The St. Olavs Way is suitable for the experienced bicycle traveler. The route is hard in relative terms, but...
- because of the many accomodations, you have the option to do shorter distances.
- the summers are short, but it is a misconception that they are cool. Warm summers are no exceptions in Scandinavia. The weather does tend to change more quickly than in southern Europe.
- the Norwegian people are friendly end hospitable: as pilgrim you get a warm welcome.
- but the most important reason to go over this route is bacause of the wonderful incomparable landcapes Norway has to offer!
All practical information at a glance:
The guide is presently only available in Dutch and is not translated (yet) in English. But you can still use it!
Tip 1: Read: How to use the guide as a non Dutch-speaker? Here you can find the explanation how to use the Dutch guide. Including the translation of the most important parts. For example: how to read the maps.
Tip 2: You can use a translation app with a camera function (f. ex. Google Lens or Google Translate) to read the Dutch text in the guide.
The guide contains:
- route segmentation per region
- maps with the bicycle route and the alternative routes
- elevation profile per segment
- a global route description
- extra navigation texts for the hard parts
- information on how hard it is and roud surface quality
- description of alternative routes
- information in attractions and highlights
- mentions of accommodations, shops and places to eat
- all the information to arrange your trip to your preferences
- Three extra bicycle routes: Cycling in Oslo (15 km), Cycling over Nes & Helgøya (79 km) and Tour de Dovre (125 km)
- Information about transportation
GPS: click here to downlad the GPS-tracks.
The guide is presently only available in Dutch, but will be translated to English in the future. When there is sufficient demand, the guide might be translated to Norwegian en German as well. If you interested, please contact us.
The first part of the guide gives you information about
- How to use the guide (but I will explain it here for you, so you can skip page 6 and 7)
- Pelgrimage in Norway, page 8-11 (use translation app)
- Overview of the St. Olav's Way, page 12-16 (use translation app)
- Preparation: bicycle and gear, page 17-20 (and again, translation app)
- Practical, page 21-32. (Yes, you can use a translation app here, but you can can find a summary here, just go on reading)
So, now you have used the translation app a lot... And I suppose you can use it for the whole guide, but for the Route descriptions (page 33-214) I will give you some extra explanation, which makes it easier (I hope). But still I recommend a translation app as well. Let me know if it's not clear.
Important: Before you go, take a look at Additions to see if there are any changes or supplemental information that might be of use!
In the guide you will find a global description of the route. In principle the maps should suffice for most of the navigation. There where the route coincides with the hiking route, it's even more easier: this route is well signposted.
Because in this day and age most people don't travel without a GPS or smartphone with a GPS track on it, turn by turn instuctions are no longer of any use.
The complete bicycle route is divided in route segmentation per region. Every segment is introduced in the guide like this:
- the length of this segment is 171 km
- the highest point is 660 metres
- the route is marked with St.Olav-signs for 37%
- -> this means that the bicycle route corresponds to the official hiking route for 37%. For the other 63% of the route, the cycling route and the hinkng route are NOT the same
Besides the St. Olav's Way, there are three extra routes added in the guide: Cycling in Oslo (15 km), Cycling over Nes & Helgøya (79 km) and Tour de Dovre (125 km)
How to read the maps?
English translation of the Legenda you can find in the guide (click to enlarge):
- the red dashed line: main bicycle route
- the blue dashed line: alternatives
- the black dotted line: the official hiking route (note: where the hiking route does not run parallel with the bicycle route!). Here you cannot follow the marks.
About the alternative routes:
In the guide are descriptions of the reasons for the alternatives, so you can make an informed decision about the route you want to take. Wether it is the main route or an alternative. For this reason it's recommended to use the GPS tracks together with the guide.
I admit: how can you make a good decision when it's written in Dutch? Not. But try the translation app and I hope it's more clear then.
Important: never use the black dotted line for cycling! It can sometimes look attractive to bikepackers or mountain bikers, for example, but don't do it. The bicycle route has not been adjusted there for nothing: you can damage vulnerable nature or come into conflict with hikers.
And in the most cases: it's not even possible because of fences or other barriers.
On every map, you see 'drops'
- red drops: accommodations. The numbers in the red dots you can find in de list on page 222-244. Current information about the accommodation can be found at: https://pilegrimsleden.no/en/overnattingssteder (tip: click on 'show in map')
- purple drops with a tool and a number: bicycle repair shops. And some times outdoor shops with a work place for bicycle. The numbers in the purple dots you can find in de list on page 246-247
- purple drops with a letter: means sights (bezienswaardigheden) and amenities (voorzieningen). Sometimes you see diverse voorzieningen, that means 'various amenities'
- purple drops with a supermarket trolley: supermarket
- purple drops with cutlery: café or restaurant
- blue drops with a train or a metro: train stations or subway stations
- warning sign: caution! You can find the warning sign also in the description. Please, use the translation app.
These Dutch words are useful to know
- Alternatieve route = alternative route
- Bezienswaardigheden = sights / places tot visit
- Etappe = segment
- Fiets = bicycle
- Fietsen (plural) = bicycles
- Fietsen (verb) = cycling
- Fietsenmaker = bicycle repair shop
- Het Olavspad = the Dutch name of the St. Olav's Way (Pilegrimsleden in Norwegian)
- Hoofdroute = main route (in this case: the main bicycle route, NOT the hiking route)
- Hoogteprofiel = Elevation profile
- Kaart = map
- Onderweg = on the way
- Overnachten = staying overnight
- Richting = direction
- Routebeschrijving = route description
- Routemarkering = route signs (in this case: the signs of the St. Olav's Way)
- Traject = segment
- Voorzieningen = amenities / facilities
- Waarschuwing = warning
- Wandelroute = hiking route (in this case: the official St. Olav's Way)
The St. Olav's Way is 632 kilometers. Keep in mind your daily distances might be shorter than you're used to, because the route is both challenging and wonderful. A good base condition is a must-have. Frequently you'll climb up out of a valley, and because of the varying quality of the road surface, you won't always be able to go down-hill care free. Even though the hills and mountains aren't very high, they are great in numbers and sometimes in steepness as well. So your stamina will be put to the test.
Having that said: you can make your days as short or as long as you like, because of the large number of places to stay for the night. Pilgrim accommodations are on hiking distance away from each other (30 km max.). You could even take the option to leave the tent as home. travels a bit lighter. If you bring your tent, your sleeping options are considerable, since options like campings or wild camping can be added added.
For a number of difficult parts of the route, there are alternatives provided. If you don't feel like taking the umpteenth climb, there's a good chance there is an alternative.
So don't let the level of difficulty put you off! By the way, you'll be rewarded royally for the effort: the sights are breathtaking and make you forget the effort you put in to the climb for this moment. And you have an excellent reason to take a break.
Taking a couple of resting days into account – Oslo and Trondheim well worth your time to look around – you'll need at least two weeks.
From Oslo there are two routes, an eastern route and a western route. They meet at Lillehammer. The route will be 13 km longer if you choose for the western route.
Elevation profile of Oslo to Lillehammer over the eastern route:
Elevation profile of Oslo to Lillehammer over the western route:
Elevation profile of Lillehammer to Trondheim:
At first the elevation were not specified on the site or in the guide. You can find an elevation profile at the beginning of every segment and the highest point is indicated (see image). In my view these are just 'numbers' used for indication and can differ in the real world. Depending on the source or app, the elevation can differentiate up to 10%.
For those who still like numbers, here's an overview. The source here is judise.nl, a gps-route editor who's elevation numbers in Scandinavia are comparable to the popular Strava (for The Netherlands, Belgium and Nord-Rhein Westfalen the numbers of Judise are even more precise). The website of the Europafietsers shows different elevation data for the St. Olav's Way. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle or above or... and this is exactly the reason I'm not that forward with publishing numbers...
Via east: elevation and decent: 6840 m
Via west: elevation and decent 7770 m
Segment east 1 and 2, from Oslo to Lillehammer
Elevation: 2310 m, decent: 2130 m
East 1: Elevation 750m, decent 640m
East 2: Elevation 1560m, decent 1490m
Segment west 1 and 2, from Oslo to Lillehammer
Elevation: 3170 m, decent: 3080 m
West 1: elevation 1290m, decent 1140m
West 2: elevation 1880m, decent 1860m
Segment 3, Gudbrandsdalen, from Lillehammer to Dombås
Elevation: 2180 m, decent: 1730 m
Segment 4, Dovrefjell, from Dombås to Oppdal
Elevation: 860 m, decent: 920 m
Segment 5, Trøndelag, from Oppdal to Trondheim
Elevation: 1490 m, decent: 2060 m
Cycling in Oslo
Elevation and decent: 80 m
Cycling on Nes & Helgøya
Elevation and decent: 820 m
Tour de Dovre
Elevation and decent: 1100 m
And now for a personal note: from experience I know that numbers are not very relevant. In context, over a distance of 600 km a couple of hundred elevation meters are not that useful. What matters most are the percentages in elevation. A kilometre climbing with 3% is different from a kilometre climbing with 18%. Even more relevant is the fact that one day can be better that the next depending on the mood. health, weather... In short, there are many factors that can make the experience of a trip difficult or easy. No number can account for that.
Before half june there can still be some snow lying around the higher areas and there are possible some flooding as well resulting from melting water. From half september most accommodations, museums and other toerist attractions close their doors.
Temperatures range from 15 to 25 degrees, with outshoots above or below.
Apart from the route guide, you won't need extra paper maps of Norway. The route in the guide is not described extensivly, but in principal the maps and the few descriptions should suffice. In addition the GPS track is an convenient way to find your way.
On the parts that coincide with the hiking route, you can use the signposts of the hiking route. These parts are indicated in the guide. Overall the signage is excelent.
The map on the Norwegian website of St. Olav's way is also a convenient guide while traveling. If you enabled the location service on your smartphone you can see where you are and what accomodations and attractions there are in your area. Note that the site only shows the hiking route and not the bicycle route.
In comparison to the popular route Santiago de Compostela (Camino Francès), the route to Trondheim is very quiet. The numbers: 300.000 arrive every year in Santiago. In Trondheim that's 1500, of which 600 started in Oslo. The other 900 Pilgrims arrived via other routes or modes of transport - like a wandering traveler on a bicycle.
In general you'll see most pilgrims going by foot. Long distance cyclists are rare.
Every year in Trondheim around Olsok, the name day of St. Olav (July 29) there is a festival Olavsfestdagene, with many activities around art, music and church culture. Not only is this the largest festival of Norway, but also the period around which most Pilgrims plan their arrival in Trondheim. There are groups of pilgrims that travel with an organisation. This can make it hard for individual pilgrims to book accomodations.
With a pilgrims passport with which you can collect stamps on your route at accomodations and churches, you can get a (free) Olavsbrev (St. Olav letter) at the pilgrim center in Trondheim. A certificate for completing the pilgrimage. You're entitled to the Olavsbrev if you have cycled the last 100 kilometers at least. The pigrim passport with the dated stamp serve as proof. The passport is also as usefull at accomodation to get a discount as pilgrim. Missing a pilgrim passport is not as problematic as on the route to Santiago where you need it to get access to refugios. The passport is NOK 50 and you can get it at the pilgrim centers.
You encounter enough of restaurants, cafes and shops along the way. Once in a while you'll need to make a detour. The guide provides indications where needed.
The available accomodations vary from very basic to luxurious. Even if you don't bring you tent, a sleeping bag is a necessity. A lot af accomodations provide a discount if you don't use the bed sheets and sometimes they don't provide sheets at all. The guide provide references to accomodations that work together with St. Olav's way. You can find accomodations through services like airbnb, booking.com and Warm Showers.
camping out or sleeping in
Traveling with a tent has it's advantages, especially in Norway. Wild camping is allowed almost anywhere, provided you keep a distance of 150 meters from gates and houses. On farmland you ask permission from the farmer first. Along the route there are enough campings available. If you travel by bicycle with a tent, you're in control of the length of your trip that day and your wallet. If you rather stay in a hotel or hostel, you travel lighter, although you'll still need to bring a sleeping bag along. Most accomodations provide diner, breakfast and a lunch, but you're no always in control of your diet (like diner is as-is). This is inconvenient for vegitarians for example.
Because of the relative high prices in Norway, the use of the possebility of diner in the accomodation makes for a relative expensive pilgrimage. If you want to travel without tent, but controll your expenses, you could use huts (on campings) and cheap hostels as much as possible, and cook for yourself if there's a kitchen available. Because the accomodations are on hiking distances, you have – even without a tent – plenty of choice as a cyclist. In the accomodation overview of the guide you can see what amenities are available there. (See Cycling on a small budget)
The whole route together with the St. Olav way in Sweden and On the way to St. Olav is one big route of almost 2000 kilometers long, called In the footsteps of the Holy Olav. If you cycle the complete route, the start and finish is in Oslo. Somewhere in the year 2023 this route should be completed.
As a route on it's own, you can combine it with:
To (or from) Oslo
- The Jutland Route. This route goes from Emmen (NL) to Skagen (DK). In Frederikshaven (DK) you can take the ferry to Oslo.
- The North Sea Cycle Route. This route goes along the whole of the North Sea. From Göteborg on the Swedish westcoast, you can cycle to Oslo.
From (or to) Trondheim
- Langs de kust naar de Noordkaap. This route goes from Bergen on the west coast of Norway to the North Cape. The St. Olav's way connects to this route in Trondheim.
- For the adventurous: With the Hurtigruten from Trondheim. A ferry service that sails every day along the coast of Norway between Bergen and Kirkenes and back, which touches on various other smaller ports along the coast. To the south: sailing at 9:45 in the morning. The ferry arrives the next day at 14.30 in the city Bergen. From Bergen you have the choice to continue along the coast (Noordzeeroute), or go in-land (Example: de Rallarvegen) To the North: sailing at 13:15. Two suggestions:
1. at 19:00 the ferry arrives in Stamsund. You can cycle over the lofotes along the coast.
2. the ferry arrives at 9:00 the next day in Kirkenes, the final destination of the ferry. From Kirkenes you can cycle southe through Finland (for axample: IJzeren Gordijn Fietsroute (Dutch)).
You can find more information on the ferry at the website of Hurtigruten
By train and ferry:
Option 1. To Kiel in Germany by train and continue by the ferry of Colorline to Oslo
Option 2. To Frederikshavn in Denmark by train and then by the ferry of DSDF to Oslo
Option 3. To Copenhagen in Denmark by train and continue by the ferry from DSDF to Oslo
For the quickest connections by train: visit the website of the Deutsche Bahn.
There are direct connections from Amsterdam and Brusseles from/to Oslo Gardermoen and Trondheim.
In Norway it's possible to bring your bicycle along in the train or bus. The Dutch guide provides helpfull information on how to do it, but you can also take a look at vy.no.
Despite the fact that Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world, you can travel the route on a small budget.:
- Sleeping: combine wild camping, pilgrim accomodations (cheaper than regular hostels) and sleeping at warmshower addresses (have a look at Sleeping and eating)
- food: cook your own food. A lot of supermarkets have treir own budgetbrands. You can find a lot of fruit in the wild and you can even consider catching your own fish. What is left that is still very expensive, is fresh vegetables.
Cycling with kids
The Olavs way is a hard and provocative route and for that reason not very suitable for young children. Of course this also depends on the parents and the children themselves. There's a lot of climbing with steep parts as well. Since there are plenty of easier alternatives and the accommodations are on hiking distance, you can opt for shorter daily distances.
Another option: from Olso one has to choose between the the east route or the west route to Lillehammer. Instead you could combine the east route and the west route in stead of Oslo -> Trondheim (Click on the map to enlarge). This is over 450 km. For children the part from Lillehammer to Trondheim is much harder and you could skip that. For the east route you can opt for the alternative parts of the route in stead of the main route. You can also make a trip over peninsula Nes and the islet Helgøya (See also Cycling over Nes and Helgøya). On that islet Helgøya there is a climbing paradise, Klatreparken.
A tour over Mjøsa with the Skibladner, the oldest working peddle steamer is also a very attractive option with children.
Cycling with a trailer
You would like to cycle with a trailer? Then you're better off choosing the alternative routes as indicated in the guide. Between Oslo en Lillehammer the west route is the easiest for cyclists with a trailer.
The author has no personal experience with cycling with children or cycling with a trailer. I you had experience on this route in either way (or both), please share you experiences with with me through the contact form, so I can put it on the website. Other cyclists would be very much helped with this information!
Also in Norway, the e-bike is gaining popularity and the St. Olav's Way can definitely be taken with an e-bike. With that, you'll have to consider the following:
- The 'el-sykkel' is designated as motorised vehicle and there for prohibited from entering national parks. For Dovrefjell you'll need to take the alternative route (See pag174 in the guide). The only exception is Grimsdalen (part of Tour de Dovre), where the restrictions were lifted in 2021.
- Charging: As long as you're not camping in the wild, it won't lead to any problems. It does help to plan ahead as far as accommodations are concerned. In the back of the guide you can find the accommodations and the services they provide. In most cases electricity is available, but not always. And with pilgrims accommodations it is wise to call in advance to ask if it is possible and/or allowed.
- Under way there are no charging stations*. You do pass villages almost every day where there is a chance that you're allowed to charge your bicycle. Maybe even at a gas station, which are already convenient for coffee/tea, toilet, emergency rations... and very often have a place where you can sit.
In short: Some planning is in order. And even if it seems obvious at first glance, ask! They'll almost say 'yes' any time, unless it is not possible, but plugging in without asking is 'not done'. * Personal note from the author: I've never seen any charging stations for bicycles, But I haven't looked for it either since I have no e-bike.
Call: have you cycled the St. Olav's Way with an e-bike? Or are you planning to? Could you let me know what your experiences are? And if there are locations where you can charge you bicycle, please share them (preferably as GPS-coordinates). I will collect these experiences and charging locations and put them on this site, so other (e-)cyclists can benefit from it!