Fjords in Norway: 7 ways to see the spectacular waterways

Fjords in Norway

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When you think of Norway, you think of fjords and snow-capped mountains that seem like they touch the sky. Waterfalls cascade from rocky peaks. Houses painted Scandinavian red perched on tiny islands look out over flowing waters.

The Norwegian fjords and surrounding terrain are a perfect wilderness.

So what is the best way to see the fjords in Norway?

I started to become obsessed with seeing the fjords from as many different angles as I could on our recent trip to the fjords that began in Bergen and ended in Flåm.

Best way to see the Fjords in Norway

Osterfjorden - Norwegian fjord cruise

Fjords are long and narrow inlets flanked by steep sides or cliffs that were created by glaciers eroding mountains in their path. The inlets are often very deep – sometimes up to 1,300 metres!

Where the fjords meet the coastline, they are dotted with thousands of skerries or small island rocks.

There are well over one thousand fjords in Norway. We only managed to see a few of the major fjords – Sogneford, Aurlandsfjord, Nærøyfjord and Osterfjord – and they are some of the most beautiful natural landscapes I have ever seen.

Where to see the fjords in Bergen and Flåm region

1 – The fjords from up high

Bergen and fjords from the air

Try to get a window seat if you are flying into Bergen. The views from altitude on a clear day are incredible. You get a full perspective of the landscape and can see in detail the tiny islets and skerries unique to this part of the world.

When in Bergen take the Fløibanen funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen for impressive views of Bryggen and the area surrounding the city. You take the funicular from the station close to Bryggen. Return tickets are 130 NOK for adults [2021], and the attraction is open all year round – more information.

View from Stegastein viewpoint

For spectacular views of the Aurlandsfjord near Flåm, you must visit the Stegastein viewpoint.

Jutting 650 metres above the fjord, from here you can admire the landscape back towards Flåm and in the other direction to Undredal. To get here, you can drive or take a bus tour from Flåm – more information.

Tip – check the weather in Norway before you head out looking for views using this recommended Norway weather site

2 – Bergen to Flåm ferry on the Sogneford

Views from Sognefjord ferry from Bergen to Flam

Many people take the popular Bergen railway train and bus route via Voss and Gundvangen to reach Flåm. We opted to take the ferry service on a high-speed catamaran down the Søgneford instead. I’m so glad we did.

The largest and deepest of the fjords, Sogneford is also known the King of the Fjords. The journey is scenic and probably the best way to appreciate the changing landscapes along the fjord.

The boat passes through wide open water and skerries. You can spend time on deck watching waterfalls cascade dramatically down cliff faces and try to count how many you see.

There are several stops along the way when the boat slows down, so there are plenty of opportunities to take photos and enjoy the landscapes out on deck.

Sognefjord Norway

Conditions on the ferry are comfortable with huge glass windows so even if it is cold you can enjoy the views. There are luggage storage areas and a cafe onboard as well as wifi for those who need to be connected.

The ferry service departs daily from Bergen from 1st May to 30th September at 8:00 am and takes 5 hours to reach Flåm. Prices are from NOK 950 [2021] with discounts available for children and seniors. Children under 4 travel for free – more information.

Scandinavia dreaming? Check our 10 day Scandinavia itinerary including the fjords, Oslo, Gothenburg and Copenhagen here

3 – A half or full day cruise from Bergen

Mostraumen fjord cruise

Bergen is rightly called the gateway to the fjords. You can take tours north and south to explore the many islands and inlets that are features of the landscape.

We took a three-hour cruise from Bergen to Mostraumen on the Osterfjorden. Heading northeast from Bergen, the cruise takes you past tiny settlements perched strategically to capture the best vistas of the fjords.

Mountains rise majestically above the fast flowing waters and waterfalls seem to appear around every corner. I was surprised at the diversity of the terrain and how narrow the channels between islands are at points along the route.

Waterfalls and scenes from Norwegian fjords

You’ve never tasted water so pure as the crisp clear drops our guide collected for us to taste when we stopped close to a waterfall.

The Osterfjorden fjord tour vessel is a comfortable modern catamaran and leaves from the Zachariasbryggen pier outside the fish market and the tourist office on Bryggen Harbour at 10:00 am and 14:00 pm daily with another sailing at 18:00 pm in July and August. 

For more information on the Osterfjorden tour >> click here

Other day tour options we considered:

Fjord viewpoint tour to – we skipped this one as we were doing most of the activities as part of our stay in Flam but it is a great option if you only have a day in Bergen to see the fjords. You travel by mini-van for part of the way and stop at key sites like the Stegastein viewpoint before joining a 2 hour cruise on the Nærøyfjorden >> more info

a half-day tour to Skjerjehamn, a heritage town north-west of Bergen at the beginning of the Søgneford – click for more info

✪ visiting Rosendal on the Hardangerfjord – full day tour (7.5 hour) round trip from Bergen

4 – Fjord safari from Flåm

Kids on fjord safari

My favourite experience of our short time on the fjords was joining a Fjord Safari in Flåm. Not surprising really as I love specialist guided tours.

After being suited up in warm, waterproof clothing, hats and gloves, you hop into a small speed boat and go whizzing across the world heritage Aurlandsfjord.

Your guide gives you lots of interesting tidbits of information about the local area and history and helps you spot local wildlife. Yes, seals and porpoises live in the fjord.

Where Aurlandsfjord meets Nærøyfjord, there is a hairpin bend, and your speedboat glides across the waters as dramatic mountains loom overhead.

Your guide will tell you stories and legends inspired by the landscape and of Vikings who once lived there.

Undredal goats cheese

We chose to join the 3.5 hour Heritage Taste Safari which includes a stop in Undredal to taste the local award winning goats cheese. The cheese is delicious and the stories behind how it is made equally fascinating.

The Fjord Safari seems quite adventurous, but it is an activity for the whole family to enjoy.

Our preschooler twins had a blast. The company runs a range of tours that differ depending on the time of year and length of tour you wish to take – more information.

5 – The Norwegian fjords by rail – Flåm railway

Flam railway

One of the world’s greatest train journeys, the Flåmsbana railway connects Flåm and Myrdal a mountain station over 850 metres above sea level.

Built between 1924 and 1940, the Flåm Line is a great engineering feat due to its steep gradient and over 20 tunnels along 20 kilometres of track.

The journey takes just under an hour and you past gaping gorges, massive waterfalls and the small hamlets and farms that the railway was built to serve.

You constantly crane your neck to see what natural wonder is around the next corner. It’s an incredibly beautiful journey worthy of all the accolades.

Kjosfossen waterfall Flam Norway

A short stop at the Kjosfossen waterfall is your opportunity to experience the full force of nature. We visited in Spring, and the waterfall gushed over the rocks in spectacular fashion.

The train departs almost hourly during the summer season – May to September. Tickets for the Flåm Line are from NOK 430 one way – more information

6 – Hiking the fjords of Norway

Norway fjords

There’s no better way to appreciate the terrain than when you walk and hike through it.

The Norwegian fjords attract hikers from all over the world as there are many trails in the region suitable for people with all levels of fitness. Our experience was quite tame as we had small children with us but I’d like to go back to the region and try some of the more challenging walks.

Here is a list of top 5 hikes in Norway to add to your list – the ones to note in this area are the hikes in the Aurlandsdalen Valley. You can also hike back to Flåm from Myrdal after taking the Flåm railway. The downhill route takes around 5-6 hours.

We stayed at the Flåmsbrygga Hotel in Flåm, and they were only too happy to help with a list of shorter walks taking in waterfalls and fjord views.

Tip – due to weather conditions, most of the walks are suitable for hiking between June and September.

7 – Kayaking the fjords

Still ford waters perfect for kayaking

Having experienced the fjord safari tour and getting close to the water, if we visited again, I’d like to try a kayak tour.

I watched people paddling out across the fjord from Flåm, and it looked like the perfect way to connect to the water and truly appreciate just how magnificent the Norwegian fjords area is.

You can do half day tours and overnight kayak tours with Njord Sea Kayak who are committed to respecting the local environment and wildlife.

Self guided fjord day trips from Oslo

Many people choose to do a self guided tour full day fjord experiences from Oslo. The popular route Oslo to Bergen in a day starts in Oslo, and takes you through the fjord region on trains, ferries and buses across some of the most beautiful scenery in the world before finishing in Bergen. This option includes a cruise on the magnificent Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord as well as a one way journey on the Flamsbana railway >> click for more info

Guided Norway fjord tours

fjord tours norway

If you want someone else to plan so you can relax and enjoy the scenery you can always join a small group tour and let your guide manage the logistics for you.

Here are some suggestions based on our experience and feedback from fellow travelers we met along the way.

Best for highlights of Norway – Trafalgar’s 9 day Norway highlights tour takes in several of Norway’s magnificent fjords including Hardangerfjord, Geirangerfjord, and the Sognefjord. There’s also the opportunity to view the Bøyabreen Glacier and cultural sites such as the Stave Church in Lom and Royal Palace in Oslo >> more information

Best for adventurers – G Adventures fjord trekking tour takes you south of Bergen to Odda and the Hardangerfjord. It’s a bucket list 7 day vacation that includes spectacular Trolltunga and a glacier walk >> more information 

A note on cruise liners on the fjords

I haven’t mentioned the overnight cruise liner option here, and there’s a reason why. When you are visiting a country to experience its incredible natural wilderness, it is disturbing to be confronted by cities afloat.

We saw three mega cruise liners dock while we were in Flåm. They offloaded thousands of people who flooded the tiny town and dispersed on their own fjord adventures – some of these mentioned above. There is no doubt that these ships make an enormous contribution to the local economy. And I’m sure the views on deck would be fantastic.

But there’s nothing like having the wind in your hair and the fresh waters of the fjords splashing your face to feel truly at one with nature. And after all, isn’t that what you’re there for?

If you’d love to cruise the Norwegian fjords, consider a small ship adventure where you can really come close to nature and experience the essential beauty of these stunning landscapes. Departing from Tromso, this 13 day cruise makes its way south stopping at the Lofoten Islands, Trondheim and Geiranger as well as Flam before heading to Scotland’s Shetland and Orkney Islands >> more info

Fjord landscapes Norway

Fjords in Norway FAQ

Norway is the country with the greatest number of fjords in the world with are over 1,700 named fjords found along its 57,000km-long coastline. 

Geirangerfjord, Lysefjord, Aurlandsfjord, and the Nærøyfjord are the most dramatic and therefore the most popular of the Norwegian fjords. Two of the fjords: Nærøyfjord and Geirangerfjord are featured on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The Sognefjord is both Norway’s deepest and longest fjord. It stretches 204 kilometres inland just north of the coastal city of Bergen.

It depends on what type of experience you want. Summer – from June to August – is the best time to visit for outdoor sports like hiking and kayaking and cruising. In the winter months – from October to March – you’re mostly like to see the Northern Lights. 

Thanks to Visit Bergen and Fjord Norway for kindly supplying Bergen city cards and our tour to the Stegastein Lookout.

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