Pulpit Rock, the Preacher’s Pulpit, Preikestolen- whatever you want to call it- is mind-blowing. Travel writers often talk about scenery taking their breath away, but seriously, Preikestolen tops anything I’ve ever seen.
I wouldn’t say I have a fear of heights- I’ve skydived twice- but I do have a fear of being near the edge.
Acrophobia is its name, and for anyone who fears the edge, Preikestolen is a test of this fear. This massive granite cliff towers 604 metres over the Lysefjord in Norway, making you feel like you could almost reach to the heavens, or tumble down to the depths below.
I had seen its awesomeness through photos scattered about on the web, but wasn’t quite sure whether I would make it there on my trip to Norway. For a start I wasn’t quite sure how to get there, plus it was the end of September and I wasn’t sure if it was still even possible to do the hike. Plus it’s just not the same doing a hike like that on your own.
But when I arrived at my hostel in Bergen I soon got chatting to a couple of English lads and one of them- George- told me he was off to Stavanger to do the famous Pulpit Rock hike. After chatting about it a bit more, I decided I had nothing to lose and would meet him there to join in this little expedition. That’s the brilliant thing about not making too many plans- you can change your mind at the last minute when you make new friends.
In this guide I’ll tell you exactly how to get there, where to stay and most importantly, what the hike to Preikestolen is actually like.
An Overview of Pulpit Rock
At a Glance
Height: 604 meters (1,982 feet) above the Lysefylk fjord
Plateau Size: Approximately 25 by 25 meters (82 by 82 feet)
Formation: Created during the Ice Age, roughly 10,000 years ago
Accessibility: A hiking trail starting from the Preikestolen Mountain Lodge; the hiking journey takes two to four hours depending on fitness levels and weather conditions
Annual Visitors: Receives approximately 200,000 visitors each year
Recognition: One of Norway’s most famous natural tourist attractions
Pop Culture: Featured in the Hollywood movie “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” in 2018.
A Brief History of Pulpit Rock
Steeped in natural beauty and rich in history, Pulpit Rock, or Preikestolen as known in Norwegian, is a towering platform of sheer cliff, seemingly crafted by nature’s hands for awe-inspiring panoramas. Thousands of hiking aficionados tread their way to its summit every year, but the formation’s origins and historical narratives add another dimension to its magnetism.
Preikestolen majestically rises 604 meters above the Lysefjord. Geologically speaking, its formation took place during the Ice Age, approximately 10,000 years ago. The cliff edge was subject to many cycles of freezing and thawing, which caused large, angular blocks to break away from the mountain range and create its unique, flat surface.
The plateau is approximately 25 by 25 meters, appearing like a perfect pulpit, giving it the name Pulpit Rock. It remains a prime example of nature’s sculpting prowess.
The cliff didn’t gain much prominence until around 1900. With the advent of tourism and increasing accessibility to the rural parts, explorers, and nature lovers began to visit Pulpit Rock, drawn by spectacular vistas it offered of the Lysefjord.
One person of note was Norwegian mountaineer Thomas Peter Randulff who, in 1911, was photographed standing on the brink of Pulpit Rock with one leg comfortably lodged onto the overhanging rock, displaying a nonchalant pose. This iconic image played a notable role in promoting tourism in the region.
Today, Pulpit Rock is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Norway and gathers around 200,000 visitors each year. The site made headlines in 2018 when it became a dramatic backdrop to the final scenes of the Hollywood blockbuster, “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”
Despite its fame and the footfall it welcomes, there is an untouched, pristine quality to Pulpit rock, a true marvel of nature. Its geological origins and the heart-racing access journey involving a steep ascent offer a taste of adventure to those who seek her heights. And once you stand on the plateau, the breathtaking views you behold connect you to the long line of historical admirers who have done the same over centuries, making Pulpit rock a truly timeless attraction.
How to Get to Pulpit Rock
In order to get to Pulpit Rock you’ll need to go to Stavanger, then catch the ferry to Tau, then a shuttle bus to the Preikestolen mountain lodge. Let’s look at this trip in more detail.
Step 1: Getting to Norway
Your journey to Pulpit Rock begins with arriving in Norway. If you’re flying internationally, the most probable point of arrival will be Oslo Gardermoen Airport (OSL), the country’s main international hub.
You’ll then need to make your way to Stavanger. You can either head there straight from Oslo, or spend a day or two in Bergen first. Here’s how to get to Stavanger from both cities:
Step 2: Getting From Oslo to Stavanger
The most recommended option is to fly from Oslo Gardermoen Airport (OSL) to Stavanger Airport (SVG). You can find various flights between these two cities daily.
However, if you prefer a more scenic route, consider taking a train. A train journey from Oslo to Stavanger offers a chance to see the jewels of Northern Europe. From your window, you’ll be able to see spectacular fjords, emerald green hills, and serene panoramas. Do keep in mind that the total travel time can range from 7.5 to 9 hours, depending on the train.
Another alternative is by bus, night train, or even by rental car depending on your preference.
When planning your journey, I recommend using a travel planner such as Rome2Rio to see step-by-step directions, compare ticket prices, and check travel times.
Step 2 Alternative: From Bergen to Stavanger
As I mentioned previously, you could also travel to Stavanger from Bergen. There are a few different ways you can get from Bergen to Stavanger. I took the bus option when I visited Pulpit Rock.
By Boat: One of the most scenic and popular ways to travel between Bergen and Stavanger is by taking the express boat. The boat service, called Norled (formerly known as Flaggruten), offers a comfortable and enjoyable journey, allowing you to admire the picturesque coastline and fjords. The journey takes approximately 5 hours and 30 minutes. Check the Norled website for schedules and ticket prices.
By Plane: There are several daily direct flights between Bergen Airport (BGO) and Stavanger Airport (SVG) operated by airlines like SAS and Norwegian Air. Flying is the fastest way to reach Stavanger, with a flight time of around 40 to 50 minutes. However, you should also consider the time required for check-in and security.
By Bus: You can also travel by bus between Bergen and Stavanger using bus operators like Nor-Way Bussekspress Kystbussen or Lavprisekspressen. The journey takes approximately 5 to 7 hours, depending on the route. Check the Nor-Way Bussekspress website or Lavprisekspressen website for schedules and ticket prices.
By Car: Renting a car and driving from Bergen to Stavanger is a great option if you prefer flexibility and wish to explore the countryside at your own pace. The driving distance is around 210 kilometers, and without stops, it takes roughly 4 to 5 hours. This route includes driving along the E39 highway and taking a ferry during the journey.
Step 3: From Stavanger to Tau
To reach the starting point of the Pulpit Rock hike, you first need to get to the town of Tau. This requires a short ferry ride from Stavanger, which is approximately 40 minutes. You can find the Fiskepiren Ferry Terminal situated near the Stavanger City Center. Note that ferries usually run every 40 minutes, but it would be wise to check the schedule before planning your day.
Step 4: Tau to Preikestolen Mountain Lodge
On reaching Tau, your next destination will be the Preikestolen Mountain Lodge, the starting point for the Pulpit Rock hike. Buses moving to and from the lodge are conveniently timed to match the arrival and departure times of the ferry, making this leg of the journey quite seamless. This bus journey takes approximately 30 minutes.
I’ve written a separate blog post on getting to Preikestolen, if you need more info.
Where to Stay in Preikestolen
There are basically two accommodation options- if you’re broke because of Norway’s expensive prices, go for the Preikestolen hostel (10% discount too if you’re a member of Hostelling International). If you have the money to spare, opt for the Preikestolen Mountain Lodge.
You actually check in to the hostel at the mountain lodge but you stay in a separate little farmhouse building just a stone’s throw down the hill. The mountain lodge is open all year round, but the hostel is only open for part of the year from April to around the end of September/October.
The setting is absolutely beautiful- it’s surrounded by mountains and forests, with a view of Lake Refsvatnet. Waking up to that view was definitely not a bad way to start the day!
Designed by Stavanger-based company Helen&Hard, the mountain lodge is quite futuristic looking and features a restaurant, reception, conference room, a lounge and 27 rooms with private bathrooms. The restaurant is outstanding and serves a complimentary Norwegian breakfast every morning to provide both hostel and hotel guests with enough fuel to hike to Preikestolen. In the evening I also tried out their 3-course set menu as a treat after the long hike- totally worth it!
At the breakfast buffet the boys from the hostel told me I simply must try the ‘brown cheese’ aka Brunost. I didn’t quite believe them about this brown cheese at first, but it does actually exist and it’s probably one of the weirdest foods I’ve ever tried. Brunost is basically a caramelised whey cheese with a sweet taste and a texture a bit like plasticine. In a word, it’s weird.
I stayed in the Youth Hostel in a dormitory since it was cheap for one night and I wanted to meet some new people. It didn’t feel like a hostel though, more like a house with a lovely kitchen and a room with a few bunk beds. There’s an indoor toilet, but you have to go outside to a different building for the showers. Since it can get pretty cold in Norway I was pleased to discover the hostel was nice and toasty with central heating. There was a mixture of nationalities staying there- Australian, Kiwi, English, French etc- and everyone hung out in the kitchen for a chat.
What to Wear For the Pulpit Rock Hike
Websites will tell you to wear hiking boots and all that sort of gear, but I’ve never been the ‘prepared for the outdoors’ sort of type. I wore a pair of Nike trainers, my leggings I wear for the gym, a T-shirt, a sweater and a bodywarmer. That’s all you really need- so don’t worry if you’re not carrying a load of hi-tech gear.
On the way up we passed a group with hiking poles and all that kind of equipment, but we overtook them, so that says a lot really. On the other end of the scale I actually saw someone trying to do it in ballet flats- possible, but not really recommended.
- Comfy sneakers or hiking shoes if you prefer
- Workout leggings or long pants
- Layers that you can easily take off
- Waterproof jacket in case of rain
- Warm jacket and clothing in winter months
- Water bottle
- Small Backpack
How Long is The Hike to Pulpit Rock?
So the hike itself is supposed to take around 4 hours round trip, but we took about 3 hours round trip. If you walk fast like me, that’s about how long it takes. 1.5 hours each way. If you walk slower it can take between 4-5 hours.
Obviously since it’s so ridiculously awesome that doesn’t include the amount of time you spend up on the rock. If you eat lunch up there and take a gazillion photos, you can be up there for hours just gazing out at the view.
The Hike Itself
I didn’t find the hike too difficult and and afternoon in the great outdoors certainly beats the monotony of going on the stairmaster at the gym!
The route is well signposted with lots of red painted markers, follow these and you should be fine.
Obviously you’re climbing up hill to get to the top of Preikestolen, so it’s quite challenging but I saw a huge mixture of people on the hiking route, both young and old. The hike has some steep inclines where you’ll be climbing up over rocky boulders- this is when you really feel the thigh burn and will be most out of breath. However this is also broken up with boardwalks, gravel pathways and natural terrain. Around the halfway point it settles down a bit and you’ll be walking over much flatter parts, with incredible views and a small lake which looks incredibly inviting.
After all that there’s one last push to get to the top of Pulpit Rock!
The Top of Pulpit Rock
When you get to the top you are rewarded with phenomenal views over the fjords. I think the photographs speak for themselves!
The rock itself looks like it has been hand-carved by the gods. It has a 25 metre by 25 metre flat surface, providing the perfect rest stop for lots of weary hikers. Of course you could spend all day here just getting creative with photography, but with lots of tourists around you have to take it in turns to pose for photos on the edge.
Despite my fear of edges, I couldn’t leave without getting photographs. At this point I was glad to have George with me to hold the camera and take photos from different angles. Even with the best camera and tripod, you couldn’t really do it on your own. The weather was a bit cloudy, which was a shame for the photographs, but it didn’t detract from the view or the experience.
I shuffled to the edge of the cliff face and dangled my legs over the side, being careful not to look down. I stood up, looking out over the fjords. But I didn’t have the guts to jump up and down near the edge like some people do. The cliff has a sheer drop and must be respected- there are no barriers here to save you. There have been incidences (though very few) where people have fallen off Preikestolen and some have hiked all the way up here just to commit suicide by jumping off the edge.
I was reminded of this when just before sunset, a mountain rescue helicopter flew right up to the cliff and a man on a speakerphone told everyone to get back from the edge. At the end of every day, the helicopter does a sweep of the area to make sure there have been no casualties that day- scary I know! At this time you have to do as they say and begin the hike back to base camp.
By this time I’d caught the bug for the great outdoors. I was so in awe of Preikestolen, I hiked it the next day too because the weather was so gorgeous. The perfectionist in me wanted the best possible photographs of Pulpit Rock in the sunshine. This was the result…
Is Pulpit Rock Safe?
In general, yes, Pulpit Rock is pretty safe. The rock’s plateau is very wide, and over 300,000 visitors hike to Pulpit Rock each year without any accidents. However, there have been a handful of fatalities over the years, some accidental falls and some intentional. So it’s not without risks.
The general opinion in Norway is that nature is inherently dangerous. So far, authorities have refrained from installing guardrails so as not to spoil the wild beauty of Pulpit Rock.
Since there’s nothing to protect you from falling, be cautious when approaching the edge. It’s advisable to stay a few meters back from the edge and definitely don’t jump up and down or do anything reckless near the edge. If you go up there with kids, make sure to keep a close eye on them.
Some Tips for Hiking Preikestolen
- Take plenty of water for the hike, maybe even a backpack with sandwiches so you can have a little picnic at the top.
- Dress warmly as it can get chilly up there, but wear layers so you can take them off as you start to sweat from the hike!
- Wear comfortable footwear, but don’t worry too much if you don’t have hiking shoes.
- Take your camera with spare batteries, and your phone too so you can take plenty of photos!
- Leave plenty of time to do the hike. You don’t want to be hiking down in the dark.
- The Pulpit Rock hike is technically open all year-round, though the best time to do it is in summer from June to September. This is when the weather will be at its best. In winter the weather conditions won’t be as favorable, and you will definitely need hiking boots and suitable attire in case of rain, snow or ice. Always check the weather forecast for when you plan to hike.
- There are basically two routes when you get towards the top- there’s one that will take you over the hill top and one that will take you down onto the ledge. It’s worth trying one on the way there and the other on the way back, so you can see the rock from different vantage points. If you take the hill top route you’ll get some fantastic views of Pulpit Rock from above.
- The mountain lodge can provide a packed lunch to take to Pulpit Rock, but you could also make up a little sandwich at the breakfast buffet 😉
- There aren’t any shops nearby, so if you want to cook dinners in the hostel kitchen, bring some food over with you on the ferry.
Hiking to Pulpit Rock is one of the best things I’ve ever done and this is something you cannot miss when visiting Norway! For more Norway tips, check out my articles on Things to Do in Bergen and Things to Do in Oslo.