There are many reasons to visit Western Norway, but there’s no greater attraction than the Norwegian fjords. Encompassing coastline that stretches for tens of thousands of miles, to scratch the surface takes time and dedication.
A good place to start is with an island-hopping tour. A round trip from Bergen in the summer months takes in some of the world’s most striking scenery. While day trips are possible, it’s best to take your time, stay overnight in tranquil villages and enjoy a wide range of activities along the way.
Very few people visit the Norwegian fjords without first stopping in Bergen. Norway’s second biggest city is well connected across Europe by frequent and affordable flights, and its location makes it the perfect starting point for a fjord adventure.
Before heading out into the wild Nordic landscape, it’s worth spending some time wandering the narrow alleyways of the city, discovering the history of Bryggen and riding the funicular for panoramic views of the harbour.
The island of Sula is one of the main stops on the express ferry route from Bergen, and it’s a gateway to some of the smaller coastal settlements in the western fjords. With room for just 28 passengers, the Solund postal boat sets off from Hardbakke, stopping at various picturesque villages en route to Værlandet.
At Værlandet, you can rent bikes, then hop on board another boat to Askvoll before rejoining the express boat service.
Back on the the Express ferry route, Askvoll is a quaint coastal village with around 3000 inhabitants. Here, you can enjoy one of the region’s many cultural trails.
Starting by the harbour it’s possible to follow in the footsteps of the painter Anders Askevold. You can even use your phone to download or play recorded information about each of the views that inspired his paintings.
The Askvoll Sjøbuer is a great place to stop for a bite to eat or a pint as you wait for the ferry.
Kalvåg first appears to be a sleepy fishing village, but step inside Knutholmen and you’ll receive a very warm welcome from some of the most hospitable hosts and talented chefs in the fjords. People travel from far and wide to sample the rich menu made from locally sourced raw ingredients.
Next door, there’s a chocolate and souvenir shop and across the street is the house where the well-known Norwegian painter Nikolai Astrup was born.
For fantastic views, follow the footpath and boardwalk to the top of the hill. There are some unusual art installations to enjoy along the way.
Travelling inland from Kalvåg, the scenic Gotlesanden Beach is the perfect place for a roadside stop. A footpath leads to the highest coastal cliffs in Northern Europe and there’s a very well-maintained toilet block with a hose to wash off your feet if you decide to go for a paddle.
Continuing your journey inland and eastwards takes you to Loen in Nordfjord. Nordfjord is famous for its blue glacial lakes and towering mountains and, perhaps more so than elsewhere in the fjords, appears to be the hub of adventure and adrenaline sports.
Surfing is excellent at Hoddevik’s white sandy beach, divers can explore sunken wrecks, caves and kelp forests, and the fearless can tackle a via ferrata over 1000 m above sea level at the top of Mt Hoven. Other activities include ocean rafting, kayaking, sailing, climbing, bouldering, abseiling, fishing, glacier walks, off-piste skiing, off-road mountain biking, RIB rafting and helicopter rides.
If a slower pace is more your style, ride a fjord horse, visit the mysterious Selja Monastery, take in the beauty of the mushroom-shaped Kannesteinen Rock or take the Loen Skylift to a spot on Mt Hoven where a number of easy hiking trails provide jaw-dropping views of the surrounding valleys and glaciers.
History enthusiasts will be excited by Nordfjord too, as is’s home to some impressive finds from the Viking era. In Myklebust, a 25-m-long ship was discovered, a replica of which is currently under construction. Ancient graves, burial mounds and stave churches are also not in short supply.
Balestrand was transformed in the mid-19th century from a small coastal village to a bustling tourist resort. Located at the mouth of four fjord branches and surrounded by dramatic scenery said to have inspired more artists than any other location in Norway, the town still attracts droves of visitors.
A statue of Fridtjof the bold stands over 22 m tall across the fjord to mark the birth place of the protagonist of a Viking love story. A gift from the German Kaiser Wilhelm II, King of Prussia, this is a constant reminder of an era in the run up to WWII when tourism boomed and Balestrand became a very fashionable travel destination for the wealthy.
Kvikne’s Hotel – an ornate Swiss-style building with a 1960s extension – is what put Balestrand on the map. In the 1750s it was an inn with just four rooms where traders would stay en route to Bergen. Today it has over 200 rooms. Many famous faces have passed through its doors, from royalty to the likes of Eric Clapton and Yoko Ono. A magnificent ballroom overlooks the water and paintings made by well-known artists adorn the walls. There’s also a swimming platform perfect for a refreshing morning dip.
Just around the corner, Balestrand Fjord Adventure runs exciting RIB rafting tours of the fjord, while a tour and tasting session at the nearby Ciderhuset is the perfect way to end your day. A special performance of folk music among the ‘sleeping’ barrels in the cellar is truly magical, and all the better when followed by some tasty Greek-inspired tapas in the restaurant. From here, the journey back to Bergen by road takes just over 4 hours.