Photo: ©Søren Schaper
Fjord Tours Articles / 19 Mar 2019

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?

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.

What Are The Fjords of Norway?

Norway has some of the most impressive fjords in the world, and these waterways are home to multiple wilderness areas, remote islands and even entire cities. You will also find waterfalls and fjord arms to explore at every turn, and the western fjords of Norway is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hjelle in Stryn. Photo-Maciej Ducxynski_Fjord Norway.jpg
Photo: Maciej Ducxynski/Fjord Norway

But 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.

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.

hostbilder-sept2010-44.jpg
Photo: Bergen Reiselivslag / Robin Strand – visitBergen.com

But 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.

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.

Find a fjord that suits you here

The original Norway in a nutshell®

This legendary tour takes you through Norway’s most breathtaking UNESCO-protected fjord and mountain scenery, as well as a trip on Europe’s top scenic rail journey.

Hardangerfjord in a nutshell

On the Hardangerfjord in a nutshell round trip, you will experience a journey through a landscape of majestic mountains, roaring waterfalls and idyllic orchards.

Sognefjord in a nutshell

The Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, extends more than 200 km inland to the foot of the Jotunheimen mountains. This area is said to be one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world.

Hurtigruten & Norway in a nutshell®

A spectacular quest by land, fjord and sea. Cruise the western coastline of Norway with Hurtigruten and ride Europe’s top scenic rail journeys on the famous Norway in a nutshell® tour.

Geirangerfjord & Norway in a nutshell®

Experience the UNESCO World Heritage fjords Geirangerfjord and Nærøyfjorden, a costal cruise with Hurtigruten and the popular Norway in a nutshell® tour.

Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) & Norway in a nutshell®

Experience the magnificent Lysefjord, the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), wild and beautiful coastal scenery, the popular Norway in a nutshell® trip and three of Norway’s biggest cities: Oslo, Bergen and Stavanger.

Northern Lights & Norway in a nutshell®

You may find it difficult to sleep in Norway with all the beautiful Northern Lights. So you might as well stay awake joining our Northern Lights & Norway in a nutshell® tour.

Sognefjord in a nutshell & UNESCO Fjord Bus tour

Join the Sognefjord in a Nutshell & UNESCO Fjord Bus tour! This tour combines the popular Sognefjord in a nutshell trip with an exciting fjord bus tour along the Nordfjord to the Geirangerfjord. Experience the UNESCO-protected Geirangerfjord in comfort!

Sognefjord & Nærøyfjord in a nutshell

Experience the beautiful UNESCO-protected Nærøyfjord with its steep mountainsides, hanging valleys, towering peaks and breathtaking waterfalls and travel on the Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord! The Sognefjord & Nærøyfjord in a nutshell tour is the perfect alternative for those longing for the full fjord package!

Sognefjord & Nærøyfjord in a nutshell with UNESCO fjord bus

Experience two beautiful UNESCO-protected fjords on the amazing Sognefjord & Nærøyfjord in a nutshell with UNESCO fjord bus! The Nærøyfjord and Geirangerfjord spellbinds even the most seasoned travelers with steep mountainsides, hanging valleys, towering peaks and breathtaking waterfalls.

Hjørundfjord & Norway in a nutshell®

The Hjørundfjord & Norway in a nutshell® round trip offers beautiful fjords, scenic landscape and a Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage!

Lysefjord in a nutshell

The heights and highlights of Lysefjord and Western Norway—all in one day!