• Vatican City!

    Vatican City: Vatican Museums. Go Now!

    Vatican City
    The smallest country in the world offers the heart of Catholicism and among the world's finest art collections, including the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms (ceiling pictured). Go to Vatican City!

  • Albania!

    Albania: Village of Theth! Go Now!

    Albania
    Albania is unique in Europe, starting with its Muslim heritage, but expanding to include food, culture, and even its natural beauty. Explore Albania!

  • Netherlands!

    Netherlands: Wooden shoes. Go Now!

    Netherlands
    This low country might be small, but it maintains a unique place in history and culture. Explore the Netherlands!

  • Ukraine!

    Ukraine: Traditional Village. Go Now!

    Ukraine
    Ukrainian culture is based on village life, particularly that found in the Carpathian Mountains (pictured). Begin Your Journey!

  • Latvia!

    Latvia: Art Nouveau in Riga. Go Now!

    Latvia
    Latvia is small, but has a diverse history, foods, and architecture (shown), which includes aspects from both Eastern and Western Europe. Begin Your Journey!

  • Germany!

    Germany: Town Hall. Go Now!

    Germany
    Food, beer, natural beauty, and more create a country that's known for its distinct culture and history. Go Now!

Sognefjord, Norway

Introduction

Lustrafjord, Norway - Lustrafjord
Lustrafjord

Sognefjord is one of the world's longest fjords and is the largest in Norway. Being so large there are a number of different landscapes the fjord, and its many arms offer. The greatest appeal to the fjord is the diversity of it, from the narrow arms like Nærøyfjord, to the waterfalls, sports, and of course the towns and people that live along the fjord.

Along the main stretch of the fjord, from one side to the other the fjord stretches 3 miles (4.5 kilometers) on average. The mountains surrounding the fjord rise up to varying elevations and at varying distances, but generally the rise is quite dramatic. Unlike some fjords in Norway, Sognefjord has a number of settlements along its shores, which provide great insight into the culture and history of the people and the region. This culture and history begins with the stave churches along the fjord and moves into the modern age with new attractions like the aquarium in the town of Balestrand.

History & Background

The geological history of Sognefjord, Norway's largest fjord, dates back millennia, however the fjord's settlement is a much more recent event. Due to the vast size of the fjord, there are numerous places along the shores that can host settlements, but as a whole the steep mountain walls mean the region is not heavily populated. Although, where flat lands do exist along the fjord, the mountains and narrow water access mean towns are naturally protected and during the Viking ages and medieval ages this natural protection allowed towns to grow and remain protected.

Due to this protection from outsiders, towns flourished in the 1100s and 1200s as Christianity arrived and numerous stave churches were built along the fjord or in the nearby mountains. Today this region is still home to a number of stave churches, including Norway's oldest (Urnes Stave Church, built in the 1100s) and some of the country's most impressive stave churches.

Although the fjord and mountains provided food, protection, and transportation, the mountains didn't allow the expansion of settlements so the towns along Sognefjord tend to be small as they often run all the way to the mountains. Because of this, all settlements on the fjord are villages many of which are home to the ancestors of people who have called the towns and region home for centuries.

As tourism rises in Sognefjord, and all of Norway, these villages have adopted by building hotels, restaurants, and shops, but in the long winter months there are few visitors and the village culture returns to the state it has been in for centuries.

Sognefjord Today

Lustrafjord, Norway - Kids playing on Lustrafjord
Kids on the Lustrafjord

The people who live along Sognefjord today live simple lives much as the people of Norway have lived for centuries (although now with numerous tourist amenities and museums). These people continue to be reliant on the landscape as the waters provide both food and transportation and the mountains nearly isolate the people. Although cruise ships and tourists are now common in the fjord, this tourism is primarily seasonal so the people cling to their historic way of life for much of the year. This is only changing in some areas as museums and other tourist sights are opening up to attract tourists year round.

Aurlandsfjord & Nærøyfjord

Flåm Railway (Flåmsbana): At the end of the fjord is the town of Flam, which is home to a train line that climbs south through the valley and into the mountains, eventually reaching the Bergen Railway line. If Sognefjord and Bergen are on your route, this is one of the most scenic ways to get from one to the other. For more information visit their website at: www.visitflam.com/flam-railway/.

Naeroyfjord (Nærøyfjord) is one of Sognefjord's most impressive arms as it is quite narrow and provides stunning mountains dropping straight into the waters of the fjord. It is ideal for outdoor activities such as kayaking, hiking, or just sitting on a boat as you enjoy the views.

Undredal Stave Church (Undredal stavkyrkje): This is the smallest still operational church in Norway as it only seats 40 people, but that only adds to its beauty and charm.

Fjaerlandsfjord & Balestrand

Bøyabreen Glacier (Bøyabreen): This glacier sits a bit inland from the end of the Fjaerland fjord.

Balestrand, Norway - Kvikne's Hotel
Kvikne's Hotel

Kvikne's Hotel: This historic hotel was built in the Swiss Chalet style in the 1800s and has been a favorite for both royalty and tourists ever since. For more information about the hotel or to stay here, visit their website at: www.kviknes.com.

Kvinnafossen Waterfall (Kvinnafossen): This waterfall is located between the towns of Leikanger and Hella opposite the town of Balestrand.

Norwegian Glacier Museum & Ulltveit-Moe Climate Center (Norsk Bremuseum): This museum and climate center is located in the town of Fjaerland and has a number of exhibits displaying the nearby glaciers, the landscape, and climate change. For more information visit their website at: www.bre.museum.no.

Sognefjord Aquarium (Sognefjord Akvarium): This aquarium, located in the town of Balestrand, is home to hundreds of fish species and sea life from the Sognefjord. For more information visit their website at: www.kringsja.no/eakvarium.html.

Kaupanger

Kaupanger Stave Church (Kaupanger stavkyrkje): This is one of the many stave churches that line Sognefjord and being located in the town of Kaupanger, is also one of the most accessible. For more information visit their website at: www.stavechurch.com/en/kaupanger/.

Sogn Fjord Museum (Sogn Fjordmuseum): This museum, which is associated with the Folk Museum, focuses on the people and culture of the Sognefjord. For more information visit their website at: www.dhs.museum.no/en/sogn-fjord-museum-kaupanger.

Sogn Folk Museum (Sogn Folkemuseum): This open air museum, which is associated with the Fjord Museum, is near the town of Kaupanger and demonstrates the farming life and culture of the people of the Sognefjord over the centuries. For more information visit their website at: www.dhs.museum.no/en/open-air-museum-0.

Laerdalseyri

Norwegian Wild Salmon Center (Norsk Villakssenter): This center is exactly what it sounds like, a center educating visitors on salmon in the Norwegian waters, which is located in the town of Laerdalseyri. For more information visit their website at: www.norsk-villakssenter.no (Norwegian only).

Lustrafjorden & Luster

Ornes, Norway - Details on Urnes Stave Church
Details on Urnes Stave Church

Feigumfossen Waterfall (Feigumfossen): This waterfall is located near the town of Luster on the Lustrafjorden.

Urnes Stave Church (Urnes stavkyrkje): Urnes Stave Church is the oldest stave church in Norway (built in the 1100s) and is also one of the most impressive. The church is best reached by ferry from the nearby town of Solvorn. For more information visit their website at: www.stavechurch.com/en/urnes/.

Vik

Hopperstad Stave Church (Hopperstad stavkyrkje): This church, in the town of Vik, is one of the most intricately decorated stave churches and is also one of the oldest. For more information visit their website at: www.stavechurch.com/en/.

Transportation

Sognefjord is somewhat well connected. Boats are easily the best way to see the fjord itself, but car, taxi, and bike also offer great options. Getting to the fjord is a bit more challenging as options take time due to the landscape. There is a small airport along the fjord, but train, boats, and buses seem to be much less expensive and offer numerous options.

Airport: The only airport in the Sognefjord area is the Haukasen Airport, which is located about 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the town of Kaupanger. There are only a couple flights to and from Oslo and Bergen to this airport; all flights are operated by Wideroe (www.wideroe.no). For its location or directions, see the map below.

Train Station: The only train station along the Sognefjord is the station in Flam (mentioned above). For train times and schedules, the website is: www.nsb.no. For its location or directions, see the map below.

Bus Station: There are numerous private bus companies that service towns in Sognefjord, but the towns and origins of these bus services vary by the town's location and geographical obstacles.

Local Transportation: There are numerous ways to get around Sognefjord, but the most comfortable and scenic is by boat. Nearly every town has boat services or tours that let you explore other regions for a day trip. The region is also accessible by road, but the landscape often times means long journeys for the short distances traveled.

Official Websites

Region of Sognefjord: www.sognefjord.no
Kingdom of Norway: www.visitnorway.com

Map & Directions

This page was last updated: August, 2013