Words fail many when it comes to describing the Norwegian fjords, which are the number one destination for most travellers to Norway, and a compulsory stop on any itinerary. The scenery is unique, totally breathtaking, and yes, it might sound like a cliché, but it will take your breath away. Once you have recovered from the shock of so much beauty, you will find out there is plenty more to see (and do) in the region. A fjord cruise is a must but other activities abound: spend a day or two in thriving Bergen, the gateway to the fjords; discover Ålesund’s fascinating jugendstil architecture; visit the excellent Norwegian Petroleum Museum in Stavanger; go bird-watching on Runde, one of Europe’s best bird cliffs; take the hike to famous Preikestolen; or just chill by the fjord. You can be as active or as lazy as you like. The only constant will be the stunning scenery all around you. Welcome to Fjord Norway.
Highlights of the region
- The fjords, the fjords, the fjords…
- UNESCO listed Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord
- Unique rock formations of Preikestolen and Kjerag in the Lysefjord (hiking)
- The Flåm Railway, one of the world’s steepest railways on normal gauge
- Bergen, Norway’s second largest city
- Ålesund and its Jugendstil architecture
- Stavanger, the oil capital of Norway
Fjord skiing: Fjord Norway offers small and family-friendly ski resorts as well as great possibilities for ski touring with fantastic fjord views. Voss is a mecca for extreme sports, while Standa is the up-and- coming resort (great for off-piste). And it’s not just in winter you can ski in Fjord Norway – summer skiing is popular too, with Stryn and Folgefonna the main two summer ski centres in the region.
Bergen for music lovers: Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and violin virtuoso Ole Bull have both left their mark on the city. Why not visit Troldhaugen, Grieg’s home in Bergen, or Lysøen, the magnificent villa Ole Bull built on an island just outside Bergen? Catch one of the many music festivals taking place in the city, or failing that, a concert in the famous Grieghallen.
UNESCO World Heritage sites: Four of Norway’s eight UNESCO World Heritage sites can be found in Fjord Norway: Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord; Bryggen, the Hanseatic wharf in Bergen; and Urnes Stave Church in Luster, by the Sognefjord.
Gastronomy in Stavanger: Famous for its culinary diversity, Stavanger is a great place to eat out, with some of Norway’s best restaurants. The city, which rivals Oslo as the culinary capital of Norway, is also home to the Gastronomic Institute of Norway and hosts Gladmat, Scandinavia’s largest food festival, every year in July.
Ægir Bryggeri: Located in Flåm, Ægir Bryggeri is one of Norway’s most popular breweries, started by a couple of beer enthusiasts (her from Leikanger, him from New York), who moved here in 2004 from California. Take a tour of the brewery to learn about the beer making process, or take part in a beer tasting session on site.
Driving on one of Fjord Norway’s eight National Tourist Routes (Geiranger – Trollstigen, Gamle Strynefjellsvegen, Sognefjellet, Gaularfjellet, Aurlandsfjellet, Hardangervidda, Hardanger, Ryfylke) for a blend of stunning nature and modern architecture.
Hiking in Fjord Norway: The Norwegian fjords offer splendid hiking territory. The hike to Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock is among Norway’s most popular, but there are plenty of others work seeking out. The Sunnmøre Alps and Hardangervidda are well established hiking areas. Or why not try a glacier walk?
Flåm Railway: One of Norway's major and most spectacular tourist attractions, the steep Flåm Railway passes spectacular waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and farms clinging dizzily to steep slopes on its way from Myrdal down to the Aurlandsfjord.
Waterfalls: There are plenty of waterfalls in Fjord Norway. Among the most famous are Vøringsfossen (182 metres) and Steinsdalsfossen (behind which it is possible to walk), Mardalsfossen (a tiered waterfall with a total drop of 655 metres), the Seven Sister and the Bridegroom in the Geirangerfjord, Vettisfossen (Scandinavia’s highest unregulated waterfall), and Månafossen.
Cycling Rallarvegen: Rallarvegen, also known as the Navvies’ Road, is the old works road running alongside part of the Bergen Railway and the Flåm Railway between Haugastøl and Flåm. It is Norway’s most popular cycling route, stretching 80 kilometres through spectacular scenery from the mountains down to the fjord.
For more ideas on things to do in the Fjords, see Fjord activities.
Places to visit
A selection of festivals and events
Bergen International Festival, Scandinavia’s largest performing arts festival, established in 1953 (late May-Jun).
Ekstremsportveko Voss, international extreme sports competition (Voss, Jun-Jul).
Molde International Jazz Festival, Norway's largest, and Europe’s oldest, jazz festival (Molde, Jul).
Gladmat Festival, Scandinavia’s largest food festival (Stavanger, Jul).
Nuart Festival, street art festival (Stavanger, Sep).
Camping or farm holidays are the best alternatives for those seeking close contact with nature. There are plenty of both to choose from. For more luxury, and traditional Norwegian atmosphere, stay in one of several wooden hotels, like the imposing Kviknes Hotel by the Sognefjord, the history rich Hotel Union Øye, or smaller but just as charming alternatives like Utne Hotel (Hardangerfjord) or Walaker Hotel (Sognefjord). Other historical properties like Hotel Brosundet in Ålesund (a converted warehouse) or Åmot Operagård (a boutique hotel offering top opera evenings in a bucolic setting) will also make for a memorable stay. Many of them are members of De Historiske, a consortium of unique properties throughout Norway. If you prefer more modern accommodation, try Seilet (the Sail) towering over the fjord in Molde, or the Juvet Landscape Hotel in Valldal near Geiranger, the recipient of the 2011 Norwegian Tourism Award – it’s a collection of small wood and glass units using the surrounding scenery as a backdrop.
How to get there
Main airports in Fjord Norway include Stavanger, Bergen and Ålesund. The train serves Bergen and Stavanger, but stops in Åndalsnes, some 120 kilometres east of Ålesund. Buses link all cities. The Hurtigruten plies the coast of Fjord Norway north of Bergen daily year round and is a good way to see the region from the sea. The ships offer a number of shore excursions on the way.
Visit Norway/Fjord Norway
Norway in a nutshell ®
Did you know?
2011 was a record year for the Flåm Railway, with over 600,000 passengers taking the trip between Flåm and Myrdal.
There were 229,220 cruise passengers in the Geirangerfjord in 2011 (against 210,105 in 2010, and only 136,364 in 2007). Brits and Germans were by far making up the largest group of passengers (75,456 and 54,751 respectively).
Every year since 1991, the inhabitants of Bergen have been bringing their home-made contributions to help build Pepperkakebyen, or gingerbread town, which is on display for several weeks before Christmas on Torgallmenningen – a feast for the eyes, if not the tastebuds.
Over 150,000 people took the 3.8 kilometre (2.4 mile) hike to Preikestolen in 2012, making it one of the most visited natural tourist attractions in Norway. In 2011 Preikestolen was also listed as one of the world’s most spectacular views and natural attractions by Lonely Planet and CNN GO travel magazine.
In 2009, National Geographic Traveler Magazine voted the Fjords of Western Norway the best preserved attraction on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Trolltunga (“the troll’s tongue”) near Odda in Hardanger is a rock formation that sticks out of the mountain wall at a horizontal angle, 1,100 metres above sea level, and offers spectacular views over Ringedalsvatnet Lake.