Enjoy spectacular scenery, waterfalls, hiking, boat trips and more in the Norwegian fjords. Here’s your guide to the very best fjords in Norway.
Consistently voted as one of the world's top travel destinations, the fjords of Norway are high on the bucket list of almost everyone I speak with. And with very good reason!
Watch: If you're in a rush, this video will give you the perfect visual introduction. Best of all? It will take under a minute!
What are the best fjords in Norway?
We rank Norway's best fjords as follows:
To find out why, keep reading!
Where are the Norwegian fjords?
But unlike many other must-see destinations, the best fjords of Norway are spread all over the country. This makes deciding exactly where to go a bit of a challenge, to say the least.
Just take a look at the jagged coastline on a map! The length of Norway's coastline is estimated at 18,000 miles, but if you exclude fjords that number suddenly drops to just 1,550 miles!
What is a fjord?
Of course, the Norwegian definition of fjord is wider than it is in English. In Norwegian, fjord refers to any narrow inlet of water from the ocean. In English, fjord is more specific, requiring steep sides and deep water.
I'll cover both in this list, although I'll be leaning toward the latter. In an attempt to inspire your travel planning, and for a bit of fun, here are my picks for the very best fjords in Norway.
Norway's best fjords – ranked
Plenty of people will take issue with these rankings and that's absolutely fine. Please don't take offence if your favourite fjord isn't on the list, or behind several others. This is merely a personal preference.
Of course, this also means you shouldn't change your plans based on this list! But hopefully, it will inspire you to plan a trip to see one or more of Norway's best natural attractions. Enjoy!
I know including the Oslofjord on the list will annoy many of you! But even though it doesn't meet the “English” definition of a fjord, the Oslofjord really does offer something unique for a capital city.
For those of you only planning to visit Oslo, the Oslofjord offers an opportunity to take to the water and experience the Norwegian outdoor lifestyle without venturing far from the capital.
While you don't get the steep cliffs and waterfalls of the west Norwegian fjords, you will be able to check out the diverse islands just a short ferry ride from Oslo.
Known for its nature reserve, Hovedøya is home to the ruins of the Cistercian monastery Hovedøya Abbey and former military installations, while Gressholmen was the site of the city's main seaplane airport from 1927 to 1939 until the construction of the airport at nearby Fornebu, which is now a thriving business park.
Further south, the cute fishing village of Drøbak is a terrific option for a day trip from Oslo.
Stretching 106km inland between the Storfjord and Sognefjord, the Nordfjord is a popular cruise ship destination. The waterway passes some of Norway's wildest coastline to spectacular mountains, valleys and glaciers at the very heart of the country.
Like the other fjords on this page, outdoor activities dominate the list of things to do. Hiking and cycling are popular activities. You can even ski in the summer at Stryn!
But if you're not the outdoors type, there's plenty to see from a cruise ship. The small villages dotted around the fjord's edge also make a great relaxing getaway.
One of the most popular spots along the Nordfjord and its myriad of branches is the small village Olden. Home to just a few hundred people, the village has two charming churches, which this travel blogger especially liked.
Olden is also a good base to reach the nearby Briksdal glacier. Buses leave Olden for the glacier although many visitors will have pre-arranged transport. Once you reach the lodge, it's a 3km to walk to the glacier arm. It's a lovely walk, including the beautiful Kleivafossen waterfall along the way.
Another must-see destination is the simply stunning Loen. Here you'll find views in whichever direction you look: fjord, lake, mountains.
One of the least known fjords on this list is actually one of the most accessible. If you're in a rush, it's even possible to visit town, mountains and fjord all in the same day. If you're basing yourself in Ålesund for a couple of days, a side trip to the Hjørundfjord is well worth your time.
The fjord is surrounded by the Sunnmøre Alps, giving the fjord and surroundings an alpine backdrop. The fjord's nickname, ‘Royal Route', comes from the European royalty that visited the region as far back as the 18th-century.
Great bases for hiking include Ytre Standal, Barstadvik, Ørsta, Volda, Sykkylven, Stordal and Stranda. Hikes range from family-friendly to some of Norway's more challenging treks.
Wait, the Sognefjord only at number seven!? I can hear the locals screaming from here. Yes, but there is reason behind my madness! Its sheer size means there’s plenty of branches especially farther inland. Two of these narrow, picturesque branches are ranked higher on my list!
Whichever way you look at it, the Sognefjord is epic. Norway’s longest, deepest fjord splits the fjord country in two—something that’s best appreciated by flying over it in a plane!
The entire length of the Sognefjord is a living museum. If you want to slow down and relax, there are few better spots to do it. Expect incredible natural landscape and hidden cultural spots around every corner.
The 205km long fjord is accessible in many different ways, by car or by ferry from Bergen. In fact, it's one of the better fjords to explore by public transport.
There is a year-round fast passenger ferry service from Bergen to Sogndal. It takes about five-hours but services are limited in the winter months. From May to September, an additional service links Bergen with Flåm via Vik, Balestrand, and Leikanger.
Another sizeable waterway makes it way into my list. The 179km-long Hardangerfjord is one of the easiest Norwegian fjords to explore by car. Rather than driving to viewpoints, drivers can skirt the fjord by road. This, coupled with easy access from Bergen, means the lush surroundings are a popular tourist pull.
To appreciate the region at its natural best, head inland. It's here that the waterway narrows as it passes the imposing glacier and national park of Folgefonna, and approaches the vast Hardangervidda mountain plateau.
The Hardanger area offers hiking opportunities galore. But if that's not your thing, there's plenty of charming small towns, blooming orchards and stunning waterfalls to explore.
Visitors should also check out the Sørfjord, a 38km-long dagger-like branch. The fjordside road gives visitors a different perspective on the scenery.
Plunging south into lush countryside, the fjord leads to the small town Odda. This is a great base for a trip to Trolltunga or simply to relax for a couple of days. The spectacular 165m-high Låtefossen is nearby and is considered one of Norway’s best waterfalls.
With its narrow entrance and steep mountain sides, the Trollfjord is one of Norway's most spectacular fjords, yet lesser known by tourists because of its awkward location.
During the summer months the Hurtigruten ships often make a detour into the fjord, and for many it is the absolute highlight of the northern leg of the journey.
On approaching the fjord's narrow entrance, many visitors are shocked that such a large ship can make it in and safely turn around at the other end! The Trollfjord is also a great place to spot wild sea eagles swooping overhead.
On my winter voyage, we floated outside the entrance as it’s too dangerous to enter without daylight. The ship put its spotlights on the entrance though, so we were able to get a glimpse!
If you’re not taking a Hurtigruten voyage, several guided tour boats run from Svolvær.
Heading to the south of the fjord region, the Lysefjord is known for two main reasons: its proximity to Stavanger and the immense Preikestolen cliff, known in English as the Pulpit Rock. The views of the fjord from this famous clifftop are hard to beat:
The English translation of the 26 mile-long Lysefjord is “light fjord”, a name said to be derived from the light granite cliffs. Unlike some other famous fjords on this list, the Lysefjord is home to just two villages because of the tough mountain terrain.
Flørli is known for Flørlitrappene, a challenging hike with a difference! The Flørli Steps as it's known in English contains an astonishing 4,444 wooden steps from fjord to mountain top. You're unlikely to be surprised to hear it's the longest wooden stairway in the world.
The village of Lysebotn lies at the fjord's easternmost end. This is the starting point for the difficult hike to the Kjeragbolten boulder. Despite its isolation with access by just one road or boat, the village receives tens of thousands of annual visitors by cruise ship.
By the way, the one road into the village is a spectacular drive. Take the opportunity if you can! The 29km-long road to Sirdal climbs over 900 metres up a very steep cliff by way of an amazing 27 hairpin bends. One of them is even inside a 1km-long tunnel!
My top three picks are actually all branches of much bigger fjords. Together, they make up the West Norwegian fjords, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Overtourism is an increasing problem for these fjords. The Norwegian government is taking steps to tackle cruise ship emissions and impact of so many day visitors on small communities.
A narrow branch of the epic Sognefjord, the stunning Aurlandsfjord is one of Norway's most photographed fjords. That’s largely because of the tourist village of Flåm, visited by countless tourists every day. There’s also the epic view from the Stegastein viewpoint, pictured above, open year-round.
The fjord itself is so picturesque because of its deep, narrow characteristics. The still water is surrounded by mountains soaring well over 1,500 metres above sea level.
Many people visit the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord together on one of the classic Nutshell tours. A two-hour ferry trip from Flåm to Gudvangen includes both of these famous Norwegian fjords.
Kayaking along the Nærøyfjord—and the Aurlandsfjord for that matter—is a popular recreational activity. It’s also a rare opportunity to get some breathing space away from the tourist crowds in high season! Equipment hire or guided tours if you prefer are available from the village of Flåm.
The one downside of the Nærøyfjord is that there’s very few places to stay. This means most people pass through. However, those that do find somewhere to stay fall in love with the place! Check out this guide to the “forgotten” Rimstigen hike for one example.
UNESCO-listed along with the Nærøyfjord, the Geirangerfjord is arguably Norway's most famous fjord.
Best seen from the car and passenger ferry that runs between the villages of Geiranger and Hellesylt, the fjord – a branch of the Storfjord – is known for its steep sides, ancient farmsteads and tumbling waterfalls.
The Seven Sisters waterfall, which contains seven separate streams of water tumbling from a height of more than 800ft, is a must-see.
The fjord is also a photographer's dream thanks to several lookout points on the mountain roads nearby, and others that can be reached by hiking or cycling.
The fjord was made even more famous around the world thanks to the 2015 disaster movie Bølgen (The Wave), which depicts a scenario whereby a nearby mountain collapses into the fjord causing a tidal wave that destroys Geiranger.
The scary thing is, the film is based on real events and a very real possibility that it could happen again.
Don't forget about…
There are so many more fjords of Norway to explore. This is just a list of my personal favourites. Whether you like to kayak, hike or sail by on a ferry, there's a fjord for everyone in Norway. Enjoy!