The Sognefjord greets you with a dramatic landscape. The huge contrast between the tall wild snowcapped mountains, the lush green valleys and the deep blue water is just fascinating. It’s like you are captured in a fairytale surrounded by tall mountains with trolls lurking in the shadows…
Ancient wooden churches from the Viking age
You will find several stave churches surrounding the fjord, reminders of the Viking past. The oldest one is Urnes Stave Church which is also on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. This wooden church has been preserved for almost 900 years and can be seen in a sidearm to the Sognefjord. The stave churches take their names from the distinctive building technique using vertical staves. There are only 28 stave churches left in all of Norway and five of the oldest are in the Sognefjord region, and all of them date back to the 12th century.
The Sognefjord’s beautiful daughter Nærøyfjord
The 17 km long Nærøyfjord is one of the most spectacular and impressive fjords in the world. One notable aspect of the fjord is the near-complete absence of modern intrusions in the landscape. The Nærøyfjord also is very narrow and constricted surrounded by mountains reaching straight up to 1700 meters on both sides. The fjord is no more than 300 meters across at the most narrow point. Besides enjoying the stunning landscape, we really like the Viking Valley which you’ll find in Gudvangen. At this innermost point in the fjord, you can experience real Viking life, and participate in their daily rituals. For anyone with interest in Viking history, we would highly recommend a visit.
Taking the fjord-train up the mountain
The Flåm Railway is an incredible train journey from the mountain station Myrdal on the Bergen Railway. Here you can experience the steep and narrow Flåm valley taking the train from fjord level to the top of the mountain. This is one of the world’s steepest railway lines – 20 km long with a descent of 865 meters (2838 ft). A return trip takes around two hours, which can get a bit boring for the youngest kids so make sure to bring something for them to play with. As an introduction to the Norwegian fjord landscape, this is a really great trip. We can definitely recommend it if you are a first time visitor to Norway. Be aware that the Flåm railway is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Norway, so make sure to book tickets early.
The best overview of the Sognefjord
One of the greatest viewpoints of the fjord is Stegastein, which is around 30 minutes by car from Flåm. Be aware that the road to the top is really narrow twisting and turning with limited room to pass cars. So perhaps not the best option if you have kids that get very car-sick or if you are scared of heights. However, the panorama and viewing platform on top is definitely impressive!
Getting into trolls!
Travelling with kids to the fjords we would recommend reading a few Norwegian folktales to help set in motion their imagination! We really like the fairytales collected by Asbjørnsen & Moe from when they visiting farms and villages around Norway in the 19th century. Their tales are packed full of trolls, talking creatures and princesses. Before they were written down, these stories were memorised from generation to generation being told around the fireplaces deep inside remote fjords.
Be aware that these stories can be quite brutal! Part of the purpose of these stories was to prevent children from misbehaving, such as walking into the woods or swimming in the sea on their own. The big hero in their stories is called Askeladden or “Ash Lad” in English. He is the underdog and troll-slayer that wins by his great courage and smartness. This in contrast to the brute force and dumbness showed by his older brothers and the trolls. We would definitely recommend reading books instead of movies, but here are a couple of options:
Norwegian fairytale Books
- The Complete and Original Norwegian Folktales of Asbjornsen and Moe
- d’Aulaires’ Book of Norwegian Folktales
- Nordic Tales