The best way to see the fjords in Norway is from a boat! You can choose between one-day round-trip-cruises or on an international cruiser going along the coast. Here are some of our favorite choices for cruising the fjords in Norway.
Norway has for many years been marketing itself as “the most beautiful cruise destination in the world,” and the country does in fact offer some of the most scenic places in the world; majestic fjords, waterfalls dropping thousands of feet down rocky cliffs and tiny farms clinging to the side of mountains.
A Day-Cruise from Bergen
You can enjoy the Arctic appeal of Norway through scenic beauty, unique museums and funky foods. A round-trip cruise from Bergen takes you up the 27-kilometer long Osterfjord. Underway, the fjord narrows between steep mountains as the boat brings you safely through the powerful currents of the shallow and narrow Mostraumen strait.
The Disney film “Frozen” has been credited with nearly doubling tourism in Norway since the first movie was released in 2013. Later, the new “Frozen 2” and “Frozen – the Broadway Musical” have given the tourism in Norway a continuing growth.
Smaller villages along the fjords function as transit hubs for excursions out to scenic vistas, and Norway’s cities give the opportunity to explore excellent museums on the country’s maritime history and local culture, as well as shops for its well-regarded woolen products or unusual food items, like brown goat cheese from farms that have been in families for generations.
Cruises from Stavanger
Stavanger is the jumping-off point for boat trips into the Lysefjord, with its dramatic cliffs (including the towering Pulpit Rock) and gushing waterfalls. It’s also home to some unique museums, including the Norwegian Canning Museum and the Norwegian Petroleum Museum. Don’t miss a walk through the wooden houses of Old Stavanger or the harbor area with its seaside restaurants and local shops.
A one-day roundtrip cruise is out from Stavanger on the Lysefjord. On this exciting fjord cruise, you can enjoy the impressive Lysefjord, Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), the Vagabond’s cave and get up close to the Hengjane waterfall (you can actually taste the water from the falls!). The cruise is available all year round.
Related: Oslo Fjord Cruises
Cruising the Fjords in Norway
The incredible clouds, drifting across the sky, sometimes puffy and white, sometimes dark and some infused with bright patches where the sun shines through, sparkling on the sea, are amazing when you’re aboard a cruise liner. Cruising the Norwegian fjords is never boring. If you are an adventurous type you might want to follow the coastline all the way north, into the Arctic, to spy on polar bears and abandoned mines and to seek out the midnight sun.
If you’re more of an one-day cruise passenger type, you might want to bring your car on the car ferry on the Lysefjord (see above). On this car ferry you get to admire the Pulpit Rock from sea level as the ferry passes by. But Lysefjorden is the home to several other gems, like Lysebotn, with the 27 hairpin bends up to 600 m.a.s.l. and a spectacular view, and Kjerag – a challenging and jaw-dropping hike. The ferry departs from Flørli, Forsand, Lauvvik, Lysebotn or Songesand.
One of Norway’s most beautiful fjords
The scenery in Norway is so wild and awe-inspiring that visitors sometimes are overwhelmed. One of the country’s most beautiful fjords, Geiranger fjord on the west-coast, is a deep-sea inlet reaching nine miles into the heart of the country and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you start out in Ålesund, you’re able to do 3 fjords in 3 hours! From Ålesund you travel through three different fjords and spectacular scenery before you arrive in Geiranger. You can either choose to stay in Geiranger, or take the boat back again, after a few hours in Geiranger where you can have lunch and go for a short sightseeing tour to the closest viewpoints Ørnesvingen (the Eagle bend) or Flydalsjuvet.
On a car ferry from Hellesylt to Geiranger you can enjoy the Geirangerfjord, see the famous Seven Sisters waterfall and the Bridal Veil (Brudesløret) waterfall and gaze up at the abandoned farms clinging on to the mountain sides.
From Geiranger you may have a day touring by bus taking you high into the mountains on a narrow road full of hairpin turns giving you the chance to have a view to the fjord far below. The cruise liner you’ve left has now been reduced to the size of a toy boat.
Some passengers chose to stay aboard. Perhaps they are afraid of the winding roads. However, most passengers want to sample the country and its people as much as possible. Norway offers plenty of waterside villages that lie in fairy-tale-like settings.
Tailor made cruises
Cruise travelers have a lot of choices to tailor their Norway cruises, and with hotel and food prices being sky high, a cruise can in fact be the most affordable way to experience the country. June through August is the peak of the Norway cruise season, but voyages begin in May and run into September, while Hurtigruten and car-ferries sail year-round. (A few lines offer earlier spring or later fall cruises.)
One of Norway’s busiest summer destinations
On a day round-trip cruise Flåm – Gudvangen – Flåm, you can experience the Nærøyfjord, the narrowest and most spectacular of the inlets of the Sognefjord, at the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Area. It is available all-year. If you travel from Flåm, you will first sail through the idyllic Aurlandsfjord, which is also inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Then, the boat continues through the narrow Nærøyfjord before arriving Gudvangen, innermost in the Nærøyfjord. The trip takes around two hours one way.
Flåm is one of the country’s busiest summer destinations and offers a 12-mile mountain railway journey that takes passengers through the beautiful landscapes of the innermost part of the Aurlandsfjord, an arm of the Sognefjord.
The car ferry between Gudvangen and Kaupanger runs daily from May to September. On this 2-3 hours’ long trip you get to see some of the most beautiful and most dramatic fjord landscapes in the world! Booking in advance is recommended due to limited capacity.
On the west coast
Enjoy unspoilt nature on the cruise from Ålesund to Øye, through the 35 km long Hjørundfjord. The Hjørundfjord is surrounded by the Sunnmøre Alps, with mountains streching up to 1700 m.a.s.l. Pass villages along the way, some without road connection. You can disembark at Trandal, where you can try the world’s most instagrammable swing.
The express boat from Bergen takes you through striking scenery to the village of Rosendal by the Hardangerfjord. In Rosendal you can visit Baroniet, Scandinavia’s smallest “palace” from 1665 as well as the Folgefonn Centre, where you can learn about the global cycle of water and climate changes.
A cruise on the Fjærlandsfjord starts from Balestrand sailing in towards the village Fjærland. The Fjærlandsfjord is beautiful and majestic as it is surrounded by steep mountains, some still covered with snow on the peaks. The water has a bright green color because of the melt water from the glaciers that flows into the fjord. A fantastic boat trip from the unique architecture village Balestrand through the beautiful fjord arm towards the Jostedalsbreen Glacier.
Åkrafjorden and the Langfoss waterfall are hidden gems. The highlight of the cruise is the view towards the Langfoss waterfall. Langfoss has an impressive drop height of 612 meters, and in 2011 CNN Travel rated Langfoss as one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
One of the world’s longest coastlines
Norway has the second longest coastline in the world, next only to Canada. The most recent measurements are: mainland 29,750 km + islands 73,187 km = total 102,937 km. Fiords are the nation’s main draw; 100 cruise ships visited them last summer on more than 400 voyages. Figures from the lobby group Cruise Norway show the number of passenger visits is expected to pass four million in 2019. The number was just 2.5 million in 2012. Therefore, Norwegians are concerned that ships are getting bigger and their numbers are multiplying.
“When many ships and visitors arrive at the same time, it creates congestion, pollution and tension in many local communities along the coast,” wrote economic development agency
Innovation Norway in a report that concluded that cruise tourists spend less money locally than other types of tourists.
Related: King of the Fjords – in Norway
Departing from a variety of homeports
Cruises to and in Norway depart from a variety of homeports, including Bergen and Oslo. Other popular departure cities are Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Hamburg and a variety of U.K. ports. True Arctic cruises may embark in Svalbard (Spitsbergen). However, there doesn’t seem to be much of a standard Norway cruise. Bergen, built on mountainsides overlooking the sea, is a UNESCO World Heritage City. Although it’s Norway’s second-largest city — only Oslo is larger— it has small-town charm and is known for its outdoor fish market and Bryggen waterfront buildings, which date to 1070.
Bergen is the big city that features on most itineraries, some may include Oslo. Cruises are rounded out with smaller, scenic ports like Stavanger, Geiranger, Alesund and Flam. A surprising number goes as far north as Spitsbergen (Svalbard) in the Arctic – even on weeklong sailings.
Temperatures and weather in Norway
Temperatures may be a little lower at off-peak times, but you’ll avoid summer crowds. In general, summer temperatures are warm but not oppressive, with average daytime temps in the upper 50s and 60s in ports like Oslo and Bergen. Though highs can reach into the 80s, weather there can change frequently. Don’t forget that Norway is a terrific place for outdoor activities like kayaking, biking and hiking – that is, when it’s not raining. Weather can be very varied and often wet, so always have a backup plan in case of inclement weather. Take advantage when the sun is out, and, if it’s raining, don’t be afraid to push back an activity – often a rainy day will turn sunny later on (or vice versa). Also be sure to pack a rain jacket and umbrella, and dress in layers.
The king of Norway cruises
The king of Norway cruises is Hurtigruten, which offers year-round service up and down Norway’s coastline, cruising roundtrip from Bergen, going as far north as Kirkenes and the Arctic Circle, and stopping at a myriad of ports, both large and small. While foreigners may treat these journeys like regular cruises, staying onboard for five, six or the full 11 nights, day-trippers use the same vessels as ferry service between ports, and crewmembers unload freight and mail at most stops.
Cruising the Fjords in Norway, compiled by Tor Kjolberg