Norway is a country on many bucket lists. People dream of visiting Norway and the fjords in the winter, but it can be a tricky task to start planning. As I grew up by the beautiful fjords of Norway, I figured I would write this guide to visiting the “Norway fjords in winter”, as they are so popularly called, for anyone planning a trip!
The fjords are amongst the most beautiful places to visit in Norway. If you want to know where else to go, do check out this list of the best places in Norway.
2019 Update: This post has been updated and refurbished for Winter 2018/2019, and I hope it is of help for anyone looking for things to do in Norway in Winter! It was originally published February 2016.
Side note: In this guide I cover how to use the word ‘fjord’ in a sentence, to prevent you from being one of the many people calling it the ‘Norway fjords’ and so on. I know many of you dream of visiting fjord Norway in winter, and I strongly advise you to get it right when you speak to the locals.
Flåm, Aurland, Undredal, Gudvangen. There are several places of interest along the Sognefjord for tourists wanting to see the beautiful and dramatic landscape of the fjords. Peak season for the area is in the summer months, but an increasing amount of people are booking their trips for the colder months of the year. After all, this is the land that inspired Disney’s Frozen!
Hey you! Are you planning a trip to Norway? Then you’ll want to read my Norway travel guide, which covers everything from where to go and stay to how much to tip in Oslo.
On first glance, you are likely to feel like there is nothing to do here in the winter. Apart from the stunning nature, all covered in snow, the villages seem extremely quiet. To most people, though, the main upside to visiting the fjords in the winter is exactly that – the serenity. But what exactly is there to do? First things first.
To read later: The complete packing list for visiting Norway in the winter.
Don’t miss my newly published eBook dedicated to helping you plan a trip to the fjords! Click the button below to learn more!
The fjords in the winter: Where to stay
As mentioned above, there are several villages along the fjord. Gudvangen, at the end of the Nærøyfjord (UNESCO World Heritage Site) boasts of a ‘Fjordtell‘ by the docks. Flåm has several places to choose from, and Aurland is where you’ll find my favourite. Lots of great options, in other words!
Great hotel deals for the fjords in winter:
The fjords in the winter: What to do
At first glance there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do in the area in the Winter, which is why you need to get some research out of the way first! Most of the activities on and around the fjord run during the Winter too, only on a smaller scale. If you miss a departure, that’s likely to be it – so know your schedule in advance!
Side note: for your winter trip to the fjords, make sure you are properly dressed (and like a local). Check out these comfy Nordic sweaters before you go!
The famous Flåm Railway, which has been the main attraction in the area for years, has 4 daily return departures in the Winter. The train journey is one of the most beautiful in the world, and is a must for visitors to the fjords. Many people arrive to the area by train, and the Flåm Railway will then be the last leg of your journey to get here. I advise you to be aware of this before booking a return ticket on the train while you are here, it isn’t necessary to travel on the Railway more than once.
Now let’s get to the reason you are here – the fjords! The majestic fjords of Western Norway are a must for anyone’s bucket list, and there is only one way to see them properly: by boat. In the summer there are plenty of departures to choose from, but in the Winter there aren’t that many options. Once a day you can start the round trip by bus to Gudvangen, and then jump on a ferry going back to Flåm. The tour will take you through the Aurlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord, giving you great photo ops along the way. Check this website for tickets.
Hoping to see the Northern Lights during your trip? Here are the best times to visit in order to experience them!
Since January 1st 2017 there are 2 daily boat departures from Flåm to Gudvangen (taking you through the Nærøyfjord)! Don’t miss the brand new vessels ‘Vision of the Fjords’ and ‘Future of the Fjords’, both recent winners of ‘Ship of the Year’. Both vessels glide silently past the villages along the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord, and are eco-friendly (Vision is a hybrid vessel, the first of its kind, whilst Future is fully electric!). Future of the Fjords operates the daily departures in the Sognefjord area, whilst Vision of the Fjords is running tours in Oslo. A trip with either of these
Please note: if (and when) there is ice on the fjords, these vessels cannot run. Don’t worry though, you’ll still be able to continue with your tour, as they will be replaced with one of the classic ferries that that also sail on the route.
Side note: Here’s how to get from Bergen to Flåm!
Another way to see the fjord up close is by going on a FjordSafari! These boat tours start and end in Flåm, and are very popular. Make sure you book early, and I promise you won’t forget zooming through the fjords in a RIB boat with only 11 other travellers. The driver of the boat also doubles as your guide, and you will get as close to nature as possible with this tour!
Starting February 1st there are some other fun additions to the activities in the area, that both require you to get your feet moving! The company behind the FjordSafari offer a daily Snowshoe Hike, where you will get to experience the Norwegian Winter like never before! There is also a daily Evening Walk from the local brewery, which includes a Viking-inspired menu in the brewery restaurant after. Depending on your fitness level and interests, one of these tours should be a perfect match!
Some of the local museums are open year round, however with limited hours. The Flåm Railway museum has free entry, and is open for a few hours every day. It is well worth a visit, especially after you’ve gone on the Flåm Railway itself. You’ll learn about the railway’s history, and can shop some souvenirs while you’re at it!
The Flåm Bakeri opened in the Summer of 2016 and is open every day. Here you will find hot coffee and baked goods to warm you on cold Winter days. Make sure to try the cinnamon rolls.
Another popular winter destination is Helsinki, Finland. I’ve written a guide to the city here!
The fjords in the winter: Getting around
The public transport between the villages is limited in the Winter, but this website is where you will find travel routes and options on public transport. Don’t be surprised if you see both buses and ferries come up as options.
There are also local taxi companies available at your service. Aurland Taxi can be reached on +47 901 30 808.
You may also rent a car upon arrival in Norway. Just make sure you can handle driving on the icy, winding Norwegian roads.
Et innlegg delt av Flåm Guideservice (@fjordsafari) Des. 14, 2017 at 6:06 PST
Norway fjords in winter: Tips from a local
Start your days early! Most tours depart before midday, which is why many tourists find themselves disappointed after sleeping in. The only tours departing in the afternoon are the walking tours (starting February) and the 15:00 fjord cruise from Flåm, while most of the others depart around 11 am.
Ask the locals about the roads! Many roads, for example, the one to Stegastein Viewpoint, are not the most comfortable to drive. Ask around before venturing on a road you may not be ready for. As mentioned above, it’s better to be comfortably seated on an audio-guided bus tour than to brace the windy roads yourself.
Do your research! Visiting the Norwegian fjords in the Winter can be a hassle if you are expecting all activities to be available to you at all times. All tours are running on a smaller scale, but if you come prepared – you’ll find that there are plenty of options.
I shouldn’t have to say it, but dress well! It’s as cold as it looks.
My final tip is to plan for downtime. There is a special serenity to the fjords in the Winter, and it is difficult to explain. Come here in the Winter months to relax, unwind, and just avoid the crowds. Visiting Norway in the Winter is a completely different experience to visiting in the Summer. The fjords and mountains are just as beautiful, but you avoid the struggle of thousands of tourists trying to get on the same boat, no one will be in the way of your photos, and the locals are probably a little nicer. In the Winter we are reminded of how much we miss the tourists, so take advantage of that!
Now that you’ve read this guide to the fjords in the winter, head this way for the ultimate Norway winter packing list.