One writer’s opinion of the very best the Norwegian fjords have to offer. Do you agree?
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. But unlike many other must-see destinations, the best fjords of Norway are spread all over the country.
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!
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, whereas 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 top five fjords in Norway.
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.
The amazingly narrow Trollfjord is a 1.5-mile long arm of the Raftsund between the Lofoten islands and the Vesteralen archipelago. 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.
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 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. It’s this terrain that is the chief attraction, with the almost 2,000-ft high Preikestolen cliff and Kjeragbolten boulder two of Norway’s most famous and photogenic sights.
The next two fjords are actually branches of much bigger fjords, but together they make up the West Norwegian fjords listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Thanks to its inclusion on the classic Norway in a Nutshell itinerary, the Nærøyfjord is one of Norway’s most well-known fjords. It’s easily accessible via the public ferry from Gudvangen to Flåm, which means a trip on the fjord can be combined with a memorable trip on the Flåm railway, and the Oslo to Bergen line.
Kayaking along the Nærøyfjord is a popular recreational activity with equipment hire and guided tours available from the village of Flåm.
Best seen from the car and passenger ferry that runs between the villages of Geiranger and Hellesylt, the fjord 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. The Sognefjord, the Nordfjord and the Hjørundfjord are just some of those I didn’t have room to include on this list. There are many more! Whether you like to kayak, hike or sail by on a ferry, there’s a fjord for everyone in Norway.