There’s nothing quite as astonishing as sailing through the rugged rocky outcrops that define the famous Norwegian fjords. The scene is beyond serene no matter what the time or weather is. A rainy morning covers the routes in a magical mist; a sunny evening adds a layer of shimmering gold to the already stunning scenery. Even a boring grey day can’t dull the wonder of these UNESCO heritage sites, such is their natural splendour.
While the fjords in Oslo aren’t quite as dramatic as those in the West of the country, especially around Bergen, it’s still a truly astounding experience to sail over the tranquil waterways and stare up at the ancient coastal rocks that line them. That’s to say, if you’re only in Oslo for a short period of time, you can still see some great Oslo fjords that will take your breath away. However, if you do get the chance (or travelling through these mystical channels is on your bucket-list) then it’s definitely worth trekking to the Western-most reaches of the country to see these dramatic scenescapes that have inspired people for centuries.
If you’re keen to sail through azure blue while surrounded by granite mountains and lush plant life, then read ahead for our guide to Oslo and Norwegian fjords.
What is a Fjord?
Fjords are narrow inlets that connect to the sea, formed by glacial movements over millions of years. They are often surrounded by rising rocks and can vary wildly in depth thanks to their unique formation. The levels at the neck of the fjord are often quite shallow, but at other points can be deeper than 200m – so make sure you’re wearing your lifejacket!
The best way to see fjords from Oslo without having to travel is to enjoy the waterways that surround the city. One of the more famous and accessible trips goes through the maze of islands that surround the coast of the mainland, delivering great views of different bodies of land and the cityscape. A perfect trip for viewing iconic structures like the National Opera and Ballet House, the Maritime Museum, and the Fram Museum, you’re bound to enjoy the short sail.
Fjord Tours Oslo is our favourite company to book your trip with. They have years of experience, friendly guides, and the two-hour tour runs year-round.
While the Oslo fjords are not without their charm, when you think of fjords you’re likely picturing the untamed West of Norway. This is where you sail down narrow inlets, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Heading northwest to this area is also the best way to get a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, although given the right conditions in Oslo you can see the Northern Lights there too.
The best way to see the fjords from Oslo is to fly into Bergen. From there, it’s just about deciding which fjords you want to traverse down.
The Best Time of Year to See the Fjords
The best time of year to try and see the fjords will vary depending on what sort of experience you want. If you’re keen to see the waterfalls in all their glory, then summer is one of the worst times for you to go, as many lose their potency thanks to there being less rainfall (although they still flow quite freely). However, if you’re keen on relaxing (or even kayaking down yourself) and taking in some of the most scenic views on earth without having to bundle up, then a spring or summer trip is for you.
Some fjords are not as accessible in the winter thanks to unfavourable weather, so make sure to plan ahead if you’re coming over the cold period.
How to Travel Down the Fjords
There are a number of ways to experience the splendour of Norway’s fjords. The easiest is definitely going on a sailing trip. These can last a few hours or a few days, depending on what you fancy. It’s also possible to kayak and canoe down many of the fjords, which is a wonderful experience. While you have to focus on moving, it’s impossible not to be wowed by the massive mountains and lush greenery that has sprouted on the banks over the years. There are also several hikes in the surrounding areas, meaning you don’ have to spend your entire trip lounging on a deck or pumping your arms to move.
The Best Fjords in Western Norway
There are no words to describe how amazing this fjord is, but the closest might be otherworldly. The winding waterway takes you through waterfalls and viridescent forest, as well as water-side shops and towns. You can also explore some of the areas you drift pass – hiking to Skagefla is a favourite among locals and tourists alike. Also on this route is The Norwegian Fjord Centre, where you can learn about the natural history of this astounding fjord, as well as the history of the locals who’ve lived by it for so many years.
The Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjord
These spectacular fjords start as one but then diverge at Mt Beitelen. They both technically come from Sognefjord, but have their own name and character so are usually seen as separate. The Nærøyfjord is a 13-mile-long branch of the Aurlandsfjord, wondering off as it meets the mountain that splits them.
At its narrowest, Nærøyfjord (the smaller fjord) is only 250m wide. The depth varies between 10 and 500m. The mountains that dramatically line the waterway are well over a kilometre high and plunge down into bright green forests that teem with life. If you do get the opportunity, then sailing down here is a must.
Technically a massive collection of fjords, this is the largest fjord system in the country, and home to the above Nærøyfjord and Aurlandsfjord. Nicknamed ‘King of the Fjords’, it’s also the deepest fjord in Norway. As it’s so large, there are literally hundreds of points of interest lining its shores, but the ancient wooden Stave Churches are a favourite among tourists.
If you go on an overnight trip down Sognefjord, there’s a good chance you’ll spot the Northern Lights too – making this once in a lifetime trip even more special.