The fjords of Norway are the main reason this country is often regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. The fjord landscapes are spectacular and draw in hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. While there are numerous fjords to be found in the world, Norway has the largest concentration.
What are Fjords?
The fjords were created during the Ice Ages, when valleys and inlets were filled with water and ice. Retreating and emerging ice sheets polished the mountainsides and, when the ice retreated for the last time, left behind long and narrow inlets flanked with sheer cliffs.
The warm air that results from the Coriolis effects and the warm Gulf Stream are two reasons for the surprisingly mild climate in Norway. Because of this, the fjords are usually free of ice, a huge touristic advantage compared to other fjord regions around the world. The mild climate provides a comfortable habitat for many animal and plant species. The fjord waters are home to porpoises, numerous fish and seals, and whales can often be spotted further out to sea. Eagles, seagulls and other coastal birds roam the skies.
The fjords are flanked with steep mountainsides that drop down far below sea level and the depth of most of them allows large ships to navigate through. This is another reason the Norwegian fjords are such a popular destination: they can be accessed by cruise ships.
Five Greatest Fjords of Norway
- The Hardangerfjord is the world’s third-largest fjord – that says something. This region is often called ‘the orchard of Norway’ for its numerous gardens and fruit trees, such as pears, plums and apples. The spring blossoms of these fruit trees make spring the best time to visit this particular fjord.
- Visitors to this friendly fjord can explore the area on foot, by bicycle or by car. There are several scenic drives and hiking trails, running past natural features such as the Vøringsfossen waterfall, arguably the most spectacular waterfall in Norway.
- In addition to waterfalls, there is also the enormous Folgefonna Glacier and the scenic lookout at Trolltunga (Troll’s Tongue).
- The banks of the Hardangerfjord are dotted with settlements and small villages.
- One of the narrowest fjords in all of Europe, the Nærøyfjord is actually an arm of the much larger Sognefjord. When standing on the shore of this fjord and looking up to the towering cliffs that surround them, visitors feel tiny and humbled. It is so special and spectacular that in 2005 it was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.
- Popular activities in the Nærøyfjord are kayaking – exploring a massive fjord in a little kayak is an unforgettable experience – and hiking.
- As Norway’s largest, deepest and longest fjord, the Sognefjord holds a few records.
- It is situated in the middle of fjord country in the west of Norway, a short distance from Bergen.
- Extending inland for more than 200 kilometers, the fjord cuts a deep gash in the map of Norway.
- The surrounding area, which is one of the most visited in the world, has more attractions than just the fjord.
- There are old stave churches; the valley of Aurlandsdalen; and the Viking Village and the Magic White Caves, both located in Gudvangen.
- With a length of only forty kilometers, the Lysefjord may not be as large as most other fjords in Norway, yet it has massive towering cliffs, some rising higher than 1,000 meters.
- The Lysefjord is home to Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock). This 600-meter-high plateau overlooks the fjord and is visited by 300,000 people each year.
- Besides adrenalin rushes, the Lysefjord area also has a few significant historic sites. A prehistoric village can be visited in Ryfylke and the rock carvings in Solbukk, dating from 500BC, are a major highlight as well.
- Additionally, Kjerag Mountain is probably the best place for taking photos, rock climbing and BASE jumping.
- The Geirangerfjord is the king of all fjords. It is one of the most visited places in Norway and, together with the Nærøyfjord, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its stunning natural beauty.
- The fjord consists of deep blue waters, flanked by tall green cliffs.
- Several waterfalls – the most famous of which are the Seven Sisters – tumble down the mountainsides, while sightseeing cruises cross the fjord. The views from the cliff tops are unbeatable.
Norway has a dazzling 1,190 fjords (including the ones in Svalbard) and the five listed are the most spectacular and the most visited.