“Trolltunga” doesn’t exactly conjure images of Europe’s most jaw-dropping scenery. It sounds more like a Lord of the Rings creature and I don’t mean one of the pretty blonde elves. It actually means “the troll’s tongue” and it’s one of Norway’s three most iconic treks. It’s often passed over for the other two more accessible and shorter walks near Stavanger but those who skip it truly miss out.
To The Trail
If you think you don’t know it, think again: a quick Instagram search will re-familiarise you with this recognisable ridge made famous in recent years thanks to social media.
The Trolltunga is Scandinavia’s answer to Pride Rock. It juts out from the cliff edge over Ringedalsvatnet, a lake just inland from the Hardangerfjord on Norway’s west coast.
There are plenty of natural wonders and walks on this 179km fjord but Trolltunga is easily the most gruelling and rewarding.
The best option for getting there is renting a car from Bergen – you can do it by public transport but it’s long-winded. You have to get from Bergen to the town of Odda then take a bus to Skjeggedal where you’ll start your hike. Having your own transport lets you experience the other places on the Hardangerfjord (left) that are inaccessible by bus – the only problem is it’s expensive to park at the Trolltunga trailhead. I opted for a nearby Airbnb which offered free parking; it cost way less and allowed for an early morning head start.
The trek takes at least eight hours return depending on how fast you hike and how long you sit and enjoy the scenery. I set off at 6am before most hikers had travelled up from Odda so the trail was comparatively clear and we came across just a few people along the way. If you leave later, it will be busier and you’ll have to queue to get out on the rock.
Before going check your dates because the trail is closed for part of the year and you need a guide for some shoulder months. I went a few days before the fully open summer season but didn’t need a chaperone – it wasn’t always easy going though.
A warning for even the savviest traveller: snow cover is apparently subjective. I was told by locals that the trail would contain “a little snow” left over from winter. What I found two hours in was a white-out tundra from top to bottom (left); distinguishing snow from sky was almost impossible. Finding the bright red “T” trail markers is a lot harder when they’re under two feet of snow.
The Trolltunga Trek
The first part of the hike is the worst but the view from the top is impressive (left). It’s an hour of steep climbing up massive stone steps that’ll make your thighs and throat burn and your knees wobble.
This trek is what hiking poles were made for but if you’re only taking hand luggage that doesn’t allow sharp pointy sticks, there’s a pile of free wooden canes at the start if you’re early enough.
Poles help you scale steps and traverse slippery snow and are absolute life-savers on the descent.
A wide (blissfully flat) stone valley dotted with a few cabins follows the stairs. From there it’s the last truly steep ascent of the whole walk before you hit the higher, potentially snow-filled plateau above.
Depending on the season the rest of the walk can be an up-and-down amble or a fight through the frost. Either way, the worst part’s over and you can take in the bleak but beautiful views and crisp fresh air as you wind your way past jagged promontories, lakes and snow-melt streams.
With a few uphill pushes and much-needed snack stops, you’ll eventually reach Trolltunga, ready for your well-earned photo op.
The rock is wider than it looks but getting down to it requires slow and steady feet – it’s a 2,300ft drop to the lake below. There’s no rush: quick-moving cloud sporadically engulfs the valley and ruins photo opportunities so you’ll likely end up waiting around anyway
Take your time, take your shot then move away from the crowds to enjoy the best views in Norway before beginning the long hike home.
The Trolltunga trek is spectacular and rewarding but it’s not for novices. There’s been one fatality and plenty of injuries at Trolltunga and the death was caused by overcrowding rather than derring-do.
Only attempt it if you’re fit and study the trail before you go. Dress wisely, warmly and take a lot of food and water. You can camp for free near Trolltunga but take all your rubbish away with you – there’s talk of making guides mandatory thanks to selfish people polluting the place with leftover rubbish. Leave Norway’s nature as beautiful as you found it!
by Jo Davey