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Hike: by train to the roof of Norway; hike from Finse to Dyranut

It's a question I encounter quite frequently: Can one experience the breathtaking natural beauty of Norway without the aid of an automobile? Shortly said; is Norway by train a good idea?

The answer is a resounding yes. I'll admit, I've given away the answer early, but allow me to now explain how you can embark on a remarkable nature adventure spanning 3-4 days from Oslo with no reliance on a car. However, a word of caution: embark on this journey well-prepared (and I'll touch on that later).

A train in Norway
Photo by Hongbin on Unsplash

Four years ago, I arrived here for the first time, and I was utterly overwhelmed by the stunning landscape. We arrived late in the afternoon, with the sun casting a golden hue over the entire valley as it began its descent. Anyway, plenty of sentiments here. To the point now.

First and foremost, securing a seat reservation on the train known as the 'Bergens banen' to Finse is essential. It takes a bit longer from Oslo, but within 4 hours, you'll reach your destination—or rather, the starting point of your hiking adventure. Do not underestimate the necessity of reservations; this train route tends to be fully booked at least a week in advance. The train journey to Finse takes around 4 hours.

Finse itself is nothing more than a cluster of buildings. There's a hikers' hotel that hosts a jazz festival each year, an accommodation managed by the Norwegian Tourist Association, and a few holiday cottages and the like. Initially, it may feel quite peculiar...

The history of Finse is quite intriguing. Around 1900, one of Norway's most ambitious infrastructure projects ever took place: the construction of a railway line from Oslo to Bergen through one of the most inhospitable terrains imaginable. Finse did not exist as a place back then, but accommodations were built for laborers, diggers, and contractors. The project spanned such a long period that it also gave rise to a bakery and several other shops. When the railway was completed in the new millennium (that's 1900), a hotel was opened next to the station. That hotel has remained in operation for the past 120 years, drawing tourists in all seasons. And the reason for its allure is not hard to discern. It's a remarkable place, firstly because there's a railway here, and secondly because you have a direct view of an impressive glacier. In summer, it's the perfect starting point for multi-day hikes, and in winter, it's ideal for snowboarding and kite-skiing. Every January, a small-scale jazz festival even takes place, which, as a devoted jazz enthusiast, greatly appeals to me (and I regret not having attended it yet).

Anyway, this section was categorized under 'hike,' so let's get down to business. From Finse, you'll hike for about 2-3 days to reach Dyranut. I must say that the first leg can be quite challenging, with significant elevation changes, curves, and climbs. You wouldn't guess it from looking at the map, but the distances are indeed greater than they appear in this type of terrain. On the first day, you'll walk along the foothills of the Hardanger Jokulen. With the gradual melting of the large glaciers, we are likely among the last generations to witness this imposing natural phenomenon here.

You can theoretically hike to Kjeldebu in one day, but it's approximately 17 kilometers on marked trails, which might be a bit far for inexperienced hikers. It's better to set up your tent near Skåltjørna, a beautiful lake at the base of the Hardangerjøkulen (massive glacier that is).

The following day, after about 5 hours of hiking, you'll reach Dyranut. This is a roadside restaurant/inn along one of the main roads across the Hardangervidda. Here, you can catch your breath before taking the bus to Geilo. If you wish, you can also spend the night here. Purchase your bus tickets on, and it's handy to download their app. Keep in mind that buses don't run very frequently here; in this case, only twice a day.

For preparation on such hikes, several items are crucial. Of course, the obvious essentials like ample provisions, well-worn hiking boots, a sturdy backpack, and a warm sleeping bag are important. But also, bear in mind that you'll need the following on such trips:

  • Waterproof jacket and trousers

  • Lightweight windbreaker and hiking trousers with moisture-wicking properties

  • Woolen or blended underwear with an extra set

  • Wool socks with a snug fit and an extra pair

  • Wool sweater or jacket, or a lightweight down jacket

  • Lightweight tent (I always bring one, even though I'm planning to stay in cabins, just to be sure of shelter in case something might change, like the weather for example).

  • A thin matress or underlay to seperate you from cold surfaces

  • Woolen mittens or gloves that retain warmth when wet

  • Lightweight sneakers (nice to have when your hiking boots are wet)

  • Well-worn (!!!) hiking boots to prevent blisters

  • Shorts and t-shirt made of wool or synthetic fibers for warmer weather

  • A thermosflask, both for your morning coffee and to keep the water you drink from rivers nice and cool during warm days.

  • Backpack with suitable volume

  • Waterproof bag that fits inside the backpack (optional rain cover)

  • Sleeping bag if camping; otherwise, a sleeping bag liner for DNT huts (even in midsummer, temperatures can drop at high altitudes)

  • Power banks for charging devices

  • First aid kit with blister plasters and sports tape

  • Minimal toiletries and a small/lightweight towel (preferably biodegradable toothpaste)

  • Toilet paper and an extra garbage bag (you will not find trashbins in the wildernis and dumping your rubbish is an absolute no-go).

  • Sunglasses and sunscreen

  • Insect repellent/mosquito net

  • Map, compass, and waterproof map case, or GPS device

  • Multitool and duct tape

  • Matches/lighter

  • Compact headlamp/flashlight

  • Cash/debit card

  • DNT key

  • Digital DNT membership card

  • Provisions! Rather too many than too few!

If you'd like to visit Finse but don't fancy camping or hiking, that's also an option. You can enjoy the same splendid view in all comfort. Book a night at Hotel Finse 1222.

So, there you have it—an adventure through the breathtaking Norwegian wilderness, accessible without a car, with the convenience of trains and the charm of hiking. Prepare well, and you're in for an unforgettable experience. Pinky swear!


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