The joy of long-distance walking

It is becoming increasingly popular to go on a pilgrimage. Many have heard about the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where over 200,000 pilgrims arrive each year. Dutch pilgrim Ria has discovered that walking the less crowded Norwegian pilgrim paths are just as big an adventure.

A resting pilegrim wearing walking shoes. Photo

Photo: Hans-Jacob Dahl

The Norwegian pilgrim paths have become well known in europe, especially by people from the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. But in recent years, more Norwegians have also opened their eyes to the opportunities that lie just outside their doorstep.

Ria Warmerdam from the Netherlands has tried to walk both in Spain and in Norway. In 2013, Ria walked the 643 kilometer long path named Gudbrandsdalsleden, a walk that resulted in the guidebook "Wandelgids Het Olavspad". In her opinion the Gudbrandsdalsleden trail is very well organized, and the quality in both acommodations and food along the way is high. The marking and the quality of the trails are also very good, she claims.

- I can well understand that there has been an increase in Dutch hikers in Norway, says Ria. - Norway is very popular with the Dutch. There is a high Interest in Norwegian nature, and the Nordic Noir wave of TV series and crime books has also contributed to an increasig interest in Scandinavia.

Ria Warmerdam holding up her pilgrim guide book. Photo
Rita Warmedam, experienced pilgrim and author of a German and Dutch guidebook on the Pilgrims Trail. Foto: Gunn Merete Roll

Walked alone to Santiago de Compostela

Ria's wanderlust began already 20 years ago when she decided to go to Santiago de Compostela. She started from her doorstep in Amsterdam. Four months later she arrived at her destination in northwest Spain. She had then walked 2,500 km across Europe, and although friends came and walked with her for periods, she wandered most of the distance alone.

- Several people have asked me what I felt when I finally arrived, and I think the strongest feeling was pride, says Ria, who tells us that most of her worries disappeared after a week on the road. - Before I left I was afraid of many things. Would I find places to spend the night, where could I buy food, did I have what I needed with me, had I packed too much or too little? I wondered if I would find the way, and if I was even capable of going this far.

Pilegrims are met with respect

- As a woman travelling alone, you also worry about safety, which probably prevents many people from embarking on a long hike alone. But as the kilometers were covered, security also came, says Ria.
- In the Netherlands we have an expression which can be translated to "You suffer most from the fear of suffering". My experience is that you are met with respect and consideration when you go on a pilgrimage. People will greet you and ask how far you have walked, and some will even offer you food and drink.

Ria has really appreciated talking to people in places where she has spent the night, and hearing the history of the place and the people who have lived there.
- If someone had told me before I left that I would be knocking on strangers' doors and asking to sleep in the barn, I would have had a good laugh. But I've learned not to be afraid to ask, and that problems can be resolved along the way.

Travel light

The backpack is packed carefully, because if there's anything Ria has learned on her trips, it's not to carry too much when covering hundreds of kilometers on foot.

- My bag weighs around eleven kilos. It suits me, and I would strongly recommend that you don't carry much more than that. If the bag feels allright when you test it at home, it will feel quite different when you have walked the first few miles, she laughs. - Then it goes without saying that you have to think carefully before packing stuff you don't really need.

Backpack and other hiking gear. Photo
A good tip is to lay out everything you want to bring with you on the trip, and to test pack several times, says experienced hiker Ria Warmerdam. Photo: Eskil Roll

A slow walk

In Ria's oppinion, a pace of around 3-4 kilometers per hour is absolutely perfect. Then you'll manage to walk quite a few hours every day, and still have time to observe changes in nature and landscape.
- I start the day with a proper breakfast, and usually walk from nine o'clock until around five in the afternoon. It's similar to a working day, and most people are used to that rhythm. It always feels good to arrive at the accommodation, and the next day it feels just as good to start the hike again.

Simple pleasures

Simple things can feel very rewarding on a long hike. Like taking off your shoes, getting clean and eating a good meal. Many hikers experience that the worries they had before they left, disappear along the way, and life takes on a rhythm and pace that Ria believes is good for us.
- We humans are made for walking, it is the natural way for us to move, says the adventurous hiker.

Breakfast table. Photo
At Budsjord pilgrim accommodation, breakfast is served in historical surroundings. Photo: Eskil Roll


  • Use our interactive map to plan your walk. We recommend a walking distance of about 20 kilometres each day.
  • Acommodations are marked with a bed symbol in the map. There are many affordable accommodation options for pilgrims. Be aware that if you choose these pilgrim hostels you must be open to sharing a room with any other pilgrims who come there.
  • In many places, you can choose for yourself whether you want simple accommodation and self-catering, or your own room and served food.
  • You can find packing tips for sleeping inside here and packing tips for sleeping in a tent here.
  • Our regional pilgrim centers can help with tips and advice both before and during the walk.