How to best explore the fjords from Bergen
Just thinking about Norway’s nature is enough to take your breath away. The untamed mountaintops, forever glazed with ice; the serpentine fjords, created so many ice ages ago; the picturesque villages untouched by time, dotted with medieval churches; the cascading waterfalls and proud, fragrant trees…
It feels like a fairytale, doesn’t it? And yet, accessing all this nature is much easier than you may think. Some of the most beautiful fjords in the country, Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord (also known as The King and The Queen of fjords), are actually just a quick day-trip away from Bergen, Norway’s second largest city.
Hopping on a boat or a bus, you can soon experience the diverse terrain of Fjord Norway. You can go mountain and glacier hiking, skiing, and biking along the fjord arms. You can take a romantic train ride or explore the azure waters with a raft or kayak. If the weather is good, you can even go fishing, swimming, surfing or SUPing along the coast line.
Bergen is ideally located right in the heart of Fjord Norway — it’s no wonder the city is often called “the gateway to the fjords”. It’s also the perfect homebase for your trip because, even when you’re not fjord-hopping, there’s just so many things to do in Bergen!
Surrounded by seven mountains and with a wharf that’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, Bergen combines fascinating history with a very vibrant citylife. Visit mounts Ulriken and Fløyen for panoramic views of the area and excellent hiking trails; you can take the cable car at Ulriken or the Fløibanen funicular from Ulriken to Fløyen. Or how about cruising up the mountain on a Segway?
Stroll the cobblestone streets of Bryggen, the 13th century Hanseatic Wharf, and find more about the role of Bergen in early European trade at the Hanseatic Museum. Browse at least some of the 50,000 works of art that you’ll find at the city’s four KODE Museums.
Bergen is also the homeland of famous classical composer Edvard Grieg. You can explore his heritage by visiting Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra’s Grieg Hall or even the composer’s home (that doubles as a smaller museum) in Troldhaugen.
Want even more things to do in Bergen? After you adequately caffeinate at one of the city’s many quality coffee shops, you can explore the booming fashion scene: concept stores like Regn as well as boutiques of avant-garde local designers will acquaint you with Bergen’s unique sartorial DNA.
As for the city’s gastronomy, with the local fish market offering deliciously fresh fare and and the world-class chefs at Cornelius Seafood Restaurant, you certainly won’t go hungry!
But of course, nothing will be more exciting than your 1-day or 2-day trip to the fjords. Here’s how to best explore Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord from Bergen!
Credit: Visit Sognefjord
Sognefjord is located in Sogn og Fjordane, otherwise known as “fjord county”. Stretching at 205 km (127 mi), the fjord is the longest and deepest in Norway — as well as the second longest worldwide. The terrain is a study in contrasts with steep, 1,000 metre-long cliffs rising almost directly from the surface of the water and picturesque villages dottings its edges.
On your journey to Sognefjord from Bergen, the charming fjord village of Vik should be one of your first pit-stops. Here you will find three of the few remaining Norwegian Stave Churches. Hopperstad Stave Church with its multi-layered roof that almost resembles a Viking ship, is a must; it has been around for a thousand years!
Vik is also rich in produce: its many berry farms produce some of the country’s best raspberries and its traditional cheese (Gamalost) has actually been voted the third best cheese in the world!
Vik is not the only charming village along the Sognefjord coast though. If you have time, you should also check Balestrand, where you can visit St. Olaf’s Church and marvel at the unique, colourful villas, built during the late 19th century by local artists.
Kaupanger, at the northern shore of Sognefjord, is home to the Sogn Fjord Museum, where you can get a glimpse of fjord life in the past centuries.
If you want to explore the area from a different perspective, you can take the Flåmsbana railway from one of Sognefjord’s arms, Aurlandsfjord: it offers one of the most picturesque train rides in Europe, passing through 20 tunnels and stopping just enough for you to take pictures of the mountains and waterfalls.
Speaking of waterfalls: on your list should be Kjelfossen, one of Norway’s highest waterfalls located in Gudvangen and Vettisfossen at Utladalen, Norway’s highest single-drop waterfall.
Around Sognefjord there are also several National Parks you should visit. You can go glacier hiking (but also mountain hiking with huskies and kayaking) at Jostedalsbreen National Park, home to Europe’s largest glacier.
You can also visit Jotunheimen National Park; its 200 mountain peaks will certainly cater to all your climbing and hiking needs
An even shorter trip from Bergen will get you to the Queen of the Fjords. Norway’s second largest fjord (and the third longest in the world) runs from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Hardangervidda plateau.
Unique vantage points, carefully located within the rough scenery, will give you a bird’s eye view of the fjord. For starters, Trolltunga: the 1,100-meter-high (3,641 ft) rock formation shaped like “a troll’s tongue” above Ringedalsvatnet lake, will make you feel like you’re on top of the world!
The National Park of Hardangervidda is also a must-stop in the area. Norway’s largest National Park (and Europe’s largest mountain plateau) spans at 3,422 square kilometers (1321 sq mi), so you may wish to book a cabin to spend the night — but its endless opportunities for hiking, skiing and fishing will compensate for the extra time spent there.
The park is actually part of the local scenic route, which will also bring you to Vøringsfossen, a majestic waterfall with a free fall of 145 meters (475 ft), with idyllic views to the narrow valley of Måbødalen.
There are so many wonders to admire along the Hardangerfjord! Apart from Vøringsfossen there are several other waterfalls: Skjervefossen, Låtefoss, Furebergfossen, and Steinsdalsfossen, where you can literally walk behind the waterfall and take pictures.
There are delightful little villages bursting with fragrant apple trees like Ulvik (do try the local cider) and Jondal, from which you can visit Folgefonna National Park. And of course the Folgefonna National Park itself, where you can visit Norway’s third largest glacier and marvel at Bronze Age carvings and a boat-building museum.
Your fjord tour from Bergen will be one to remember!
Did you know?
- It’s only a 3,5-hour drive from Bergen to Sognefjord.
- You can take a bus ride (3,5 hours) from Bergen to Vik, with stops to admire the sights.
- Hardangerfjord is even closer to Bergen: only a 1,5-hour drive.
- Boat tours with multiple stops along the way from Bergen to the fjords last approx. 11-13 hours
- Go Fjords offer many different tours around Hardangerfjord, Sognefjord. Just pick your favorite activities!