If there's a more spectacular backdrop to a sailing, cruising or driving holiday than the fjords downNorway's western coast, which carve dramatically into it like vast tree roots, then I haven't heard of it. Created over ages by slowly creeping glaciers, there's nothing like gazing in wonder at the natural beauty of the fjords to put things into perspective.
Take a week at least, if not longer exploring the wonder of nature, then finish off with another natural wonder - the northern lights. The best views of fjord country is from the ocean.
You do need to be a proficient sailor to sail the fjords yourself: buoys and charts mark out the routes, but it can be testing. If you sail further out to sea you risk missing the overwhelming majesty of this coastline. The main routes sail between Egersund and Bergen but the stretch between Bergen and Ålesund, an architecturally stylish art deco town with an impressive church and canals, has more open water and pretty islands to hop between, and is about five days of fifty-mile-a-day-sailing. The coast between Bergen and Tromsø is known for whales and fishing villages.
The islands within the Arctic Circle, Lovund and the rocky isles of Traena, offer impressive mountains, tiny fishing communities and puffins, Bodø has the nearest airport, Hammerfest is the world's most northern city and Tromsø, with its canals, and marina in the centre of town, is called the Paris of the north.
Norway's western coast is a very popular cruising destination, and there are hundreds of itineraries and vessels to choose from. A lot of cruises depart from Bergen, just above the Hardangerfjord above the Folgefonna Glacier, which is carving out more fjords as it retreats.
Cruising south out of Bergen will sail you towards Hardangerfjord then Lysefjord and the town of Skudeneshavn. Cruising north of Bergen is the Sognefjord and the tall, narrow waterfalls that run down its steep side, making for an impressive, but one way, journey – this fjord ends with a lake under a high mountain gorge and the creaking majesty of the Jostedalsbreen glacier. The Naeroyfjord is a notably beautiful branch of the Sognefjord. Flåm, of the Flåm Railway, is nearby and many cruises take advantage of being so close to offer cruisers an afternoon ashore.
If your cruise passes Sognefjord without turning down into it your next major fjords will be Fordefjord and Nordfjord, then Romsdalsfjord, and the next major centre is Ålesund, before nearing the islands of Smøla, Hitra and Frøya. Across from the islands is Trondheim, Norway's ancient capital, with its buildings like many rows of warehouses, sandwiching tiny stores.
The longer cruises will ferry passengers all the way north to the Arctic Circle to see Bodø and the Lofoten Islands, then Tromsø, where if you're lucky you'll be greeted coming into the harbour by pods of whales, and the northern lights will put on a show for you to finish your journey by.
Møre og Romsdal is the most northerly section of fjordland and the main port and centre is Ålesund. The topography here isn't just dramatic along the coastline, the fjords slice deep into the interior.
Sogn og Fjordane is below Møre og Romsdal on the map. Norway's longest fjord, the 200km long Sognefjord comes off the largest icecap, which melts down steep mountains, waterfalling on its way, deepening the fjord. Along the coast the cleft of rock is broken up by a sprinkling of, small, rocky islands. Florø, Måløy and Førde are the main cities in this county. Other attractions along this stretch of coast include Aurlandsfjord, Nærøyfjord, Fjærlandsfjord, Flåm railway, Nigardsbreen glacier, Veitastrond and Austerdals glacier, Briksdal glacier and the stave churches in Sogn.
The southern most fjord region is Rogaland, which has the Lysefjord, with its famous Pulpit Rock, and Solastranda beach.
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