Serendipity in Norway Part 1 - Mandal, Stavangar, Preikestolen and Hardanger Region


Magnificent, stunning, breathtaking, incredible - one will quickly run out of superlative adjectives to describe Norway. After spending two weeks in this glorious country, I now know if Gods were to live on Earth, they would probably live in Norway.  

It took me too long to get there and ever since my return I am constantly asking myself “Why did I wait so long to make this trip?”

The picture above epitomizes Norway for me. Big open empty spaces, hills, mountains, lakes and a lone red cottage in the middle. This is the image of Norway I have always carried in my head. My imaginative mind creating stories about the people living there, their routine and their lives. I craved to experience Norway first hand. So to say I was very excited about this trip would be a mild understatement.


Nature lovers will be in constant awe of the dramatic variety of contrasting landscapes this country offers and everyone will be dazzled by Norway’s different faces. But Norway is not only for nature lovers. On the contrary, Norway’s rich heritage provides an exceptional escape into the world of the Vikings and the Sami. Norway is the home of Edvard Munch, the Nobel Peace Prize and the Holmenkollen Ski Jump. So, whether you appreciate art, admire culture or rave about sports, you will be sure to find it all in Norway. I did and I have not even seen the whole country yet!

Let me take you on a virtual trip through Norway and hopefully I can entice you to immediately book your next vacation to God’s country!

 Norway2010_0001-CR Kopie

From the very beginning we knew that the only way to really experience Norway would be on the road. We started with a few ideas but in the end found that renting a camper and traveling with our own “home on wheels” the most feasible means to cover the ambitious tour we had planned. For the first time in my life I was able to take the proverbial “kitchen sink” with me.

The camper was a medium sized luxury model with everything from a small bathroom to a kitchen corner, dinning table and enough beds to sleep 4 (6 if one really wanted to). With the camper nicely packed we set off and headed to Hirthals, Denmark, where we got on the ferry the following afternoon to Kristiansand, Norway. Traveling with a 7 year old boy in a camper is an adventure on it’s own, add to that ferries carrying trucks, fancy cars and more campers we knew Soeren would be thrilled. Luckily Soeren is a master in keeping himself busy and the long hours of driving did not daze him at the least.

M-tips Sticky Note For those in Europe who do choose to travel with a camper, I recommend to really look and compare prices in your home country for best value. Initially we wanted to fly into Oslo and rent a camper from here, hoping to save up on driving time through Germany and Denmark. However, this proved to be twice as expensive as renting one here, including all the gas money.

Talking about money: if you are planning a vacation in Norway be prepared to dig a little deeper into your pockets. Despite the claim of a current advertising campaign for a store that “Not everything is expensive in Norway!” plastered on large posters across Oslo in several languages, Norway is expensive in comparison to most other European countries. So plan your vacation budget more generously. I lost the appetite for my delicious soft serve when I realized I paid €3 for it!

The trip from Hirthals to Kristiansand is a three hour ferry ride. For me it was perfect to take up one of my favorite hobbies, people watching and eavesdropping on conversations. Being able to speak a few languages always comes handy for this. Tom used the time to catch up on some much needed sleep, as he did most of the driving, and Soeren was busy exploring the ship.

Upon arrival in Kristiansand we were excited to make our way to our first stop in Norway - Mandal.



The route from Kristiansand to Mandal on the E 39 probably does not represent the most spectacular of Norwegian landscapes. Although it is very near to the sea, one would not really know it on the road, as the route takes you through dense forests and countless crystal clear lakes surrounded by hills and mountains. Nonetheless, I could feel my excitement building up and it gave me a good taste of what to come. Every time I let out a squeal of joy and begged for Tom to stop so I could take pictures, he would wisely inform me to wait “This is just the beginning. Save memory space on your chip!”

Tom who has visited Norway knew what to expect on part of our route, was a great guide and advisor.

Mandal is Norways southernmost town with approx. 14,400 residents. It was only a short one night stay for us, but I was glad we arrived at the camping place early enough to enjoy a stroll through the town.

Mandal is the perfect combination of a transparent town dotted with clean white houses and fine kilometer long sandy beaches.

M-tips Sticky NoteAlthough the Sjosanden is the most popular beach in Norway, I found it rather crowded and noisy. Instead we made our way to the Furulunden Park, which is a gorgeous nature park with pine and birch trees. Just behind the park we found lovely, almost deserted sandy bays surrounded by smooth slabs of granite.


The pretty little town of Mandal is divided by the river Madalselva and our camping place was idyllically situated directly opposite the river.

You need to remember I have been brought up in hotels and albeit once for a short weekend with a girlfriend, I have never been camping. So I was not really sure what to expect from this type of arrangement. I was pleasantly surprised. Although Tom called us “snob campers” because of the camper (and not a tent), I was very happy. In comparison to other campers we saw on our trip I certainly did not feel like a snob.

The camping place we had chosen was an adorable one run by Anne Sofie and Kristian Sandnes. I had contacted them prior to our departure and was excited to meet them in person. They welcomed us warmly and even made sure we got best places in their kitchen for the match between Argentina and Germany (even if it was for the last few minutes of the match)! Sandnes Camping is about 2.5 kilometers from the city center of Mandal and one can easily stroll along the river to the town, taking in the lovely view. It was perfect.

We did not have much time to discover all that Mandal offers as after a good night’s sleep (I slept like a baby) and a wonderful breakfast sitting outside our camper overlooking the river, we headed off towards Stavangar.

Sandnes Camping
Holumsveien 133
4516 Mandal
Telephone: +47 38 26 51 51

Mandal Tourist Information
Bryggegate 10
4514 Mandal
Telephone: +47 38 27 83 00

Stavangar and Preikestolen

Our actual destination was the Preikestolen and decided to stopover en route in Stavanger. There are two routes that will take you to Stavanger.

The inland route takes you from Flekkefjord to Stavanger over the E 39 and is approx. 130 kilometers. The coastal route along the RV 44 although longer (approx. 150 kilometers) and time-consuming was recommended to us by friends and various travel guides for it’s scenic landscapes and views. However, we decided to take the inland route and were by no means disappointed.

The landscape was interestingly diversified with exceptional jagged cliffs up to 500m high, luscious green pastures and many beautiful lakes and rivers, just waiting for us to dive in. It was a beautiful day and we decided to stop and take a dip - my first in a Norwegian fjord!

Stavanger is Norways oil metropolis and lies on the Boknafjord. As we had half a day we picked out two or three points of interest we really wanted to see.

Stavangar, in comparison to the rest of what we experienced in Norway, had an extremely busy pace, even on a Sunday! The city is expanding tremendously and one can really feel the power. I was keen to get to the harbor and the quaint older part of the town, looking for a quiet stroll along the narrow and pretty streets, where the houses were colorfully decorated with summer flowers.


The harbor was incredibly alive with tourists, music and several events taking place. I was rather disappointed that a huge cruise liner docked at the harbor was spoiling the view. However, it did provide an interesting picture against the small houses in the city.


M-tips Sticky NoteIf you are traveling with kids from 6 and above I would really recommend going to the Stavanger Petroleum Museum. An elaborately built museum focusing on the topic of oil and it’s production in the North Sea. The museum has great true to scale models where kids can actually work with them hands-on. 


Stavangar Petroleum Museum
Kjeringholmen 4004 Stavanger
Telephone: +47 51 93 93 00
Tickets: 9 Euro

After about half a day in Stavangar we carried on to our camping place, east from Stavangar at the Preikestolen. We chose the Preikestolen Camping place due to it’s location. The next day we had planned a long hiking and climbing trip up to the Preikestolen and wanted to get an early start.

The Preikestolen is a must on everyones list visiting Norway. While it is not the highest mountain, it certainly is the most famous. After Tom showed me the pictures of his trip several years ago it was a must on the list.

A 600m vertical wall directly into the Lysefjord with a stunning view as a reward - that was motivation enough for me. There are two ways one can experience the Preikestolen. Either by boat, which sets off from Stavangar and takes you right to the foot of the Preikestolen or on foot, which will take you right to the peak of the Preikestolen.

We wanted the view and had planned to climb/hike up to the mountain. Tom was certain that the climb up was something both Soeren and I would manage. However, as the new day rolled in so did the dark clouds and plenty of rain. We waited did some grocery shopping and waited some more.


In the end we decided to just do it. Packing ourselves in our warm rain gear and hiking boots, carrying a small picnic in our backpacks and my camera equipment we set off for the day.
The climb up to the Preikestolen begins at the parking lot. On the whole it’s not a very long journey - about 4 kilometers but plan about 2 hours for the climb. The parking lot is at about 270 meters above sea level and Preikestolen is at 600 meters so there is a 330 height difference you will be covering.

M-tips Sticky NoteMake sure you wear sturdy and good hiking boots for the climb up. As you can presume from the height difference there is a bit of a climb. The boots should also be water resistance as there are parts of the climb where you literally have to walk across small waterfalls. After seeing a lady trying to manage the climb in pink ballerinas and a handbag I not only had a good laugh but also told Tom that I do not want to hear a word about being the exotic bird at all the camping places with my beauty case!
A good idea would be to also pack some water, a snack and maybe even some dry clothes.


Finding a path was definitely not a problem. They are very clearly marked with big red T’s. The path varies from gravel, rocky and wooden paths. On the way up we were able to take short breaks on the gorgeous plateaus, where even though the weather was not the most ideal, I still found certain eerie beauty in the surroundings.

M-tips Sticky NoteI recommend to start the day quite early. We started at 10 AM and were fairly happy that there were not many people. This is Norway major tourist attraction and we were expecting quite a crowd. On our way down we were greeted by the crowd.

Preikestolen - translated means the Pulpit. While my pictures unfortunately do not show it, the mountain looks like a pulpit. Wikipedia has some good pictures of the Preikestolen on a perfect day. Mine have a different charm - slightly eerie - slightly mystical.


The peak of rock itself is roughly 25 x 25 meters and should one dare to stand on the edge of it (Tom did by sliding on his stomach to the edge - I was dying and panicking) the drop is a 600m vertical one. I presume on clear days one would get a stunning view of the Lysefjord. The path itself, which leads up to Preikestolen is also very scenic, especially the last part when we got the first glimpse of the Lysefjord in between clear patches.


We enjoyed our picnic on the plateau despite the thick clouds hanging around our heads and a very dull sky. As it began to get crowded we began our descend. On the way down I realized it was much more difficult and rather slippery. For some this proved to be rather dangerous, probably ending the vacation for them.


Finally back at the camping place, showered and wearing dry, warm clothes Soeren and I were exhilarated. The Preikestolen Camping place is very professionally run. Fairly large but surprisingly peaceful. Funnily as we sat down to dinner the evening sun greeted us from behind the clouds. The service was great and we could even order fresh bread rolls for our breakfasts. There is a lovely play area and trampoline to keep the kids busy and the little Bistro offers snacks, ice cream and other Norwegian sweet treats.

Preikestollen Camping
Preikestolen vn 97
4100 Jørpeland
Telephone: +47 48 19 39 50

Hardanger Region

I was looking forward to this part of our trip the most, reading up a great deal on the region around the Hardanger and Sor fjord and it promised to be a breathtaking ride. We had planned a type of hop-on-hop-off tour, where we had mapped-out a set route and would decide on where to stop and what to see according to what caught our fancies and our breaths.

Weather-wise, although a bit better than the previous day, it was still a bit dull with a light drizzle. Sometimes the sky would clear up and let in the glowing warmth of the sun through, illuminating the mesmerizing landscape around us in natures vivid colors.


The famous Hardangerfjord is one of Norways most popular tourist attractions and boasts of panoramic routes and romantic little towns scattered along the fjords. This incredibly scenic region offers virtually every kind of natural landscape available in the country, from stunning waterways, apple and cherry orchards, and hiking trails, to mountain plateaus and glaciers.


Our route took us straight from the Preikestolen along the winding RV 13 straight into the Odda Valley in the Hardanger region. Our first stop was the dramatic and extraordinary Latefossen. The Latefossen tumbles about 165 m into a forceful and nebulous pair of dual cascades. The camera was set to click on overtime!


We carried on along the RV 13 and passed Odda, where we only stopped to tank and drink a quick cup of coffee. Being a modern industry town it did not appeal to us. What we were looking forward to was the route along the Sorfjord, a side branch of the Hardangerfjord. It also is the most picturesque route especially in early Spring, when the luscious cherry, pear and apple trees growing in numerous orchards alongside the hills bloom in full glory.

In July the trees are a rich dark green, where the cherry trees are heavy with sweet red fruit and strawberries and raspberries are ready for plucking. Vendors selling the fruit on the street sides tempted us to stop and indulge. Strawberries have never tasted to sweet and delicious. Due to the long sun hours and the mild climate the fruits develop slowly and take on a wonderful intense flavor. This area is one of the main fruit suppliers for Norway, no wonder it is called the Orchard of Norway.


Our route was spectacular. On one side the fruitful orchards and on the other side the Folgefonna, a formidable glacier peaking out from just behind the chain of mountains.

We finally reached Lofthus our stopover for the night. Lofthus is simply gorgeous. This is where the the fruit trees grow all the way up the steep hills and the view across the fjord is of the majestic chain of snow topped mountains and the glacier.


Our camping place was situated just on one of these hills right in the middle of a cherry and pear orchard. This was my idea of a “room with a view” We parked the camper facing the fjord and mountains, holding our breaths at the mesmerizing grandeur of the panorama in front of us.
We spent the afternoon relaxing, strolling the streets and orchards and picking cherries from the trees at the camping place. We were allowed to indulge in as many as we could eat and carry. The three of us enjoyed one of the best afternoons laughing, joking and simply taking in the sun and scenes.


The next day we considered staying a little longer but Bergen was calling and after a breakfast of fresh bread rolls, eggs, sausage and yogurt with fresh cherries we continued with our tour.
From Lofthus we headed to Kinsarvik where the ferry took us across the Sorfjord to Utne, where we continued along the small touristic scenic route to Jondal and the foot of the glacier Folgefonna.


The Folgefonna is Norways third largest glacier and a favorite ski region almost all year round. Yes even in the summer! From June to October winter sport lovers can click into their skis and zoom down the slopes. In the summer a special treat as the long days, where the sun sets at 11 PM, offers a once in a lifetime experience. From Jondal we took the ferry to Norheimsund and onto towards Bergen.

Lofthus Camping
Helleland, 5781 Lofthus
Telehone: +47 53 66 13 64

There are many online travel guides that will help you plan your trip to Norway. I personally found Visit Norway the best and most comprehensive with beautiful photos and exciting videos. The folks from Visit Norway are also on Twitter where they were very prompt in answering all my queries. You'll also find them on Facebook and they regularly add helpful tips and information.

Thank you to the team of Visit Norway for all your great help, advice and tips.

Visit Norway
Twitter: @visitnorway

Part one of the tour ends here. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far and that I was able to give you a insight of what an incredible experience this was. Next week Part two will take us to Bergen, Sognefjord, Nigardsbreen, Oslo and Kragero. Look forward to it. 

All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2010 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

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  1. Beautiful pics and wonderful energy in your post. I want to visit Norway now, hopefully some day soon (and hopefully during summers)

  2. Oh Meeta, OH!! WOW! Gorgeous post and beautiful country! Serendipity in every breath. You must have come back rejuvenated. I have sat and looked at the beauty of every frame ... gorgeous!

  3. Wow Meeta .. Breathtaking photos...Norway is so beautiful. Thanks for taking us on a virtual ride..xo

  4. Lovely pics Meeta. I just fell in love with Norway. :)

  5. Pictures are stunning (but hey, don't you get bored to read that all the time? lol) but the writing is beyond good.

    I felt as it was me the one who traveled on a camping car, the one who laughed at the lady on the pink ballerinas (wth? with that woman?) and definitely I felt fear when you mention Tom dare to stand on the edge of that peak.

    Thanks I feel like I had my first trip to Norway with you.


  6. Lovely pictures and very helpful explanation for those looking out to visit Norway. Like the houses decorated with flowers. Amazing transformation from my lap top to the natural beautities of Nrway.

  7. Meeta, honestly I have not seen this part of Norway and must go on the road next time I am there! We are always spending all of our time visiting many relatives between Oslo and Elverum (in the country which is lovely) but we've seen little else! So thank you for the fantastic tour and for the inspiration to copy your agenda, camper and all! Snobby for sure! Your photos are stunning esp the house on the island- I want to see that and take that photo!!

  8. beautifully written travelogue and stunning pictures. it is obvious that you had a wonderful time...

  9. Amazing landscapes and photos! That is one of my dream destinations... Thanks so much for sharing!



  10. Beautiful images and well described!
    Looking fwd for part II :)

  11. I was waiting for this! And am thrilled that this is just Part 1! Excellent Meeta. :)

  12. Gorgeous! Gorgeous! I especially love, LOVE the photo of the house perched in the smack-dab middle of the reflective lake, and the photos of the foggy woods!

  13. Beautiful pictures! Seems like a wonderful trip. It's great when someone takes the time to write something like this!

  14. Wow, that's amazing. I wanted to leave the house about 15 minutes ago. But there was no way... :)!

  15. OH MY!! I regret, I DO regret.. I was planning Norway this summer, but I ended up with Provence. I don't mean Provence won't be less beautiful (I do hope so), but for the moment I'm craving for a refreshing holiday like this!
    Love each and every single shot, but my favourite one is Stavangar town with white houses and flowers.. it's how I was imagining Norway in my mind! Lovely post Meeta, as I said yesterday to Mowie regarding his post on Croatia, you could publish it on National Geographic, since it is stunning!

  16. Lovely photos Meeta! Sounds like you had a fantastic trip, even if the weather looked a bit dicey from your photos. Next summer we must meet in Norway and go fishing :) Signe xx

  17. When I saw that your Norway post was up, I first had to make myself a large cup of coffee... as I wanted to indulge in your story (I was sure I could!!). Oh my, how you captured the beauty of Norway in both your pictures & story!! My favorite is definitely the one with the little island in the lake, with the little red house on it, can you imagine living there??Really, really loved the whole post! Already looking forward to the continuing story!
    My husband had the fortune to stay a couple of months in Norway a long time ago, in students life, I have never been there... but it sure could be a serious option for next summer, I'm pretty sure our 11 year old son (Thom) will love it like Soeren did!
    Thanks a lot for sharing!!
    Bisous from Versailles, Chantal

  18. What a stunning post Meeta, and such beautiful photos to share the trip with all of us. Thank you thank you for bringing so much beauty & interest into my day! It was worth waiting for this and the anticipation is great for part 2 :o) Hugs and wishing you an extra special,wonderful weekend ;) xx

  19. wow, that sounds like the best escape from the german summer heat. your pictures are stunning. that trip sounds like pure recovery.

  20. Wowo loved all the pics. I wouls love to have the same holiday .Love that gog pic the best, well actually loved all the pics and a good informative if one wants to do the same holiday.

  21. Thank you everyone for all your comments. Phew! So glad you are finding this travelogue good and hopefully it will help those who are seriously considering visiting Norway. It was my aim not just to offer a picturelogue but also that my readers benefit from my experience, should they be thinking of traveling to Norway.

    Love all your emails too and hope I can answer them promptly!

    Part Two will be even more exciting I promise ;o)

  22. Absolutely breathtaking Meeta! You've really captured some wonderful scenes here. I especially love the first pic. And thanks for sharing some invaluable tips too.

  23. Breathtaking photos! I want to go there now!

  24. Hi,first time here u have a awesome blog and nice pic

  25. Wonderful post and gorgeous photos Meeta! I love Scandinavia but never been to Norway yet. It's still on my wish list and after reading your post I want to go even more! Thank you for sharing.

  26. What breathtaking views;I'm sure you nust had a great time on your trip. Love all the photos :-)

  27. I love travelling and want to see the world some day. but i never thought of Norway as a destination until I read your blog.Loved your post and your pics...thank you for taking the effort and sharing your holidays!

  28. What a beautiful place to visit! I would not have thought about Norway is must list of must see places, but you have definitely changed my mind. We are planning on renting an RV to travel here in the US. It does sound like an interesting way to make the trip.

  29. Oh your photos brought back memories from our trip last year. Gorgeous photos and loads of great information.
    Glad you had such a great time!

  30. I did almost the exact same trip with a camper a couple of years ago with my husband and indeed it was the trip of a lifetime! We have traveled a lot but this remains our favorite vacation of all times. Simply amazing. The landscapes are so beautiful, I had to pinch myself to make sure it was not a dream! :) Now we want to visit the Lofoten's supposed to be even more spectacular than the South of the country but that's really hard to believe...Thanks for bringing back those fantastic memories!

  31. Oh Meeta, I love this post.I started reading in a very excited state of mind and couldn't concentrate on the picture or text properly.Nature is so stunning over there.I haven't made it to Norway yet.keep planning to go to Oslo.perhaps ought to spend a week there next summer.btw, I have started blogging in English again so feel free to visit when you have time.have a fab weekend.

  32. Oh Meeta! What a wonderful way you and your family chose to see Norway! It is such an amazing place. I never visited any of the places you were, so I loved hearing your stories and seeing your pictures! Can't wait for more!

  33. Thats a fantastic travelogue meeta.....qi loved the way u gave the address as welll....i am sure it would come in help in the future...waiting for the second one...

  34. Honestly Meeta, those pictures really took us there!..thank you for sharing your vacation with us..

  35. Meeta--thank you for the tour of Norway--I have never been there and now I know what to see if I ever go. Lovely tour. Thanks for sharing.

  36. absolutely stunning photographs! i would love to go to Norway someday and take my mom, her grandmother grew up there. i absolutely adore that type of weather. what great camera candy :)

  37. Beautiful photos. You really like them on the dark side - creates a spectacular mood. These are really gorgeous.

  38. Meeta,

    Nice travelogue, stunning photographs, I was really enjoying the scenery through my monitor .

  39. Wonderful photos and narration.


  40. Absolutely gorgeous photos. I think we'll have to save our trip to Scandinavia for next summer as we'd surely freeze any other time! I am glad you had a great time and thanks for the hints and tips!

  41. Wow stunning and breathtaking pictures with beautiful narration.. cannot wait to see ur next post... awesome!!!

  42. Thank you for an interesting story and amazing photos from Norway. I come from the Stavanger area, but are live abroad for the time being. It makes me glad when people like traveling in Norway. There are so many interesting places. Specially the bright light makes the photos breathtaking.

    cheers, Liv-Jorunn

  43. I love your Norwegian tour!! Norway's a country that I've always wanted to visit but now -- after seeing all these amazing photos -- I REALLY want to go!

  44. Gorgeous Photos, especially the 2 of the waterfalls. Would love to stay a few nights
    in the red house surrounded by the water.

  45. Meeta - the first picture is breathtaking and thanks for sharing your photos and the great write up on your holiday and the experiences that accompanied it. I would love to one day visit Norway but in the meantime, I'll just enjoy your post.

  46. Oh Meeta!! Stunning! Absolutely stunning and your fabulous photography brought out the beauty and the magic of this stunning landscape. It sounds wonderful and looks romantic. I want to go now. And I want the luxury camper. Perfect holiday and I am so happy that the 3 of you had such a perfect time.

  47. wow, what a post - and this is just part 1 !!! fabulous photos, taking us along with you, and giving the most thorough account ever. seriously, if anyone is planning on going to norway, they clearly need to swing by here first. and if they didn't want to go before, well they sure will now !

    a few of my faves:
    - you saying how excited you were for this trip was an understatement - HA ! and then some ! ;)
    - the luxury camper
    - the photo of tom and soeren hand in hand, always love those father and son shots
    - as tom did, i am sure olivier too would want to crawl out to the edge of the preikestolen. and likewise, i'd be panicking up a storm ! oh my !

    i could go on and on, but i want to get to part 2.... and then get to NORWAY !! :)

  48. What a jaw droppingly beautiful vacation you went on. I wouldn't have wanted to come back home. :)
    Thanks for sharing your some oart of your vacation.

  49. Hi there! I was just directed to your site for the very first time via another blogger. I live just a little bit north of Sognefjord, so she knew I would be interested in your photos and your travels. Great photos! And great writing! You did a fantastic job of, as you said, capturing the essence of the country in that first photo of the red hytte (cabin/cottage). I'm excited to check out your other posts and some recipes now! -Siri

  50. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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