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It wouldn’t be fair to say that a single county in Norway is home to some of the country’s best views. But when it comes to the Sogn og Fjordane county, it wouldn’t be far from the truth either. Colloquially known as “fjord county”, Sogn og Fjordane is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Norway’s longest fjord, and some jaw-dropping national parks, among other things. Ready to explore it?
Norway has more than 1,000 fjords – with every last one of them being special. But the fjords of West Norway really take the proverbial cake. Sognefjord, for starters, is not only the longest fjord in the country but also the world’s second longest. It goes on for 200 kilometers, dotted by picturesque villages, its inner end covered by the biggest glacier in continental Europe (we’ll get to that in a while). And while Sognefjord is a marvel to behold on its own, the King of Fjords also has two arms, Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjord.
Nærøyfjord, narrow and spectacular, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site whereas Aurlandsfjord is home to Flåmsbana (one of the most picturesque train trips in Europe) and Stegastein (one of the most beautiful vantage points in the country).
Speaking of one of the most picturesque train trips in Europe, Flåmsbana really is a charmer. A 20-kilometer long railway between Aurlandsfjord’s end and Myrdal Station, the Flåm line passes through 20 tunnels and makes a sharp 725-meter descent during the trip, all the while offering spectacular views of the valley and the mountains.
The county is not without its museums – focusing, at their majority, on folk culture and the intricacies of fjord life and its unique nature. The Nordfjord Folk Museum in Sandane comprises 44 houses from the 18th and 19th centuries whereas the Sogn Fjord Museum in Kaupanger is a snapshot of fjord life in the past centuries, with a unique collection of boats and maritime artifacts.
Sogn og Fjordane is also a place where it’s actually recommended to go chasing waterfalls. One of the most famous is Kjelfossen, which is located in Gudvangen with a height of 755 meters making it one of the highest waterfalls in Norway. There’s also the powerful waterfalls of Eidsfossen and the unregulated waterfalls of Utladalen, one being Vettisfossen, the highest single-drop waterfall in Norway. Why not visit Fossheimen in the Sunnfjord region as well – it’s called Waterfall Country for a reason.
Stave churches, once popular in northwestern Europe, can nowadays only be found in Norway. The elaborately carved wooden churches exist in the intersection of early Christianity and the “heathen” Viking traditions – and from the 28 surviving ones, five can be found here in Sogn og Fjordane county. One of them, Urnes, is also the oldest one and a UNESCO World Heritage site. And while on the subject of early Christianity, at Selja island you will find the site of the first ever pilgrimage in the country, as well as what was once Norway’s first cathedral.
Remember when we mentioned the biggest glacier in continental Europe? You’ll find it in Jostedalsbreen National Park, along with valleys in full bloom and endless hiking trails – if you don’t want to hike the glacier itself, that is. You can also observe the wildlife, do kayaking, fish, ski, and snowboard or just look around you in awe.
Last but definitely not least: Sogn og Fjordane is such a beautiful place, you’ll need to take a step back and admire it properly. Thankfully, places like the Stegastein viewing platform will give you the opportunity to do just that. And maybe create a couple of Instagram moments along the way.