Daytripping in Norway: Undredal and Himakånå

Norway is a deceptively big country. If the mainland of Norway was laid on top of the continental United States, it would cover the eastern seaboard from northern Florida to southern Maine.

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That makes for a long drive, even using the relatively straight-running U.S. interstate system. But, if you combine that distance with the twisting, turning, ferry-laden roads in Norway, getting from Point A to Point B would take days, if not weeks. My initial plan for Norway was to spend an entire week on the road, sleeping in a different town every night and completing a driving loop that would cover most of the lower third of the country.

But plans change.

Angela was finally recovered from her bout with the flu in Czechia, but she was still trying to take it easy. Jostling with triathletes in Copenhagen made Denmark a bit of a bust. And we were both weary of the road.

Plus, and perhaps most importantly, we arrived in Norway on Angela’s birthday. She deserved a week of waking up with no plans, sipping tea, and watching the waves at the lakehouse in Bergen. And I was thankful for it as well, dreading the thought of another marathon road trip so soon after the loop through Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, and Czechia.

So I scaled back on the ambitious Norway driving loop and planned two shorter trips instead. We would take a day to drive north to the village of Undredal on the UNESCO listed Aurlandsfjorden. Then we would pick another day to drive south to the sleepy town of Hinderåvåg where we could hike to an amazing overhanging rock called Himakånå. And, on both counts, we would return the same day to sleep in the same bed.

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The drive from our Airbnb in Bergen to Undredal takes just over two hours according to Google Maps, but you will need to allow for double that. Not because of the traffic (we saw few other cars along the way), but because of the stunning scenery. Like our drives along the Pacific Coast Highway or around the island of Madeira, Portugal, the trip from Bergen to Undredal will have you pulling over frequently to take pictures.

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And, with every stop, you will check the clock and vow to not stop again until you reach your destination. But then you will round another bend in the road…

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We arrived in Undredal just as a cruise ship was slipping past Eldhuset, the town’s only open restaurant. Flanked on all sides by mountains and terminating on the banks of a fjord, the town is, quite literally, at the end of the line. Painfully remote and beautiful and perfect.

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We lingered long into Norway’s weird, late-summer twilight, enjoying the Scandinavian serenity and a reasonably-priced dinner, then drove home to Bergen in the persistent August dusk.

With a couple of lazy days in between, we embarked upon another Norwegian road trip, this time venturing to the town of Hinderåvåg in the south. With no offense intended to the residents, the town itself doesn’t have much to offer. It’s peaceful and quaint, but you would be hard-pressed to find an open café or tourist services of any kind. We chose to journey here not because of the infrastructure, however, but because of the trailhead to Himakånå.

I came to Norway hoping to hike some of the iconic trails that currently dominate travel blogs and social media. Places like the always-crowded Preacher’s Pulpit, the gravity-defying Kjerag, and picturesque Trolltunga where a grueling six-hour hike to the site is often followed by a two-hour wait to get that perfect photo.

Since we established our base in Bergen, however, many of those potential hikes turned into a multiple-hour drive, followed by a multiple-hour hike, followed by a multiple-hour wait for a few photos. And then there was the hike back and drive home to consider. So we started looking for an alternative that would, at the very least, avoid the crowds. And Himakånå fit the bill.

When the Norwegians we met in Bergen had never heard of Himakånå, we knew we were on the right track. Obscure and untested, this hike wasn’t on anyone’s radar. A quick search on Google Maps returned few pictures, but I found enough to know that we didn’t need to fight the crowds at Trolltunga to get that great shot on a rock overhanging a Norwegian fjord. And, as a bonus, there was already a slick website with all of the waypoint and parking details. (See our directional details at the end of this post.)

The hiking trail is clearly marked with red blazes displayed on trees and rocks the whole way up. The route took us just under 90 minutes one way, and, while it’s steep in a few spots, I wouldn’t call it strenuous. But you will have to pass through or over a couple of fences and streams along the way.

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It really is a beautiful hike all the way up. We stopped frequently to look at the sea behind us, take pictures, and simply be.

The sound of sheep’s bells ringing softly along the hills. The deep green moss climbing every tree trunk. The precipice of Himakånå jutting out over empty space. The fjord undulating far below in the failing light. This was the Norway I had come to see.

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And, alone at the summit, Angela and I experienced it in isolation. Like this day, this mountain, this view was only here for us.

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We lingered as long as we could and descended in near darkness, walking through starlit fields and feeling our way along the rocks and roots of the forest. Holding hands and ambling back to the car. Driving back to Bergen in satisfied silence, knowing that we had seen enough of Norway to know that we would have to return someday.

 

Directional Details for Getting to Himakånå

The drive from Bergen to the trailhead parking lot in Hinderåvåg is about three and a half hours long, and it involves a ferry crossing from Halhjem to Sandvikvåg ($27 US one-way). You’re actually looking for the Halhjem-Stavanger ferry (like the train routes in Europe, the ferry routes are named after the termination points), but you’ll get off with everyone else after the first crossing. The ferry runs about once per hour, so you really don’t need to overthink this portion of the trip. Just drive south from Bergen following the clearly-marked road signs, and you’ll practically run into the ferry port and queue up for the next boat.

Then it’s a long, beautiful drive south to Hinderåvåg (follow signs to Nedstrand if you don’t have GPS). I would recommend packing plenty of snacks and water for the journey as there are few places to buy supplies in town.

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You’ll come into town eastbound on Highway 515. Look for the Nedstrand Church (Nedstrand kyrkje) on the hill to the left but park at the Farmer’s Market across the road. (Yes, everything in Hinderåvåg bears the name “Nedstrand”, but don’t let that confuse you like it did us.) Bring a bit of krone to pay for parking as that helps with upkeep for the trail, then start walking east on the 515. You will cross over a small bridge and start walking slightly uphill. Look for signs to the trailhead on the left and only veer off the road when you see them. Don’t worry; it’s all clearly marked.

Enjoy!

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