Norwegian fjords

What would the Norwegian coast be without its fjords? Well, it would be a lot shorter. Measure the western shore of Norway in a straight line and it’s 2,500km, but measure all the inlets and wiggles made by the fjords you’d get a number more than 10 times higher. With their legends of trolls and their twisting views, there’s something a little tricky about their glassy-eyed beauty. Boats hover hesitantly, as if at the entrance of some mountain king’s hall. It’s only right to enjoy this natural wonder as reverently as you can: by hiking, biking, and even, on some fjords, silent electric ferries. But where to start?
Come and celebrate the Stegosaurus-like coast of Norway – all ridges and edges, and very, very old indeed.
Two of the most famous fjords, Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjord, are UNESCO-listed, and found in southwest Norway. Further south you’ll find Lysefjord, from which you’ll return evangelising about the beauty of Pulpit Rock. Then there’s Sognefjord, the longest and deepest of the lot. Incredibly, only 10 fjords bear the majority of the cruise ship traffic. As for the thousand or so others – they are yours to explore.

The Norwegian fjords are...

Mysterious, beautiful and capable of absorbing a lot of admirers. You can still find plenty of unexplored pockets.

The Norwegian fjords aren’t...

For staying on cruise control – you don’t have to stick to a ship. Hike up the Hardangerjøkulen glacier, cycle through Sunnhordland and kayak along Nærøyfjord.

Norwegian fjords map & highlights

Fjords nibble into Norway all the way up the coast, but the most dramatic are in western Norway between Stavanger and Molde, in a large region of the country known, helpfully enough, as fjordland or Fjord Norway. Here enormous fjords like Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord crack the coast into mountainous shards. Most people start their adventure from Bergen, Norway’s ‘second city’ which is well connected to the area, but outside of this heartland the watery landscape continues apace, to evocative Trollfjord, almost 1,000km north in the Lofoten Islands, and Magdalenefjord on Spitsbergen, right up in the Arctic Circle.

1. Hardangerfjord

Hardangerfjord is as famous for its fruit as it is for its fjord. You can buy fresh cherries and apples – or wait until the latter is turned into lovely cider. As for the fjord itself: it’s the second longest and second deepest in Norway. The Vøringsfossen waterfall, the Folgefonna glacier and a popular hike to Trolltunga – a rock sticking out like an insolent troll’s tongue – are nearby.

2. Lyngenfjord

If you’re cruising Norway’s coast close to Tromsø, dip into 82km-long Lyngenfjord, under the snow-capped Lyngen Alps. The fjord’s good weather and northerly latitude means it’s a great place to catch the Northern Lights. The local fishermen catch other delights: Lyngenfjord prawns grow slow in the cold water, and become sweet and delicious. The area is also a popular ski touring destination.

3. Lysefjord

Lysefjord is the finest fjord in the south, with several engaging sights around it that distract from the peace at sea level. Climb the Preikestolen, Pulpit Rock, a massive, flat-topped cliff which looks like a prime site for an alien abduction (although be warned, it does pull in the crowds). Then there’s the Flørli stairs, a wooden staircase with 4,444 memorable steps. The Kjeragbolt, a rock wedged in a crevasse, is a favourite spot for daring photographers.

4. Nærøyfjord

The wildest section of Songefjord, Nærøyfjord, right next door to Aurlandfjord, is narrow and picturesque. In a land of unspoilt beauty spots, Nærøyfjord has been named one of the most unspoilt of them all – and hence has a UNESCO World Heritage listing. Boats slip along its 20km length, their passengers looking out for seals and photographing the white waterfalls that braid down the shoulders of the rocks.

5. Songefjord

Songefjord holds all the records: it’s the deepest, longest fjord in Norway, making a dramatic crack in the countryside north of Bergen. Its coastline is larger than the French and Italian Rivieras combined, and it’s arguably more attractive. Not all its sights are big in size. Two of its slender arms, Nærøyfjord and Aurlandfjord, are renowned for their particular beauty. You’ll also see Urnes Stave Church, Norway’s UNESCO-listed old wooden church.

6. Trollfjord

You have to go to Nordland, near the Lofoten Islands to see Trollfjord, a slip of a fjord right up in the Arctic where sea eagles circle with uncanny patience. It’s a patience you’ll want to steal for yourself if you’re on the lookout for the elusive Northern Lights. With its high-sided cliffs and narrow span, it’s a thrilling fjord to navigate, Northern Lights or no.
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: Jeff Sheldon] [Is/Isn't: Christiann Koepke] [Hardangerfjord: Finn-b] [Lyngenfjord: Soerfm] [Lysefjord : rheins] [Nærøyfjord: Robert Dimov] [Songefjord: Visit Sognefjord] [Trollfjord: michael clarke stuff]