Although found all over the world, fjords are perhaps best associated with Norway. And, with over a thousand of these spectacular flooded valleys branching out across the country’s west coast, it’s easy to understand why. Common misconception has it that they should only visited over summer, when they’re brimming with colourful blossom and teeming with wildlife. However, as I discovered on my latest trip – travelling over the winter months presents a whole new undiscovered treasure.
With no international cruise ships or large fishing boats, you’ll often have the fjords all to yourself, away from the tourist crowds. There’s also the sheer spectacle of those snow-capped peaks, alongside the chance to spot the odd seal or even a golden eagle patrolling the skies.
The gateway to it all is Bergen, where I started my journey. As Norway’s second city, it’s a year-round favourite, with a rich history characterised by its UNESCO-listed timber seafront – all colourful houses and centuries-old charm. However, for the best views, I recommend a trip on the funicular train. It offers mountain-top panoramas over the city and onto its fantastic fjord frame.
Bergen's timber wharf from Byfjorden
You’ll also want to get right out into the fjord network itself. And, as Norway’s longest and deepest fjord, Sognefjord is the obvious choice. Its most famous branch, Nærøyfjord, is so beautiful that it’s been listed as a World Heritage Site since 2005. The best way to see it all? A small-ship cruise. I had the privilege of embarking on the award-winning, zero-emission Future of the Fjords. All-electric, it glides along the water in near-silence, and I could not help but be lost in the frozen beauty of it all. And, this being winter, there were barely any other boats. The water was often perfectly motionless, painting an impossibly clear reflection of the snow-covered mountains.
Perfectly mirrored mountains on the Future of the Fjords cruise
The jagged shorelines are all dotted with tiny, impossibly cute Nordic villages – perfect places to spend the night. Flåm is a particular favourite for its gorgeous fjord-side setting and range of activities. Not only is there the cruise I’ve mentioned above and a whole range of exciting RIB boat departures, but there are some delightful walks. As well as some snowshoeing fun, I highly recommend the challenging hike up to Stegastein viewpoint. It offers truly spectacular views over Sognefjord.
The Stegastein viewpoint
Once you’ve returned, settle into the timber-clad Flåmsbrygga Hotel (a rustic-chic delight) and treat yourself to a drink at the next-door Ægir brewpub. One of my favourite memories was sitting out on a fur rug by its open fire, indulging in its famous Viking plank – a five-course feast perfectly paired with five superb beers. It’s no surprise that Ægir has won medals in numerous international competitions.
"Norire's "Viking Plank" at Ægir brewpub, Flåm
Then, whether you’re arriving or leaving, be sure to book onto the world-famous Flåm Railway. Often found topping lists of the world’s greatest train journeys, it maps frozen waterfalls and plunges throw snow-capped valleys to showcase some of Norway’s most arresting scenery. You’ll have a choice of returning to Bergen on even continuing onto Oslo.
The Flåm Railway in winter
So, if you’re looking for seasonal fjord majesty without the crowds, look no further than our Winter Break to Bergen and the Fjords. What’s more, there’s also a fantastic opportunity to add on a trip to catch the aurora borealis: