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The height of happiness

The rolling sea gently lifts the fringe of seaweed along the smooth rocks of the coast. The bracing sea air tantalises the senses. The muffled sound of children playing further along the beach is mixed with the gentle sound of the waves lapping the shore. A seagull calls in the distance. We are filled with a sense of peace and harmony, joy and contentment.

For some, peaceful days like this are the height of happiness, while others are drawn here on stormy days when the wind ruffles their hair and the wild waves crash against the shore.

‘I understand why tourists love this place,’ Kari Shibevaag half whispers, squinting at the sun slowly slipping towards the horizon.

Kari is the owner of Sola Strand Hotel’s surf shop. She is also an eight-time world champion in kite surfing.

‘I'm back at the beach where I started my kiting career 20 years ago. Back then, I wondered why there was no surf school here, when the sea provides the perfect conditions for water sports. Gliding above the sea, harnessing the power of the wind, gives you a real sense of euphoria. You simply have to try it to understand how great it is.’

The sense of freedom

Kari assures us that water sports such as kiting and winging are not just for the young.

‘I like to say that they’re suitable for everyone, from the age of 8 to 90. The oldest person I’ve been an instructor for was 72,’ she says with a smile.

Kari loves watching children and adults having fun in the water, and she shares the sense of joy that beginners get when they master the sport. She believes that being close to the sea gives people a sense of freedom.

‘The long shallow beaches in the Stavanger area are safe training grounds for people with no experience. Kiting is also easier to master now than it used to be. The equipment is better and more accessible, and instructors have learned more about techniques as the sport has evolved.’

An ocean of opportunities

After living abroad for many years, the world champion has returned home to family and friends, and to teach her sport to others who are drawn to water-based activities. And she knows where she belongs.

‘My life is now a dream come true. I’ve competed in exquisite places all over the planet, but I always yearned for home. I firmly believe that this strip of coast in Jæren has the very best conditions,’ Kari claims.

‘You literally have a whole ocean of opportunities. Around every little headland or bend, you come to a new fantastic little beach. This area has everything water sport lovers dream of, whether you’re into kayaking, paddleboarding, kite surfing, wing foiling or freediving.’

Leaving no trace

She has always loved the sea and is keen to preserve the natural heritage that we freely enjoy.

‘It makes me sad to see how much rubbish is still being dumped in nature, even now, when we know how harmful it is to the environment.’

She sighs.

‘That makes me particularly aware of how the way we travel and our behaviour impacts the nature around us. The best thing about the activities we do in the water is that we leave no trace. We make no paths, we don’t harm anything, we just borrow the wind and the waves. I can kite ten thousand times in the same place and no one can even see that I’ve been there. My footsteps in the sand are washed away by the waves.’

Landscape full of contrasts

The Stavanger region has experiences for everyone. The scenery is full of contrasts, ranging from shallow sandy beaches in the west, to steep, towering mountain peaks just a short drive into the fjord landscape.The mountains change depending on the area and feature world famous attractions like the Pulpit Rock, the Kjerag Bolt and Flørli. The sunrise hike to Pulpit Rock, the vertical cliff towering above the beautiful Lysefjord, is pretty much a must for adventurous hikers.

‘I’m drawn to the mountains too,’ admits sea-lover Kari.

‘And there are plenty of them to choose from in this area. I can drive just a few minutes and get to mountain peaks and cliffs, and if I’m feeling in the mood for gentler terrain, the coastline offers a boundless network of trails,’ she says.

The Kongevegen road in Jæren, from Hå Old Vicarage to Varhaug Old Cemetery, is dotted with cultural heritage sites, and we can still see many traces of our ancestors. The ever-changing light is enchanting and fascinating. The landscape veiled in a dreamlike glow has attracted artists for generations. Norwegian Scenic Route Jæren, with its farmland, numerous cart roads and long sandy beaches, is also a popular cycling route.

Like walking on the moon

The North Sea Route, from Flekkefjord all the way up to Eigersund municipality, leads you through Magma UNESCO Geopark. There you can walk on the rare rock type anorthosite – the same type of rock that is found on the moon. With this lunar landscape under your feet, you can visit Eigerøy lighthouse, or hike to the rock formation Trollpikken, the increasingly popular destination near Egersund.

Egersund itself oozes small-town charm. The small town of wooden buildings has one of the most important fishing ports along the Norwegian coast. Old and well-known fishing ports such as Ydstebøhavn and Leiasundet are also well worth a visit, and are situated in the Kvitsøy archipelago, a half-hour ferry ride out to sea. Kvitsøy is in the outermost part of Boknafjord. The municipality has around 500 inhabitants and, at just over six square kilometres, is Norway’s smallest municipality. The green islands of Finnøy and Rennesøy, with their mild and humid climate, are also easily accessible from Stavanger.

Colourful experiences in Stavanger

Iconic coastal experiences abound in the Stavanger region, and city types can also make unforgettable memories. How about going shopping in the colourful pedestrian street Øvre Holmegate, which has been given the nickname ‘colour street’? Perfect for exploring unique small boutiques, cafés and art outlets.

Old Stavanger, with its white-painted houses, is on the west side of Vågen bay in the centre of Stavanger. This historic area, built in the late 1700s and early 1800s and consisting of 173 preserved wooden houses, is now listed. Tourists from all over the world flock to see its charming streets and galleries.

The city has a strong artistic vibe, and Stavanger Art Museum hosts temporary exhibitions as well as permanent collections of artworks by Norwegian and internationally renowned artists. The organisation NuArt organised a street art festival in Stavanger for many years, making it Norway’s street art capital. You can admire street art by famous street artists around almost every corner on a walk in the city.

World class cuisine

Having spent the day soaking up the city, you’ll now need to fill up on energy, and Stavanger is well known for its gastronomy. Even the most discerning diners will enjoy the memorable culinary experiences on offer in the city’s many restaurants.

Having had your fill of shopping, art and other experiences, what could be better than recharging your batteries in the bracing sea air, barefoot in the sand? Because beach life here is as good as it gets. Large parts of the coastline have sand as soft as in an hourglass.Seventy kilometres of beaches offer great opportunities to find a small, secluded beach that you can enjoy all to yourself.

Activities for everyone

‘Action-loving surfers and kiters often choose the windswept beaches of Sola, Bore or Hellestø, while families with children, and others looking for more peaceful, sheltered sand dunes choose the Orre beach resort area,’ Kari explains.

Her companion, Truls the dog, has finished exploring and is taking a rest on a rock. Together, we wait for the evening’s play of colours, and we don’t wait in vain. As the last of the evening sun’s rays reflect on the water, the sky is painted orange, red, pink and even a hint of purple.

‘That's what’s so special,’ says Kari, reverently admiring the shimmering horizon.

‘Whether you’re with friends or your family and children, everyone will find a favourite experience in or around Stavanger. There’s nothing quite like the Stavanger region, in Norway or anywhere else.'