Cruising Norway's Fjords

Scenic Driving, Scandinavian Style

Norway is a nature-worshipper's Valhalla, a land of rugged beauty forged by violent forces of unimaginable power, as if Thor himself blasted the landscape into being with his thunderous hammer.

Norway doesn't have mountains—it's the mountains that have Norway almost entirely in their grip, along with the forests, rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, and lakes. Civilization maintains but a toehold in this inhospitable terrain, leaving one of Europe's largest nations with one of its smallest populations.

Most of the countryside is striking, but Norway's west coast is astonishing, thanks to that most Norwegian of landforms—the fjord. Millions of years ago, glaciers scoured deep valleys stretching from the coasts far inland for many miles. When these icy scenery machines retreated, the sea rushed in to complete their work.

Technically, fjords testify to the power of water in all its forms, from the great, grinding glaciers that carved them, to the blue-green seawater that fills them, to the countless snow-fed waterfalls that nourish them. Aesthetically, fjords are natural masterpieces sculpted from the elements, magical places where sea, stone, and sky come together in jaw-dropping displays of immaculate grandeur.

If you love the outdoors, you won't be bored in fjord country. The hiking, biking, fishing, climbing, paddling, and wildlife viewing are all outstanding. And the impossibly long summer days allow you to play far into the night.

Unless you can lay your hands on a Viking ship, the best way to explore Norway's west coast is by car. The roads are excellent, the traffic is light, and the scenery is spectacular. What follows are highlights of a suggested fjord tour. Use it as a guide, but don't be afraid to veer off and take the fjord less traveled.


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