A panorama picture of the Hardangerfjord, in Odda, Hordaland, Norway.

Ok, let’s face it; you came to Norway to see some Fjords.You’ve been lured by some perfect picture in a postcard, a magazine, off the internet, or your own imagination of tall mountains, peaceful waters, and you in the center of it.

Worry not, Norway does not disappoint. To cruise along a fjord, a narrow part of the ocean between cliffs, steep hills or mountains, is to lose yourself in the perfection of nature.

Whether you spend hours or days exploring the Norwegian Fjords, you will never grow tired of their mystical beauty, their lush green hills, their high jagged cliffs, or their wide bodies of clear water. Cruise, hike, drive, or simply be still, there is no bad way to interact with the fjords. Come find yourself lost in the magnitude of these unspoiled wonders.

Where to start?

Upon research I found out there are about 1190 fjords in Norway. Now, unless you are fantastically interested in fjords, I feel like that’s a bit overwhelming of a number to have to sort though. As such, below you will find the top five fjords in Norway with some general information about what makes them unique and a map showing you their location so you are able to see just how many you can squeeze into your plans.

1. Lysefjorden

Its name translating to Light Fjord because it is surrounded by light colored granite rocks, this 42 km long beauty does draws you in. It is one of the most popular fjord trips in Norway because of its incredible ease of access from downtown Stavanger, where day cruises run, as well as including iconic landmarks such as the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) and Kjerag along its twist and bends.

The view from Pulpit Rock is a must see experience in itself.

Exploring the rest of Lysefjord on foot, boat, or car, is a real treat and well worth any amount of time you have to spend enjoying it.

2. Sognefjorden

Is the longest (203km) and deepest (1308m) fjord in Norway and the second longest fjord in the world, second to Greenland’s Scoresby Sundfjord.

While traversing this fjord you will see steep cliffs towering over 1000m above the water, as well as orchard farms, and small villages that are by the water’s edge.

One particularly notable branch of the Sognefjord is Nærøyfjord, on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and is regarded as one of the most beautiful and dramatic fjords in the country. This 17km long branch boast 1200m high cliffs which you view as you sail through narrow passageways (250m across at the narrowest point of the fjord).

People often combine this trip while they are in Flam doing the Flam Railway or as part of Norway in a Nutshell. I haven’t seen them all, but this is probably my personal favorite fjord to sail along. After my 100th picture of  its waters and mountains, I figured I must be done for the day, but low and behold, I was wrong. The scenery just doesn’t stop impressing you. It’s hard to capture its majesty in photos, but I have included some of my own so you get an idea.

3. Hardangerfjord

At 179 km long in the Hardanger district in the middle of Fjord Norway, this is the second largest fjord in the country and the third largest on the planet.

It is highly accessible, starting just south of Bergen, and from there, where you decide to stop along the way is up to you. When traveling this route, you will be treated to cascading waterfalls along with sheer and surreal mountain cliffs offering unparalleled views.

The towns along this particular fjord are more abundant than others, giving you impossibly cute houses by the water scenes and many stop off points if you want help organizing trips or picking up supplies needed to hike the astoundingly beautiful Trolltunga, view the waterfalls in Hardangervidda national park, taste  fruit from the local orchards, or raft down some rivers.

4. Geiranger

This 15 km fjord, a branch of the larger Storfjord, is generally considered THE fjord of Norway.

This fjord, with its vivid blue water running along its snowcapped mountains and alongside many of Norway’s most beautiful waterfalls is the epitome of Fjord Norway.

It is about a six hour drive heading north of Bergen to get there, but once there, you get this beauty mostly to yourself. If without car, about 100 cruise ships, which have perfected transport factor of exploration for you, sail its waters .

Inducted to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2005, added highlights of this route include seeing the Seven Sisters and the Suitor waterfalls along the way. The story is that the Suitor, facing opposite the Seven Sisters, is perpetually trying to woo them. Another notable waterfall is Bridal Veil. Its named because its falling waters over the ciffs is reminiscent of a thin veil falling across the face of the rocks. I have not been fortunate enough to have personally seen this fjord (yet), but having already been astounded by a few others, I could only imagine its grandeur.

5. Magdalenefjord

Magdalenefjord is included in this list because of its geographically unique location which offers you a different type of interaction with this fjord.

It is unique in that it’s located west of Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard archipelago, away from mainland Norway. Because of its remote location, in the arctic and away from the lush greenery abundant around other fjords, here you get a different type of nature experience.

This arctic fjord contains more of a wild sense about it with cool, crisp air, icy waters, and an emptiness of surrounding civilization. The lush surroundings characteristic of other the fjords are replaced by the majesty of glaciers. Magdalenefjord is 8km long and 5 km wide and was once heavily trafficked by whaling sailors in the 17th and 18th centuries and still visible are stoves used to boil whale blubber along with graves of some of these whalers by the mouth of the fjord. This excursions is one of the most popular sailings around Spitsbergen west coast when visiting Svalbard and a great way to combine an arctic adventure and fjord sightseeing all in one.

Click on the pictures above to enlarge.

Let us know if you have had any experiences on any of these Fjords or which other ones you’ve enjoyed!

(Opening photo: Dag Endre Opedal, CC)