Exploring Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida is a small island located off the coast of Bali. It takes about 45 minutes to get there via speedboat. 

It is a popular day trip destination, so the island is usually more crowded between 9 AM and 5 PM. We opted to stay on the island for 3 days, 2 nights in order to experience the island once the day tourists are gone. 

Nusa Penida was our first stop once landing in Bali and we joined our roommates from college who were at the end of their multi-week Asia trip. We created a modified tour with Nusa Penida Trip, which was really helpful because it came with a local driver, lunches, entrance fees, and a private boat for snorkeling. It costs us around $350 for the four of us, which was such a great deal. We opted to go with a tour company instead of driving ourselves around via scooters because we had read that the road conditions were terrible, there is limited service, and it would allow us to spend more time together instead of needing to worry about navigating. 

The road conditions are indeed terrible in a few long stretches - it felt like we were off-roading and we hit our heads on the side of the car numerous times. The center of the island is very mountainous, so some of the roads can be very steep. We saw a couple whose scooter fell over because it couldn’t make it up a steep, tight curve. (Thankfully, no one was hurt). The roads are extremely narrow, and what should be used as a one-way road is used as a two-way road. Honestly, we had some traveler’s guilt while being here because we were being driven around in a car on infrastructure that wasn’t built for cars. When passing traffic going the opposite way, the drivers had to get their cars as close as possible to one another, even pulling in their side mirrors and driving off the road.  

The majority of the places of interest are located on the south and east side of the island. Unfortunately all of the places to stay are located on the north side of the island, and with a limited number of roadways, it will take at least an hour to travel from one location to the next. 

The weather on the island is HOT. It’s hard to say whether the extreme heat we felt was because our bodies were used to the cool Minnesota weather and coming to Indonesia was too much of a shock, or if it really was that hot. But we spoke to a few Balinese people who stated that Nusa Penida was really hot, so I don’t think it was just us. The main thing to do in Nusa Penida is to see all of the stunning outlooks, and then hike down to them. We did a LOT of sweating while we were here, and I, unfortunately, got a heat rash that lasted a few days. But here are the locations that we visited while in Nusa Penida: 

Kelingking Beach

The view from the top of Kelingking beach was so much more impressive in person than any photo I had seen. Looking at the shear drop off took my breath away for a moment, and I thought to myself that there is no way that I will be able to hike down with my fear of heights. I only agreed to hike the trail once I tested how safe the railings were. In the pictures I had seen of the hike, the railings appeared to be made of bamboo sticks tied together with string. However, the railing must have been updated relatively recently because they are now made of wood and are very sturdy. I feel like I was not adequately warned about the difficulty level of this hike when doing research on various travel blogs, so I am here to say that this hike is VERY DIFFICULT. The path is so steep that we ended up using our arms more than our legs. When descending we used our arms to tightly hold the railings and lower our bodies to the next step, and when ascending we used our arms to literally pull ourselves up via the railings. 

The riptide at the beach here was the strongest I had ever seen, so it was really disappointing when we got to the bottom of the hike, dripping in sweat, and realized that we couldn’t even cool off in the ocean. Besides that though, the beach is beautiful. It has white sand and the ocean is a bright blue. There are a few trees towards the cliff that provide much needed shade as you recover. 

I highly recommend that you do not do this hike in the middle of the day when the sun is the highest and the weather is the hottest. We passed many people who were having heat strokes, who needed to drink other hikers’ waters. We unfortunately hiked down during the hottest part of the day, and it was very difficult! We timed it that way though so we could hike back during sunset. Trust me when I say that there was a drastic difference when hiking in cooler weather! It took us 1 hour to hike down in the heat, but only 30 minutes to climb up in the cool weather.

I also highly recommend that you bring LOTS of water. Seriously. Load your bag up with water and be sure to hydrate before hiking down and before hiking up. 

We hiked barefoot, and I highly recommend it. There are many sections along the path where the “steps” are just small cutouts on a giant rock, which were difficult to step in with shoes. Having the sure footing of being barefoot made me feel much safer. 

Peguyangan Waterfall

This was my favorite part of our time on Nusa Penida! To get to the waterfall you hike down these beautifully bright blue colored stairs situated on the side of the cliff face. It is a little steep, so hiking back up can be difficult, but the view the entire time is stunning. This hike doesn’t seem to be well known because there were very few people there with us despite being there in the middle of the day. The hike technically leads to a shrine, so they will let you borrow a sarong at the top to cover your legs. There is a small shrine at the bottom and a gentle waterfall that leads to some man made pools built into the rock face. 

Tembeling Natural Swimming Hole

To get to this swimming hole, the locals will drive you down on the back of their scooters. The path is very narrow, steep, and winds through the jungle. The journey down is a little sketchy, but I was comforted knowing that these locals drive this path frequently and are very skilled with driving scooters. There are two swimming holes at the bottom, one of which is right next to the ocean. This isn’t a popular location, so it was relaxing being able to enjoy the water by ourselves. 

Diamond Beach

Diamond Beach was absolutely stunning! The water was a beautiful turquoise blue and the rock formations truly looked like upside down diamonds with their smooth sides and sharp edges. The stairwell going down to the beach is carved out of the rocky cliff. Surprisingly, we found the path to be sketchier than Kelingking because some of the steps are extremely narrow and without a railing. We could only stay here  for a short time because the beach basically becomes nonexistent during high tide. 

Atuh Beach

Atuh Beach is located next to Diamond Beach. It was the only beach in Nusa Penida that didn’t have a strong riptide, so we were finally able to swim in the ocean! There are beach chairs or beanbags for rent, as well as food and drinks available for purchase. It was a perfect place to relax and recover from all the hiking we had done so far. 

Rumah Pohon Treehouses

Located down the road from Diamond Beach and Atuh Beach are the Rumah Pohon Treehouses. It is about a 20 minute walk down to the treehouses. Apparently you can stay in these treehouses, but they are very basic inside with just a mattress and there is no air-conditioning. With how hot Nusa Penida is I can’t imagine staying in these treehouses, but I imagine it could be a cool experience for a night.

Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach

We never intended to visit this area, but accidentally came here due to a miscommunication with our driver. The two are located within walking distance from one another. While the landscape of these locations is beautiful, I personally don’t think they are worth coming to. They are crowded with lots of people all trying to get “the perfect shot”. 

Manta Bay

Getting the chance to snorkel and spend time in the water was much needed to help deal with the Nusa Penida heat! Our tour guide arranged a private boat to take us out early in the morning. Unfortunately the scene was a little chaotic while we were there. The strategy was: the drivers would find the manta rays then yell at you to jump in. Then once in the water and the current manta rays had swam into the bay one driver in the crowd would yell and point in a direction to designate where the next manta rays were, and everyone would swim that direction. It was chaos. We only saw one or two manta rays at a time. Our boat driver stated that there are more manta rays in the early afternoon and less boats, so the experience is better; however, the tides can get too low for the boats at that time of day. With the chaos set aside, it was a cool experience to be so close to such massive creatures! Afterwards we did snorkeling in Crystal Bay, and saw some beautiful fish. Unfortunately the water was very choppy for us, so much so, that I legitimately almost threw up from motion sickness! I also want to warn you that there are a lot of tiny, stinging creatures in the water that will frequently sting you. It’s not horrible, just annoying!

Complete Hiking Guide to Trolltunga

norway_odda_trolltunga_hike-21.jpg

“Hey, Trolltunga is right up the road. Should we hike it?” A question that should not be taken lightly, but nonetheless a question that led to one of our favorite experiences from our time in Norway.

An hour and a half later, with our 30-pound packs secured, we started the 5 hour ascent. Fellow hikers who had completed the hike were making their way down the steep trail. Some had smiles of triumph on their faces, some were walking heavily with each step, and some were walking casually as if on a stroll – these were the Norweigans. But as we were the only ones going against the downward parade, all of these folks stared at us as if we were crazy. (Great, this is a promising sign). The landscape changed every couple kilometers – ranging from wide dirt paths, to rocky terrain, to reflection pools and left over snow, to mossy wetlands, to grassy outlooks, and hills of rock. Mile after mile we climbed. Faster and faster we went as we tried to beat the falling sun, eager to make it to the top before sunset. Looking ahead with each step, I desperately tried to cheat a look at Trolltunga from the distance, but no such luck. Then suddenly after 4 hours we were there. Trolltunga, the subject of thousands of pictures and the platform of numerous surprise proposals,  was finally in front of us, in the foreground of the start of a glorious sunset. My heart pounded as we walked out onto the narrow rock, 700 m (2300 ft) suspended in air.  The sun’s golden light hitting our face, with a 360 degree view, it was difficult to take in the vastness of the moment. Then, I'll admit, some slight social panic struck as we had to quickly pose for the camera in a creative way (because that’s what you do) as the small line of people waited for us – but how on Earth were we supposed to top the girl who went before us, holding her dog up like baby Simba?? 

As the sun continued downward, the colors of the sky grew and changed. Various tents were set up along the ridge, overlooking the lake below. Hungry and in search for shelter away from the windy mountain edge, we re-traced our steps until we found a secluded grassy patch protected by surrounding mounds of rocks. Sticky from sweat and still hungry after eating our “serves 2 (but not really)” backpacking meal we feel asleep in the complete silence of the mountain top.

Pitter patter as a light rain gently hit against our tent, telling us to get going. It was dawn, but no sunrise was visible thanks to the vast cloud cover. With all our gear and selves protected under their respective rain covers, we set out.

By the time we hit the last 4 km, our legs numb with soreness and our feet in physical pain, we started running. Running to cover more ground with each step so as not to prolong the pain. Remember, we had 30-pound packs on our backs – bouncing in every direction as we clumsily and noisily ran down the steep dirt slopes.

Was the hike worth the pain?

ABSOLUTELY. 


When in Norway, I HIGHLY recommend doing as the locals do, and hike. Norweigans grow up hiking in the plethora of mountains that make up the country. Some of the most beautiful scenery we saw in Norway was seen by foot.

But I’ll be honest, Trolltunga was not the #1 hike we wanted to do – in fact, we didn’t even plan to hike Trolltunga because of its length of commitment!  No, the hike we were eager to complete was Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock). A relatively short hike, the trail leads you to a flat 600m high platform over looking the fjord.

However the weather had a different plan. We landed in Oslo at 6:30 AM after only sleeping 2 hours on our red eye from Reykjavik. The original plan was to get our rental car, and drive 8 hours west to Pulpit Rock AND complete the 2 hour ascent up. Anyone else see how crazily unrealistic my planning was for this day? My eager heart was making promises our future tired selves wouldn’t be able to keep. It’s no surprise then when Alex ended up pulling over to the side of the road a few hours into the drive, and we passed out from exhaustion for a couple hours.

As we made our way closer to the Atlantic Ocean, the rain started, nonstop. Realizing the rain was not going to stop, we cut our loses, and adjusted our travel route so as not to head south anymore nor waste any more hours driving. Goodbye Pulpit Rock. The next morning we traveled to the cutest town of Odda. While having a picnic lunch on the waterfront we met an English couple who were also backpacking their way through Norway. The day prior they had completed Trolltunga, the well known hike whose trailhead was just up the road. They told us the 8-10 hour hike was definitely worth the effort, and seeing as they did it in the rain, that’s saying something! Their love of the hike planted the seed in our hearts to maybe reconsider hiking Trolltunga, and thank goodness we did!

Ok, so getting down to the details…

WHAT:

I’m not going to sugar coat it, this is a very long and demanding hike. From the main starting point near Trolltunga Active, it is a 27.5 km (17 mile) roundtrip hike, taking 8-12 hours to complete. It is such a wide range of time because there are a few factors involved – level of fitness, stopping for pictures, meal breaks, waiting in line to take a picture on Trolltunga (sometimes it can be upwards of 45 minutes!), and then how tired you are coming down. If you plan to hike Trolltunga, please, be prepared. The search and rescue team is already extremely busy here, rescuing unprepared or foolish tourists.  

WHEN:

You can complete the hike on your own from Mid-June to Mid-September. Outside of this time you will either have to complete it via a guided tour (with snow shoes in the spring time), or it is simply ill-advised during the harsh winter. Check here for more information. 

If you plan to complete the hike in one day, you should begin no later than 8-9 AM, allowing yourself plenty of time to return before it gets dark. However if you plan to spend the night at the top (which I HIGHLY recommend), you should just give yourself enough time to get to the top before dark. While breaking the hike up into two days causes you to hike down with sore muscles, being at Trolltunga with minimal tourists and witnessing sunset and sunrise is well worth it!

Be sure to check the weather before hiking. Trolltunga Active has a print out of the hourly weather forecast for the next 24 hours at their front desk. When we were contemplating whether to hike, we only felt comfortable doing so when we saw there was no rain or wind for that evening, and figured we would be well on our way down the mountain by the time the light rain started the next morning. 

GETTING THERE:

We had a rental car, so I don’t have any information regarding public transportation to the trailhead. Some people stayed in the nearby town of Odda the night before or after their day hike to Trolltunga. Heading from Odda, drive north along the fjord for 6 km to reach Tyssedal. Taking a right onto Skjeggedalsvegen you will wind your way up the mountain. You will see signs for one of the parking lots for Trolltunga before you leave Tyssedal. From this parking lot it is an additional 5.5 km up a single lane road to Trolltunga Active in Skjeggedal. The lane has a few widen areas for passing cars, but be careful driving this road as there are a lot of blind curves.

PARKING:

There are a couple of different parking options. The main parking lot is located next to the Trolltunga Active center. There is a fee of 300 NOK for 12 hours and 600 NOK for 24 hours hours. The second option is farther from the trailhead, located in Tyssedal, and costs 150 NOK for 24 hours. Most folks we saw who parked here paid a taxi to transport them to and from the car. The third option is limited – a small parking lot located at the top of the trail's most difficult incline. The dirt road leading to the lot opens at 7 AM, and there is only room for 30 cars. The fee is 500 NOK for 12 hours, and operates on a first come, first serve basis. 

There are two trailheads: #1 the red dotted line. These shorter switchbacks result in steeper inclines, over a less distance. #2 the white solid road leading to the upper parking lot. (Remember this parking lot is not only more expensive, but also limited in size, only able to hold 30 cars. The lot is first come, first serve.) This second option, while still steep, is less steep than #1 due to the longer switchbacks. Clearly #2 is longer than #1. At the top of #2, there will be a trailhead sign (the red dotted line). This trail will soon join the #1 option trail.   Click  here  for original image source

There are two trailheads: #1 the red dotted line. These shorter switchbacks result in steeper inclines, over a less distance. #2 the white solid road leading to the upper parking lot. (Remember this parking lot is not only more expensive, but also limited in size, only able to hold 30 cars. The lot is first come, first serve.) This second option, while still steep, is less steep than #1 due to the longer switchbacks. Clearly #2 is longer than #1. At the top of #2, there will be a trailhead sign (the red dotted line). This trail will soon join the #1 option trail. 

Click here for original image source

THE TRAIL:

There are a two different starting points from the base that eventually come together after a steep incline. The first is located west of Trolltunga Active. It is essentially a vertical stairmaster with a 450 m elevation gain over 1 km. This route is made up of stone steps, as well as ropes in places of steep incline for added support. The second option is using the dirt road behind Trolltunga Active. The road was recently built leading to the top parking lot. This option is longer in length (~2.5km) due to minimizing the gradient via switchbacks. But this is still steep as well. With 17 hair pin turns, it has upwards of a 17% grade. Once you reach the top of this road, you will see signs for the Trolltunga trailhead. This is where you will start if you opted to park at the top (you’ll just have fresh legs relative to those who hiked to get to this starting point).

norway_odda_trolltunga_hike-10.jpg

The entire trail is marked with red, spray-painted ‘T”s on the rocks or tall, skinny poles with red tape on the top. These markings are frequent, but if you are not looking ahead to find the next “T” you may get a little off track. Additionally, there are a signs every 1-2 kilometers, indicating the number of kilometers hiked, and the amount remaining. 

The initial incline is the worst, so don’t get too discouraged from it! From here the trail levels out as you make your way through the “valley of cabins.” There are numerous glacial streams and wooden bridges to make your path through the marshy area easier. After a km you will come to the second worse incline (about 300m). The incline starts with large stone steps, and eventually turns into an enormous rock face – which looks slippery, but we had no trouble feeling secure with our steps. Once you reach the top of the rock face you will see the 4 km sign.

The next few kilometers will be relatively easy. The terrain starts to change frequently, ranging from large reflection pools, to left over snow from winter, to mossy wetlands. Eventually you will come to the first outlook of Lake Ringedalsvatnet, the body of water you see in the infamous Trolltunga pictures. Looking out you can see how high you have climbed, the lake’s shore looking unbelievably small. 

Continuing another couple kilometers through more mossy wetlands, you will make your way along the lake. Soon the terrain will turn into hills of rocks. Climbing up and down these rocks, you may eventually start to hear buzzing. Where there are drones, there is trolltunga! Then after many, many tiring hours, you finally see Trolltunga.

WHAT TO BRING:

Even if you don’t plan on spending the night at the top of the mountain, you should still bring a small pack of essentials.

  • Sturdy hiking boots (even better if they are waterproof)
  • Rain/wind resistant jacket
  • Clothing layers – the weather can change very quickly
  • Fresh pair of socks - because changing into fresh socks at the top feels so good! 
  • Hiking pants - these are advised by all the Norwegian sites, but I wore athletic leggings and was fine
  • Water – we took with us one hydration pack and one large water bottle. A lot of other websites will tell you there are frequent safe water sources along the path, including ponds, small lakes, streams, and trickling waterfalls. However we didn’t feel comfortable with most of these sources seeing as some were stagnant bodies of water, and others were streams with an easily accessible upstream where an animal could have peed in. We waited until we were at the top of the mountain – there were a few trickling waterfalls from the glacier runoff – to fill up on water, because this had less of a chance of contamination.
  • A map and/or compass
  • Sunglasses
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Biodegradable toilet paper
  • Protein bars
  • Plastic bags/small trash bag – please respect nature and save all of your trash to be disposed of properly when you return to the base.

Trolltunga Active has a few of these essentials for purchase should you have forgotten them. They carry clothing, hiking poles, energy bars, water, maps, and of course, souvenirs. They also have vaffels (Norweigan waffles) for purchase. There is a bathroom at the start, located in the parking lot, so be sure to utilize it because on the trail, it’s all natural.

SAFETY:

Apparently there is limited cell service on the mountain – though we watched a couple at the top face time their family in the US after getting engaged, so not sure about that...?  

Don’t hike if there is strong wind, heavy rain or fog. If you are doing the hike in 1 day and reach the 4km sign after 1 pm, STOP, and turn around because you will not have enough sunlight to make it to the top and back.

There are a few “survival cabins” located throughout the trail. These cabins are small, but provide shelter from the elements and supposedly are equipped with blankets.

If possible let someone know that you are doing the hike. We foolishly didn’t do this as it was a last minute decision for us, and the itineraries we had sent to our parents didn’t even include this hike as a potential plan.

WHERE TO CAMP:  

Norway’s “right to roam” allows you to freely camp in the open country (with a few exceptions of course). But that means it is free to camp on Trolltunga. You can camp anywhere except between the 1 km to 3 km markers. This area is clearly marked as a no-camping zone as it is an environmentally protected area. As I mentioned before, a decent portion of the people camping overnight choose to camp on the cliffs next to Trolltunga. Keep in mind though that camping anywhere along the ridge can be cold and windy. There are PLENTY of camping locations throughout the entire hike. With the “right to roam” law also comes the expectation to LEAVE NO TRACE. Again, take an extra plastic bag or trash bag with you to collect all of your waste so you can dispose of it properly once you complete the hike. 


This hike was one of the top highlights from our entire trip in Norway, and therefore I highly recommend it. If you are considering completing this hike and have additional questions regarding our experience, please feel free to comment below or send me a private message!