SognefjordenSognefjorden is a fjord in the county of Sogn og Fjordane in Norway. The district surrounding the fjord is known as Sogn. Sognefjorden is the longest fjord in Europe and the second longest in the world. Nærøyfjord, a World Heritage Site, is one of the fjords of Sognefjorden. Several of the few remaining stave churches, including UNESCO listed Urnes stave church, are found in Sognefjord district.
It is also the second deepest fjord in the world, more than 1000 meters deep - if all water was removed the fjord would appear as a huge gorge some 2000 to 3000 meters deep. The fjord is actually 1300 meters at the deepest point, or 1500 meters to the bedrock because of some 200 meters thick sediments. The greatest depths are in the central parts of the fjord, at the mouth there is a relatively shallow threshold of some 150 meters. From the water surface to the high summits there is some 1500 to 2500 meters. About 5,400 km 3 (or 5,400,000,000,000 m 3 ) were removed to create this vast gorge. Sognefjord's scale can be compared to Arizona's Grand Canyon. The Sognefjord area is about the same width as New Zeland's Fiordlands. While there are large and deep fjords in Greenland and Antarctica, this is the only such great fjord with significant ordinary settlement and easily accessible by road or public transport. In fact, two of Norway's main roads, the E16 (Oslo-Bergen) and E39 (Bergen-Trondheim) runs along or across the fjord.
The main fjord is too deep and wide too to cross by conventional bridges. There are 3 main ferry crossings for each of the 3 main roads E39, road 13 and road 5. It is basically not possible to travel north-south direction except by ferry, although in summer it is possible to circumvent the fjord via a mountain road through Jotunheimen.
Sognefjorden is more than a single fjord, it is wide fjord system. Each branch (arm) of the Sognefjord is a great fjord on its own and with its own name, but is still regarded as part of the greater Sognefjord system. Even a single branch like Nærøyfjorden is longer than for instance Milford Sound in New Zealand. Steep mountains rise directly from the water leaving little space for roads and settlement, except in the deep valleys such as Lærdal valley and Flåm valley. These river valleys are surprisingly flat offering excellent ground for farming. This complex topography makes overland transport challenging but highly rewarding in terms of scenery and impressive engineering.
On the northern shore, Sognefjorden district includes Jostedalsbreen, mainland Europe's largest glacier. Numerous rivers transport "thick" (opaque) glacial melt-water to lakes and to the fjord, giving fjords and lakes a milky turquoise appearance, particularly in Luster area. Because of generous precipitation and altitude differences, the area is also home to significant hydro electric power plants as well as a couple of aluminum factories. These man-made objects are however dwarfed by the grand scale of the landscape.
The Sognefjord district covers some 11,000 square kilometers (about the size of Montenegro) with some 30,000 inhabitants.
The Sognefjord is crossed by the second largest stretch of a powerline in the world. Its span width is 4597 metres.
Do not expect tall pylon at the end of this stretch. They are not required, because of the topography.
ClimateBecause the fjords runs from the ocean to the deep interior, both landscape and climate changes along. The outer section where mountains rise from the ocean, is one of the rainiest areas in Europe, but also one of the mildest areas in Norway. The easternmost or inner part of the fjord is one the driest areas in Western Norway. In particular Lærdal do not get much rain. The shores of the inner area enjoys relatively warm summers allowing extensive fruit and vegetable production.
- Indre Sogn - literally Inner Sogn. Comprises Aurland, Leikanger, Luster, Lærdal, Sogndal, and Årdal municipalities.
- Ytre Sogn - literally Outer Sogn. Comprises Balestrand, Gulen, Hyllestad, Høyanger, Solund, and Vik municipalities.
- Fjærland gateway to Norway's largest glacier, lovely branch of the main fjord
- Flåm - popular cruise port and via Flåm railway access to national rail network
- Lærdal - major valley with connection to East Norway through mountain passes
- Myrdal - railroad junction in uplands
- Skjolden -- The innermost town of the fjord
- Solvorn -- Charming village on the shores of the Lustrafjord, good base.
- - mainland Europe's largest glacier
- - small village at the intersection of iconic Nærøyfjorden and dramatic Nærøydalen valley.
- - district in the innermost part of the fjord, lovely fjord and deep valleys surrounded by Jotunheimen and Jostedalsbreen
- Urnes Stave Church
By boat - Arguably the most enjoyable way is via a boat from nearby towns. The most convenient would be one of the high speed catamaran services operated several times each day from Bergen. Hurtigruten calls at Florø (near the mouth of Sognefjord) and Bergen.
By air - The nearest airports are located in Sogndal (SOG) and Førde(FDE), although the nearest international airport is located in Bergen (BGO). The eastern section of Sognefjord is about 260 km from Oslo airport Gardermoen, the same distance as from Bergen airport.
By rail - Reaching the town of Flåm, sitting at the end of a fjord that branches off the Sognefjord, is possible via an incredibly steep railway line. Flåmsbana, the Flåm railway line, connects to the Bergen line (Oslo-Bergen) at Myrdal. This is the only railway in the county. Alternative railway stations are at Voss and Gol, connections to Sognefjord by bus or car.
By coach - Many of the towns situated along the fjord are also accessible by up to several daily coach services. Long distance coach services connect Sogndal with Lillehammer, Lom, Oslo and Bergen. The outer Sognefjord area is connected by long-distance coaches to Ålesund, Trondheim and Bergen.
Because of modest population and infrequent public transport, a self drive may be the easiest and most flexible way to get a distant corner of Sognefjord. The main road Oslo-Bergen (E16) runs through the area, as does the main road Bergen-Trondheim (E39). Except for the E16, travel in this area usually involves ferries, those are not separate means of transport but an integral part of the road network.
Car rental firms are located in Sogndal (major ones including Avis, Hertz and Europcar), Flåm and Årdalstangen, as well as in Førde which is not located on the Sognefjord.
By passenger boat - The Flåm-Balestrand service is very scenic. Other services is the combined ship sailing between villages on the southern side of the fjord between Ortnevik and Vik, one can also cross the fjord from Ortnevik to Måren and Nordeide. High-speed catamarans (express passenger boats) can also be used within Sognefjord - to cross the main fjord (north-south) or to travel east-west.
By car ferry - The Sognefjord is crossed at several points by car ferries with frequent departures. During day time departures are usually so frequent that travellers should not worry about timetables. These ferries are not a separate means of transport, but a continuation of main roads E39, road 13 and road 5. Fjord1 is the major operator. Car ferries take all kinds of vehicles as well as foot passengers, but docks are usually in a remote place at the most narrow crossing.
By tourist boat/ferry - There are several summer-only tourist routes, including Fjord1 operated Bergen to Flåm catamaran, the ferries from Flåm and Lærdal to Gudvangen, as well as other trips on the Fjærlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord.
By bus - The larger settlements are served by local buses to rural areas, and long-distance coaches and local buses connect the settlements. The schedules may be very limited, with routes often only operating a couple of times a day, and even a couple of times a week for some sparsely populated areas. Roads E39, E16 and 5 pass through the area, and express buses north-south and east-west run along these roads.
FjærlandThe Norwegian Glacier Museum & Ulltveit-Moe Climate Centre in Fjærland offers interactive exhibits and films about the glacier and more. Glaciers visible close to the road (arms of the main glacier.) In Fjærland you can also visit the Norwegian Book Town
address: Jostedalen valleyBreheimsenteret is information center for glacier national park in the glacier. Enjoy the stunning views of the Nigardsbreen from the restaurant. This is also a centre for outdoor activities. This is located in the Jostedalen valley.
phone: +47 57668109address: BorgundBuilt around 1180. It is the best preserved stave church in Norway.
phone: +47 57678840address: UrnesThe oldest stave church in Norway, built around 1130 AD. Included on UNESCO World Heritage List.
address: VikBuilt around 1140 or earlier, one of the most elaborate of Norway's ancient stave churches. The building is owned and maintained by National Trust of Norway (the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments).
Hove Churchaddress: VikThis heavy romanesque building is one of 3 churches in Vik village, and like the stave church is no longer regluarly used. The building is maintained by National Trust of Norway (the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments). It is one of the oldest masonry churches in Norway and perhaps the oldest in Sognefjord area.
address: EivindvikGulating was the viking era legislative assembly and high court (þing) for West Norway. The site had a central location along the shipping lane (the highway of the time). The assembly may have been established by Harald Hairfair around year 900 (perhaps older), and existed until 1300. The Gulating law was the corresponding legislation and at its widest extent covered West Norway as well as Agder counties, Valdres and Hallingdal. The Gulating law is Norway's oldest known legislation. Originally Gulating was a "common assembly" where all "free men" joined for the annual meeting, later only delegates from each district. Around year 1300 the assembly met in Bergen rather than Gulen. Today the name is retained in Gulating court of appeal in Bergen. Two ancient stone crosses mark the original site, and new monument marks a later site nearby. Similar assemblies and laws existed for Trøndelag and for Eastern Norway. When Norway's modern constitution was crafted in 1814 the name Storting (grand assembly) was adopted.
phone: +47 57632100This railway climbs from sea level to 866 m (2841 ft) in 20 km (12 mi), making it the third steepest normal railroad in the world. View of high mountains and waterfalls, joins the Bergen railway at Myrdal.
Aurland mountain roadaddress: Aurland-LærdalThis road climbs the steep hills to the mountain pass (1300 meters) between Aurland and Lærdal villages. Replaced by the world's longest tunnel in 2000. Maintained as one of Norway's national tourist routes. Magnificent panorama. Snow may fall even in summer.
Lærdal tunneladdress: Aurland-LærdalWorld's longest road tunnel
address: Lærdal villageExplore everything about salmon and the traditions associated with salmon fisheries. There are interesting exhibits, exciting movies and a salmon observatory. Lærdal river is king Harald's favorite salmon river.
Sognefjellet mountain passaddress: Road 55 from SkjoldenNorway's highest mountain pass runs pass Norway's highest mountains in Jotunheimen with view to summits and glaciers. On the eastern side through Bøverdalen valley to Lom village. The road is closed in winter, opens about May. Steep ascent and descent, sharp corners. Cross country skiing is possible until June.
Vikafjellet mountain passaddress: Road 13 Vik-VossMain road 13 runs through Vikafjellet mountain pass with wonderful panoramas to Vik village and Sognefjord. Occasionally closed in winter. Snow remains until mid summer along the road.
Nærøydalen and Nærøyfjordenaddress: Road E16 Voss-GudvangenMain road E16 runs through the wild Nærøydalen valley with incredibly steep rock faces and some of the world's tallest waterfalls, at Gudvangen the valley joins the Nærøyfjorden UNESCO-listed fjord landscape. Sightseeing boat on fjord.
In the Sognefjord Aquarium in Balestrand you can visit the maritime activity center, where you can observe more than one hundred different species of fish from the Sognefjord.
The entire county has a strong culinary tradition.
Outer Sognefjord area
phone: +47 57714040address: 6947 Lavik (Høyanger district)Lavik Fjord Hotell is a comfortable family hotel with a panoramic view of the Sognefjord. The hotel offers transportservice for hikers (Lavik is a fine place for hiking with many well marked trails) and it is also possible to rent bicycles.