Characterized by very steepy rock walls, the fjords are sea stretches that penetrate the coast even for hundreds of km. Those of Norway are among the most beautiful and longest in the world.
During my recent self-drive trip through Norway (July 2019) I was lucky enough to see some of the most spectacular Norwegian fjords: the Nærøyfjord and the Aurlandsfjord – which are two arms of the Sognefjord – and the Hardangerfjord. All three are located in south-western Norway.
The Naerøfjord is the narrowest fjord in the world and is the most impressive arm of the Sognefjord.
Norwegian fjords: where they are.
But where are the most beautiful Norwegian fjords and how to visit them? The Norwegian fjords are essentially divided into two areas:
- fjords of the South of the country, North of Bergen: Sognefjord and Geirangerfjord;
- fjords of the South of the country, South of Bergen: Lysefiord ed Hardangerfjord;
- Arctic fjords, located in the far north of the country, among which the most famous is the Trollfjord, in the Trømso and the Lofoten islands region.
Which fjords to visit during a trip to Norway?
Due to the large size of the country, it is impossbile to see all most beautiful fjords from north to south staying only 1 or 2 weeks, given that you probably will visit the most interesting norwegian towns too (Oslo, Bergen). Therefore, the main decision if you have only a little time to visit, is whether to head north OR south, towards the Arctic fjords or those of the south-western region of Norway.
1 week or 10 days: If you opt for southern Norway, on a one-week trip (as we did) or ten-day trip -and considering that you might want to see Oslo and Bergen too – you can see 2 fjords very well.
2 weeks+: If you have more time, two weeks or more, all 4 of the most important fjords of the South are on the itinerary, as well as several towns further north of the country (Trondheim, Alesund).
How to see the Norwegian fjords?
There are many ways to visit Norway and its fjords: by car, by ship, by boat or by train. Some of the most suggestive itineraries are made by different means, for example: train + boat, or car+boat.
Some fjords, even in the farthest points from the coast, are very deep and it is for this reason that it is possible to navigate them even with big ships, which allow you to observe them from close.
The fjords can therefore be seen in these ways:
- driving independently along the beautiful scenic roads, also reported on this Norwegian site;
- participating in a one-day cruise, for example starting from Bergen;
- participating in a one-day tour from Oslo or Bergen, like “Norway in a Nutshell”;
- taking part in a multi-day cruise on board the Hurtigruten ship, the former fjord postal ship that sails along the entire Norwegian coast from Bergen to Trømso;
- using a ferry line on which to embark your car, in order to continue with your self-drive itinerary once disembarked;
- in many locations you can rent kayaks or small motor boats to observe the fjords as closely as possible
I suggest you to rent a car and drive indipendently, and take some short cruises along the fjords.
Norwegian southwestern fjords by car: the Hardangerfjord.
This was the first of the two fjords that we visited during our Norway trip, It stretches right along the scenic route that we followed by car, moving from Oslo (where we landed) to Bergen (where we stayed for two days).
The beauty of the Hardangerfjord lies in the fact that having a rather mild microclimate it is a very green fjord, with many fruit trees cultivations and spectacular waterfalls. The best time to see this scenery is obviously in summer (June-July), when the snow melts!
The scenic fjord road – divided into three stages – goes from Granvin to Låtefoss. We only took the first stage (from Granvin to Steindalsfossen), admiring two beautiful waterfalls near which you can stop comfortably by car. The first was Skjervsfossen and the second Steindalsfossen, which has the peculiarity of having a walkway on the rear of the stream of the waterfall.
Some of the most beautiful stretches of the Hardangerfjord can be also found on the smaller arms branches: first the Eidfjord one, with its village that bears the same name. From here you can rent kayaks or board small motor boats to discover the fjord from very close. Do not miss to climb up to the spectacular Vøringsfossen waterfall, on the Hardangervidda plateau, this is the most beautiful waterfall among those we saw, with its double jump of 182 meters.
The second arm of the Hardangerfjord worth to be seen is the Sørfjorden which leads to the Låtefoss waterfall and the Folgefonna National Park, where you can go hike on the glacier. From the village of Tyssedal, you can also start the Trolltunga hike, a challenging trekking for experts of the duration of a whole day, that will take you to a panoramic point of view on a cliff.
NOT TRAVELING BY CAR? to visit the Hardangerfjord without driving you can take part in an organized one-day excursion that starts from Bergen, and that includes a bus + boat tour. Visit the gofjords.com website for more information.
South-western Norwegian fjords: Nærøyfjord and Sognefjord cruise.
The second fjord we visited was the Sognefjord. With its more than 200 km of length it is the longest fjord in Norway, and the second in the world. It winds north of Bergen and is known above all for its two arms of the Nærøyfjord (Unesco World Heritage) and Aurlandsfjord, which are truly spectacular.
To visit this part of the Sognefjord I recommend you the boat cruise that starts from the village of Gudvangen and arrives in Kaupanger.
This short but spectacular cruise is carried out by boarding the ferry line in the Gudvangen village and has the duration of 2 hours and a half.
You can choose between different departures throughout the day, and you can also embark your car, one way or return.
The first and most spectacular stretch is that of the Nærøyfjord with its high steepy walls, close to each other in some points just 250 meters.
The second stretch is that of the Aurlandsfjord, where you will find yourself at the confluence point of three branches of the fjord, the show is guaranteed!
The last stretch of the cruise will take you to the village of Kaupanger, sailing in front of the imposing mountains of the natural reserve of Bleia.
Characteristic villages not to be missed in this area of the Sognefjord:
- Aurland: located right on the intersection of the arms of the three fjords, spectacular views.
- Flåm: located at the bottom of the Aurlandsfjord, from here you can take the Flåmsbana, a railway line that runs through a picturesque valley.
- Gudvangen: village from which the cruises on the Nærøyfjord departs, in summer there is a small (and touristic) “Viking village”. The view is so beautiful in this narrow valley, even without getting on a cruise ship.
Useful booking information: this cruise takes place in spring, summer and autumn. Having the emabrk our car on the ferry as well, I booked in advance on the VisitFlam.com, site, so as to secure the place on board. The ferry does not carry many vehicles, it is better to book. On board there is a small café that provides hot beverages and snacks. We started with the cruise at 9 o’clock in the morning, to have time to make a different itinerary on the way back by car. In hindsight, however, perhaps the best time to take this cruise is at noon, when the sun is high in the sky and lights the whole fjord.
NON TRAVELING BY CAR? you cam embark yourself in Bergen on a full-day cruise that arrives at the Flåm village, in the Aurlandsfjord. More information on the gofjords.com site.
General information and FAQ about Norway and the fjords.
What is the better time of the year to see norway fjords? In my opinion the best time of the year to visit is during summer (June-August), for many good reasons:
- you can benefit from many hours of daylight (in July it is day from 4:30 AM until 11 PM);
- temperatures are mild (average of 18 degrees day)
- you will also be able to skip the eventuality closing of the roads for snow and frost, as happens in winter
- summer also allows you to see the waterfalls, lakes and rivers in full flow
- not all cruises are possible in winter
What about renting a car in Norway? Driving is on the right side, and roads are often small with low speed limits. To rent a car I always use Autoeurope to find the best deal. We rented in Oslo at the Gardermoen airport and kept the car for the entire one-week itinerary.
Can I see the fjords from Oslo without renting a car? yes, there are 1-day organized tours called “Norway in a Nutshell”, which will take you through a scenic train ride through the mountains, and then to the village of Flåm where you will embark on a 2-hours cruise on the Aurlands- and Nærøyfjord.
IMPORTANT! Be aware that renting a car in a location and returning it to another one, in Norway can be very expensive.
Is Norway expensive to visit? Yes it is, compared to other european nations, Norway is the most expensive. For example, a glass of white Chablis wine costs the compensation of 13 euros, a medium local beer 11 euros.
Can you use euros in Norway? No, they only accept norwegian krones, paying by credit card is widely accepted.