Turtagrø Hotel is famous for its long tradition as a centre for mountain hiking in Norway. Located at the tip of Sognefjord – Norway’s longest and deepest fjord – it’s surrounded by the dramatic Jotunheimen National Park. The park contains the highest mountain peaks in Norway, with more than 20 over 2,000 metres. The impressive scenery, well-marked paths and excellent facilities make Turtagrø an ideal place to experience some world class hiking in Norway. Think barren mountain scenery, moss-covered rocks, creeping glaciers and difficult to get to lakes.

Furthermore, the recently refurbished Turtagrø Hotel with their well-equipped walking facilities and delicious food, provide an ideal venue from which to explore the area from. Their helpful staff are very knowledgeable on the national park and willing to provide information to make your hiking a success. They weren’t good enough for us, however. Midway through our driving holiday in Norway, we managed to fail at both of the walks we attempted.

Hotel Turtagrø History

The 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. As a result, Turtagrø became a meeting place for mountaineering and hiking in Norway and steadily grew in popularity.

In 1040, German prisoners of war arrived at Turtagrø after the nearby Lom POW camp was abandoned due to German troops advancing on 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 shifted out on snow sleds.

In the mid 20th century the hotel was remodelled with the modern-day comforts of water and electricity. After a fire, the hotel was rebuilt in 2002 into the Nordic hiking-inspired building it is today.

Aurlandsvegen is a twisting, barren mountain pass connecting the lush fjord region with the Jotunheimen National Park.

Hiking in Norway from Turtagrø Hotel

It’s obvious the minute you arrive at Turtagrø that this is a walker’s paradise. The front entrance is lined with helpful walking pamphlets and maps, while the back contains a convenient area for disposing of muddy walking boots and wet gear. Additionally, Turtagrø has an impressive library with a collection of over 1400 books on walking, mountaineering, mountain living and philosophy. So, there’s plenty of intellectual reading while you sit – cosying up to the open fire in their modern lounge – and peer through the large windows at the spectacular scenery.

With so many peaks in the area over 2,000 metres, many of the paths require mountain climbing experience. The hotel can provide professional mountaineering guides to take you to some of the more technically difficult locations. If you have the nerve to tackle them.

Mark and I are what would be described as “fair weathered” walkers, preferring a moderately challenging amble in the mountains to dangling precariously from a cliff. We opted for hikes that only require a map, a good sense of direction and a willingness to get lost.

Attempting the Fannaråki Hytte circular walk

Hotel Turtagrø is perfectly located for hiking right from the doorstep. 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. This is probably due to its prominent position in the area. 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. It started off well enough. Although we had ominous grey skies overhead and slushy moss-covered ground underfoot, there was no sign of rain. About halfway up, as silvery waterfalls trickled down the valley walls, the clouds appeared to be 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. Sticking below the cloud line looked like a much better option at this point. When I say “we” it was probably mostly me.

We generally consider ourselves proficient at planning walking holiday, our 7 days in the Italian Dolomites was a resounding success. So after our first failed plan, we had to push on. The next attempt was Styggesbreen Glacier. This impressive, brooding glacier looked picture perfect from the various Instagram shot’s I’d seen, so we quickly re-planned and designed an impromptu circular walk around the valley. The glacier was certainly impressive, but with so much rain the day before, luck was not on our side. The river at the bottom of the glacier was so full, crossing it was not going to happen. Our ingenious impromptu circular route was scuppered at the mid-way point.

Feeling slightly disappointed but still basking in the beautiful scenery, we headed back the way we came and took a quick early afternoon coffee stop back at the hotel.

Fannaråki Hytte Walk | Duration: 6 hours return; Ascent: 940 m; Distance: 14 kms


A more successful stroll to Nedre Dyrhaugsrygg

Rejuvenated from our coffee, we headed 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 in Norway 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.

The path rises steeply in sharp turns beside a waterfall until you come to a dam at the top of the first peak. At various points, you’ll need to muster all the balance you have to cross the small river on stepping stones. Once at the top, 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. Scan the list for our names.

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 Norway scene.

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

There are several other easy walks from Turtagrø that require no guide or special equipment. All offer beautiful views of this amazing place.

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.

Persistent rain made the river crossings tricky and our walking plans futile.

Culinary options in the Jotunheimen National Park

With nothing else around but the magnificent scenery, the only food option you have is to eat at the hotel. The modern dining rooms seats 80 people at several long tables, set up to ensure you have no choice but to chat with other guests while you eat. Dinner is a 3-course set menu with the main served in sharing platters for groups of 4. There’s no better way to meet new people than by sharing food and discussing how wet you got on your walk that day. The dining room has floor to ceiling windows with spectacular views of the mountain setting.

Breakfast is a buffet with all the usual European breakfast selections plus a few quirky Norwegian additions thrown in. The beauty of their breakfast set up is that they will allow you to take a few items – at a small extra cost – to create your own lunch on the go.

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.

Getting to Turtagrø Hotel

The pleasures of hiking in Norway from Turtagrø don’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 up the mountains with stunning views all around and 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.

Closest towns to Turtagrø:

Sognefjord (17 km)
Fortun (10 km)
Øvre Årdal (32 km)

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