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The fjords of Norway

For many visitors, the fjords of Norway are some of the most spectacular in the world and the main attraction when it comes to exploring this beautiful country. But what’s so special about the fjords of Norway and how are they formed exactly?
©Søren Schaper
Many unique and fascinating features can be found amidst the Norwegian fjords, while the stunning surroundings are just as impressive. But what’s so special about the fjords of Norway? And how were they actually formed?
Well, these immense fjords are deep and long, and consist of multiple arms or branches that are even better known than the main fjord. More specifically, fjords are most often remote and unspoiled which means that the landscape has changed very little since the very first people settled in these areas.
In this article, we take a look at the features of a fjord, how they are formed, and what makes the fjords of Norway such an exciting encounter.
Hjelle in Stryn  - Nordfjord, Norway
Maciej Ducxynski/Fjord Norway

What is a fjord exactly?

In case you might be asking yourself, “fjord” is a norse word which translates as “where you travel across” and this refers to a narrow inlet of the sea that was formed during the glaciation process. More specifically a fjord is created when a glacier retreats and leaves a U-shaped valley into which the sea can flow. With this in mind, there is always an inlet which connects a fjord to the sea and this most often enters the valley at a steep angle.
Meanwhile, terminal moraine is pushed down the valley by this glacier until it reaches the fjord entrance, where it eventually deposits and causes the neck to be much shallower than elsewhere in the fjord.
Along the sides of a fjord, you will find small villages and some of the most fertile land for growing fruits and vegetables in particular. As you might expect, fish is also plentiful and many of the towns are renowned for serving up some incredibly delicate fish. What’s more, the local wildlife population is healthy and many species such as eagles, sheep, and deer can prosper due to the self-protecting nature of these remote areas. Now, let’s take a closer look at the formation of a fjord.
Norway in a nutshell® - Nærøyfjord
Katrin Moe

More About Glaciation and the Formation of Fjords

As you may know, a glacier is a dense body of ice that moves under its own weight and this landmass is created when snow accumulates at a much faster rate than ice calving, evaporation, and other types of ablation. Fjords were shaped by these immense glaciers and the process is known as glaciation.
Glaciation was much more common in the past when continental ice-sheets spread out across vast regions but glaciers now only account for just ten percent of the global landscape. At the same time, glaciers are more common in some places than others and this is especially true in Norway. In fact, there are more than 2,500 glaciers in Norway including Svartisen, Folgefonna, and Austfonna (8450km2), which is known as one of the largest in the world.
Glacier kayak trip at Folgefonna glacier- things to do in Rosendal, Norwaqy
Roar Svasand

What does glaciation actually look like?

When glaciers move over a region, they pluck away at the landscape and remove large chunks of rock. At the same time, water melts beneath this glacier and seeps into cracks within the bedrock below. Over time, many glacial cycles will eventually carve out U-shaped valleys and the sea will eventually flow down into this valley to create a fjord.
If you think about it, a fjord is also like a highway with multiple slipways and adjoining roads along the way. On the other hand, you might compare a fjord to the city of Venice, in which a maze of waterways and canals is connected to create an entire city.
Autumn in the Aurlandsfjord
Foap Visitnorway

Where are the fjords?

Even though fjords can be found in different countries across the world, Norway is famous for them because the country has the highest concentration of fjords worldwide. Visitors travel daily, from near and far, to get a glimpse of this natural attraction. There are over 1,700 named fjords throughout Norway, but there are a few that are favorites for locals and tourists. Two of these have been inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO, which considers them to be so valuable that they must be protected for future generations – The Geirangerfjord and The Nærøyfjord.
It's easy to understand why these fjords are two of Norway's most popular tourist attractions. Steep mountain slopes tumble into gleaming fjords and charming little communities and farms cling to the mountainsides. It's an idyllic scene, like something right out of a storybook! The small Nærøyfjord is flanked by mountains that rise over 1,000 meters above sea level, while Geirangerfjord offers spectacular views. Both locations present their own touch of beauty that makes them unique.
Check out the most famous fjords in Norway!
The UNESCO Geirangerfjord  - UNESCO Geirangerfjord & Trollstigen Tour - Geiranger, Norway
instagram.com -Camilla Nordvik

Why You Should Actually Visit The Fjords of Norway

Norway is the kind of place that hits you smack dab in the face. From rolling green landscapes and cascading waterfalls to snow-peaked mountains and exotic wildfire, the features keep on coming. However, much of these landscapes and experiences are made possible by the majestic fjords which also seem to dominate the most iconic sights in Norway such as Sognefjord, Geirangerfjord and Lysefjord.
Although a fjord can look quite similar to a lake, these fjords consist of saltwater and can be thought about as the arms of the sea, reaching deep into the rugged landscapes of Norway. For this reason, fjords can feel like a magical encounter and it’s possible to sail from one fjord into another or even back out to sea.
In many ways, the fjords of Noways are also a symbol of time and an opportunity to catch a glimpse of a very ancient part of the world. After all, there can be no history as old or visible as these awe-inspiring landscapes, while the local fishermen and farmers still practice the same way of life as their ancestors many moons ago.
While the fjords of Norway are incredibly wild, you can easily access these areas on one of our tours. And during your tour you can also go on fun activities like hiking trips, fjord safaris, kayaking, white water rafting, visit museums and a lot more. Taking an activity while going on one of our tours offers a different and additional perspective but either way, the fjords of Norway offer a truly unforgettable experience.

Norway in a Nutshell® and our popular Nutshell tours

Experience the essence of Norway's most spectacular sights and highlights on our Nutshell tours. From scenic fjord cruises to iconic railway journeys and breathtaking natural wonders, each tour promises an unforgettable adventure. Whether you opt for a day trip or prefer to personalize your journey with extra days and unique experiences, create your perfect Norwegian holiday with us.
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