Western Norway is famous for its spectacular and easily accessible fjords and mountains. With snow-covered peaks, wild waterfalls, lush vegetation, gleaming glaciers, precipitous viewpoints and charming mountain villages, the area is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, with activities ranging from hiking and fishing to cycling and fjord cruises.
Key to the area's appeal is its ease of access. Using public transport – by road, rail, air or sea – is very straightforward, with routes and connections marked with typical Scandinavian efficiency, removing the need to hire your own vehicle. Most of the popular routes in the region can be done in a day; and many include travel on the breathtaking Bergen and Flåm railways. Below, we take a brief look at a cross-section of sites that many consider the essence of a visit to the western fjords.
The Floibanen funicular takes you to the top of Mount Floyen and is a great opening activity to begin any trip to the fjords. Boasting a panoramic view of Bergen and the fjords themselves, it sets the tone – from here you can begin to take in the sheer scale and vastness of the region’s natural architecture.
A view of Bergen and the fjords from the Floibanen funicular
Yes, it does indeed mean ‘Troll’s Tongue’, and you can see why! It's fast becoming a much photographed, iconic piece of scenery. At 1,100 metres above sea level and overlooking Lake Ringedalsvatnet, it is a just reward for a 11.5 Km hike (one-way). The walk takes up to 12 hours depending on your level of fitness an age, and as a result of the ascent – you start close to sea level – should only be undertaken if you are a practiced hiker. Guided tours are a popular and safe way to experience it and Best Served will be happy to organise this for you.
Folgefonna National Park
Although some distance from Bergen – about 3 hours by bus – Folgefonna National Park is worth the trip. Many would say that it is second only to cruising the fjords by ship as the single best way to experience the breadth of natural wonders that make the fjords so special – from the waterfalls and rivers to the glaciers and lakes. Best Served regularly includes Folgefonna in itineraries, such as this quintessential fjord self-drive, taking in the best of the region.
Traditional stave churches
Common in medieval times across northern Europe, stave churches are so-called due to the many pine posts that go into the supporting structure – ‘stav’ in Norwegian meaning stave or post. Most of these early Christian churches no longer exist outside of Norway and the fjord region is now the best place to see these intricately impressive and hugely varied structures.
Kaupanger church is often described as the cathedral of stave churches. Although not the most intricate and without as many interior carvings, its height and number of posts is a marvel of local skill. The magic of its heritage is retained in the fact it is still used as a local church, serving some of the same farming families that were its first parishioners when it was built in the mid 12th century.
Food in the Norwegian fjords
Allegedly, Norwegians eat fish as their main meal about four times a week. Whether it’s poached, smoked, grilled or cured. It’s also the ultimate home of smoked salmon, and in particular gravlaks (spelled gravlax in the UK) - salmon marinated in a dill sauce and served with mustard.
Of course, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand why fish in particular plays a big part in Norwegian fjord cuisine. Going through something of a renaissance, local cuisine and modern versions thereof are winning awards worldwide. One such restaurant is the Bekkjarvik Gjestgiveri, situated in the harbour of beautiful Bekkjarvik itself, a picturesque 17th Century fishing village. Run by head chefs and brothers Arne and Ørjan Johannessen it is famed for its fresh local seafood - fresh scallops being a favourite.
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