The Rakke Compass – Larvik, Norway - Atlas Obscura

The Rakke Compass

What might look like a cliffside sacrificial altar at first glance is actually a stone compass pointing to cities and lighthouses all around the world. 


Kyststien, or “Coastal Trail,” is the longest of its kind in Norway. It leads out of Stavern, up a steep hill, through some woods, and finally onto a magnificent hill overlooking the coastline. Standing there, you might wonder what lies on the other side of that faraway horizon. In this particular case, you can actually find out, and in great detail.

At the very edge of the cliff is a giant stone compass with a movable needle. The flat end of the compass needle has a large square hole in the middle, through which the user can see the inscriptions on the slab. By shifting the needle so the inscription “Amsterdam” is in the square, for example, the compass will point you toward that city as the seagull flies. Corresponding information about longitude and distance is also engraved on the slab.

In addition to far-off cities, the compass points to the four lighthouses that can be seen from the hill, and a fifth that you might only spot at night, as a flare of light on the horizon. 

The compass is made from larvikite, a rare stone only found in two places in the world, this region of Norway (the Larvik fjord) being one of them. Locals take a particular pride in the larvikite stone because the stone is named after the area; most local monuments, statues, and even some buildings are made from it. Add the local community’s strong cultural, industrial, and sentimental links to the ocean, and you can see how this coastal monument in many ways encompasses the very essence of the area.

Know Before You Go

Walk past the Memory Hall (a large, black, pyramid building on the hillside you can't miss), up the hill and then down onto the beach. Follow the coast until you reach a camping area, then walk through it until you start seeing blue dots and lines on trees. Follow these onto the trail, then walk towards Rakke Vest. When you reach a steep climb in the forest, the compass is on the top of said climb. The compass isn't immediately visible, so you might have to look around a bit before you find it.

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