What to do in Eight Hours ashore… OLDEN, Norway – a Cruise Port Guide…
OLDEN is a perfect example of just why you should take a Fjords cruise! It is situated at the end of the remote Nordfjorden fjord which is part of the Norway that you can only see from the water. The journey from sea to port takes you past tiny hamlets with no visible road access, thundering waterfalls and towering snow, capped mountains. It is worth being up early to enjoy the scenery and, if you have a balcony, order room service breakfast and enjoy! The fjord extends 66 miles inland from the sea and Olden sits on the southern branch of the deepwater Nordfjord, at the entrance to the scenic Oldedalen Valley. The most popular attractions in the area are the Jostedal Glacier – the largest glacier in mainland European – the Briksdal Glacier and the Loen Skylift.
Language: Norwegian but English is widely spoken
Currency: The currency in Stavanger is the Norwegian krone, (plural kroner). Exchange rate is currently 13.66 NOK to UK £1, 10.96 NOK to $1US, and 11.77 NOK to €1. (June 23)
Climate: the summer cruise season will have a maximum of 22C° on a sunny day but these only occur about 50% of the time! Pack layers, waterproof jackets and proper boots/ waterproof trainers…
Time Zone : GMT/UTC + 2h summer / +1 winter – aligned with Europe CET.
Accessibility: Good, Norway is a disability aware country. Most shops have slope access and other facilities. Immediate area outside ship is flat and the local village is a virtually level walk away.
Head of State: King Harald V is the present King.
NORWAY – officially ‘The Kingdom of Norway’, is often also called the Land of the MIdnight Sun. It is the northernmost European country, lying on the west edge of the Scandinavian peninsula, partly within the Arctic Circle to the north. Its coastal position gives it one of the milder climates in the country. Norways terrain is mainly mountainous and its long coastline comprises deep fjords, glaciers and more than 50,000 coastal islands. The majority of the population lives in coastal cities such as Bergen and Stavanger with most in the far south centred around Oslo, the capital. Norway has a long seafaring culture, early Norsemen, or Vikings, travelled as far as North America, Russia, Iceland, invading England in the 9th century. Notable Norwegians include explorers Leif Eriksson, Fridjof Nansen, Roald Amundesen and Thor Heyerdahl, the composer Edvard Grieg, playwright Henrik Ibsen and painter Edvard Munch. Norway is one of the worlds leading petrol and gas exporters.
OLDEN – the immediate port area and cruise terminal
Olden is a little village, with a small population of about 500, situated in the municipality of Stryn in Vestland, Norway. There are not as many facilities as you would find in a larger port and most activities are focused on the outdoors experience and enjoying the stunning local scenery. The majority of experiences here are al fresco so many people leave taking a choice on what they do until they arrive, in order to make sensible weather related choices! be aware that rebooked ships excursions will not be cancelled due to adverse weather, so make sure you have good waterproofs and trainers/ boots with you, especially if you’re planning to hike.
Olden has a deep water berth, but if the port is busy some ships may have to anchor off and use their tenders to the dock. There is no Cruise Terminal here, Ships Security set up a fenced area around the ship which you access with your cruise ID. There is no shuttle service to Olden village itself, which is 15 minutes walk inland from the dock, but there are shops, bars, a supermarket and various excursion offerings in the immediate port area. There isn’t an ATM at the port and we haven’t ever found one in the village so bring cash or a credit/ currency card – both are widely accepted. Similarly there is no car hire locally and no taxi rank although there are two local Taxi companies that you might want to contact in advance https://www.stryntaxi.no/ or Olden Taxis on +47 95086146.
The Tourist Information Office is in the main village but Olden Active acts as the Information Centre for cruisers. Here you can book excursions & arrange activities such as e-bikes, Kayaking, SU Paddle Boarding & rib rides. They have also some good walking maps and leaflets. As well as Olden Active (https://www.oldencruise.com/) there is kayak & bike hire and guided hikes available to book in advance from Discover Olden https://olden1.no/about/ – they are on the other side of the fjord but will collect you from the ship. A little tourist train and a ‘glacier sightseeing’ HOHO bus are based at the dock – more info on them below.
OLDEN – within easy walking…
All of the main attractions in town that are within easy walking distance are listed here with the time from the ship at a gentle stroll. All excursions will be available to book onboard your ship, online independently or on the day if there’s space.
- Olden Village, (15 minutes from ship) is a pretty little village with about 500 inhabitants, situated at the southernmost end of the Nordfjord. Icy streams of melted glacier water tumble through the village and are crossed by wooden bridges. There are a few shops and two churches. The white, wooden, church dates from 1759 and is worth visiting to see the pews and unusual hat stands! The Red church is newer and anchored down with wires! Apparently gales have lifted it more than 50cm off its base in the past! There is a supermarket, art gallery, bar and coffee shop.
- Rib Ride, (0 minutes from ship) – an hour long adrenaline rush that you board on the dock, next to the ship. Organise in advance through ship, online independently through Olden Active or just book on the day.
- Outlet store (8+ minutes from ship), there are three outlet stores in Olden, all selling ‘outdoor’ clothing. The nearest to the ship is the Riccovero shop and then there are two others in town. If you need waterproofs this is a good place to get them as they are good quality and better value here than elsewhere in Norway. Don’t forget that you can claim local taxes back on purchases over 315 NOK if you are from outside the EU/ Schengen zone.
- ‘Noddy’ or Tourist train, (O minutes from ship) this road based chugalong makes a 4 mile circular tour of the local sights and runs every 15 minutes from right outside the ship. The route takes you around the town and up to the Floen Lake, you can also get off in town to see church and have a coffee. The cost is NK300, / £30.00 (2022 a head. The train can take wheelchairs and pushchairs. The route to Floen lake is also walkable (see below).
- HOHO buses/ Big Red Bus), (O minutes from ship) this hour long Glacier Sightseeing circuit is sightseeing OF a glacier from some distance away across a lake, not sightseeing AT the glacier. (note – this is not the same as the Briksdal glacier trip or excursion – see below) The cost is NK300pp and is an out-and-back trip of around an hour with three stops. The first is just outside the town town where the river runs in a shallow waterfall and the second stop is at the far end the large glacial lake. This is where you can see the edge of the Jostedal Glacier in the mountains in the distance (on a clear day). The third stops in the village where you can see the churches, shops and get a coffee. Its fair to say that although the views are fabulous on a good day you never get close to a glacier and this is probably the most complained about excursion – largely because people muddle it with the more expensive ( and more strenuous) trip to Briksdal Glacier(see below)
OLDEN – slightly further way but still walking distance…
- Singerheimen (1 miles/ 30 minutes) – this mint coloured building was the home of the American millionaire and painter William Henry Singer Jr who was a great philanthropist to the local area in the early 20th century. It becomes a centre for artists down by its great views over the fjord and Oldedalen valley. Singerheimen is designated a building of Cultural Heritage but it is only open for prebooked private visits (https://singerheimen.com/).
- Floen Lake– (2 miles/ 45 minutes)- this picturesque emerald green lake is fed by the melted glacier water! It stretches along the Oldevatnet valley away from Olden village towards the Jostedal Glacier so you can walk as far as you like! Further on it becomes known as Oldevatnet Lake. There are few small stoney beaches, good for a paddle and even safe to swim although freezing cold and deep! Worth the walk to see it but only swim if you are used to wild swimming and are properly equipped. The walk is lovely and well signposted, although you can get a map from Tourist Information.
- Huaren viewpoint (3 miles/ 100 minutes) is high above the ship. A well signposted walk leads up through countryside, pastures and woodland and the track is mainly good although quite steep in places. Hiking boots or good trainers needed. No facilities or refreshments on the way! You can get a map from Tourist Information or the route shows on Google maps.
- Loen – (3.5 miles/ 80 minutes) although it is possible to walk here, it is not a particularly pleasant walk alongside the busy road. The time it takes is probably better spent at the top of the Sky lift (See below) or up to the Huaren viewpoint.
Beyond Olden – Trips by public transport if confident, or by cruise company / local excursions if not! The two main attractions here are The Briksdal Glacier and the Loen skylift but there other options which we also cover below.
- Loen Skylift (3.5 miles) – this cable car takes you from water level 1011 metres up to the top of Mt Hoven. It is on the left of the ship just before you reach Olden and it is worth working out where it is – if you cannot see the top of it due to low cloud or rain it probably isn’t worth visiting! I definitely wouldn’t book in advance as the views are the thing and you want to be sure you will have some although to be fair the cloud cover can move quite swiftly. This is a reason not to book through the ship – the time allowed on their visits is quite short and you don’t get much time at the top, if the weather starts to clear it is helpful to be able to stay a little longer. We would advise making a decision when you reach Olden – the base of the Skylift is only about 10 minutes drive from the ship. A Skylift return ticket is about 575 NOK kids aged 6 – 15 are 305 and kids under 6 are free ( although apparently charged for by some cruise lines…) There are also reductions for families and groups. DON’T buy a day pass – those are meant for the guys who spend all day going up on the lift and down by parachute! You COULD purchase a one way ticket and walk down but I really wouldn’t! Do your hiking at the top and keep an eye on the time, there are plenty of easy access paths as well as more challenging ‘off road’ ones. You will find a coffee bar at the upper lift station as well as a bar and a restaurant beneath it. This has stunning views, it is very expensive but worth considering for a treat. More info here https://www.loenskylift.com/opening-hours-and-prices/ There are four options for reaching the Sky Lift independently
- Our recommendation is that you take the bus transfer to the lift. Return cost including Skylift ticket is about NK750 (approx £65 pp) (NK850/ £73 in high season) (2022) Shuttles leave every 30 mins or so from just outside the ship. It is really well organised and tickets are available at the tourist information office or at the bus stop.
- You can also walk there in about an hour or so – not a particularly pleasant walk alongside the road but pretty flat and level with nice views.
- A local bus, number 130 leaves at 11.30 from the stop on the opposite side of the road but it just that one a day! There is a return trip at 16.00 which we feel is a bit tight, so you should probably plan to walk back (We have heard that people have returned on the shuttle buses…)
- There are two local Taxi companies that you might want to contact IN ADVANCE to book a transfer there https://www.stryntaxi.no/ or Olden Taxis on +47 95086146.
- Briksdal Glacier– (14 miles 30 minute drive)- Before the Loen Skylift was built the ‘must do’ tour in Olden was a trip up to Briksdal Glacier. Tours (cruise ship or booked through Olden Adventures) takes you on a forty minute drive to Visitors Centre (shop/ restaurant) from where you can walk up to the Glacier. There are also ‘Troll cars’ – 6 passenger jeeps that you can use to avoid the steepest part of the walk to the Glacier – they do NOT take you all the way. To be clear, the walk from the coach park, is rough and steep in places and even at a brisk pace it is almost an hour to get to the glacier along a route that includes a road but also cobbles, steps and an uneven path. It is not wheelchair or buggy friendly, you get better views of the waterfall walking thats you do from the Trollcar. Good trainers or walking shoes recommended and take water with you. No refreshments or facilities between the visitors centre and the lake at the foot of the Glacier. The Troll Cars cost extra but cut out the worst of the walk – from their end point it is still about 20 mins level but uneven walk to the lake at the foot of the glacier. It is not suitable for wheelchairs and you cannot take them on the troll car. Look out for the signs which show how far the Glacier has receded over the last 500 years or so! And be aware that the Glacier you see today may not appear as dramatic as that sometimes see in pictures… some of which may have been taken some while ago!! Lots more information here https://www.briksdal.com/ .
TBH this is one place I think I would recommend the ships tour – on P&O (2023) it was not too expensive (£80 with Troll car) and gave a reasonable amount of time to walk there and back.
Your options to reach Briksdal are…
- Excursions -Ships or otherwise, which usually include very welcome coffee and cake after the walk! Excursions available online with other companies including Olden Active or on the day at the port. If you want to book on the day you need to be up bright and early as the queues get quite long.
- TAXI – there are two local Taxi companies that you might want to contact in advance https://www.stryntaxi.no/ or Olden Taxis on +47 95086146. One recommended taxi company is Olden Taxis, Tel number: +47 95086146. You would need to book a pickup and drop-off in advance of arriving in Olden.
- Local Bus – the bus stop is outside the shops about 150 years to the left of the ship, There is only one bus a day marked GLACIER BUS SERVICE! It leaves at 09:45 with arrival Briksdalen at 10:45. Return is at 13:30 with arrival Olden at 14:00. www.skyss.no
Further afield – Other attractions in the area that may be of interest and are best accessed by excursions or private tours include;
- Hydlaparken– (13 miles/ 25 min drive)- Ziplines, trails, climbing walls and roof tops walks – great for active kids https://www.hydlaparken.no/en-home
- Oldevatnet Lake– (14 miles/ 30 minute drive)- a cruise on the lake is a peaceful and leisurely way to spend an afternoon and has good views of the Jostedal Glacier.
- Kjenndal Glacier– (13 miles/ 40 minute drive) – is at the end of the Loen lake, and a visit to its base is often combined with a lake cruise.
- Sagastad Viking Museum-(30 miles/ 50 minute drive) – this museum which houses one of the largest Viking ships in the world is just the thing for Viking enthusiasts https://sagastad.no/en/
- Norwegian Glacier Museum– (35 miles/ 60 minute drive) – architect designed museum and climate change centre at the Boyabreen Glacier https://www.bremuseum.no/
SHOPPING in Olden:
Olden is not really a shopping port although there are Souvenir shops with the usual mix of Trolls, Runes & other Viking themed items, often in wood or pewter. Sheepskins & reindeer fur pelts are everywhere ( Warning – the latter look great on a bed but are not meant to be used on a floor. The hair is hollow and they shed if walked on…) . The tourist stores along the dockside also offer outdoorwear, knitted jumpers, teeshirts and fleeces which make useful souvenirs. Best value is the Outdoor wear from the outlet stores mentioned above. Prices are high but don’t forget that you can claim local taxes back on individual purchases over 315 NOK if you are from outside the EU/ Schengen ne. You usually do this onboard at Olden – it needs to be done before the ship leaves and the official disembarks. Ask at Customer services for more info…
FOOD & DRINK Olden; again Norway is EXPENSIVE and for that reason we tend not to plan to eat more than snacks when ashore. There are bars and restaurants near the dock and coffee shop in town has well as an excellent supermarket. Cruise excursions are offered tea and cake at the Glacier and there is a beautiful ( if eyewateringly expensive) restaurant and bar at the tope of the Loen Skylift.
Norwegian Foodie souvenirs include dried Reindeer meat, Brunost – a caramelised brown cheese that is almost fudge-like, Kvikk Lunsj – Norwegian hiking chocolate, liquorice, aquavit, cloudberry preserves, tinned meats and sardines and other fish in colourful tins but, as above, Olden is not really a shopping port.
FINALLY – leaving Olden:
The bar above Olden Active on the dockside gives a rousing send off to ships as they leave – its worth trying to catch it! If you weren’t up early for the sail in then grab a drink and a comfy spot to enjoy the sail out.. hot tub with a glass of Prosecco maybe!!
I hope you enjoyed reading this Cruise Port Guide and that it will be useful to you. If we’ve tempted you to visit Olden, Norway you can search for your own cruise here..