A Guide to the Best Fjords in Norway
It is no wonder that Norwegian fjords are considered the best in the world when there are simply so many of them. Formed by a succession of ice ages and the retreating of glaciers, the marvellous and magical scenery has barely changed in the many years since their inception. As it stands, there are over 1,100 fjords across the nation and they are each truly remarkable.
If you are not used to such scenes, allow us to paint a picture. As striking as they are stunning, each has an enchanting and almost ethereal quality that is equally captivating as it is begging to be explored. The mystical and miraculous nature of the fjords are unlike almost anything else on this earth. While visiting the fjords is not all sunshine and rainbows in the most literal sense, there’s true value in the darkness and absence of colour that often accompanies them. When you are blessed with pockets of brightness and warmer hues, this merely adds another dimension - not better, just something else.
This guide details some of the most incredible from an already incredible assortment.
As the most famous fjord in all of the land, it’s among the country’s most visited attractions, and people come from far and wide to witness it for themselves. The 2013 Disney smash hit certainly has a lot to answer for in terms of its popularity, as it used the landscapes of the Geirangerfjord and as the basis for the fictional landscapes of Arendelle. However, it cannot take credit for its sheer beauty, which has been evident since time began.
Geirangerfjord forms part of a Unesco World Heritage Site, because it is utterly unbelievable. Here you can find the Seven Sisters, a series of unique waterfalls. While tall, shockingly, the Seven Sisters are not even counted among the top 40 highest in Norway! The beauty doesn’t end there. The Geiranger Skywalk in Dalsnibba and the Flydalsjuvet are both two of nature’s best kept secrets, offering the most incredible panoramic views of the fjord. And if you’re somewhat adventurous, dare to brave the steep stretch of Ørnevegen, a road which rises up to 620 metres above sea level.
The dramatic mountains rising and falling out of the water have been this way for centuries, but the scenic beauty of this fjord is actually under threat. A large part of a nearby mountain threatens to fall off, and if it does so, this will cause a destructive tsunami set to wipe out the small village of Geiranger. A similar chunk of land fell in the 1930’s and unfortunately killed 40 people. These days, experts are able to make predictions to warn the locals, but as a visitor, you cannot be guaranteed these scenes forever!
You’ll find this fjord in the district of Møre og Romsdal, and the best time to go is during the summer. You have several options regarding your visit - it can be accessed on a cruise ship or while you’re out on the road. However, this option does require you to exercise a lot of caution, as you’ll be met with an abundance of hairpin turns.
All of the fjords in Norway are impressive, especially those on this list, but the Sognefjord may take the crown in terms of sheer size. In fact, this is indeed why it has earned the name “the King of the fjords”, because it comes in at 200 km. With a length like this, it’s not surprising that it’s the longest in Norway, and actually the second-longest in the world, beaten only by Scoresby Sund in Greenland. Sognefjord is the deepest as well, at a depth of 1.3 km in some parts.
Now that the impressive statistics are out of the way, you can focus your attention on truly appreciating the breathtaking nature of the fjord, found in Sogn og Fjordane in western Norway. Dazzling blues and greens stretch out on the horizon for days, and the inner end of the fjord is covered by Europe’s biggest glacier, Jostedalsbreen.
There’s plenty more to do here for travellers than simply stopping for a few photo opportunities. The entire region begs to be explored, and the allure carries over to the idyllic mountain villages that adorn it. You can hike at Jotunheimen National Park at the fjord’s eastern end, and there are landmarks worth visiting too, including the stunning wooden stave church in Kaupanger. Looking for a challenge? Why not hike on that glacier, Jostedalsbreen? It really feels incredible walking along the ice.
Take your time around these parts, and have patience. Journeys here are often slow and steady, but there’s so much to do that you should allow time for it. There are an abundance of charming places to sleep, with magical and marvellous views come morning.
If you’re driving, the best way to reach the region is to head from Bergen, around four hours away.
While Nærøyfjord is technically a part of Sognefjord (actually, its “second arm), it has plenty to carry it in its own right. It’s popular, and with great reason, as it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its undeniable beauty.
Unlike other fjords which can thanks their size for their formidability, the Nærøyfjord is only 17 km long and extremely narrow in parts, at just 250 metres wide. However, it’s unmissable. The soaring, snow capped mountains, flowing waterfalls and utterly captivating nature of the area will soon give that away!
The dramatic landscape is often accompanied by rain, but don’t let that put you off. Whether you’re taking photograph after photograph or committing the sights to memory, it’s simply astounding.
Many tours stop at Nærøyfjord, starting from Oslo and Bergen. If you’re on your own, you should start at the latter, driving part of the way and then taking a ferry. There are a variety of accommodation options in the surrounding regions.
Norwegian mythology focuses a lot on trolls, of all things, and so if you picked out the word “troll” from this fjord, you’re not suddenly a master of Norwegian! In years gone by, people genuinely believed that the stones and rocks of Trollfjord were trolls, hence why it came to have this name. The story goes that these trolls could not handle the sunlight, and so upon seeing it, they turned into stone. That’s probably why we usually hear about trolls hiding out under bridges! These were supposedly terrifying, monstrous creatures that set Christians in their sights as their victims!
As for the reality of Trollfjord, the history is actually still very interesting. Because the fjord is so narrow, there have been historical battles for control of the area. The modern fishermen with their fancy new boats fought with those still using traditional open ones. There just wasn’t enough space for all of them.
Times change, although now, Trollfjord, in the municipality of Vågan, Lofoten, is something of a well-kept secret. Those very same narrow waterways that caused such trouble over a century ago now keep the 2 km-long fjord rather hidden. However, it is certainly worth a visit.
In all directions, you can marvel at the steep mountains keeping it enclosed, the tallest being Mount Trolltind which reaches 1084 m above sea level. There isn’t much in the way of colour here, but the fact that it’s almost sinister and foreboding makes it impossible to look away. Thick snow clings to jagged and dramatic rocks and stone, and the entire area is almost apocalyptic. It’s unlike anything else!
Unsurprisingly, it’s hard to get to Trollfjord on your own, so it can only be visited by taking a Hurtigruten cruise or a boat trip departing from the Lofoten Islands.
If you make it to Trollfjord, you’ve reached some of the wildest parts. Obviously, no actual trolls (living or dead) reside here, but you’ve not got much in the way of modern human comforts. Accomodation options are basic huts, run by the Norwegian tourist authority.
Here we go with the trolls again! Trolltunga, a cliff shaped supposedly like a troll’s tongue, has been dominating the social media space for several years now; a rock formation jutting out of the mountains of Norway, over 1,100 m above sea level. It looks fiercely impressive, which is why so many people take photographs on it. It can be found in a delightful village, Odda, which lies at the end of Hardangerfjord, the third-longest fjord in the world. It is a charming little base for all of your sightseeing and other outdoor activities across the region, and its picturesque nature will forever lend itself to many memories.
The breathtaking sights don’t stop there. Norway’s second-largest fjord also houses the Hardangervidda National Park alongside several magical waterfalls in the Husedalen valley. Perhaps surprising is the fact that 40% of all of Norway’s fruit is grown here, particularly apples.
Getting to Odda takes around four hours from Stavanger in the car, or a lesser three hours from Bergen. If you’re starting from Haugesund, it takes just two. If you prefer not to drive yourself, you can take an express bus from either Oslo, Bergen or Haugesund.
Majestic, mystical, mythical and magical are just four of the words which can be used to describe Lysefjord, but when you finally see it for yourself, you just might find yourself speechless. Home to some of the highest mountains across Norway’s fjords, the peaks here will have you mesmerised even if you’ve seen countless peaks before. Here, some of the tallest stand at around 3000 m.
If you like hiking, there are plenty of opportunities. The world’s longest wooden stairway lives here, which is absolutely recommended if you want to take in the area from a bird’s-eye perspective up above. There are also some rock formations which set Lysefjord apart from the rest, such as Kjeragbolten, a giant boulder suspended in mid-air and then wedged into a mountain crevasse on Mount Kjerag. Daredevils absolutely love it, as it’s not for the faint hearted, some 1000 m above the fjord.
Lysefjord is long and narrow, but it’s also incredibly deep in places. While it’s just 13 m deep where it meets the sea around Stavanger, it then plunges to a depth of over 400 m below another iconic rock, the famous Pulpit Rock. The Lysefjord is therefore what’s known as a typical sill fjord, created by ice a staggering 10,000 years ago.
This is the most southerly of the big fjords in Norway, and it is characterised by dramatically high mountains and impressive landscapes. This area, like the other fjords, will not disappoint.