With so many impressive natural wonders to behold, it’s no surprise the Norwegian fjords are so often compared to a fairy-tale. One of the most popular cruising destinations, the Norwegian fjords have plenty to offer visitors, from quaint water-front villages to breathtaking wilderness that beckons explorers.
In this guide, we explain why this compelling destination should be on your cruise radar, some of the best places to visit in the Norwegian fjords, and tips and advice for your Norway cruise.
Why cruise the Norwegian fjords?
Stunning natural beauty, unmatched views and age-old Norwegian charm are what make the fjords such a stand-out cruise destination. Adriana, travel blogger at Czech The World, told us why the Norwegian fjords are one of the most popular places to cruise to in the world.
“The Norwegian fjords are one of the most amazing natural places in Europe and perhaps even the entire world. What makes them so amazing is that the natural landscapes among the fjords are unreal and beautiful everywhere around you. In most countries, you visit one nice place, then cruise for two hours, see another nice place and so on. In Norway, even the journey between famous places is amazingly beautiful.”
We also spoke to Lauren, co-blogger at Justin Plus Lauren. She also agrees that the Norwegian fjords are unlike anywhere else you can cruise to.
“The scenery of the Norwegian fjords is unlike any other that I've witnessed in the world. There's nothing like waking up and peering out your balcony sliding doors to see a massive mountain wall right outside. Sailing with towering mountains on either side of the cruise ship is an amazing experience. Waking up early to watch the scenery as you sail into port (and watching as we sailed away from the port) has never been so special.”
The best places to visit on a Norwegian fjords cruise
A suggestion from Adrianna, Ålesund is a unique destination in the fjords due to the fact it is a city, but that doesn’t mean it’s a stranger to Norway’s magic and charm. The city’s art nouveau architecture and lush green backdrop offer an eclectic mix of culture and exploration that you won’t forget anytime soon.
“There are just so many places worth visiting that it’s really hard to pick one, but I would definitely recommend visiting Ålesund. Generally, I am not a fan of cities, however, this beautiful, small city is amazingly picturesque. The view from Byrampen viewpoint, where you can see all the ocean shore, is simply stunning.”
A village in the charming municipality of Stryn, Olden is home to some of the most wonderful scenery and hikes in the fjords. Think rolling hillsides, red wood-panelled homes and crystal blue waters. A glacier gateway, Olden is home to Briksdal Glacier, which Adrianna highly recommends visiting while in the area.
“I would definitely recommend a walk to Briksdal Glacier. It’s quite a short hike (about 2.5 miles) along the river and you will get close to the spectacular glacier. And it’s a good idea to visit glaciers as soon as possible because they are continuously disappearing due to global warming.”
Known as the heart of the fjords, a visit to the Norwegian fjords isn’t complete without a visit to Bergen, the country’s second-largest city. A big city with a small-town personality, here, you can explore cobbled streets, marvel at old-timey, wooden shop fronts and get lost in its miles of natural beauty.
A small village located in the inner part of Sognefjord, Flåm is a must-visit in Norway, welcoming thousands of visitors every year with its charm, quintessence and famous mountain railway, Flåmsbana.
“I highly recommend visiting the village of Flåm,” says Lauren, co-blogger at Justin Plus Lauren. “It's a stunning little village, and you must sail to the end of a fjord to reach it. The most famous attraction is taking a ride on the Flåm Railway, one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.
“You'll take a train ride up into the mountains with the UNESCO-protected scenery of valleys and waterfalls from your window. Once you arrive at the top of the mountain, you'll be able to wander around and enjoy the spectacular scenery.”
Enclosed by mountains, valleys and waterfalls, Gudvangen is an old Viking village that has retained its centuries-old Nordic charm. With a name that loosely translates to ‘field of the gods by the water’, this stirring, natural oasis is known for its fjord, Nærøyfjord, which connects the village with Flåm.
That Girl Outdoors blogger, Zoe, told us why she recommends visiting Gudvangen and the famous Nærøyfjord. “It is all so beautiful, but if I was to pick one place to go back to, it would be Nærøyfjord. It is so beautiful, in fact, that it has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wild, majestic and worth a spot on anyone’s bucket list.”
Tips for visiting the Norwegian fjords
Planning a Norwegian or Baltic cruise? Make sure you check out Adrianna, Zoe and Lauren’s top tips for cruising the Norwegian fjords.
1. Be prepared for varying weather
“If you go to any land excursion, bring a raingear with you every time,” says Adrianna. “Even a completely sunny day might change too heavy rain in few minutes in Norway.”
Lauren seconds this: “We were there in July, there were sunny days in the high 20s (Celsius) and rainy/cold days in the low digits. Dress in layers and pack that rain jacket!”
If you’re planning on hiking, Zoe says that you should “make sure to take hiking boots. Preferably waterproof - I have learnt this the hard way!”
2. Book a kayak excursion
For an experience like no other, Zoe recommends booking a kayaking excursion. “It is such a unique way to experience the fjords. Kayaking through them really emphasises their grandeur. There is also something sort of peaceful and humbling about sitting in a kayak, with the sound of nature and views of the dramatic landscape all around.”
3. Get quality travel insurance
Adrianna says to “arrange good travel insurance because the costs of any medical help are astronomically high in Norway.”
4. Beware of strict alcohol policies
In a bid to curb alcoholism, alcohol is heavily taxed so bear this in mind if you’re planning on having a few tipples during your visit.
“It’s almost impossible to buy any hard liquor and beer is very expensive,” says Adrianna.
5. Almost everyone speaks English
Most Norwegians speak pretty good (if not fluent) English, so no need to worry if you’ve left your translation book at home. A lot of Norwegians also speak (or can understand) a second language, often German, Spanish or French.
“Moreover, the Norwegian language has a lot of similar words to English and German, so you will probably understand some written phrases,” says Adrianna.
If you’re planning to visit the Norwegian fjords, make sure to note down some of the above destinations and tips to ensure you get the most out of your trip. For more tips, advice and guides, make sure to take a look at the rest of our blog.