The order in which we did the hikes didn’t matter, but we knew we would reserve the best weather day for Kjeragbolten. Kjeragbolten is located in a region where the weather can change rapidly, and it was triple the drive time to get there and back compared to Preikestolen.
Our itinerary was as follows:
Arrival day (via Norheimsund): Get acclimated to the lay of the land; drink a few cocktails
Full day 1: Buffer day due to inclement weather; hunkered down in the hotel room and explored the old town during non-rainy periods
Full day 2: Hike Preikestolen
Full day 3: Hike Kjeragbolten
Driving from Norheimsund to Stavanger
It took us six hours to drive from Norheimsund in the Hardangerfjord region to Stavanger. This included a stop for lunch at a “rest area” in a village called Sjurseikje.
Our journey began by ferrying across Hardangerfjord via the Jondal-Tørvikbygd ferry. It was the fifth time we’d taken the ferry, and I was happy it was the last.
Our drive took us along sections of the Ryfylke Scenic Route. The scenery was varied, and the drive was slow. I was somewhat mentally prepared to be behind the wheel for 5-6 hours.
Five hours into our journey, we arrived at the Mortavika-Arsvågen ferry.
On the day of our journey, the ferry departed Arsvagen every 20 minutes on the xx:10, xx:30, and xx:50.
As luck would have it, we arrived at 2:51pm, just in time to watch it pull away from the dock.
The good news was that we only had to wait 20 minutes for the next ferry, and we would be the first vehicle on the ferry, which meant we’d be one of the first vehicles off the ferry in Mortavika.
Boarding the Mortavika-Arsvågen ferry was unorganized and chaotic compared to the Jondal-Tørvikbygd ferry. It was a free for all, and since it was our first time on this ferry, we didn’t know the unwritten rules of which lanes to use or not use, there was no one directing traffic, and there were orange construction cones in random places.
Complicating matters further was that we were the first vehicle to board the ferry. I was leading the charge, but I had no idea where to go.
I think I did OK, but driving in Norway is such a polite affair that I don’t think anyone would have signaled or told me I did something wrong if I had.
The crossing time for the ferry was 24 minutes, only four minutes longer than the Jondal ferry, but it felt like a lifetime.
Unlike the Jondal ferry, the Mortavika ferry wasn’t electric. It was loud, and it rumbled/vibrated the whole journey. The water was choppy sometimes, and I wished I’d taken Dramamine to help with motion sickness.
I was elated when we arrived in Mortavika. From there, we only had 30 more minutes of driving to our hotel in Stavanger. Woo hoo!
We were originally booked to stay at Thon Hotel Stavanger, but after our experience at the Thon Hotel Sandven, we decided to change our accommodation at the last minute.
It wasn’t necessarily that the Thon Hotel Sandven experience turned us off from that hotel chain. It was that we’d been staying at Thon hotels for six nights at that point and needed a vibe change.
We canceled our reservation and booked four nights at the Radisson Blu Atlantic Hotel Stavanger. The Radisson was the same price as the Thon Hotel Stavanger but did not include breakfast.
The Radisson was centrally located and was a quiet five-minute stroll to the old town.
The hotel has been renovated to meet the needs of a modern traveler. We were upgraded from a Standard room to a Superior room. The Superior room was slightly bigger and had a view of the lake.
The typical furniture in a hotel room had been swapped for multi-functional pieces. For example, the desk had been replaced with a table and seating for two. Bedside tables had been replaced with built-in tables and seating that ran the length of the wall.
There were plenty of charging outlets, both USB and European plugs.
One downside to the modernized outfitting of the room was that there wasn’t a dresser or chest of drawers, even though there was plenty of space in the room for one.
We had a ton of hiking and city sightseeing gear, and since this was the last segment of our trip, we needed to unload our luggage and get a grip on dirty clothes versus clean clothes, and a dresser would have been helpful in that regard.
Instead, we had a dual suitcase explosion with our stuff everywhere.
The bathroom was the most compact of the three hotels we stayed in, but it was the most functional, though it lacked counter space and ample towel hooks so the towels could actually dry out.
It had a walk-in shower with a sliding door that kept the water in the shower and not on the floor by the sink and toilet. I appreciated this since we’d been battling leaky showers for the past week.
Individual toiletries had been replaced by big bottles, which I appreciated. Anything to reduce plastic is a good thing.
Housekeeping gets a failing grade for this hotel.
On the first day, housekeeping emptied the garbage and pulled the duvet up and over the mattress, not to be confused with making the bed.
They also put another guest’s half-used individual toiletries from other hotels on the counter in the bathroom.
When we returned to the room and saw the state of it, my first thought was that another guest had entered our room. It made me think twice about the hotel’s security, and everything of value went into the safe.
We gave housekeeping a second try the following day, which was another failure. And that was it for us and housekeeping – maybe that was their ultimate goal?
The breakfast (not included with our stay) gets a low grade. At first glance, it looked like a big spread of food, but when I got into it, there wasn’t much to choose from.
I’m picky when it comes to eggs. This buffet had a dutch oven of scrambled eggs that was more of a soup consistency than scrambled egg consistency. And it had a hot plate of fried eggs shaped in perfect circles (like McDonald’s) and looked like plastic. They also tasted like plastic.
All of the hot foods were either ambient temperature or cold. The breakfast was a bummer it was the only option on the days we hiked because nothing else in the city was open at that time of day.
The Superior room (not including breakfast) gets a rating of 8/10.
Driving and parking in Stavanger
Stavanger is smaller than Bergen but driving in and out of Stavanger was more hectic than driving in and out of Bergen. There are a lot of multi-lane roundabouts in Stavanger, which caught me off guard.
Most of my roundabout driving experience has been in the UK, where we drive on the left and go clockwise in the roundabout. So when I’m faced with roundabouts where the direction of travel is counterclockwise, my mind goes haywire. And multi-lane roundabouts are always confusing, no matter the direction.
Getting to the hotel the first time was a little nerve-racking, especially after five hours of driving.
The hotel does not have a private parking garage, but there is a public parking garage directly behind the hotel, and we parked there.
One design flaw of the hotel is that there are no doors on the parking garage side of the hotel and because the hotel is situated on a hill, getting from the parking garage to the hotel’s entrance means you have to maneuver your luggage down ~4 flights of stairs.
Every parking garage and lot in Norway had its quirks.
The parking garage in Stavanger scanned the license plate upon entry. Before exiting, we paid at the pay machine in the vestibule near the elevators. The license plate was scanned again upon exiting, and the barrier arm was lifted when the payment was confirmed.
Protip: Take a photo of your license plate number because it needs to be entered when paying.
We paid 938 NOK for parking during our four-night stay in Stavanger (480 for the first exit, 240 for the second exit, and 218 for the third exit).
Note: The current exchange rate between NOK and USD is about 10:1, so 938 NOK is about USD 93.
Protip: It is a known perk with this parking garage that the system does not recognize non-Norway license plates, so cars with non-Norway license plates park for free! We saw this happen twice!
Stavanger old town
Stavanger old town is cute, but it’s also a cruise ship port, so when the ship comes to port, the town floods with people.
Some cruise ships that docked while there towered over the old town.
Like Bergen, Stavanger had a fishing village vibe with wooden houses and cobblestone alleys.
The old town is compact and can be explored in a couple of hours. Walking from one end to the other takes less than 10 minutes.
The main drag, Øvre Holmegate, is a pedestrian-only street and is lined with bars and restaurants that are brightly painted.
Except for one dining experience at a restaurant in the old town, all our dining and drinking experiences in Stavanger were great. The food in Stavanger, both in variety and quality, was better than it was in Bergen. For that reason alone, I’d recommend visiting Stavanger over Bergen.
As is typically the case with tourist destinations, if you walk slightly outside of the tourist zone, you’ll usually find better quality restaurants, and that was the case with Stavanger.
Dinner on our first night brought us to Pedersgata (street). We referred to this street as “Restaurant Row.” It begins here and extends east for several blocks. It’s where I would recommend going for dinner.
Overall, we enjoyed Stavanger. I’d consider visiting again, like if we were out of ideas of places to visit for a long weekend.
Stavanger area hiking
As mentioned above, we hiked Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) and Kjeragbolten during our stay in Stavanger. I wrote about these hikes in individual posts.
What we’d do differently
What would we do differently if we were to stay in Stavanger again?
We added a buffer day to every vacation segment, primarily for inclement weather and flexibility if we found additional things we wanted to do or see.
Our buffer day in Stavanger was a loss of a day, but that was the intent of our buffer days.
First, it rained all day. Second, it fell on a Sunday when all stores were closed (except a few supermarkets), and only a handful of restaurants were open.
As for our multi-day itinerary, we would not do anything differently with our stay in Stavanger. Hiking Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten were must-dos for us, and one way to increase our chances of hiking both was to have an inclement weather buffer day.
If we were doing Stavanger as a city break over a weekend with the intent to hike Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten, we would still stay four nights, allowing for three full days, one of which being a buffer day.
Eat and drink recommendations
Here are a few recommendations for Stavanger.
Protip: Venture 5 minutes out of the old town to Pedersgata (street) for a vast selection of restaurants that are better quality and better value for money. We referred to this street as “Restaurant Row.” It begins here and extends east for several blocks.
|Bøker og Børst|
(Books and Booze)
|Coffee, beer/cocktail bar||Extensive selection of beer|
|Norvald Vinbar||Wine bar|
|Bardello||Cocktail bar||Extensive cocktail list|
|Pjolter & Punsj||Cocktail bar||Limited cocktail list, cocktails are mostly aquavit-based|
Next: our hike to Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen).