It all started back in 1030 AD with king Olav the Holy who walked with his men to the battle of Stiklestad. King Olav fell in the battle and was buried in what is now the Nidaros Cathedral. Already in 1070 people from all over Europe started to do pilgrimages to Nidaros (now Trondheim).
The walk has inspired nine pilgrimage routes, all leading to the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.
The art of walking
Pilgrimages have been a Christian tradition in Norway, but today the experience is open to all modern pilgrims who love to walk in the great outdoors. A walk along one of the pilgrimage routes gives enough space to think, with a quiet landscape where you can contemplate and heal. The story of Kes Blans from the Netherlands is emblematic. Kes had beaten cancer, but he had lost his ability to trust life. A pilgrimage from Oslo to Trondheim changed everything. “Walking is such a pure thing to do. You just walk. From A to B. It’s like meditation”, says Kes. The journey gave him a sense of achievement and the ability to have feelings again.
Slow travel and friluftsliv
This is real slow travel, where you will meet people along the way. You can refuel your body with plenty of local food and rediscover the joy of resting and immerse yourself in the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv – and learn about Norwegian history as you go along.
You don’t have to walk the whole routes and you can even choose an area or a highlight. Walks can be combined with green transportation, such as by train, bus, boat or on a bike, and with other activities and experiences. You will still be able to visit many of the cultural and historical places along the routes. Most importantly is to enjoy the silence.
Here are some suggested walks with highlights. The St. Olav’s ways website provides a full overview of all the walks.
In the Middle Ages, the main route for thousands of pilgrims went from Oslo through the Gudbrandsdalen valley to Trondheim. The route is 643 km long with well marked paths through a beautiful and varied nature. Along the route you can experience rolling landscape on both sides of Norway’s largest lake, Mjøsa, stay overnight at historical farms, hike over the Dovrefjell national park with rich fauna, and enjoy the quiet and lush nature in the county of Trøndelag.
The Gudbrandsdalsleden is rich in important historical sites, beautiful churches and buildings and you can even stay overnight in an original building used by pilgrims back in the 13th century. Many of these historical sites are directly linked to the saga about king Olav Haraldsson, later St. Olav.
Another very important pilgrimage route was along the west coast of Norway, a route that had been used by the Vikings way back in time. Today the Kystpilegimsleia – the Coastal Pilgrimage Route starts in Egersund in the south and continuous through cities such as Stavanger and Bergen, in fjords and among islands all the way to Trondheim.
Because of the pilgrims lots of trading posts and gust houses grew up along the coast to accommodate the travelers, and several of these are still in use.
Today Kystpilegrimsleia offers fantastic nature experiences with beautiful and dramatic coastal scenery, and modern pilgrims can visit churches, monasteries, historical centres and museums along the way. Most travelers combine their journey with boat, buses, hiking, and even bikes can be used on certain stretches.
The other official St. Olav’s Ways vary in length, but they all have one thing in common. They all lead to Trondheim one way or the other. And the journey matters more than the goal, remember.
Goes along the Oslofjord from the town of Larvik through Norway’s oldest city, Tønsberg, a region were the oldest viking ships were found – today at the Viking Ships Museum in Oslo.
Starts at the Swedish border in southern Norway and includes old fortress towns such as Halden and Fredrikstad.
This path begins in Trysil in Eastern Norway and goes through wild nature, plus the UNESCO World Heritage site, Røros.
Beginning in Valldal near Geirangerfjord in the Western part of Norway, this path meets with Gudbrandsdalsleden in Lesja.
Extends from the Baltic sea along the coast of Sweden before it turns inland through Sweden and leads to Trondheim.
This is Norway’s oldest pilgrim path and is an important connection between two great Nordic saints; St. Olav and the Swedish Saint Birgitta.
Starts north of Trondheim in the town of Grong and leads south through Stiklestad, the place where St. Olav was killed.
Norway is the place to experience the magical northern lights and the midnight sun above the Arctic Circle; visit the world-famous fjords surrounded by spectacular mountains and glaciers; and in the midst of stunning scenery, enjoy gourmet food and culture in the cities of Oslo, Trondheim, Stavanger, Bergen and Tromsø.
For best advice on Norway, click on www.visitnorway.com
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