The coasts of the Scandinavian countries, and those of Norway in particular, are world renown for their spectacular fjords and incomparable views. More often than not, visitors opt to experience their magnificence from below, either on coastline cruise boats or in small canoes. However, as experienced hiker Bill Russell points out, taking “hikes into the surrounding mountains… really provides the visitor the fullest opportunity to experience the beauty and culture of the area in a special way not available by boats alone… it’s a glorious experience viewing the fjords from above.” In fact, he goes as far as to say, “Fjord hiking is the experience of a lifetime.” With over 15,000 miles of coastline and thousands of fjords, fortunately one could never run out of new sites to explore.
Sounds intriguing, no? If unfamiliar, you might be wondering what a fjord is exactly and about the origin of their funny name. The word “fjord” comes from Indo-European origins, with fara meaning travelling or ferrying. The Old Norse adaptation of this verb, fjǫrðr (or fjord) indicates a body of water that resembles a lake, often used for cruise and ferry ship transit. In geological terms, the name defines a lengthy, thin inlet surrounded by cliffs of steep hills or mountains. Fjords were created thanks to thousands of years of glacial melting since the last ice age. In fact, as the glaciers melted, through the abrasive pressure exerted by their weight on the land below the ice, the glaciers carved out deep tunnels. After they melted, these tunnels eventually became submerged by the sea. At the same time, this intense pressure pushed the surrounding land upward, creating the picturesque views that enthuse many a traveller to visit Norway today.
Often, hikers begin their voyages in Bergen, considered by many one of the world’s most beautiful cities and the “gateway to the fjord country.” Rich in an elegant mix of classic Norwegian style and the new minimalist Scan school of architecture, with plenty of cultural institutions, Norway’s second largest city has enough to offer on its own to be worth a visit. However, it’s the city’s proximity to the fjords that interests most tourists.
Given the mountainous terrain, one can expect to travel an average of five to eight miles (11-18 km) per day. Waterfalls, rolling streams and quaint cabins line the journey. From Bergen, one can reach Sognefjord in a day, the world’s third longest fjord (the longest in Norway) at 203 km (136 mi) and the second deepest (again, the record holder for Norway) at 1,308 m (4,291 ft). The surrounding mountains rise another 1,000 metres (3,281 miles), providing unrivalled views of the coast from every perspective. However, don’t let what sounds like a steep incline intimidate you — there are hiking paths available for every fitness level, from the professional to the amateur.
Further north along the coast, the Atlantic road continues along some of the country’s most beautiful and lesser known fjords. The Troll’s Road, Trollstigen, was a feat of modern engineering when constructed. It cuts directly into the Andalsnes mountain with hairpin turns, surrounded by waterfalls that have been described as “simply breathtaking.” Trollstigen leads to Geiranger, where many view the remarkable Geirangfjord from boat. Experienced travellers boast that the best vistas are from the trails north of Hellyslt. While in the area, the neighbouring Strynevatnet Lake contains gorgeous waters of a unique turquoise colour that cannot be found elsewhere. Also, the peaceful rural town of Hjelle serves as a perfect point to stop and rest.
One cannot go wrong by continuing along the Panorama Road, which wraps around the Gamle Strynefellsvegen fjord a third of a mile above sea level with stunningly picturesque views. Not to miss: the Kjenndal, Loen, Olden and Briksdal Glaciers. The nearby Saebo and Hjorundfjord sport some of the most remarkable views in all of Norway. With an extremely steep incline (nearly vertical), one is left with the feeling of floating on top of the world. The Highway 60 that passes by Geirangerfjord and Sunnylvsfjord sports what has the reputation of “one of the best vista spots in Norway.” Vinnufossen, in the neighbouring region of Sunndalsora, is the sixth tallest waterfall in the world. The gorgeous, protected Amotan Park will help visitors reconnect with nature, in addition to offering more scenic valleys with impressive waterfalls and a highly recommended hiking trail, the Trodalen.
If you have yet to book the next flight to Oslo, listen to a short excerpt of one hiker’s experience of the fjords: “We hike past mountain farms, similar to the one situated 600 meters above Simadalsfjorden and only reachable by foot until the beginning of the 1970’s. We glimpse these old farm houses, where you can see how your ancestors used to live, and where it is still possible to meet people who protect the local song heritage by singing the old tunes, and by playing the Hardangerfiddle.
“As we hike along the heritage trails in Ulvik, in the hills and mountains that surround the village, you get to know more about life in the area in the days gone by. The trails beckon and the high pastures where flocks of sheep graze, clear streams, blue lakes, and striking mountains provide hikers with plenty of off-the-beaten track adventures.”
Sounds delightful! At Caractère, we offer a variety of items to make your fjord hiking experience easier and more comfortable. Our products include supplies designed for rural guest houses and camp sites, which range from disposable sheets and blankets to towels and baby hygiene products. For those who plan to take advantage of Scandinavia’s world renown saunas and spas, we also provide massage wear, slippers, sandals, bathrobes and towels. Comfortable, recyclable and easy to use, you cannot go wrong with disposable supplies from Caractère. Best of all, we ship anywhere in Europe, including the UK and Norway. If you choose to go, have a wonderful trip and please write to us about your travels.
Finally, some links to help you plan. For hiking route ideas and itineraries, see the hiking and itinerary pages of Norway Fjords, Fjords.com, REI, FjordNorway, Russell Tours and Web Walking. For guided hiking tours, visit The Norwegian Trekking Association’s official website. For more fantastic pictures of fjords, see The Norway Fjords and Fjords.com.
Finally, a short video about hiking in the fjords from Visit Kristiansund: