With nearly 1200 fjords in total, Norway is undisputedly the fjord capital of the world. Hence it is no surprise to know that travellers often get confused about which are best fjords in Norway (all though I sure have my favourites). So, in this post I have made a list of the 5 best fjords in Norway that you should prioritise when visiting!
Did you know that the word “fjord” itself is actually Norwegian? Instead of finding an English translation, at some point the rest of the world just started using it!
The fjords were created by glaciers, so massive that they went below the sea level back in the day. The steep valleys were then carved into the ground under the glaciers. The glaciers slowly retreated, as we know from our geography lessons, and the ocean flooded the U- and V-shaped valley forming the famous fjords. In short, fjords are basically a V/U-shaped undersea valley.
National Geographic Magazine has ranked the Norwegian fjords as the best ‘unspoiled travel destinations in the world’. And when the American newspaper Chicago Tribune prepared its own list of ‘Seven wonders of Nature’, it included Norwegian fjords amongst the seven! So, I’m not even being blunt when I say that you need to see the Norwegian fjords for yourself. And if you are here to know what the best fjords in Norway are; keep reading!
For my custom-made itineraries for fjord Norway, head this way!
Location of fjords in Norway
Most of Norway’s fjords are located along the western coast, where I grew up. Hence, the best places to see Norway’s fjords are Stavanger, Bergen and even Ålesund, if you are wondering which Norwegian cities to visit. All of these three towns are located on the western coast, and the best fjords in Norway are located close to these towns. In fact, Bergen is referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Fjords of Norway’ and is, in my opinion, the best place to start the fjord exploration.
Spending a short amount of time in Bergen, but want to make the most of it? Here are some of my favourite tours of Bergen!
The best way to see Norway’s fjords
The best way to see Norway fjords is by cruising right through them, of course! While on a fjord cruise (or speed boat adventure), you will be able to admire the beauty of the surrounding landscape, the idyllic villages that lay along the fjord and the majestic waterfalls that plunge right into the fjord itself. To get a panoramic or bird’s eye view of the fjord, you could choose to hike the peaks surrounding it (just remember what I said in my massive Norway travel guide; it is NOT called “hiking the fjords”!). Hiking is another one of the best ways to see Norway’s fjords. Some fjords can also be explored by road-tripping alongside them, and if you plan to do so, make sure to read this post covering 7 places to stop on a road trip in Norway!
The 5 Best fjords in Norway
The fjords of Norway are long, narrow, deep and have numerous side arms. Some of these side arms are even more famous and beautiful than the main fjords. Every fjord is unique and has its own peculiarity, so regardless of which one(s) you aim to see; I know you’ll have a great time when visiting Norway. While each fjord is beautiful in its own way, I would personally recommend you prioritise the 5 best fjords of Norway listed below before considering a visit to other fjords.
#1 The Sognefjord
The Sognefjord is Norway’s largest fjord and hence nicknamed as the ‘King of Fjords’ (but trust me; no locals ever call it this). It is both the longest and the deepest fjord in Norway (and the world) and hence has many interesting experiences which make it amongst the best fjords in Norway. The Sognefjord stretches out for 200 kilometres into the country and cuts a deep slash across the map of Norway. Towards its innermost arm, it branches off into smaller fjords, most notably Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjord (where I grew up, yayy!). The Nærøyfjord gets its own spot on this list below. At the end of the best fjord in Norway lies the largest glacier of mainland Europe – Jostedalsbreen, where you can try hiking on ice.
The Sognefjord is 6 kilometres wide and more than 1300 metres deep in some parts. There’s a lot to do in the Sognefjord region, like hiking in the Jotunheimen National Park, exploring Norway’s oldest stave churches, and fish or cycle around the idyllic villages.
Ways to explore the Sognefjord
You can explore the Sognefjord from most of the surrounding villages like Balestrand, Lærdal, Sogndal, Fjærland, or Skjolden. You can start the journey of fjord exploration from Bergen to any of these villages.
Cruise – The passenger ferry Norled provides high-speed services to Sogndal from Bergen (and vice versa). As mentioned, travelling by boat is one of the best ways to see Norway’s fjords. The ferry services that link Bergen with Flåm also sail through the Sognefjord via Balestrand and Sogndal. You can book your cruise from Norled.
Road – You could drive through the villages along the Sognefjord by car starting from Bergen. This way you could also explore the towns like Lavik, Balestrand, Sogndal, Skjolden and Lærdal at your own pace, and stop along the way at the viewpoints giving incredible views of the Sognefjord. From Lærdal, you can plan a trip to Flåm and Gudvangen to explore the Nærøyfjord and ride the world-famous Flam Railway back to Bergen.
Hike – The most famous hikes along Sognefjord are in the areas of the Jotunheimen National Park, the Jostedalsbreen National Park, Vidasethovden, Breheimen and the Aurlandsdalen, Utladalen valleys, and The King’s Road. Here is my post on my favourite hikes in Norway.
At the end of the Sognefjord, you’ll find a gem by the water, and my favourite hotel in my hometown – Vangsgaarden.
#2 The Nærøyfjord
I strongly considered putting the Nærøyfjord as #1 on the list, but since it is technically a fjord arm of the Sognefjord, this felt fair. Regardless; you can consider the two fjords to share the #1 spot on this list of the best fjords in Norway.
Located between Gudvangen and the Aurlandsfjord, in Aurland municipality, the Nærøyfjord is in my opinion the most beautiful fjord in Norway. As mentioned, it is a side arm of the Sognefjord and it is just 18 kilometres long. Despite its small size, the Nærøyfjord is indescribably breathtaking. Being as narrow as 500 metres at some points, it is also one of the narrowest fjords in Europe. The Nærøyfjord was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, and since then most travellers visiting Norway plan to include this famous fjord in their itinerary (with good reason).
The steep, often snow-covered mountains of Aurland surround the Nærøyfjord. As you know, I spent my entire childhood in and grew up in Aurland. Hence, I can proudly say that I am a close witness to the incredible beauty of the Aurlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord. Since the fjord is narrow, you can get very close to the surrounding landscape as well as the awe-inspiring cascading waterfalls if you opt to take a fjord cruise through it. In fact, when sailing from Gudvangen (at the end of the Nærøyfjord) to Flåm (at the end of the Aurlandsfjord), you’ll sail past the village I grew up in!
Wondering where to stay once you get to Flåm? Here is a complete list of all the hotels (and hostels) in Flam, Norway.
Ways to explore the Nærøyfjord
Cruise – You can either hop on a private cruise operator that takes you from Bergen to Flåm or drive directly to Gudvangen or Flåm to explore the Nærøyfjord by boat. The Norway in a Nutshell tour includes a ferry ride from Flåm to Gudvangen that covers both the Nærøyfjord and the Aurlandsfjord. It is possible to book this fjordcruise on your own too.
Road – There is no road along the Nærøyfjord that could give you a panoramic view of the fjord. Therefore, it’s best to drive to Gudvangen or Flåm and then sail through the fjord on a fjord cruise as mentioned above.
Hike – The Rimstigen hike is amongst the forgotten, offbeat hikes in the Nærøyfjord region (though not forgotten by locals). The 2 hour-hike starts by the Nærøyfjord near Bakka and offers a fantastic bird’s eye view of the fjord itself. The photo below, taken by my friend Torgeir on this hike, proves just that!
#3 The Geirangerfjord
The Geirangerfjord is one of the most beautiful fjords in Norway. The fjord has also been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2005, but after its Disney’s Frozen came out, it became the most visited fjord in Norway. Actually, the fjords in general gained incredible popularity after that movie, as it was inspired by Norwegian culture and the Norwegian fjord landscape.
Norwegian culture has also inspired a love for knitted sweaters! Head to this post for some Scandinavian sweaters I recommend.
Several abandoned farms surround the Geirangerfjord and have lately been restored for visitors. The small village of Geiranger is located at the end of the fjord. The 15-kilometre long Geirangerfjord is famed for its deep blue waters, dramatic mountain peaks and astonishing waterfalls making it one of the best fjords in Norway.
The Seven Sisters waterfall plunges right into the fjord and can be seen from a fjord cruise. The Suitor Falls faces the Seven Sisters waterfall just across the fjord. It’s good that the fjord cruises sail slowly, otherwise you wouldn’t have time to look at both; or to hear the old tale of how they came to be.
You’d be surprised to hear that the area and its beauty is under threat, as a massive part of a nearby mountain named Åkerneset is slowly finding its way into the Geirangerfjord, and is expected to one day cave and fall into the fjord. It’s suspected that the following tsunami will wipe out the entire village of Geiranger. Hence, it is advised that you visit the fjord when you can!
Fun fact: a Norwegian disaster movie called Bølgen (“the wave”) was made a few years back, covering this potential event.
Ways to explore the Geirangerfjord:
Cruise – Geiranger is located in North West Norway and is best visited in the summer season. You could drive to Ålesund from Bergen and then take a cruise from Ålesund to explore the fjord. You can also book the cruise from the main port of the Geiranger village. Almost all of the cruising excursions can be booked online at Geiranger Fjord Service or Fjord Tours. The audio guide in the cruise boats can help you better understand the attractions and the surrounding region.
Road – Geiranger can also be reached by road via the famous Trollstigen, and then you could take the Geiranger Skywalk to get breathtaking panoramic views of the fjord below. Another popular lookout point is Ørnesvingen viewpoint, from where you get an unobstructed view of the majestic Geirangerfjord, the steep mountains and also see the Seven Sisters waterfall.
The road up Dalsnibba also offers a fantastic view of the Geirangerfjord with the town of Geiranger in the foreground. The drive to Dalsnibba viewpoint takes about 40 minutes from the Geiranger town centre.
Please note that some roads are closed in winter. I always recommend you check the Norwegian Road Directory when driving.
Hike – There are several less-known hiking trails that start from Geiranger town, namely Lostad (1-hour hike), Skageflå (2-hour hike) and Keipane (4-5-hour hike). Each of these hikes will offer you a unique perspective of the Geirangerfjord.
#4 The Hardangerfjord
The Hardangerfjord is the second-longest fjord in Norway, stretching 180 kilometres into the land from the ocean. The area is referred to as “Norway’s orchard” as the land surrounding the fjord is extremely fertile, and is known for its popular apple juice and ciders. The Hardangerfjord is best visited in the Spring season when the fruits, flowers and berries are in full bloom – an absolute stunning time of year to visit!
The Hardangerfjord branches out into smaller fjords as it reaches inland. The bigger side arms of the fjord are Eidfjord and Sørfjorden, with Folgefonna glacier on one side and the Hardangervidda mountain plateau on the other. Both fjords are worth visiting, and I recommend staying in either Odda (a great starting point for the Trolltunga hike) or Norheimsund.
Here are some great activities in the Hardanger region:
Ways to explore the Hardangerfjord
Cruise – You could either reach Norheimsund from Bergen or travel directly to Odda to start your cruise in the Hardangerfjord. From Norheimsund, you will sail into the Hardangerfjord and witness the surrounding landscape full of historic villages and idyllic waterfalls. You will then move towards the Eidfjord arm, where you will be able to sight one of Norway’s largest and most popular waterfalls, Vøringsfossen. The sight of Vøringsfossen waterfalls itself makes Hardangerfjord one of the best fjords in Norway. Odda can be reached via a car by a 3 hour drive from Bergen and 4 hours from Stavanger. You can then enjoy a 1,5-hour RIB boat adventure to Ullensvang and back.
Road – Driving along the Hardangerfjord can be counted amongst the most scenic drives in Norway. You can start from Bergen and make your first stop at the Steindalsfossen waterfall where you can walk safely and stay completely dry behind it! Further, you can make your way to Steinstøberget that offers a great view of the fjord and the Folgefonna glacier (a national park). Drive on the road along the fjord to Odda and then Låtefoss to witness the Låtefoss waterfall, with a drop of 165 metres!
Hike – The Hardangerfjord is known for its hiking trails, the most popular one being Trolltunga, off course (you know, the cliff shaped like a troll’s tongue). It offers breathtaking views of the Hardangerfjord. Trolltunga attracts thousands of hikers every summer. The hikes to Vøringsfossen waterfall, the waterfalls in Husedalen and HM Queen Sonjas’s panoramic hiking trail between Kinsarvik and Lofthus are some other good hiking options alongside the Hardangerfjord.
#5 The Lysefjord
The Lysefjord, which directly translates to ‘the light fjord’, due to the light colour of the granite rocks surrounding it, is amongst the smaller fjords (40 kilometres long) in Norway. Though small, it is considered amongst the best fjords in Norway, without a doubt! Much due to the many popular (and famous) hikes along it. The Lysefjord is the southernmost fjord in Western Norway.
The Lysefjord region has been named a Sustainable Tourism Destination as the community and tourism boards work continuously to reduce the negative impact of tourism. Hence, it is a great choice for environmentally conscious travellers.
Curious about some of the activities offered in the Lysefjord region? Here they are:
Ways to explore the Lysefjord
Cruise – The Lysefjord can be reached by a 1-hour cruise from Stavanger. You can even cruise through the Lysefjord from Lysebotn or Lauvvik (the latter is a short drive from Stavanger, and as the cruise is a car ferry, you could bring your car).
Road – In summers, you can reach Lysebotn village by road via the 27-hairpin bends. Forsand is another excellent base to explore Lysefjord, and within easier reach from Stavanger. If you want to avoid driving on the somewhat dangerous Lysebotnvegen road, you could drive to Forsand from Stavanger and then take a ferry to explore the Lysefjord and the surrounding hiking trails.
Hike – As mentioned, the Lysefjord is home to the popular hiking trail Pulpit Rock. The 604 metres high Pulpit Rock plateau, that you can reach after a 3-hour hike offers an incredible panoramic view of the Lysefjord.
Lysefjord is also home to a loved and hated hiking trail called Flørli 4444. It is the world’s longest wooden staircase hike with 4444 steps to the top! Another gorgeous hiking trail can take you to the Kjerag boulder (Kjeragbolten), which is a large boulder suspended between two rock sides. This is one of the most Instagrammable destinations from the Lysefjord.
Wondering what to do once you are in Stavanger? Here is a complete list of things to do in Stavanger, Norway.
I hope you now have a good idea of the best fjords in Norway and can make an informed decision on which fjords to fit into your Norway itinerary. I recommend visiting the fjords between April and September. However, an increasing amount of people book their trips for the colder months of the year, as most of the activities on and around the fjord run during the winter too. My guide on visiting the Norwegian fjords in winter will be handy to you if you plan a winter trip. Of course, you can make up your own mind by reading this month-by-month breakdown of the best time to visit Norway.
Are you planning a trip to Norway? Then you’ll want to read my extensive Norway travel guide, which covers everything from where to go, how much to tip, and more. If you are wondering what else to do in Norway in addition to seeing the fjords, my article on the best places to visit in Norway will help you out.
Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or feedback, and if you enjoyed this post, I’d love it if you shared it!