While all of Norway is gorgeous and amazing, the fjords are breathtaking. It was a surreal experience being totally encased by giant mountains, row after row, in every direction. Waterfalls, vivid greenery, and small fishing huts line the mountainside and small, rocky shorelines, making you feel transported into a Nicholas Sparks novel.
Visiting the Norwegian fjords really was like being inside a fairytale. The only place I’ve visited in the U.S. that compares is western Montana and the panhandle of Idaho. It’s difficult to put into words the immense scale of the mountains surrounding you and the beauty they bring. We visited two of the more famous fjords, Storfjorden, where the village of Hellesylt and the city of Ålesund are located, and Geirangerfjorden, containing the village of Geiranger. Both villages were wonderful and picturesque, and the city was unique and fun. I cover them all extensively in their own blogs, linked in this article, along with Norway’s 2nd largest city, Bergen! (Located on Byfjorden).
According to the website Fjord Norway, “A fjord is a deep, narrow and elongated sea or lake drain, with steep land on three sides”. To be considered a fjord, and not a bay or cove, it must be longer than it is wide. These fjords were created during the several ice ages by large glacial “tongues” that carved through the mountains. They are quieter than the sea because of the large amounts of gravel and sand that have been carried down and deposited by glaciers as the fjords were forming, causing areas that are shallower.
Geirangerfjorden is one of the most famous fjords in Norway, and certainly the more famous of the two we visited. While the village of Geiranger is lovely, it’s not the main reason for this fjord’s notoriety – it owes that to the myriad of famous waterfalls that line its rocky walls.
Storfjorden is much larger, encompassing Geirangerfjorden, kind of like a fjord within a fjord. Or, picture a tree (Storfjorden) with several different branches that splinter out into even more tiny branches (Geirangerfjorden and company). The name literally means “big” or “great” fjord, and it’s the main fjord in the region. It extends 68 miles, is the 5th longest fjord in Norway, and its deepest point is 2,228 feet. There are no bridges or tunnels connecting the 16 towns and villages within, and people must take car ferries to visit. There are roads but no bridge to connect them. The idea of building a bridge has longed been proposed, but due to budget issues, has yet to be built.
While there are countless waterfalls of varying sizes and intensity throughout Geirangerfjorden, the most famous are De syv søstrene (“the Seven Sisters”), Friaren (“the Suitor”) and Brudesløret (“the Bridal Veil”). Of these three, by far the most famous is the Seven Sisters. Located about 4 miles west of Geiranger, it’s the 39th tallest waterfall in Norway, measuring at 1,350 feet. It cascades down an almost vertical rockface, with the tallest of the seven streams having a free fall of 820 feet.
Immediately across from the Seven Sisters is Friaren, a.k.a. the Suitor. It’s a nice waterfall, but truthfully not as impressive as the Seven Sisters. Also, rather unfortunately, you can’t view both at the same time unless you are on a smaller boat, like a kayak or canoe, or on the upper deck of a large ship. This is because they are, literally, right across from one another. If you are viewing one from the balcony of your room, you won’t see the other. Fortunately, it’s one way in, one way out, so you have opportunity to view both!
The Nordic people have many legends, with entities like trolls and giants, so naturally there’s a story associated with these two waterfalls. The story goes that the Seven Sisters are coming flirtatiously and daintily dancing down the mountainside, playfully greeting the Suitor who gleefully dances back from the other side. Then there’s Bridal Veil, which is just to the right of the Seven Sisters, however, if you didn’t know it was there, you might miss it. It’s very low volume and isn’t recognized as a waterfall by many. It’s more noticeable when the snow begins to melt in the Spring, where when backlit by the sun it looks like a thin bridal veil draped over the rocks. Sadly, it wasn’t visible when we visited.
Lastly, the homes. People live in and around the fjords, and not just in the small villages or cities. There are quite a few small homes, some no more than huts, lining the cliffside and sitting high above. Many are accessible only by small carts attached to pull ropes that go from the dock on the water to the hut on the mountain. Many who live within the fjords rely on boats as their main mode of transportation, boating to the nearby villages only when they must. For me, I think it’d be amazing for 2 weeks, max, and only in the summertime.
Overall, if you ever get a chance to visit the Norwegian fjords, jump on it!!! In my opinion, there are few places within the United States that can rival this beautiful place, sans maybe the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. There are few things as peaceful as slowly and gently gliding through the crystal-clear turquoise water, completely encased by towering mountains with stunning waterfalls everywhere. I sincerely hope Norway understands just how much they lucked out in the geography department!