Norway is home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. But, when it comes to the country's west coast, it's the famous fjords which grab most of the headlines. Created by glacial cycles over a period of around 2.5 million years, Norway's fjords now extend along most of the country's western coast, showcasing jaw-dropping scenery from snow-topped mountains to cascading waterfalls and enchanting villages. When it comes to choosing which to visit, things can get complicated. Norway has a multitude of famous fjords, all of which have their own unique characteristics. Whether it's the towering mountains of the breathtaking UNESCO-listed Nærøyfjord, or the longest and deepest fjord of them all; Sognefjord, each is unique and offers an unforgettable experience. Below, we explore the most popular fjords and the best ways to explore them.

Most popular Norwegian fjords

Nærøyfjord

Surrounded by towering mountains of up to 1,700 metres, Nærøyfjord is one of Norway's best known fjords. In fact, it is actually one of the arms of the larger Sognefjord (see below) and has received UNESCO status. A visit here showcases spellbinding panoramas of steep mountainsides, powerful waterfalls, hanging valleys and even small hamlets dotted around it banks. The Nærøyfjord is 20km long and only 250 metres across at its narrowest and a mere 12 metres at its shallowest. It can be seen as part of a wider tour of the Sognefjord and is one of the best places for capturing spectacular photographs. If you're lucky, it is possible to spot the likes of goats grazing beside the fjord or seals basking on the rocks near the shores.


Nærøyfjord, the most famous arm of the Sognefjord

Sognefjord

This is Norway's longest fjord – often dubbed "the king of the fjords" – located in the heart of the fjord region. It extends more than 200km inland and is also the country's deepest fjord, with a maximum depth of an incredible 1,308 metres. The mountains surrounding the fjord tower up to 2,000 metres, making this an absolute must-see when planning your fjord holiday. The inner end of the Sognefjord is covered by Jostedalsbreen, the biggest glacier in continental Europe, and the spot where the fjord meets the glacier is considered one of the most beautiful travel destinations in all of Europe. Notable villages within the Sognefjord which you can visit or stay overnight in include Flåm, Balestrand and Gudvangen.


Views of Sognefjord, Norway's deepest fjord

Hardangerfjord

Despite being Norway's second longest fjord – 179km – Hardangerfjord is much less frequently visited than its neighbouring fjords. However, it still has plenty to offer. With less visitors, you can enjoy the spellbinding scenery without the crowds, where verdant granite cliffs look down on rippling waters. With lots to offer including mountains, waterfalls, glaciers and orchards, the panoramas are second to none. In fact, if you travel during the month of May, it is possible to see the blossoming fruit trees in Hardanger.


The village of Lofthus in scenic Hardangerfjord

Geirangerfjord

The Geirangerfjord is one of Norway's most visited tourist sites and it's easy to see why. It has been UNESCO listed along with the Nærøyfjord since 2005. The fjord has several impressive waterfalls – including the famous seven sisters and the suitor. The two waterfalls face one another across the fjord, and the suitor is said to be trying to woo the sisters opposite. During the summer months, the surrounding mountains are covered by lush, green vegetation and it is perfect for the likes of hiking, kayaking and canoeing. This is a very popular fjord for summer cruises. You can also spot a number of abandoned farms such as Skageflå, Knivsflå, and Blomberg along the sides of this magnificent fjord. These can be visited by organised tours is desired.


Geirangerfjord, the most popular fjord for cruise liners

How to explore the fjords

By public transport

A great way to travel through the fjords is through a mixture of trains, buses and boats. You can do this through a range of itineraries specifically designed to take in the best of the scenery, such as our popular Highlights of Norway trip, or with our Hardangerfjord in a Nutshell. These itineraries include sections where you will experience the fjords with a multitude of transport options. Whether it's a day trip on the classic route between Bergen and Oslo – with stops in the likes of Flam, Ulvik or Lofthus – or a multi-day trip with stays in specially selected properties in the small villages within the fjords, this is one of the most flexible ways to travel. However, do note that not all fjords are open year-round when it comes to transportation.

One of the most popular ways to see the region is via the iconic Flåm Railway. Indeed, it has been described as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. The train runs from the end of Aurlandsfjord, a tributary of the Sognefjord, up to the high mountains at Myrdal station. Over the course of an hour, it takes you from sea level in Flåm on the Sognefjord to Myrdal station which is located some 867 metres above sea level in the mountains. Along the way, you're treated to spectacular mountain vistas, foaming waterfalls and 20 tunnels linking together vast valleys with endless picture-perfect views. Myrdal is also a station on the Bergen Line, meaning the Flåm Railway connects with trains running between Bergen and Oslo.


The majestic Flåm Railway travelling through the mountains

By car

Another great way to travel the fjords is by hire car. This can be done during spring, summer or autumn, although we would recommend the summer months to avoid snow and ice. The main advantage of this method is that it gives you a greater sense of freedom, allowing you to take things at your own pace from stop to stop, giving you plenty of time to stop, admire the scenery and explore its most famous sights along the way. You can also cover great distances and visit more fjords as well as see places which are otherwise unaccessible by the likes of rail or bus. it is worth considering that the roads along Norway's fjords can be difficult to negotiate. Be prepared for narrow roads, steep inclines and an adventure!


One of many coastal roads connecting Norway's fjords

By cruise

One of the best ways to experience this unspoilt region is on a Norwegian fjord cruise. Numerous ships depart from across the country which take you into the fjords along the way. We recommend Havila Voyages with its wide range of coastal routes, including visits to the likes of Geiranger in the summer. Though Havila Voyages run their cruises all the way from Bergen to Kirkenes in the north, it is also possible to book on to a small section of the coastline such as Bergen to Trondheim. This will allow you to experience a wide range of scenery including craggy coastlines and a number of Norway stunning fjords.


The Havila Castor during summer

When to travel

Though the fjords can be visited all year round, the most popular season runs from around July to August during which you can benefit from good weather and a plethora of summer activities. While you should still prepare the potential of rain and some unsettled days, it should mostly stay pleasant and warm. Opt to travel during the shoulder months of May, June, September and October to experience fewer fellow visitors and better availability. Accommodation tends to book up fairly early for the most sought after hotels and popular tourist spots can experience crowds during peak season.

 

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