Exploring the Norwegian Fjords: A Guide by Øyvind Heen
Fjord expert Øyvind Heen has spent his life exploring and documenting the unique landscapes of the Norwegian fjords. He now shares his knowledge and passion for these fascinating places.
The complexity of the fjords
Heen understands the confusion that can arise when traveling through Fjord Norway. Not only are there many fjords, but they are also long, deep and with many branches. Some of the side branches are even more famous than the main fjords. According to Heen, the most spectacular fjords are actually secondary arms: Geirangerfjord, Aurlandsfjord, Nærøyfjord and Lysefjord. Your list of fjords to visit also includes Romsdalsfjord, Nordfjord, Sognefjord, Hardangerfjord and, further north, the narrow Trollfjord.
Origins of the fjords
“The fjords were created by deep glacial erosion below sea level,” explains Heen. “Over 2.5 million years and during a succession of ice ages, U-shaped valleys were carved out. In other words, glaciers formed fjords.”
Exploring the fjords
Norwegian fjords can be compared to main roads, with side streets and narrow alleys, a bit like the canals of Venice in extra-large format. Many tourists are fascinated by the changing weather conditions in the fjord landscapes. “For people who come from warm, sunny places, the change in climate is an attraction in itself,” says Heen.
Guide to the main fjords in Norway
Heen offers a quick guide to Norway’s main fjords, from south to north.
Lysefjord, in Ryfylke, is the southernmost of the most famous fjords on the west coast of Norway. Many popular destinations and activities are located here, including excursions to the Kjerag and Preikestolen viewpoints.
Norway’s second longest fjord, the Hardangerfjord, stretches 179 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean to the Hardangervidda Plateau. It is famous for the spring flowering of apple trees on the steep slopes surrounding it.
Sognefjord, known as “the king of the fjords”, is the longest fjord in Norway. It extends for more than 200 kilometers into the interior of the country and measures 1,308 meters at its deepest point.
The 29 kilometer long Aurlandsfjord is a narrow arm of the Sognefjord. Many tourists arrive here traveling on the two iconic railway lines: the Bergen Railway and the Flåm Railway.
Near Aurlandsfjord is the 18 kilometer long Nærøyfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is considered the most beautiful and wild arm of the Sognefjord.
The 15 kilometer long Geiranger Fjord, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is often considered the most fascinating of the fjords.
Hjørundfjord has very similar landscapes to Geirangerfjord, but with much fewer tourists and more intact nature.
The Romsdal region is known for its diverse and fantastic nature. The 88 kilometer long Romsdalsfjord is characterized by a coastal landscape dotted with islands and a long fjord surrounded by steep mountains.
Although the Trollfjord, a steep 3-kilometre-long fjord between the islands of Lofoten and Vesterålen, measures only about 100 meters at its narrowest point, cruise ships such as Hurtigruten still cross it daily in summer.