimmed, ice-capped, lushly wooded wilderness straight out of a Tolkien fantasy. As May is still early season, I had the trail mostly to myself on an unforgettable half-day hike up through the Buer valley, crossing fern-flecked forests, streams, roped boulders and snow to viewpoints with dress-circle views of the glacier above the valley below.
Your most epic adventure?
A RIB ride (boat tour) on Hardangerfjord. The second-largest fjord in Norway blew me away with its off-the-charts beauty. I took a RIB ride with Hardangerfjord Adventure in Øystese to feel the full force of nature. In May, the waterfalls were at their crash-bang best, nosediving over sheer cliffs into startlingly turquoise waters. Our oohs and aahs echoed off 800m-high rock walls as we blasted across the fjord, getting close to misty, rainbow-laced falls and passing tiny, forgotten hamlets like Botnen (home to just one sheep farmer) and the islet of Kvamsøy (one woman and 30 goats).
For a buzz, nothing beats slipping on a dry suit and snorkel and tossing yourself into the fast-flowing, glass-clear, salmon-rich Suldalslågen river at Mo Laksegard, further south in Sand. It was too early in the season to spot salmon, but the sensation of floating like a fish at what felt like a hundred miles an hour in the freezing river was quite something.
Your top cultural recommendation?
Hang around Stavanger. Linger for a day or two here and you'll find an upbeat, cultured city, with eye-catching street art, Antony Gormley sculptures, a happening harbor and an alley-woven, timber-framed old town (Gamle Stavanger).
What to bring back?
Eplesider (apple cider). In May, the landscape was puffed white with blossoming apple trees. These produce incredible ciders, such as those from the orchard-lined shores of Hardangerfjord. But my favorite was Apal Sideri in Hjelmaland, overlooking Jøsenfjorden, where Dan Olav Sæbø has revolutionized the local cider scene since scooping gold at the Frankfurt World Cider Awards in 2020. Try crisp, sparkling Sølvsider, rosé cider with a hit of raspberry, or intensely appley Issider (ice cider) in the tasting room before you buy.
What to pack?
Practical gear designed for the worst the weather gods can throw at you. Norwegians wholly embrace friluftsliv (outdoor living) and you're going to be spending a lot of time in nature. A decent pair of hiking boots - like the leather Scarpa ones I wore to climb up to the Folgefonna glacier - is a must. Also, bring trekking trousers, base layers, a wind- and waterproof jacket (yes, even in summer….), and a backpack to chuck it all in. Fjällräven is a great quality Scandi brand.