The Turtagrø Hotel is perfectly located for the remarkable hiking in Jotunheimen National Park. But heavy rain, low cloud and a poor map meant we were never quite where we wanted to be.


The Jotunheimen National Park contains the highest mountains in Norway, with more than 20 over 2,000 metres. It is wild desolate beautiful terrain. And no area is wilder or more rugged than Hurrungane, tucked in the south-west corner of the park, with its towering rugged peeks overlooking creeping glaciers and its gushing rivers crashing through moss-covered rocks.

And on the edge of the park is the Turtagrø Hotel. A modern walkers dream hotel, with hiking maps and walking books and warm fires and flowing coffee. It offers respite, on a daily basis, to the cold and weary, who doggedly head out on the myriad of paths that twist and turn over this remarkable landscape.

We joined these dogged searchers, heading out into the cold and wet. But our planned walks were proving tricky as low thick cloud and fast-flowing rivers blocked our path. Yet in spite of the challenges, the beauty of hiking in Jotunheimen National Park shone through the gloom and our misadventures brought more reward than we could have imagined.

Lost and found again while hiking in Jotunheimen from Turtagrø Hotel

THE EXCELLENT TURTAGRØ HOTEL

The Turtagrø Hotel was first built in 1888 as a meeting place for local tourists keen to explore the excellent scenery in the area. With an interest in mountain hiking, the early owners studied modern techniques for tackling the areas lofty peaks and Turtagrø became a meeting place for mountaineering and hiking in Jotunheimen, steadily growing in popularity.

In 1940, German prisoners of war arrived at Turtagrø, after the nearby Lom POW camp was abandoned as German troops advanced into the area. Both prisoners and guards spent a night at the hotel on their way to Vadheim, some 200 kilometres to the west. The weakest of the prisoners, unable to make the trek, stayed at the hotel under guard, until they could be carried out on snow sleds. In the mid 20th century the hotel was remodelled with the modern-day comforts of water and electricity. But in 2002 it caught fire and was reconstructed into the Nordic hiking-inspired building it is today. And what a building it is.

The Turtagrø Hotel is a modern burnt red metal building standing proud against the wind. The front entrance is lined with helpful walking pamphlets and maps as staff give advice with a cheery smile. The lounge offers a warm fire, bottomless coffee and an impressive library with a collection of over 1,400 books on walking, mountaineering, mountain living and philosophy. Floor to ceiling windows allow you to soak up the scenery without getting wet and comfy sofas provide rest to weary limbs. While the front is modern, sleek and geared for comfort the back is practical with a dry room for disposing of muddy walking boots and wet gear. It is a hiker’s dream. And it was for hiking that we had come.

HIKING IN JOTUNHEIMEN NATIONAL PARK

Hiking in Jotunheimen National Park comes in all shapes and sizes, from challenging mountain climbs needing equipment and guides, to gentle easy strolls. We are “fair weather” walkers, preferring a moderately challenging amble to dangling precariously from a cliff. For us, hiking in Jotunheimen would require only a map, a good sense of direction and a willingness to get lost.

The Turtagrø Hotel is excellently located, sitting on the doorstep of the Hurrungane peaks, a myriad of paths leave from its front door. Helpful knowledgeable staff can provide information to make your hiking a success. But they weren’t knowledgeable enough for us. We managed to fail at two of the three walks we attempted.


MORE READING

For another fantastic walk in Norway, read about our adventures hiking to Skageflå Farm. For our full Norway Itinerary, head over here. If walking takes your fancy, check out all our hiking posts.


HIKING IN JOTUNHEIMEN 1/ FANNARÅKI HYTTE

Although there are a number of easy walks from the hotel, we set our sights slightly higher. Our goal was Fannaråki Hytte. At 2068m, Fannaråki is one of the most popular of the 2000+ peaks in Norway. Visible from all roads leading to Turtagrø, Fannaråki stands proud, beckoning naïve walkers to make the climb while requiring no special climbing gadgetry or experience.

We headed off nice and early with our lunch raided from the breakfast bar at the hotel. Although we had ominous grey skies overhead and slushy moss-covered ground underfoot, there was no sign of rain. And after 40 minutes of jumping over gushing streams, we got to Helgedalselvi and gained good views up the valley. But as we began to climb from the valley floor, with silvery waterfalls trickling down the valley cliffs, the clouds were getting lower and lower. With the wind now picking up, and visibility at the top set to be zero, we decided to abandon our dream of conquering Fannaråki. We thought sticking below the cloud line looked like a much better option. When I say “we” it was probably mostly me.

HIKING IN JOTUNHEIMEN 2/ STYGGESBREEN GLACIER

We generally consider ourselves proficient at planning a walking holiday. So, after our first failed plan, we had to push on. Consulting a picture of the map we had taken at the Turtagrø Hotel, we decided to set our heights a bit lower and make for Styggesbreen Glacier on the Styggedalen to Svartfjell circular path.

We scrambled up a steep slow, around a lake and came face to face with this impressive, brooding glacier as it rose up into the cloud. The air around it was cold and the rain from the day before had fed fast-flowing deep rivers cascading out of the small glacial lake that sits at its base.

We walked up and we walked down the banks, but we could find no way across. There was a quick discussion about socks and shoes and cold feet and thigh deep water but we concluded we were done. Our ingenious impromptu circular route was scuppered. Feeling slightly disappointed but still basking in the beautiful scenery, we headed back the way we came and grabbed at the hotel.

HIKING IN JOTUNHEIMEN 3/ NEDRE DYRHAUGSRYGG

Rejuvenated from our rest, we continued our hiking in Jotunheimen by heading out on the much easier walk to Nedre Dyrhaugsrygg. The path heads south and the minute you cross the river on the old wooden bridge, a couple of hundred metres from the hotel, you find yourself in prime hiking territory. Small babbling brooks meander around moss covered rocks as pure fresh air fills your lungs and puts even the most stressed mind in a relaxed zen-like mood.

At various points, you’ll need to muster all the balance you have to cross the small river on stepping stones. The path rises steeply in sharp turns beside a waterfall until you come to a dam from which the walk continues along a ridge with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. At Nedre Dyrhaugsrygg, sign your name on the post-box before admiring the snow peaks to your west.

It’s an easy and beautiful walk up to Nedre Dyrhaugsrygg, the perfect antidote to prior walking failures. Gentle rolling hills framed by the dramatic peaks and cute little huts perched by trickling rivers creates that perfect hiking in Jotunheimen scene. All that was left was the hike back down to a well-deserved beer and dinner.

THE DETAILS/ HIKING IN JOTUNHEIMEN NATIONAL PARK

There are many paths that lead from the Turtagrø Hotel. Below is a list of some recommended walks, others can be found on their website here.

Nedre Dyrhaugsrygg | Duration: 3-4 hours return; Ascent: 307m; Distance: 4km

Tindeklubbhytta (1344m) | Duration: 3 hours; This walk takes you up to the Norwegian Tindeklubs members’ hut, which although only open to members, provides impressive views to Dyrhaugsryggen and Skagastølstindane.

Ringsdalen (1200m) | Duration: 2 hours; Beautiful and relatively simple mountain terrain through the base of the valley with sweeping views towards Ringstindane mountains.

Styggedalen – Svartafjell (560m) | Duration: 4 hours; Walking along a picturesque lake, this path provides impressive views over Hurrungane and Styggedalsbreen.

Dulsete i Mørkrisdalen (400m) | Duration: 2-3 hours; A beautiful walk, criss-crossing small rivers while surrounded by moss-covered trees, in the most fertile part of the area.

THE DETAILS/ TURTAGRØ HOTEL

The Turtagrø Hotel is not particularly cheap – like most things in Norway. But, for a great experience in incredible scenery, we thought there was enough value to justify the expense. Booking information, regular events and current prices are available on their website.

Breakfast is included and they will allow you to take a few items – at a small extra cost – to create your own lunch on the go. Dinner is a high-quality 3-course set menu with the main served in sharing platters for groups of 4.

The pleasures of hiking in Jotunheimen National Park from Turtagrø Hotel doesn’t start when you arrive. Getting there is half the fun. If you are arriving from the north, take the Sognefjellet Road, known to tourist agencies and marketing folk as “the roof of Norway.” It’s a spectacular road that twists around the mountains with stunning views all around. It is usually open from May to September.

If you are coming from the south, the private toll road (high road) between Øvre Årdal and Turtagrø is equally as impressive. Up here it’s a barren, boulder-strewn landscape; regularly considered one of the most scenic drives in the country. The road is usually open from May to October.

LIKE THIS ARTICLE? PIN IT!

Share this article
“Untold