Here is a whistle-stop post covering our rapid tour of the Norwegian fjords in west Norway. I travelled there on a press trip with Visit Norway and Fjord Norway, so I only had four days to explore the area. I’d advise any families travelling there to spend a bit longer in each location, to really soak up the atmosphere of the place. To find out more about the hotels, attractions and restaurants I mention, just follow the links.
Where are the Norwegian fjords?
Norway’s a country of fjords, with more than a thousand along the coast. But most of the iconic ones – the Sognefjord, Lysefjord, Geirangerfjord and the UNESCO world heritage Nærøyfjord – are in western Norway.
The fjords look like lakes or very slow-flowing rivers. They are, in fact, filled to their deep, dark depths with saltwater, because they’re arms of the sea, reaching inwards to the land.
I started my four-day journey in Bergen, at Troldhaugen, Edvard Grieg’s house. If you don’t think you know Grieg’s music, you’re probably wrong. Just search for In the Hall of the Mountain King on Youtube, and you’ll hear a familiar song that’s been covered here, there and everywhere, from bands as diverse as The Who, ELO, and the people behind the soundtrack to Trolls.
It was easy to see what inspired the light, haunting spookiness of Grieg’s music. Troldhaugen’s concert hall looked out, past Grieg’s writing hut, onto the Norwegian fjords, which on the day of our visit were wreathed in a fine cloud. Treetops poked eerily out of the mist. It was a beautiful, goose-pimply sort of place, where you could imagine mystic creatures, wading around in the fog.
Troldhaugen run regular tours, and family music sessions. To find out more, click here.
After Bergen we journeyed on, through long mountain tunnels to Myrkdalen Mountain Resort, in Voss. The drive took us past farms where they harvested the local delicacy, sheep’s heads. From the road we also spotted plenty of off-piste skiers, ploughing through the snow in bright, elegant Norwegian skiwear.
Myrkdalen is one of the most snow-sure ski resorts in Europe, and snow is guaranteed well into May. If you head further up, onto the glacier, it’s possible to ski until June. Unsurprisingly, Norwegians are expert when it comes to winter sports, and Myrkdalen offers the gamut: downhill, cross-country and telemark. It’s a safe place for children to learn to ski, because the resort is small enough for them not to get lost on the slopes.
My hotel bedroom was decorated with pictures of national Olympic heroes, to provide inspiration while I slept.
Luckily, Norwegians also seem to be steady and patient, which helped during my first-ever cross-country skiing lesson the next day. I fell down. A lot.
After Myrkdalen, we headed to Stegastein viewpoint. Standing on the viewing platform, 650m above ground level of the Norwegian fjords, was an experience that would turn the most committed urbanite into a nature-lover. It was winter and the Aurlandsfjord was quiet. All we could see on the water was a ferry, pootling its way along like a tiny pond-skater. It was calm, crisp, still, and full of the beauty of eternity.
I was able to see the Norwegian fjords from a much closer distance the next day. We travelled back down the Aurlandsfjellet road to Flåm, a small town beloved of cruise trips, which was quiet in these winter months. After a Norse dinner (paired with delicious craft beer) at the Viking-themed Ægir Brewpub, then a deep night’s sleep at the elegant nineteeth-century Fretheim Hotel, we took a winter fjordsafari with Flåm Guide Service.
Under the overcast sky, the water looked inky-black with the heavy memory of history. Just out of the harbour, a school of porpoises swam over to say hello. We were almost close enough to touch them. We sped past frozen waterfalls, bundled up in our thermals against temperatures of -10°, and paused at the village of Undredal, which inspired the hit Disney film, Frozen. The most spectacular part of the safari was when we hit the Nærøyfjorden, a UNESCO world heritage site where the fjord is only 250 m wide in places, and the mountains loom 1800 metres above.
Fjordsafari run family tours on the Norwegian fjords, for children as young as four. Check out this post to find out more.
After the fjordsafari, the charming Flåm Railway took us curling up into the mountains, past snowy cycle tracks and the frozen Kjossfossen waterfall, where a Norse goddess is said to dance. We stopped at Vatnahalsen Høyfjellshotell mountain lodge for a delicious home-made waffle, with berry jam and sweet goat’s cheese. This fortified us for a quick snowshoe hike, and the train journey onwards to Bergen.
Our home for the night in Bergen was the central Scandic Ørnen. At first glance it seemed similar to deluxe hotels in other European cities. Over our beds, however, were large pictures of birds of prey in flight, or swooping down on their quarry. Pictures of cruel-looking eagles popped up all over the place in the Scandic Ørnen, even on the napkins at breakfast. There’s no escaping the wild, even in the centre of Norway’s second city. We dined in style at Marg & Bien, where I ate a salt-baked mountain trout that my bedside eagle would have been proud to catch.
The next morning, after a tour of the wooden harbourside medieval quarter of Bryggen, also a UNESCO World Heritage site, we set off up the 320m-high funicular railway to the mountaintop wilderness of Mount Fløyen. There, the historic Fløien Folkesrestaurant marked the start of several forest trails, including one that passes Trollskogen, a play area dotted with trolls. Further in, visitors can go kayaking or wild camping.
I’ve written more about the hip, historic city of Bergen here.
And then, all of a sudden, it was back to London on the direct flight from Bergen. Back to urban reality. This was my third trip to Norway, and I’ve been again since -I’m even planning yet another trip there this summer. The place is addictive, and each trip has given me enough to fuel my dreams for years. For anyone who loves nature and the wild, the Norwegian fjords are unparalleled.
How to get to the Norwegian fjords
Bergen is the gateway to the western fjords of Norway. From the UK, direct flights run out of London, Edinburgh, Manchester and Aberdeen.
I travelled to Bergen and the Norwegian fjords as the guest of Visit Norway and Fjord Norway. All views are my own.
For more information, check out these other posts I wrote on western Norway:
Pin for later:
If you’d like to read about other short breaks in Europe, check out our feature.