Interest in the once forgotten pilgrim’s trail of St. Olavsleden between Selånger/Sundsvall and Trondheim is growing. Statistics from last summer show an increase of 42 percent.
In 2012 there were just five people who walked at least 100 kilometres of the 560 kilometre-long route, receiving their St. Olav Diploma at the Nidaros Pilgrim Center in Trondheim after completion. This year 176 people arrived at the Pilgrim Center – but it's likely that there were many more pilgrims who walked different parts of St. Olavsleden.
– We do not know exactly how many people walked and cycled along the trail in total, but we all saw that something was happening. People living along St. Olavsleden saw and met hikers almost daily. But it remains the case that those who walked the trail last summer were pioneers. I guarantee you that in 2018 3.000 pilgrims will pass here, says Putte Eby, tourism strategist at the municipality of Östersund and project manager for St.Olavsleden.
The statistics are based on those pilgrims who received the St. Olav Diploma – a letter that proves that you have walked at least 100 kilometres along St.Olavsleden. Pilgrims that have walked a shorter distance, have cycled over the mountains or have perhaps spread the hike over several years, are not included in these statistics.
–176 St. Olav Diplomas issued, an increase of 42 percent compared with 2014. Of these an estimated 40 people have walked all the way from Selånger to Nidaros.
– Of those who registered, 54 percent were women and 46 percent were men.
Accommodation establishments and churches along the trail witnessed that the number of walkers doubled compared with 2014. Most pilgrims came from Germany, Denmark, Holland, Norway and Sweden. St. Olavsleden is now being prepared for next season, and it is clear that more entrepreneurs are needed along the route to handle the growing number of walkers.
– Besides communicating that there is a beautiful pilgrim’s route in the north of Europe, we also need to raise awareness locally, so that more people are willing to provide food and shelter along the trail. This is crucial. Ideally, there should be accommodation and food every ten kilometres. This provides revenue for the local population, explains Putte Eby.
St Olavsleden trail stretches 560 km through Sweden and Norway from the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic. The path starts in Selånger, where King Olav Haraldsson stepped ashore in the spring of year 1030 after several years in exile. He marched his army to Norway, determined to convert the country to Christianity and win back the throne and unite the country again. The journey ended in Stiklestad, where Olav fell in battle on July 29 in 1030. One year later Olav became canonised.
Nidaros is one of the four major pilgrim destinations, the other three being Rome, Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela. St.Olavsleden is one of the world's most northerly pilgrim trails, with a varied and beautiful scenery.
The focus on St.Olavsleden trail is part of the SÖT-project, a collaboration between the municipalities of Sundsvall, Östersund and Trondheim, together with partners and other collaborators.