In Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it turns out that the Earth was designed by an ingenious architect who was particularly proud of designing the Norwegian fjords. In reality, the fjords were created when the glaciers retreated and the valleys were flooded with seawater – but they are, nonetheless, nature’s own work of art. With more than 1,000 fjords gracing Norway’s coastline, you may need a little help prioritising which ones to visit, so we took the liberty of ranking, in reverse order, the best fjords for your viewing, swimming and sailing pleasure.
This one’s a bit of an underdog: Hjørundfjord is surrounded by the towering mountain peaks of Sunnmørsalpene, which usually get most of the attention. The fjord itself deserves to be in the limelight, too: it’s surrounded by lush forests, with small, scenic villages dotting its 35-kilometre (22-mile) course.
As is the case with most things Svalbard, the Isfjord is pretty cool, both literally and figuratively (although thanks to the Gulf Stream, Isfjord actually remains ice-free for large parts of the year). It has a lot of different branches, as it cuts more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) into Spitsbergen island, and following it, you will come across bird sanctuaries, human settlements and even the world’s northernmost radio station.
It has been called ‘the King of the fjords’ because of its size: at 200 kilometres (124 miles), Sognefjord is Norway’s longest fjord and the second-longest in the world. The fjord’s inner end is covered by continental Europe’s biggest glacier, Jostedalsbreen. Two of Sognefjord’s smaller arms, Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord (see below), are even more interesting than the main event.
Trollfjord, in the municipality of Vågan, Lofoten, may be small, but it has some interesting history. Back in 1890, there was a battle between the fishermen who used the new, steam-driven boats and those who still used traditional open boats, over who would get control of the fjord. If you’re wondering why they couldn’t all just get along, the answer is simple: this fjord is so narrow, there’s not enough space for everyone.
You probably already know about Trolltunga, the majestic cliff shaped like a troll’s tongue. But do you know about Hardangerfjord, the third-longest fjord in the world, which dominates the region? What about the Hardangervidda National Park, and the four waterfalls in the Husedalen valley? Or the legendary apples of the region? We thought not.
One of the arms of Sognefjord, Aurlandsfjord starts at the scenic little town of Flåm, where you can also take one of the most picturesque train trips in all of Europe. Train rides aside, Aurlandsfjord is also home to one of the beautiful vantage points in all of Norway: the Stegastein viewing platform.
The second arm of Sognefjord is perhaps the most popular of them all. Nærøyfjord is so beautiful, it’s been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At 17 kilometres (11 miles) long and only 250 metres (820 feet) wide, surrounded by snowcapped mountains with flowing waterfalls, Nærøyfjord is a sight you won’t soon forget.
It’s not just that Lysefjord is majestic, which it certainly is. Here, you can encounter some of the highest mountains in Norway’s fjords, with peaks rising to around 3,000 metres (9,843 feet). There are unique rock formations, like the Kjeragbolten, Preikestolen and the Lyseboth, that will make you feel as if you’re witnessing the aftermath of some giants fighting. There’s also the world’s longest wooden stairway, which you can hike to get a bird’s-eye view of the area. All in all, Lysefjord doesn’t disappoint.
What makes Geirangerfjord number one on our list? For starters, the Seven Sisters: seven waterfalls that fall from 250 metres (820 feet) high into the fjord. Then, there’s the Geiranger Skywalk in Dalsnibba and the Flydalsjuvet, both breathtaking viewpoints offering panoramic views of the fjord. And, of course, there’s the Ørnevegen, a steep stretch of road up in the mountains, where you can follow the fjord if you’re feeling brave (at some point, this ‘eagle road’ rises to 620 metres or 2,034 feet above sea level).