The towering cliffs and deep blue waters of the Norwegian Fjords draw travellers from all over the world. With its fascinating Viking history, remote villages and some of the best views on earth, it’s easy to see why visitors flock to the country. If you’re not quite convinced, we’ve put together a list of 10 reasons to book a Norwegian Fjords cruise.
The scenery is unbeatable
Mountains rise from the still waters of Norway’s fjords, dwarfing anything travelling beneath it. As your cruise ship enters the deep blue waterways, winding between the immense cliffs, you’ll get a chance to truly appreciate this majestic landscape. Only by travelling by water can you experience this dramatic viewpoint. No road will ever bring you close enough to the plunging waterfalls and vast glaciers of the fjords.
Between the expanses of wilderness and snow-capped mountains, small villages and towns come into view. The remote communities within the fjords are spectacular in their own right, with vibrant red, orange and blue houses lining the water’s edge. Once you hop off the cruise ship, you’ll get the chance to explore on foot and take in the scenery from new perspectives. Linda Kazmerski of travel blog Tripping Blonde shared a tip for appreciating the views on land:
“Norway has built beautiful viewing platforms around some of its popular fjords allowing visitors to get a bird’s eye view of the fjords. These vantage points are often perched on the sides of cliffs, a couple of thousand feet up from the fjords, offering a wonderful alternative to see the fjords from above, not solely from the water below.
“The fjords of Norway offer jaw-dropping, unspoiled scenery that is so majestic, you feel as if you are much closer to the heavens by just being in the presence of such natural beauty.”
You may see Eurasian elk and other amazing wildlife
Wildlife enthusiasts won’t be disappointed on a Norwegian Fjords cruise, as this Scandinavian country is home to some of the most remarkable creatures on the planet. When stopping off to explore the towns, be sure to take some time to wander on the trails. Cutting through the valleys, these woodland-lined paths offer the perfect setting to spot a cousin of North America’s moose – the Eurasian Elk. Growing up to three metres in length and two metres in height, the elk is fairly easy to spot walking through the wilderness of the fjords. In open spaces, turn your attention to the skies to spot white-tailed eagles. With a wingspan of up to eight feet, this particular bird is a sight to behold. On the cliffs, you may even spot a colourful little puffin nesting above the water.
It’s the perfect opportunity to get some peace and quiet
Your cruise to the fjords will be blissfully peaceful. While there’s still plenty to do on board the ship, once you step outside, you’ll be met with an eerie yet tranquil silence as you make your way through the fjords. When you pass cascading waterfalls and glance at eagles soaring overhead, we’re sure you’ll be transfixed on the landscape. That’s not to say that there will be nothing to do when you arrive at some of the towns and villages such as Flåm or Eidfjord. On the contrary. These calm communities are home to restaurants, bars and cafes, ready to serve curious travellers passing through.
You might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights
Due to Norway’s proximity to the Arctic Circle, the Northern Lights can often be seen in the fjords. Depending on what time of year you embark on your cruise, you may get the chance to spot the aurora dancing overhead. Generally, the best time to see the lights is between September and April. On your journey through the fjords, you may be spending around 7-10 nights in the area, so there will be plenty of opportunities to catch a glimpse of the lights. All you need is patience and a clear sky.
It’s a great family holiday destination
For families, the fjords offer endless opportunities. Kids will love roaming free through the woodland and along the shore, as well as the exciting experience of journeying between towering cliffs. Katie Baird, contributor at family travel blog Tips for Family Trips, visited Norway with her loved ones. We asked her why people should consider the fjords for their next family cruise holiday:
“Families who enjoy outdoor adventures would love visiting the Norwegian Fjords. The stunning scenery is as beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen. At one point on our 2-hour fjord boat cruise, we counted over 30 waterfalls that we could see by taking in the 360 degree view around us. The steep, green mountains plunging in the fjords are spectacular, and there are plenty of delightful ways to explore the fjords. We loved our boat cruise, train tour in Flåm, and also hiking and driving through the fjords.
“One of the highlights of our time in the Norwegian Fjords was renting a small, cosy cottage right on Sognefjord and settling in for a few days. We loved ‘living like a local’ in a small village, walking down to the market to buy fresh eggs and juice, and watching the fog lift off the fjords in the morning while we enjoyed a fire and breakfast in our cottage.
“We enjoyed eating fresh soup at small local restaurants, driving around the fjords, and enjoying a leisurely pace to our vacation. The day went spent in Flåm taking a boat trip up Naerøyfjord and doing the Flåm railway was amazing – sunny weather, a picnic lunch on the boat, and never-to-be-forgotten scenery.”
There are endless hiking opportunities
Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply looking for a fresh perspective of the fjords, there are plenty of hiking routes on your stop overs. Set off on a woodland trail to look out for local wildlife, or embark on a hike to the tops of the cliffs to get a bird’s eye view.
Sonja Thomson of Migrating Miss agreed that Norway is great for active travellers: “Visiting the fjords means experiencing a whole other side to Norway than what you see in the cities. If you’re looking for adventure, then this is the place to go, with something for everyone, from hiking and water-based activities to discovering local culture.”
You can experience what it’s like to live in a remote Nordic town
It can be difficult to imagine how the locals survive in such a remote location. On your Norwegian Fjords cruise, you’ll pass by and stop at many towns and villages, giving you the chance to experience what it’s like to live amongst this incredible scenery. Silvia of Heart My Backpack is lucky to call Norway her home. She believes that seeing the remote towns and villages of the fjords is one of the highlights of visiting the area:
“My favourite thing about living in Norway is being surrounded by such beautiful nature, and the most beautiful landscapes of all here must be the fjords. Mountains and ocean make for a stunning combination, and because so many of the towns along the fjords are quite isolated, the culture and traditions have been beautifully preserved through the ages.
“I love that you can travel between the villages along the fjords by boat, not only because it’s such a beautiful way to experience the nature and get to see life along the fjords, but also because I much prefer travelling by boat in Norway than by car! The roads here are so winding that I often get quite car sick, especially when driving through the mountains, whereas in the water the fjords are usually quite calm.”
For Katy Clarke of travel blog Untold Morsels, which documents inspiring experiences around the world, the town of Flåm was the highlight of her holiday: “In Flåm, we joined a fjord safari and loved whizzing over the Aurlandsfjord and Naeroyfjord on an exhilarating ride through incredible scenery. We made a stop at Undredal to try the local award-winning goats’ cheese and admire the picturesque village. The memories of this activity are among our all-time favourite travel moments.”
You’ll retrace the steps of the Vikings
Vikings were Norse seafarers who raided and traded in their Northern Europe homelands between the 8th and 11th centuries. Although they are often represented (accurately so) as fearsome invaders, the Vikings were also skilled traders and craftsmen. They are noted as some of Europe’s best storytellers, and their journeys through the fjords have fuelled many exciting tales.
“How did such a small and scattered people conquer so much territory? Norwegian Vikings were courageous, cunning and had a fatalistic outlook which made them natural risk takers,” said Visit Norway. “Viking raiding parties seem to have had an amazing ability to shrug off losses whether in battle or in dangerous sea voyages.”
Vikings were experts in navigating the seas and honed their skills in their native fjords. Their longships, many of which you can see in museums such as The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, were narrow, light wooden boats with a shallow-draft hull designed for speed and easy navigation in shallow waters, according to Visit Norway. As you sail through the fjords on your cruise, it’s easy to imagine the powerful Vikings keeping a watchful eye over the shores.
You can explore Bergen – A UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy
All Norwegian Fjords cruises stop at Bergen along the way. Set on the country’s southwestern coast, Bergen is surrounded by picturesque fjords, with colourful wooden houses lining the seafront. The city has a population of around 420,000 and, as a result, there’s plenty to see and do in Norway’s second-largest city.
Those with a keen interest in history can visit one of the city’s many museums, while art enthusiasts can marvel at both traditional and contemporary works in its galleries. Sonja Thomson of Migrating Miss shared her top activity in the city: “My favourite thing to do in Bergen is to go up Mount Fløyen for spectacular views across the city and beautiful walks.” It’s easy to get to the top of the mountain on the Fløibanen funicular, and you’ll get amazing views on the way up.
Bergen is perhaps the best place to sample a broad range of traditional Norwegian cuisine. As a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, you’ll be spoiled for choice here. Launched in May 2017, Bergen Food Tours is the city’s first food tour company, offering food tasting and cultural walking tours to visitors. We spoke to founder Cheyanne Smart to find out what you can expect on a food tour in the city:
“On this three-hour authentic Bergenser tasting experience, our tour guide will help you easily navigate through this UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, while you uncover Bergen’s rich food history and culture. You will learn about local ingredients and the expert preparations involved in each dish. Discover the background of the chefs and artisans we visit as well as their influence on Bergen’s evolving food scene.
“Embark on the ‘Bergen Classic’ food tour experience historic Bryggen. Get your fish fix with traditionally smoked seafood at Fjellskal Fisketorget, Plukkfisk (potato and fish mash) at Bare Vestland, and Bergen Fish Soup from Bergen’s only Michelin Guide recommended restaurant, Lysverket. Indulge in the savoury reindeer sausage at Trekroneren and satisfy your sweet tooth with brown cheese cheesecake at Sweet Rain Konditori. Finish the tour sipping local craft beer or Aquavit (Scandinavian Spirit) at UNA Bryggeri & Kjokken.”
As Norway has such a delicious and diverse cuisine, we asked Cheyanne to recommend some must-try foods for your cruise holiday:
“Seafood (mackerel, herring, Gravlax with mustard, Rokt (smoked) salmon, brown cheese on waffles with jam, traditional Norwegian dishes including Plukkfisk, fish soup, raspeballer/komle (potato dumplings), fish cakes, seasonal dishes such as wild salmon, reindeer, berries and fruits (cloud berries, plums and apples), Farikal (mutton stew with cabbage) or ribbe (roast pork belly).
“If you’re feeling adventurous, try sinking your teeth in: Pinnekjott (lamb rib), smalahove (salted and smoked sheep’s head), lutefisk (dried cod soaked in lye) or Minke whale. Then you can wash everything down with local Norwegian craft beer or Aquavit!”
You’ll come back with some amazing photos
Norway is one of the most picturesque countries in the world. On your journey through the fjords, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to subjects to photograph. Whether you’re a budding wildlife photographer hoping to snap a white-tailed eagle soaring over the fjords, or to capture the magical light on the landscape, this is the ideal area to practice capturing your dream photograph.
Image credits: Bvi2092