The history of the stunning Norwegian fjords is a rough one. Ice ages and rivers created the current landscape, which year after year is labeled as the most beautiful landscape in the world.

The first rays of sunlight
The first rays of sunlight. Corno van den Berg

The fjords of Norway have had notably little influence from humans, simply because it was too wet, too steep or too rugged. In the past couple of decades, an awareness of the need for protection has also added to this. So now the most famous fjords in the world and gems like the Prekestolen are now protected. The recently discovered cold-water coral reefs continue to baffle scientists.

The famous Norwegian fjords are the result of immense primal forces during the last ice ages. The mountainous country was weighed down by gigantic masses of ice. In some areas, the bottom collapsed under the weight. Glacier arms slowly erode the landscape away further. Slowly, long and deep inlets are formed in the coastal landscape.

Kayakker quenching the thirst.
Kayakker quenching the thirst. Terje Rakke

Erosion has done the rest in the past centuries. Steep mountain walls, some reaching 1,000 meters in height, cutting into the land for 200 kilometers. It makes for one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. People and animals have no choice but to adapt. This is extraordinary Western Norway, but in fact, also the regions around Oslo (with the Oslo Fjord) and the North Cape (in the north) belong to this territory.

The fjords are not only surprising above water. In the year 2000, a deep-sea diver encountered a remarkably large cold-water coral reef in the Trondheim Fjord. Scientists have been aware of the existence of such reefs for a long time, but not much else is know about them. They are located at a depth of 40 to 1,000 meters and research has shown that they are present along the entire Norwegian coast. Where the ‘regular’ coral reef consists of 8,000 species, the cold-water reef is built by not even ten species. It does, however, harbour unprecedented riches, in an almost extra-terrestrial world.

Diving the Norwegian Fjords.
Diving the Norwegian Fjords. Bill Larnach

Thanks to new scientific technologies they can be studied in detail. The bottom is precisely charted from ships and also from unmanned submarines that map out this unknown (and ice cold) world. Robotic arms grasp samples and cameras take high-resolution photographs. Despite this, up to now, only 10 percent of the sea bed here has been charted in detail. It shows that wilderness like this is more than meets the eye.

The mountains around the fjords are popular places for active sports, but also extreme sports like BASE jumping. This is a dangerous sport, where people will jump off a cliff and come down by parachute. Especially Kjerag in the Lysefjord is famous for many successful attempts. It is also notorious because there have been casualties here as well. On 10 June 2000, the well-known British stuntman Terry Forestal dies here, when he jumps and smashes into the mountain. He participated in a number of James Bond movies. Unfortunately, he is not the only one who did not live to tell the tale of Kjerag.

A basejumper in Loen.
A basejumper in Loen. Corno van den Berg

The fjords, the surrounding mountains, and glaciers attract millions of people each year. As the distances are large, it is not always easy to pick a proper route, especially if you consider Norway has over 100 fjords. Some run out into the sea, but they also have branches that are called fjords as well. If you explore this area, you will understand why this is chosen as the most untouched piece of nature in the world, almost every year.

Things to see and do at the Norwegian Fjords:

Go skiing and sunbathing in one day

It sounds absurd. But it is possible to sunbath on a sandy beach and ski down a slope or a glacier, all in one day. The ski runs of Stryn Sommerski are fit for skiing from May to July or even August. On the coasts of the nearby Nordfjord you can have a rest on the beach if the weather is fair. You can even go swimming or surfing. Stryn Sommerski is at 30 kilometers East of a splendid road.

Camp in the wild of Norway

Camping in the wild is permitted in Norway, but you have to abide by some rules. It is prohibited in parking or rest areas. You may not stay in one spot for more than three days at a time. The distance to the nearest house must be at least 150 meters. Take your garbage with you and don’t forget that open fire is prohibited during Summer in Norway. At the various visitors centers you can get information about the good spots and the local regulations.

Follow a BASE jumping course

The fjords are popular for its base-jumpers. However, this is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Only fit for experienced parachute-jumpers. If you dare to try BASE jumping, you can follow a course here. You will first make a large number of practice jumps.

Camp at the bottom of a fjord

Waking up by the water, with a view of the steep walls of the fjord, the sound of the rippling water in the background. Camping in the fjords is possible in many ways: large or really small campings, take your pick.

Look for fossils in Oslofjord

The fjords of Norway have existed for a long time, this shall come as no surprise. You can find fossils that are millions of years old in several places. Primarily sea creatures, that lived in colonies. It proves that this was once a sea, pushed upwards above sea level by forces of nature.

Taste stockfish and lutefisk

Stockfish is unsalted fish, laid out to dry in the cold air. Most of the time it is cod, but it might also be herring or ling. This traditional method for drying fish was discovered by the Norsemen centuries ago.

Drying is considered to be the oldest method to conserve fish. It has been applied in Norway for over a thousand years. What’s more, this was the first export product of Norway. One of the dishes is ‘lutefisk’. Have a taste yourself and see why this is the favorite meal of the Norwegians.

Learn about the Vikings in the fjords

The fjords no longer provide evidence of the way of life of the Viking, also called the Norsemen in the past. At the Geiranger Fjordsenter you can still catch a glimpse of past times. There you will see old houses and old handicrafts. It also becomes apparent that life here was tough.

Best time to visit the Norwegian Fjords:

You can visit the fjords throughout the year. It all depends on what you want to do.

  • Winter: In winter, the landscape is even wilder. There is the chance of snow and there are many opportunities for skiing. You might also encounter clouds and rain. There will be relatively few tourists and you will be able to see this wild territory at the peak of its ruggedness.
  • Spring: In spring, you can see the flowers in bloom, which adds an extra dimension to the fjords. At this time, the waterfalls are also at full strength.
  • Summer: Since it is possible to go skiing, or stand on top of the glaciers in summer, this season is by far the most popular.
  • Autumn: A rather quiet season, with still a bit of fair weather, although it may rain for days sometimes.

Be aware!

The climate is notorious in the fjords, where the weather can change abruptly, posing a hazard for hikers in the mountains. Make sure to be well-prepared.

In summer, some fjords, the most famous ones in particular – may become overrun by tourists and boats, so it is recommended to set out as early as possible to avoid the crowds.

How do I get here?

The size of the area will enable you to travel in several different ways. Oslo is a good starting point, but most tourists want to go West.

From Oslo, there are direct flights to Bergen and Stavanger, among other things. From there, it is easy to rent a car and drive to the fjords. There are many buses as well.

Obviously it is also possible to travel to Norway by boat, for instance from Germany and Denmark.