Pilgrimage - an experience of a lifetime
Gudbrandsdalsleden, which means the path of Gudbrandsdalen, stretches from Oslo to Trondheim, a 643 km well-marked pilgrim path with beautiful and varied landscape. Along the path you can experience soothing agricultural landscapes, you can spend the night on historic farms in Gudbrandsdalen, wander across the mighty Dovrefjell plateau and enjoy the tranquility of the lush Trøndelag nature. A pilgrimage truly does something to you as a human being. Walking from Oslo to Trondheim, through communities, small towns and nature, is an experience of a lifetime.
Cultural heritage and the legacy of St. Olav
Gudbrandsdalsleden has countless cultural heritage stories and places to offer, many hundreds are on or close to the path, and remind you of past struggles and experiences. Here you will find tombs, historically important sites, beautiful churches and preserved buildings from the Middle Ages. Yes, you might even find yourself in a building at Sygard Grytting which housed pilgrims in the 12th century. There is never far between the historically significant places along this pilgrim path.
Gudbrandsdalsleden also gives you close contact with the legacy of the Viking king Olav Haraldsson, later known as Saint Olav (St. Olav). Water springs, named after St. Olav, are widespread and these are known to have healing effects. Along Gudbrandsdalsleden we find the historical sites St. Hallvard Cathedral, Bønsnes, Granavollen, Hamardomen and Dale-Gudbrands Gard, several of these places are indirectly or directly related to the saga of Olav Haraldsson, later St. Olav.
Along the path we also find our foremost cultural carriers, the churches, and when you walk the Gudbrandsdalsleden it is never far between these sanctuaries that stand as a monument of the Christian tradition to which St. Olav introduced to Norway in the early Middle Ages.
How to do a pilgrimage on the Gudbrandsdalsleden?
If you have the opportunity, it is recommended to walk the entire Gudbrandsdalsleden from Oslo to Trondheim. Walking on average 20 kilometres per day, you will spend around 4-5 weeks on your pilgrimage. This is the optimal pilgrimage where you get the opportunity to relax every day and live the pilgrim life to the fullest. Your days will only focus on where to go, eat and sleep, and you will have plenty of time to enjoy the surroundings you walk in, the people you meet and the food and cultural experience along the path.
Another popular way of doing a pilgrimage is to walk the Gudbrandsdalsleden in stages. You can do one week at a time, for example walk from Oslo to Gjøvik, and do the next stage from Gjøvik to Lillehammer another time.
It is also quite possible to do three-day pilgrimages or day trips on the Gudbrandsdalsleden. Find the pilgrimage for you on Recommended walks.
Food culture on the Gudbrandsdalsleden
Nature, culture and food are common denominators for the the Gudbrandsdalsleden experience and several of the accommodations convey this through their hospitality and efforts for the pilgrims. Many of the accommodations offer food based on local traditions and the opportunity to expand the horizons of the taste buds are many. That said the local grocery store is the pilgrim's main source of food on its way to Trondheim and the Nidaros Cathedral.
Should you choose the western or eastern route of Gudbrandsdalsleden?
Gudbrandsdalsleden starts in Oslo, at the ruins of the St. Hallvard Cathedral. Shortly after the starting point, the path divides into a western and eastern route which follows each side of Mjøsa before meeting again at Lillehammer. You must therefore choose whether to walk the western route out of Oslo, through the forest called Krokskogen, walking in the beautiful Hadeland region on the west side of lake Mjøsa, or the eastern route through Groruddalen, crossing Skedsmo towards Eidsvoll and the agricultural Stange region on the east side of lake Mjøsa. Which route you choose depends on which history and cultural heritage impresses you.
If you take the western route you can visit the area where St. Olav grew up, Bønsnes, and the sister churches of Granavollen. If you would like more information on the western route we recommend you to contact the Granavollen Pilgrim Center or the Oslo Pilgrim Center.
If you take the eastern route you will experience Eidsvoll, fantastic forests and agricultural landscape on the way to Tangen and Stange Vestbygd, as well as the ruins of the mighty Hamardomen in Hamar. Hamar was the bishop's seat and the only inland village in medieval Norway, and an obvious stop for pilgrims. If you would like more information on the eastern route we recommend you to contact the Hamar Pilgrim Center or the Oslo Pilgrim Center.
It is also possible to combine an experience from both routes by going from Granavollen to Kapp or Gjøvik and then take Skibladner, the world's oldest active steamboat, over to Hamar. You can also travel with Skibladner on the eastern route, from Eidsvoll to Hamar or Lillehammer.
At Lillehammer, the western and eastern route meet and the path enter the valley of Gudbrand - Gudbrandsdalen - which is the origin of the pilgrim path's name. The valley of Gudbrand has a varied and beautiful landscape, which ranges from ancient primeval forests to small pleasant villages. Here you will experience tranquillity, wildlife, views and not least culinary experiences based on local traditional food in the region. Pristine nature is everywhere along the Gudbrandsdalsleden, and by walking 643 km you do get close to nature but also yourself.
The path continues from the landscape of the valley of Gudbrand to the mountain of Dovre with the highest point of the path at over 1300 meters above sea levels. At Dovre mountain you will find traces of king roads, fishing grounds and thousand year old shelters. You’ll find the Eystein church, which is an important place to visit for many pilgrims. After the mountain, the Trøndelag region and wooded landscape awaits you and your thoughts. Through the Trøndelag forests, the occational open stretches and river crossings, you will see Trondheim and the final destination – the Nidaros Cathedral.
Guidance and information from regional pilgrim centers
At Gudbrandsdalsleden you will find several regional pilgrim centers which you can contact before or during your pilgrimage. The centers are located in Oslo, Gran, Hamar, Hundorp, Dovrefjell and Trondheim. The centers can help you plan your pilgrimage before you go, they are great places to visit when you are on the path and they always have up-to-date knowledge of the Gudbrandsdalsleden.
Along Gudbrandsdalsleden there are six regional pilgrimage centers you can visit on your pilgrimage or you can contact them in advance for guidance and information. The centers are located in Oslo, Gran (Hadeland), Hamar, Hundorp (Gudbrandsdalen), Dovre mountain and Trondheim. The centers are regional, but have general knowledge on the whole Gudbrandsdalsleden from Oslo to Trondheim.
Are you starting your pilgrimage in Oslo? Please contact Oslo Pilgrim Center for guidance and information.
For guidance and information in the Hamar region, please contact Hamar Pilgrim Center.
For guidance and information in the Hadeland region, please contact the Granavollen Pilgrim Center.
For guidance and information in the Gudbrandsdalen region, please contact the Dale-Gudbrand Pilgrim Center.
For guidance and information for the Dovre mountain and Trøndelag region, please contact the Dovrefjell Pilgrim Center.
If you need guidance and information on the Trondheim region, Please contact Nidaros Pilgrim Center.
Where do I buy the pilgrim passport?
Are there guidebooks for Gudbrandsdalsleden?
Yes, there are Norwegian, German, English and Dutch guidebooks. They can be purchased at the following locations:
Norwegian: Voll, Bjørn Ivar A. and Gilbert, Ellen Rykkja. 2015. Pilgrims. From Oslo to Trondheim - a practical guide to the hike. Imprint publisher. (To order the book from the authors, click here.)
German: There are several great guidebooks in German, please go to amazon.de and search for Olavsweg, and pick the guidbook to your liking. A great coffe table book to read in advance or after your pilgrimage is "Nach Nidaros…", Olaf Deppe (2018) (To order the book click here)
English: There are not many English guidbooks, but go to amazon.co.uk and search for St. Olav Ways and Nidaros, then you'll get some alternatives to choose from.
Dutch: Warmerdam, Ria. 2015. The Olav Road. (To order the book click here)
What is the average distance of walking per day?
Pilgrims walk on average 20 km per day.
How long does it take to walk the entire Gudbrandsdalsleden?
Walking from Oslo to Trondheim can take up to 32 days.
Is it safe to walk the Gudbrandsdalsleden alone?
It is safe to walk alone as the path is well marked and in most parts goes through agricultural landscapes and small towns from Oslo to Trondheim. About 20% of pilgrims walking the Gudbrandsdalsleden actually prefer to walk alone.
Can I order luggage transport?
There is no comprehensive offer of luggage transport on the Gudbrandsdalsleden in 2020, but some regional pilgrimage centers offer luggage transport in their region.
How is the level of accommodation?
The level of accommodation varies greatly, from simple self-catering cottages, to pilgrim hostels or hotels. See overview of accommodations here.
Do you need to book accommodation in advance?
We recommend that you reserve a place at the pilgrim hostels in advance. The accommodations along the Gudbrandsdalsleden are usually small hostels with few beds. For that reason, it is advisable to secure a bed a few days before arriving. You can find a list of accommodations here.
Are the churches open?
Along Gudbrandsdalsleden there are many beautiful churches, but unfortunately not all churches are open when a pilgrim is passing/visiting. If you meet a closed door, check if there is information available which might say something about pilgrim offerings. Many congregations open the church outside opening hours for pilgrims by request.
How is the terrain on Gudbrandsdalsleden?
Gudbrandsdalsleden is long and therefore very varied. You will hike in both fields and on asphalt, up steep slopes and through moors and meadows. The weather will make the grass wet and the tarmac warm. Be prepared for a varied hike. Read more about how to prepare and choose the right equipment for your pilgrimage.
Which footwear should I choose?
We recommend hiking boots with good cushioning and durability. Some pilgrims choose mountain boots, some choose Gore-Tex, and some choose technical running shoes or sandals. Choice of shoes is individual and depends a bit on which stages you choose to go and what surface you’ll walk on.
Is the Gudbrandsdalsleden well marked?
Gudbrandsdalsleden is well marked from Oslo to Trondheim. Still, we recommend that you bring with you map and compass for safety reasons.
I've packed too much and the bag is too heavy to carry, what do I do?
Send excess content by mail. See how to do it here.
Is there any danger of snow on Dovre Mountain?
There may be snow in the mountains, often until June. When there is snow on Dovre mountain we strongly advice against crossing it by foot and to take the train instead. Please check the weather conditions before you cross the Dovre Mountain, the weather forecast can be found at www.yr.no.
Can I do a pilgrimage with my dog?
It is quite possible to do a pilgrimage with your dog, but there are some things to keep in mind. It is strongly recommended to keep your dog on a leash at all times as you go through a lot of pasture where you can meet pasture animals. By law, dogs should be on a leash from April to August, in some places it is extended.
In some areas the dog must also be able to climb stairs that have been set up to help cross fences. If not, the dog must be lifted over. For accommodation with a dog in the room this must be agreed with the owners.
If you need more help or guidance, our regional pilgrimage centres are always ready to help you. Contact me, Roger, and either I will answer you or one of my colleagues at the other regional pilgrim centres. Save time by checking if the answer to your question already exists on Frequently Asked Questions.