11 things I’ll love about Jæren? Where the heck is Jæren, you ask? How do you even pronounce it? And what is this letter ‘æ’?
Let’s begin with the name. The closest English pronunciation I can think of is Yaren, with the emphasis on the first syllable, and the ‘a’ pronounced as in mad. If you say it with a mildly guttural (French) ‘r’, you’ll be pretty close to how the locals pronounce it.
And the ‘æ’; that’s one of three additional vowels in the Scandinavian alphabets. Æ, Ø, Å in Norwegian and Danish – and Ä, Ö, Å in Swedish. They are not umlauts (mutated letters) as in German, but separate letters.
As for where – Jæren encompasses Stavanger, Norway’s oil capital, and its twin Sandnes. The relationship between the two cities is a bit like Dallas/Fort Worth or Minneapolis/St Paul. Together, the two cities form Norway’s 3rd largest metropolitan area. Jæren is also a major agricultural region. In short, a sweet mix of city and country life, best of both worlds.
In this post, we’ll focus on Sandnes and the countryside. Stavanger will have to wait for its own post.
Now that we’ve got the linguistics and demography out of the way – let’s get down to business: why you should visit Jæren. We’re talking hiking, biking, shopping and top notch foodie fun!
Let’s start with… not beaches, but…
1. Design and vintage shopping
Surprised? I was. Specialty shops abound in this windblown part of Western Norway, with items you can’t find anywhere else. There is so much variety, and an all-round enjoyable experience!
In the little village Klepp, I enter Christin’s, drawn in by a red dress with funky sleeves in the window display.
It’s a boutique of sorts, filled to the brim. I like order, and the chaos overwhelms me a bit. But then I’m here to look, not to buy. However, Christin knows her business. She takes one look at me and within seconds has found items which fit me perfectly. I manage to leave with a wildly expensive t-shirt and an even more expensive one-of-a-kind skirt – both totally worth the splurge.
At the other end of the scale, Fretex, the Salvation Army store in Sandnes, is spacious and fun to browse.
Route 66 isn’t the only place where you can get your kicks
Can’t remember the last time I went into a second-hand shop. Today, I end up with a yellow suede biker jacket, practically free (no comment, thank you very much, kids).
Also in Sandnes is the retro/kitsch/vintage shop Velvet. I’m reminded of the cool Supermarket Concept Store in Belgrade.
There’s a green faux fur winter coat here. It’s soft and warm and gorgeous. Must have.
But that’s not all!
Isn’t it just delightful? An impulse purchase if ever there was one. This little golden yellow velvet low-slung thing is about 130 years old, from a fish merchant’s villa in the nearby town of Egersund. Beautiful! It will fit perfectly in my living room just where the TV is. Who needs a TV anyway…
Not quite sure how I’ll get it home yet; it’a 7-hr drive away, across a mountain pass. In the meantime, it’s resting comfortably in Ann-Mari’s guest room, carefully wrapped so Mrs Jaguar here doesn’t get any ideas.
2. Food shopping
Fresh-from-the-farm shops abound here in Jæren, as they have for generations: lettuce, kale, leek, sweet corn, squash, beetroot and other superfoods straight from the fields. Eggs straight from the chickens, fruit and berries straight from the trees and bushes, delicious yogurt made with milk from the cows. You get the idea. Don’t even have to mention that everything is organic, do I?
Leek field, cows grazing, and the North Sea
Bo Jensen, local cheese producer and winner of numerous medals in the world cheese awards (yes, that’s a thing), has the luxury of the best raw materials available. In Stavanger, you’ll find butcher Idsøe, who has sold locally sourced meat and sausages for 175 years. The ham, well, I’ll come out and say it: that ham is to die for. Now, you won’t find me touting meat that often. In fact, this will probably be the only time, so enjoy it.
The local Co-op has an amazing and unexpected selection, too. Walnut cheese, peanut cheese, pesto cheese, who would have thought that would be so delicious? And the homemade egg and prawn salad? I can practically feel the pounds piling on just thinking about it. Worth every calorie. I will just have to order it all especially. Or drive across the mountain and bring some home. Along with the sofa.
Let’s move on to the scenery.
The universe has blessed Jæren with stunning landscapes. There’s hills and dales, lush farmland and forests, and wild and windy North Sea shores. The weather is equally wild, so come prepared. Bring umbrellas and sunnies, wellies and swim suits, cause you never know. Always bring windproofs.
No words needed
3. Surfing beaches
Jæren has 70 km of beaches, with major waves. Not surprisingly, this is Norway’s surfing epicentre. If you’re a rookie, summer and early autumn is your best bet. If you’re a surfing pro, late autumn will be most exciting for you.
Jæren’s coastline is recognised as an international ‘Hope Spot‘, a special place critical for the health of the ocean, the blue heart of Earth, our home. The beaches are protected, you’re only allowed here on foot. No horse riding, biking, camping, or pitching tents. Additionally, on some of the beaches, bird life is especially preserved, meaning no surfing, windsurfing or kiting between 1 October and 31 March.
Fun fact: the coming queen of Norway (in 2 generations), Ingrid Alexandra, is already surfing queen. She recently won the national surfing championship for juniors just here. (And no, that isn’t her in the photo).
4. Hiking, biking and Viking history
You can hike or bike around Lake Frøylandsvatnet. Circle the entire lake (16.6 km), or take a shorter route from Orstad to the Sandtangen area (about 8.1 km/3 hrs) for a very easy, family-friendly and wheelchair-friendly hike.
A highlight is crossing the 230-metre-long Midgardsormen (the Midgard serpent). This one coils around the lake, just as its namesake sea serpent in Norse mythology coils around Earth. No worries, this ‘serpent’ is perfectly safe – and rather cool.
Olaf Trygvasson (or Olaf I), King of Norway ca. 1000 years ago, is said to have been born at Lalandsholmen Islet in this lake, in the year 963.
On the other side of the bridge is Njålandsskogen Forest; the oldest trees here were planted in 1875.
5. Tea with a view
Bring a picnic basket – or keep it simple with tea and biscuits like we did – and enjoy the views from Jæren’s highest point, accompanied by the relaxing sound of cowbells nearby. Here at Tinghaug, you’ll also find Iron Age burial mounds.
The North Sea on the horizon
Eh? Is that anything like chess boxing? Or ski shooting (I know the proper English term is biathlon, but that doesn’t really say much, does it?)
Frisbeegolf (also known as disc golf, as the disc is smaller than a normal frisbee) is becoming increasingly popular, and Jæren has several courses. But what is it? Let’s find out:
The point of the game is to throw a frisbee from target A to target B in as few throws as possible. After each throw, you walk to where it landed and have another go, tallying the number of throws. The target is known as a basket.
A course has between 9 and 18 ‘holes’, and just like a golf course, the difficulty level is determined by length of the hole, as well as obstacles such as trees, bushes, water, out-of-bounds areas, and variation in altitude. Also, the fierce winds here on the North Sea makes it challenging to control disc rotation.
6. Proper golf
Since we’re talking about golf…sort of, it would be remiss of me not to mention that Jæren has several courses, both 9- and 18-hole ones. Here’s Sola Golf Club, Norway’s largest, and just metres from the ocean and the airport.
I love alpacas, and seem to look for them everywhere, so I’ll mention Haver Alpakka Farm, where you can buy soft, lovely alpaca wool. Unlike Smedsrud Farm near Oslo airport, though, you can’t really visit with the animals here at Haver – or take them for a walk. But you can see them roaming about the pretty countryside, and that’s sometimes all it takes to put a smile on my face. Maybe yours, too?
Alpaca grazing by Lake Sjelsetsvatnet
8. Street art
Street art is free to watch all around Jæren. Here are a few examples from Sandnes.
So much more than a chair…
Jæren also has its very own Banksy. The artist known by the pseudonym Pøbel started out decorating abandoned buildings up north in the Lofoten Islands in the early 2000s, and it took off from there. His work The Lovers has been sold all over the world.
Love in the time of Covid
9. Visit a local brewery
Locally brewed, eh, brew is here to stay. Over on VisitJæren, you’ll find a list of producers of craft beer in Jæren and in Stavanger. The list is in Norwegian, but you’ll figure out the addresses, and relevant links. Skål!
10. Food and drink (that you don’t have to make yourself)
Restaurants, cafes and little bakeries abound. Here’s Coffeeberry, a cosy cafe in Sandnes:
Try the Star latte (with aniseed)
Afternoon tea never seems to lose popularity in Norway, and this area is no exception. Here’s a list of 4 places where you’ll get that British specialty with a Jæren twist, as well as 2 in Stavanger.
Afternoon tea with a view: at the beach in the video above
Don’t be surprised to find a no-frills neighbourhood restaurant in an old railway station post office. At Jøers kjøkken, the menu changes frequently according to the season’s delights, the wine selection is excellent, and the waiters pleasant and knowledgeable. If you’re lucky, the piccolo tomato tart with spinach and ground parmesan is on the menu when you stop by.
11. Photoshoot with a DC-6 from 1956
I’ll end with this quirky li’l thing
This Braathens SAFE DC-6 propeller jet has found its home at Sola Airport (SVG). Complete with stairs, it’s simply begging for a pose.
PS: That’s an actual boarding pass sticking out of my pocket. Paper!
That’s it! 11 things you’ll love about this windblown and wonderful part of Norway. There’s more, of course, but there are limits to what you can fit into 48 hours. We’ll no doubt be back, and keep you posted. Bye for now – or Nana, as they say in these parts.