What to bring hiking in Balestrand

When doing day hikes in Balestrand we recommend wearing solid hiking shoes and bringing a small backpack with the following essentials:

  • Any important medications

  • Food

  • Map

  • Water bottle

  • Rain jacket

  • Extra wool layer

  • Warm hat

  • Charged cell phone

  • Plastic bag for garbage, your own or whatever you find

These items are also important to bring along:

  • Extra socks

  • Rain pants

  • Scarf or neckband

  • Sunglasses

  • Sunscreen

  • Mittens or gloves

On demanding and very demanding hikes you should bring a compass. Always check the forecast before going out, and always be prepared for bad weather, even on short trips.

Hiking Time Calculator

When looking at a map, it can be difficult to understand how long a route will take. This calculator puts together a few rules of thumb from the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT), and we have found that its estimates are close to our experience of the times needed for hiking in Balestrand.

When using the calculator, make sure to use the total number of kilometers, that is, double the amount of linear routes where you come back the same way. The calculator gives one quarter of the hiking time as the recommended rest time, our interpretation of the DNT recommendation to add an hour of rest per 4 to 5 hours of hiking.

The hike grading controls how much time is added per meters of ascent and descent. The DNT recommends adding 15 minutes per 100 meters of ascent and 7.5 minutes per 100 meters of descent. For easy trails, we subtract 50% and for demanding trails we add 50%. For trails graded as very demanding, this calculator shouldn’t be used as a guide. Be aware that weather has an affect on how difficult a trail is. For example, a demanding boggy trail can become easy when frozen, or an easy trail can become waterlogged and demanding after heavy rain.

Hike Grading

We use the Norwegian national standard for hike grading, which grades trails based on the total elevation gain, total distance, steepness, walking surface, and obstructions. More information (in Norwegian) is available at merkehandboka.no. This is our translation of the 2019 national standard:

Easy Hike Easy

The hike requires no special abilities, and is suitable for beginning hikers. The route may be up to 5 km long, with up to 300 m of elevation gain. There may be moderate ascents, but no steep sections. The walking surface is firm and solid, with no major obstructions or fords. 

Moderate Hike Moderate

The hike requires a little hiking experience, moderate stamina, and basic outdoor skills. The route may be up to 10 km long, with up to 600 meters of elevation gain. It has moderate slopes, and may have some steep, demanding sections. Some sections may seem precipitous for hikers with a fear of heights. The walking surface may be rocky, but does not go on scree. There may be easy fords.

Demanding Hike Demanding

The hike requires hiking experience and good stamina. It also requires good hiking boots and equipment. You must be able to use a map and compass. The route may be up to 20 km long, with up to 1000 meters of elevation gain. There may be steep slopes and several precipitous sections. The walking surface may be loose and rocky, and there may be long sections of bog or scree. There may be fords and obstructions that require scrambling or using hands for support.

Very Demanding Hike Very Demanding

The hike is suitable only for experienced mountaineers with good stamina. It requires good hiking boots and equipment. You must be able to use a map and compass. The route has steep and technically difficult sections. The walking surface is uneven. The trail may go on narrow ridges, bare rock, or scree. Some sections may require exposed scrambling. There may be demanding fords.

The table from the trail marking handbook which gives the guidelines for trail grading. Click to enlarge.

Balestrand With Kids

If you are in Balestrand with children, here are some tips for things to do in the village or less than two hours away.

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Sognefjord Aquarium

The Sognefjord Aquarium is in the center of Balestrand, and is open from May 1st to September 15th. It’s open from 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. The ticket to the aquarium costs 75 kroner for adults, and 35 kroner for children, including an hour rental with a canoe or rowboat. Children under 16 can’t take out the rowboats without an adult. You can also rent canoes and rowboats by the hour without a ticket to the aquarium. The aquarium contains many of the fish that live in the Sognefjord, and most of them are caught by students that take part in a nature program that happens there.

Public Beaches and Playground

There are two public beaches in Balestrand and one in the arboretum in Dragsvik (See the map at the bottom of this post). In the summertime the water temperature can reach 20 degrees Celsius. There is also a good climbing playground and football field by the primary school.

Playground by the primary school in Balestrand

Playground by the primary school in Balestrand

Morning Trip to Vik

If you are up early you can take the 7:50 a.m. express boat to Vik to see the Hopperstad stave church. The boat ride takes about 20 minutes, and it takes about 20 minutes to walk up to the church. You can book the boat tickets online or at the Tourist Information Office in Balestrand. To come back you take the boat at 11:35 from Vik, arriving back in Balestrand at 11:55. This works every day except for Sundays.

Family Fjord Safari

Balestrand Fjord Angling has a trip designed for families called the Family Fjord Safari which includes trolling in the Fjærlandsfjord and pulling pre-set nets. It takes 2 hours and 45 minutes. The price is 3,000 kroner for up to four guests, then 500 kroner for each additional guest.

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Short Hikes

Balestrand is small, and the roads that go through the village have little traffic, and they make a good stroller route if you have small children. There are also a few short hikes that are good with kids. There is a very short loop starting from behind the school with signs in English and Norwegian describing different plants and animals that live in the forest. There is a longer loop out to Skåsheim that takes about 2 hours. It is also possible to shorten the loop by half by taking a shortcut near Sandstølen. A good hike for kids that takes you up higher is Orrabenken, or further to the hut at Balastølen. Here there is a small library of children’s books written in New Norwegian, the language of Western Norway.

Høyangerbadet Swimming Pool

In Høyanger, a 45-minute drive from Balestrand, there is a public swimming pool with an indoor and outdoor section. It is especially popular to go there in cold, rainy weather. There is a waterslide and several diving boards. The price for families is 250 kroner (for two adults and their children). The pool is closed on Mondays, and is open from 5:00 p.m. to 9 p.m. on all other weekdays. On weekends they are open from noon to 6 p.m.

St. Olaf’s Church

For fans of the Disney movie Frozen, St. Olaf’s Church is good to visit. The inside of the church was the inspiration for the church in the Else’s coronation scene.

St. Olaf’s Church

St. Olaf’s Church

Balestrand Movie Theater

There is a small volunteer-run movie theater in Balestrand called Friberg Kino, inside of the Village Hall. It shows premieres at the same time as the cities, and all movies are in the original language with Norwegian subtitles, except for movies for small children, which are dubbed. Most films cost 95 kroner, and they take only cash.

Balestrand Fjord Sightseeing

Every day from April 1st to September 30th at 13:00 there is an 80-minute RIB tour, Balestrand Fjord Sightseeing, which starts at the Balestrand Tourist Information Office. The boat goes first to Esebotn, an landscape popular among National Romantic painters. The tour then goes to Kvinnafossen, a 120 meter high waterfall. The next stop is near the Fritjof Statue, a historical curiosity donated by Kaiser Wilhelm II from Germany. Then the tour continues to Kvamsøy, a small island with a stone church from the late 1200s. Finally, the boat passes along Balestrand’s row of dragon-style villas before stopping at the harbor again. The price is 750 kroner for adults and 450 kroner for children 15 and younger.

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The first stop of Balestrand Fjord Sightseeing in Esebotn

The first stop of Balestrand Fjord Sightseeing in Esebotn

Fjord and Glacier Tour

Every day from June 1st to September 15th there is a passenger ferry that goes at 8:00 and 12:00 from Balestrand to Fjærland. The trip takes about an hour and a half each way, and you can get a package ticket, the Fjord and Glacier Tour, that gets you up to the Glacier Museum and to the Jostedalsbreen Glacier. After the glacier visit, the bus goes back to the harbor in Mundal. On the half-day tour you get right back on the boat, but on the full-day tour you have two hours and ten minutes to visit the Norwegian Book Town.

The tour is a good way to learn about glaciers: the boat goes up a fjord arm that was carved by a glacier, and the museum teaches you how glaciers work, and you see a part of the glacier that shaped the Fjærlandsfjord.

The boat returns to Balestrand in time for the Express Boat to Bergen. For the full-day tour, leaving at 8:00, the price is 845 kroner for adults and 423 kroner for children. For the half-day tour, leaving at 12:00, the price is 805 kroner for adults and 403 kroner for children.

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At the Norwegian Glacier Museum in Fjærland

At the Norwegian Glacier Museum in Fjærland

Sognefjord Snowshoeing

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In the wintertime, from January 15th to April 15, there is a short snowshoing tour leaving at 10:00 daily from the Tourist Information Office. From here you take a minibus to Saurdal, 600 meters above sea level. Then your guide will help you put on snowshoes, and you walk together a half kilometer to a traditional Norwegian wooden lean-to where you make a campfire and eat a small lunch before walking back to the minibus. The price 790 kroner for adults and 375 kroner for children 15 and younger.

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