Flørli 4444, the World’s Longest Wooden Staircase

Lysefjord, as viewed from Flørli 4444 staircase

photography by: Omri Westmark

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There are over 1,700 fjords across Norway, resulting in one of the most convoluted coastlines anywhere on Earth. Given their often-vast length and mountainous topography, many fjords are peppered with isolated communities and outposts. One of which, Flørli, sits along the shores of Lysefjord in Southern Norway. In spite of its miniscule size and remoteness, the now resort-village happens to be a Guinness record holder, home to the longest wooden staircase in the world with a whopping 4,444 steps, hence its name Flørli 4444.

About the Village

Stretching 42 kilometers across the Norwegian county of Rogaland, Lysefjorden is one of the country’s most famous fjords, boasting dozens of awe-inspiring places along its shores. Away from the throngs of tourists in the Pulpit Rock and Kjerag, Flørli is a rather serene hamlet which has been intermittently inhabited for the last four centuries or so.

 

In somewhat stark contrast to its seeming insignificance, the tiny townlet played a major regional role for the best part of the 20th century. Constructed in the late 1910’s, Flørli Hydroelectric Power Station utilized the abundant water from nearby rivers and lakes to generate power for the city of Stavanger, about 40 kilometers westwards.

 

In its heyday, the village was home to almost 200 residents, almost all of whom were the power plant’s industrious workers and their families. When the hydroelectric facility was deemed obsolete and subsequently decommissioned, it was replaced in 1999 by a modern power station which was built a short distance away. As the new facility was fully automated, there was no real necessity for a large workforce to operate its machinery and streamlined processes.

 

Therefore, by the turn of the 21st century, Flørli witnessed a massive exodos of its population, with merely two permanent residents still living within its confines to date. Nevertheless, against all odds, the now depopulated village managed to reinvent itself as a secluded resort for those who seek a respite from the hustle and bustle of modern life.

 

As the village is entirely disconnected from the local and national road network, the only way in or out is by a seasonal ferry service. In recent years, this sheer inaccessibility in turn made Flørli a coveted destination among intrepid hikers and nature lovers who look for an off-beat location, surrounded entirely by untamed wilderness.


Flørli 4444 Stairway and the Old Power Station

Replete with forests, cliffs, lakes and waterfalls, Flørli has no shortage of places to marvel at, yet its true crown jewel are the well-preserved remnants of its former hydroelectric power station. Lying along the waterfront is the old and now-defunct hydroelectric power plant. During its years of operation, the station’s two generators, whose maximum installed capacity peaked at 30.4 MW, served as a major source of electricity for the close-by city of Stavanger.

 

Nowadays, the Art Nouveau style building is home to a quaint café as well as a small museum that tells the story of the hamlet and its power plant. Thanks to its unique acoustics, the 12-meter-tall turbine hall also occasionally hosts music concerts.

 

What truly sets Flørli apart from any other isolated community of a similar size and geography, though, is a record-breaking oddity that lies right next to the whitewashed edifice. As its name might imply, Flørli 4444 is a wooden stairway consisting of well, you guessed it right, 4,444 steps. That, in turn, not only makes it one of the world’s largest staircases but also the longest wooden structure of its kind.

 

As the intake reservoir is nestled roughly 750 meters higher than the power plant, a pair of pipelines was installed across the forested mountainside to transport water downhill. Running along the two pipes is a single railway track where a trolley formerly carried freight and passengers, and of course, the article’s protagonist, the hamlet’s oversized staircase.


In the last couple of years, the stairway has become a quirky tourist attraction that draws plucky travelers from all over the world. With an elevation gain of 740 meters (2430 feet), the uphill hike along the stairs takes between 1-3 hours to complete, depending on one’s physical fitness. Luckily, hikers who find the whole journey too difficult can climb the first 700 steps to a lookout, from where a narrow pathway heads back towards the village.

 

Located roughly midway is the former cable house, whose massive winch once pulled the trolley across the hillside. Due to the changing topographic features, the steps are not evenly spaced and so, the steeper the slope is, the taller the stairs are and vice versa. Every ten stairs, a step is labeled with a tag which indicates its number, with more conspicuous markers aptly allocated for the 500th, 1,000th, 2,000th, 4,000th and perhaps most importantly, the 4,444th step.

 

At the end of the wooden staircase, visitors can find the hilltop reservoir, Ternevatnet, alongside a series of rock piles and scenic points. While it is possible to go down the same path, a downhill trail links the summit with the village through a charming wooded area with multiple creeks and cascades. Suffice to say that the arduous ascent is accompanied by a glut of stunning views of Lysefjorden and its hilly surroundings, offsetting any exhaustion which climbers might experience as they make their way to the top.


How to Get There

With no road or rail link to the nationwide network, Flørli is completely cut off from the outside world and as such, the only viable way to get here is by sea (or more precisely, fjord). There are two main operators which offer a ferry service to the isolated village. Kolumbus makes the 1 hour journey from Forsand, Lauvvik and other nearby towns to Flørli and back 4 times a day from Monday to Friday and twice a day on Sundays (timetable and bookings are available online).

 

During summertime, Rødne offers a direct boat trip from Stavanger city center to Flørli. As of 2023, the ferry departs once a day at around 9:30 in the morning and departs back to Stavanger at 16:30, while a single round-trip ticket costs 825 NOK (around 76 USD). Alternatively, you can also rent a private boat and get to Flørli independently, but due to the hefty price tag, most visitors prefer the former option.