white and gray cruise ship on body of water

Best Ways to See Norway’s Fjords

This story was created in partnership with: Fjord Norway 

You don’t need me to tell you how breathtaking Norway’s fjords are. The word alone conjures up almost-mythic visions of scenery that will stop you in your tracks. Chiselled over hundreds of years, these natural phenomena will go above and beyond your expectations. 

Seeing is believing, but in the case of the fjords, you can’t just look at them – you need to get as close as is humanly possible to them. Discover some of the best ways to see Fjord Norway. 

Travel to: Fjord Norway

What are fjords? 

Fjords have captured our imaginations, but what exactly are they? In geological terms, they are narrow inlets – a passageway of water with steep cliffs that were formed by glaciers. For these geological formations to qualify as a fjord, they cannot be wider than they are long, in which case they would simply be a bay or a cove and perhaps not nearly as unique. 

aerial photography of fjord landscape
Hoven Loen | © Espen Haagensen

According to this source, the Norwegian word fjord essentially means “where one fares through.” In this instance, the context for the word fare is travel and draws on the concept of ferrying. A ferry, of course, is but one of the ways to see Fjord Norway! 

Norway’s fjords at a glance 

Given that the country has over 1000 fjords, of which ten are often visited by cruise ship – some are more famous than others – it can be confusing trying to figure out which to see. Most tour packages will take you to the best ones, and so it can be helpful to consider seeing them in this way, especially if you want to prioritise fjords during a trip to Norway. 

gray high-rise buildings surrounded with mountains at night time
The charming city of Bergen is considered a gateway to the fjords | © YDWU/Unsplash

These are are some of the most famous fjord regions with a handful of their key characteristics:

  • Lysefjord – found in southwestern Norway, this fjord is famous for viewing points Kjierag and Preikestolen. 
  • Hardangerfjord region – a national icon and Norway’s second-longest fjord, this adventure hub and stretches from the Atlantic Ocean just south of Bergen
  • Aurlandsfjord – a branch of the Sognefjord, this fjord is close to the must-see picturesque village of Flåm.
  • Nærøyfjord – listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, what’s lovely about this one is you’ll also see small farms and homes dotted along the hillsides of the fjord. 
  • Sognefjord area – dubbed the King of the Fjords, this is also the longest of them, a magnificent 204-kilometre stretch of mindblowing nature. 
  • Geirangerfjord area – another UNESCO site, this fjord region stands out thanks to the numerous waterfalls Mother Nature saw fit to bestow the area with. 
  • Hjørundfjord – tucked away from tourists, you’ll find few untouched nature and remote villages here.  
  • Romsdalsfjord – renowned for its diverse nature and isles, you’ll also find the famous winding Trollstigen mountain road in this region. 
  • Åkrafjord – this is one of Norway’s undiscovered fjords, and just east of Haugesund (the homeland of the Vikings) it’s very easy to reach. Within a 90-minute radius you the deepest lake, steepest hills and biggest glaciers.

It’s worth mentioning that the fjords are not just about nature. As you travel through these natural wonders, you’ll find charming towns and cities along the way where you can experience Norwegian traditions and culture as well as Viking heritage. 

Best ways to see Norway’s fjords

The best way to see Norway’s spellbinding fjords is to experience them by channelling your passions. Do you love hiking? Or do you enjoy exploring coastlines in a kayak? Either way, when it comes to seeing fjords in Norway, it’s not just what you see, but what you do while visiting that will shape your memory of them. 

Go on a cruise 

Opting for a cruise is probably one of the best ways to see the fjords, especially if you love being out on the open water. As you sail effortlessly through these fjord valleys – picture cliffs impressing their beauty on you from both sides, chances are you won’t know where to look! That’s why a cruise is such a great option, it will give you a way to experience them up close. 

cruise liner sailing through coastal mountain scenery
Hurtigruten cruise ship sailing across the Raftsundet strait in Nordland county, Norway | © Arvid Høidahl/Unsplash

There are several different routes you can choose from, but Hurtigruten, a Norwegian cruise and ferry company sails from Bergen every day. The best part is you can hop off to spend time in the fjord villages and towns along the way. It can be tempting to stay on the cruise ship but don’t miss out on any opportunity to explore local culture and Viking heritage in these remote fjord villages.

Take a hike

Any hiker worth their salt knows there’s nothing more life-affirming than traversing nature’s works of art. For those that relish exploring the world on foot, Norway’s fjords will make you want to walk forever. 

panorama of a city surrounded by the sea
In Ålesund you can hike to Aksla and enjoy views like this | © Nicolai Bernsten/Unsplash

A lot of places with this level of scenery require you to have a certain level of fitness. However, you don’t need to be in peak condition for these epic trails. If you want a real adventure in the fjords, you’ll find that too, but if you’re just hoping to take a gentle stroll through glacial landscapes and lush forests, easy does it. Also worth keeping in mind, from fjord cities such as Ålesund you can hike to panoramic viewpoints like Aksla that are just minutes away.

Best hikes in the fjords:

  • Preikestolen
  • Aurlandsdalen Valley 
  • Mount Skåla 
  • Romsdalseggen
  • Hornelen 
  • Trolltunga
  • Himakånå (Trolltunga’s little sister)  

Soar above them 

The Loen Skylift is a more recent addition to the Fjord Norway experience. Climb to 1011m/3316ft in the comfort of a cable car up Mt. Hoven. Once you reach the top, you can enjoy a delicious Norweigan feast in the Hoven Restaurant and enjoy some spectacular views over Nordfjord. 

This is an excellent option for people that want to enjoy the fjords in a relaxing way. If you do want something a little more active, fear not, Mt. Hoven is a good starting point for hiking and walking. There are lots of well-marked trails for all levels in this area too. 

Grab a kayak 

If you want an up-close and personal experience with the fjord coastline, your best option is kayaking. Thanks to the sheer variety of waterbodies offered by fjords, they are a haven for paddling enthusiasts. There’s no need to haul your gear all the way either, as you’ll find plenty of rental shops with everything you need. Better yet, opt for a tour, and they’ll take care of your gear and logistics!  

three colourful kayaks on the banks of a lake with cliffs in the background
Ringedalsvatnet is home to the famous Trolltunga and a great place to kayak | © Benjamin Davies/Unsplash

Along the way, you have the option of staying with local fishermen in their traditional cottages. This way, you’ll also get to indulge in Norwegian food culture and learn more about their local way of life. Some of the best spots for kayaking are the Helgeland coast and stirring waters of Nærøyfjord, and from Ålesund you can jump in a kayak to start paddling from the city centre.

With the fjords, it’s all about how you experience them. While you can camp, hike and explore many regions in the world, so few bare resemblances to anything as spellbinding as Norway’s fjords. Discover a place where mythic beauty comes to life before the word gets out.

Based in Toronto, Sahar is a full-time content editor for Days to Come and part-time travel junkie.

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