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A Wonderland Called theFjords of Norway

published May 23, 2005

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( 7 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
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If the airport in Stavanger, a city on the west coast of Norway, is where your SAS jet sets down, Preikestolen may be your introduction to the fjords of Norway. Its platform hangs high over the Lysefjord, one of those fingers of water that comprise the miracle known as Fjordland.

Stavanger has much to recommend it. Its old neighborhood of lovely white houses is reminiscent of a New England village. Though a river may not run through it, the 3,700-mile North Sea Cycle Trail does.

"We thought only crazy people would do the entire route," says Eli Viten, the Senior Planning Officer. "But normal people do it, too. It takes a good 100 days."

Bikes can be delivered to hotels for the ride out of Stavanger into gently rolling farmland. Lanes lead to gorgeous beaches where tow-headed children splash in bone-chilling water. Cyclists can take a flat, easy ride for as long as they wish. Then they bike back the way they came or hop on a local train for the return trip to Stavanger.

"Norway in a Nutshell" is an itinerary that crams a lot of Norway into as little as a single day. The centerpiece is the hour-long train ride from Myrdal to Flam, a hamlet on the Aurlandsfjord. The train labors alongside gleaming threads of water, plunging into tunnels and burrowing into banks of mist. At a brief stop, an announcer states that this is a land of spirits. The passengers pour onto a platform to gaze at a torrent of water. Suddenly music sounds and a distant figure appears. She lifts her arms, recedes and melts away. One wonders how long the spirit has between shows.

Jane Friis, of Flatearth Expeditions, arranges sea kayak trips on the fjords around the village of Eidfjord. If ever there was a chance to feel insignificant, this is it. The kayaks are dwarfed by endless stretches of water and the immensity of the cliffs on either side.

"Nature is in my heart," said hiking guide Gunn Laegreid on another day. "When I was a girl my father would take me into the mountains to gather berries and watch reindeer."

For an hour or so, Laegreid led clients toward a veil of mist rising from a bend in a rugged river gorge. When they rounded it, a torrent of water stopped them in their tracks. Of Norway's countless waterfalls, the Voringsfoss is one of the most famous. For sheer drama, it's hard to beat.

On top of the cliff sat the Fosli Hotel.

"I grew up here," said owner, Erik Garen. "In summer my mother put a sign on my neck that she told me said, 'Give him candy.' It really said, 'Don't give him candy.' I stood around smiling like crazy at the guests."

In Norway, an intricate network of modern, comfortable busses connects almost every town. On the way to Geiranger, the passengers were driven up a spine-tingling series of hairpin curves. Far below, the pencil-thin Geirangerfjord was engulfed by peaks and valleys.

Norwegian public busses ride through some of the most stunning scenery in the world. The town of Geiranger is built on a steep hill. Laced with walking trails, you can take a path in the morning to a cave behind a roaring waterfall and kayak the Geirangerfjord in the afternoon. Or take the tour boat excursion on the 12-mile-long fjord.

One afternoon, the captain edged the bow to the shore and two passengers hopped onto a rocky outcropping. It seemed impossible that anyone could scale the vertical wall to the tiny meadow and abandoned farm 750 feet above the fjord. But a narrow path found its way up and so did they. Forty-five minutes later they emerged at a small shelf in the rock. On the far side of the Geirangerfjord, seven thread-like waterfalls stumbled from the heights. Below lay the fjord, blue with glacial sediment.

The town of Alesund, renowned for its art nouveau buildings, sits on islands at the edge of the North Sea, with many more islands beyond it. Runde is one of these, and from February to August a half million birds, including a large number of puffins, tend their nests in this famous bird sanctuary.

Biking is also wonderful on the islands around Alesund. On a sunny day, riding through gentle farmland and sleepy villages in sight of the sea is an idyllic experience.

From this account, a reader might think that Norway's fjords are only for the adventurous traveler. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Whether from a deck chair or a kayak, a viewpoint or hiking on a glacier, the fjords are a feast for the eyes. No matter how you see them, they stay in your mind's eye forever.


SAS (800 221-2350, has daily, non-stop flights from New York, Washington, Chicago and Seattle to Copenhagen, Denmark and on to Stavanger, Bergen and Alesund.


(For sites in Norwegian, contact by e-mail.)

Lilland Gard (Phone +47 45 00 24 72), near Pulpit Rock.

Naerland Gjestegard (, e-mail:, on the North Sea Cycle Route.

Quality Hotel Voringsfoss (, on the Hardanger fjord.

Fossli Hotel (, next to the Voringsfoss Waterfall.

Villa Utsikten ( in Geiranger.

First Hotel Atlantica ( in Alesund.

The Fjord Pass ( hotel discount card.


The Stavanger-Bergen Express ( high-speed catamaran.

HSD ( - busses throughout Norway.

Auto Europe (800-223-5555, provides cars at guaranteed lowest price.

Fjord Tours ( for the "Norway in a Nutshell" train. Also Flamsbana (

NSB Reisensenter ( for train information.


The North Sea Cycle Route (

Natur-guide (

Fjord Rowing Norway (

Flatearth Expeditions (

Eidfjord Hiking with Gunn (e-mail:

Kayak in Flam (

Fjordland Adventures (

Fishing in Alesund (

The Norwegian Tourist Board (212-885-9700,,

published May 23, 2005

( 7 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.