NORWAY'S MOST FAMOUS FJORDS
With more than1,000 fjords around the country, 10 of which are frequented regularly by cruise ships, it's not surprising that tourists wonder where to go and which fjords to see. Learn how to differentiate them with the help of fjord expert, Øyvind Heen.
Get to know the fjords
Fjord expert Øyvind Heen grew up by a fjord and has been exploring these unusual landscapes practically all his life, documenting them while hiking, climbing, kayaking, and more. He is now here to help you!
“I understand why visitors to Fjord Norway are confused. Not only are there so many fjords, they are also long and deep and have numerous side arms. To add to the confusion, some of the branches are far more famous than the main fjords,” says Heen.
According to Heen, the most dramatic fjords are in fact such side arms: the Geirangerfjord, the Aurlandsfjord, the Nærøyfjord, and the Lysefjord. His list of the best fjords to visit also includes the Romsdalsfjord, the Nordfjord, the Sognefjord, the Hardangerfjord, and the narrow Trollfjord in the north.
“‘Fjord’ is a Norwegian word that has become international. It’s an ancient Viking term related to the phrase for ‘crossing point’ (der man ferder over) and the word ‘ferry’ (ferje),” says Heen.
Carved by massive glaciers
“The fjords were created by massive glaciation that went below sea level,” explains Heen. “Over a period of 2.5 million years, the U-shaped valleys were carved out of the ground during a succession of glacial cycles. In other words, the fjords were shaped by the glaciers.”
Think of Norway’s fjords as main roads with side streets and narrow back alleys – a bit like the canals of Venice on a much larger scale. Many visitors are fascinated by the changing weather conditions that are caused by the unique the fjord landscape.
“For those who come from warm and sunny places, the weather is an attraction in itself,” says Heen. He himself plans to explore even more of the fjord universe in which he is so strongly interested. Below, he provides a quick guide to Norway’s major fjords from south to north.
The Lysefjord: a gem in Southern Norway
The Lysefjord in Ryfylke is the southernmost of the most famous fjords in Western Norway. Here, you’ll find many popular destinations and activities, including hikes to the spectacular viewing points of Kjerag and Preikestolen. Both can be reached on a day trip from the nearby city of Stavanger.
It is also very popular to take a cruise on the fjord. Several different day trips are available. There are no roads along this fjord, but a car ferry (limited capacity during summer months) can take you to Lysebotn in the inner part. The ferry stops in the small community of Flørli, where you can sleep, eat and hike more than 4,000 steps up the world's longest wooden staircase.
Find accommodation and activities in the Lysefjord area.
The Hardangerfjord: fruit heaven
The second-longest fjord in Norway stretches 179 km from the Atlantic Ocean just south of Bergen and all the way to the Hardangervidda mountain plateau in the middle of the country. The Hardangerfjord is a national icon, partly due to the incredible springtime apple tree blossom on its steep hillsides. This is also the epicentre of Norwegian cider and fruit juice production.
Find activities and places to stay in the Hardangerfjord region.
The Sognefjord: the king of the fjords
The Sognefjord is called “the king of the fjords” for many reasons. Located right in the middle of Fjord Norway, it is the longest of the Norwegian fjords. The iconic fjord stretches more than 200 kilometres into the country, just north of Bergen, and measures 1,308 metres at its deepest point. The Sognefjord is also among the widest fjords, but it has numerous far narrower side arms.
You will find many small, cosy villages along the fjord and its side branches, including Balestrand, Lærdal, Flåm, Solvorn, Sogndalsfjøra and the book town of Fjærland. You can visit glaciers, Viking villages and farms, hike, or go kayaking or biking. There are also many day cruises available.
Find activities and places to stay in the Sognefjord area.
The Aurlandsfjord: a famous train ride and fjord sightseeing
The 29-kilometre-long Aurlandsfjord is a narrow branch of Norway’s longest fjord, the Sognefjord. Many tourists arrive here by the iconic Bergen Railway and Flåm Railway lines, which are frequently listed as among the most beautiful train journeys on the planet.
From the small fjord-side village of Flåm, you can go on a fjord cruise, hike, bike, paddle, or try one of the longest zip lines in Europe!
Or leave the crowds behind and go on a winter journey from Bergen to Flåm to enjoy some of the most tranquil fjordscapes in the world.
Book Norway´s most popular round trip Norway in a nutshell, from Voss, Bergen, or Oslo.
Discover the Norwegian fjords by bus, train and express boat
Experience the fjords in other seasons
Getting to and around the fjords
Arriving in Fjord Norway by train is a very scenic experience and is often an easy way to access the fjords (except in Northern Norway).
The traditional coastal express Hurtigruten calls at ports all along the coast of Fjord Norway.
Guided tours are offered in many places, and are an effective and rewarding way to explore the landscape. A winter journey from Bergen to Flåm is strongly recommended.
Electric ferries and other ferry services operate all year round.
Tunnels and bridges tie Fjord Norway together and make travelling by road easy.
Many cities have domestic and international flights connections nearby.
Fjord Tours also have tailor-made Norway in a nutshell round trips to many of the fjords.
Five facts about the fjords
2. The fjords are often described as “nature’s own work of art”, formed when the glaciers retreated and seawater flooded the U-shaped valleys.
3. Gudvangen and Geiranger, the two innermost villages of the Nærøyfjord and the Geirangerfjord, are amongst the most popular cruise ship ports in Scandinavia.
4. Thanks to the warm Gulf Stream and air currents caused by the coriolis effect, the Norwegian fjords enjoy a relatively mild climate and remain virtually ice-free. Seals, porpoises and a variety of fish species swim in the fjords, while eagles and other birds soar in the skies above.
5. The fjords are often very deep. The Sognefjord is the deepest as it drops 1,308 metres below sea level. Since the fjords are so deep, they permit navigation by large ships, allowing you to experience their beauty at close range.
Nærøyfjord: the UNESCO branch
Next to The Aurlandsfjord lies the 18-kilometre-long Nærøyfjord, listed as a world heritage area by UNESCO. It is considered to be the most beautiful and wildest arm of the Sognefjord, and has a passage that is much narrower (only about 250 metres in some places) than the other fjords in the area. The surrounding landscape is breathtaking with steep mountainsides up to 1,800 metres high and cascading waterfalls. In the middle of this dramatic scenery you can see small, traditional farms and other dwellings dotting the hillside along the fjord.
The fjord is best experienced on a day cruise, RIB boat or by kayak.
Geirangerfjord: World Heritage waterfalls
The 15-kilometre-long Geirangerfjord, also on the UNESCO World Heritage list, is often said to be the most dazzling of the fjords. Visitors experience jaw-dropping, almost vertical mountainsides with numerous waterfalls, topped by snow-capped mountain peaks that look like gigantic ice cream cones all year round. Three waterfalls are particularly well known: De syv søstrene (The Seven Sisters), Friaren (The Suitor) and Brudesløret (The Bridal Veil).
The Geirangerfjord is the innermost branch of the Storfjord, easily reached from the art nouveau city of Ålesund in the northern part of Fjord Norway. Remember to stay for some days to really take in the beauty of it all. The area is also a hiking paradise with unique hotels, spas and a lot of exciting activities.
The Hjørundfjord: quiet tranquillity
The Hjørundfjord has much of the same dramatic scenery as the Geirangerfjord, but with far fewer tourists and more pristine nature. Quaint and charming villages line the fjord, including Sæbø, Urke and Øye.
Here, you will find some of the best hiking terrain in the country, with tough hikes like Urkegga, Skåla, and Saksa. Relax in a sauna afterwards, or enjoy an extraordinary stay at Hotel Union Øye, a historical hotel that is one of the most exclusive in the country.
The fjord is also easily reached by car from the city of Ålesund. In summer, you can see the fjord on a day cruise from the city.
Explore activities in the Hjørundfjord.
The Romsdalsfjord: rock and roam
The Romsdal area is known for its diverse and stunning nature. While the western part of the 88-kilometre-long Romsdalsfjord is mainly a coastal landscape dotted with skerries, the inner section consists of a long fjord and steep mountains.
The most well known tourist attractions in the area are the winding mountain road Trollstigen and Trollveggen, the highest vertical mountain wall in Europe. The Romsdalen Gondola takes you to up to The Nesaksla mountain above the mountaineering city of Åndalsnes, which is also part of the popular hiking route across Romsdalseggen ridge.
Another popular attraction is Kirketaket, which has been voted one of Norway’s top mountains for skiing. The expression “fjord view” most definitely applies here.
Explore things to do and places to stay in Åndalsnes.
The Trollfjord: the film location
Although this steep, 3-kilometre-long Trollfjord between Lofoten and Vesterålen only measures about 100 metres at its most narrow point, it is still frequented daily by cruise ships like Hurtigruten in the summer. Some years ago, the Trollfjord got a lot of attention abroad when the American movie Downsizing, starring Matt Damon, was filmed here.
You can also visit the fjord on a day cruise from the small town of Svolvær in Lofoten. It's common to spot eagles on your journey!
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