Known worldwide for their incredible natural beauty, Norway’s majestic fjords have inspired generations of artists. They are without doubt a must-see sight in Norway, yet the fjords are far more than just a tourist attraction. They also hold important cultural heritage as key factors in the growth of early Scandinavian society, providing a food source and a vital transport link for trading.
There are fjords all over Norway from the sunny southern coast to the Arctic north, but a handful stand out above the crowd. Here are seven of the most famous fjords in Norway.
The calm waters, historic mountain farms and slender waterfalls are just some of the reasons why the Geirangerfjord tops the list of Norway’s must-see fjords.
Part of the ‘West Norwegian Fjords’ area recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the 9.3-mile arm of the Storfjord carves through the mountains with extremely steep drops on both sides.
At its widest point the fjord is still less than one mile across, so any boat trip along arguably the country’s most famous waterway will provide outstanding views in all directions.
During the first summer of the pandemic, Norway’s Aurlandfjord attracted Norwegians in great numbers. It’s not hard to see why. Accommodation with fjord views and plenty of hiking trails appeal to the Norwegian love of the outdoors.
What sets the Aurlandsfjord apart from other fjords with similar appeal is its ease of access. It’s one of the few major fjords accessible on the national rail network thanks to the Flåm railway that links the fjord with Myrdal on the Oslo to Bergen railway.
Aurland is also easy to reach by car. It’s on the E16 highway that connects Norway’s two biggest cities, Oslo and Bergen. Those on a road trip can also enjoy the spectacular Aurlandsfjellet mountain road and Lærdal tunnel, among other nearby attractions.
For the best view of the fjord, head to the award-winning Stegastein viewpoint. The striking architecture overhangs the fjord providing an uninterrupted view from more than 2,000 feet above seat level.
Of course, the best way to get up close and personal with the fjords is to get out on the water. The two-hour passenger ferry trip from Flåm takes in the Aurlandsfjord and also its near neighbor, the Nærøyfjord.
Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list together with the Geirangerfjord, the Nærøyfjord provides a more intimate experience. Just 820 feet wide at its narrowest point, the Nærøyfjord is spectacular yet imposing all at once.
The ferry trip mentioned above is hands-down the best way to experience the fjord. Watch out for the historic farmstead Stigen, perched precariously on the mountainside close to the entrance to the fjord.
The final stop Gudvangen isn’t a lively place (Viking Valley aside) so most passengers reboard the ferry for the return trip or take the shuttle bus back to Flåm. But the area does offer some spectacular viewpoints for the keen hiker willing to stick around.
There’s so much to see among the picturesque villages, idyllic farmsteads, fruit orchards and hiking trails that most Norwegians haven’t even scratched the surface of the Sognefjord region.
Easy to find on a map, Norway’s longest, deepest fjord splits the fjord region in two.
The northern shore of the inner stretch are the best choice for international visitors short on time. The charming villages of Balestrand and Fjærland are worth a stop, the latter located at the foot of the enormous Jostedal glacier.
Farther inland, the stave churches Kaupanger and Urnes are among the many cultural highlights of the Sognefjord region.
While not quite as epic as the mighty Sognefjord, the Hardangerfjord is still a beast of a fjord. It carves its way through more than 100 miles of rock to the southeast of Bergen.
The Hardangerfjord is a popular option for road-trippers traveling between Oslo and Bergen, Norway’s two biggest cities.
Attractions include Folgefonna, the southernmost glacier in Norway, and several impressive waterfalls. Perhaps the most famous of these, Vøringsfossen, has the best infrastructure for visiting tourists.
A popular side trip from Stavanger, the Lysefjord is well-known as the setting for two of the country’s most intriguing hikes.
Known in English as the Pulpit Rock, the flat clifftop of Preikestolen is one of Norway’s most famous sights. But some tourists often get caught out, not realizing it takes four hours to hike there and back.
It takes even longer to reach Kjeragbolten, the famous boulder wedged more than 3,500 feet above the fjord. Still, approximately 80,000 people make the physically demanding hike each year.
Not interested in hiking? Regular boat trips from Stavanger are a much less strenuous option to see the highlights of the fjord from sea level, including the Vagabonds’ cove, Hengjane waterfall and a family of mountain goats.
Lesser-known until recent decades, the development of its villages as cruise destinations and the opening of the Loen Skylift has put the Nordfjord firmly on the international tourist map. The cable car takes visitors to the top of Mount Hoven—3,317 feet above sea level—in just a few minutes.
While tourists head up and down for the views, locals use the cable car to reach the start of many challenging hiking routes around the surrounding mountains.
Back down at fjord level, the small village Olden is nestled between the fjord and a lake, all in the shadow of the Jostedalsbreen National Park, home to the largest glacier in mainland Europe.
The nearby lake Lovatnet is one of the most popular spots in Norway among social media influencers but its beauty hides a tragic past.