Sogn og Fjordane is a county in West Norway. Sogn og Fjordane borders Hordaland in south, Møre og Romsdal in north. And Oppland and Buskerud to the east. This county sits in the centre of Norway's famous western fjords, and it also home to the longest and deepest fjord in Europe. The eastern end of the great fjord cuts into Scandinavia's highest mountains where also meltwater from the largest glacier flows into the fjord. Deeper fjords are found in Antarctica only. Unlike great fjords of Greenland and Antarctica, these fjords are easily accessible by train and car.
Sogn og Fjordane is the part of Norway most dominated by fjords and glaciers. The majestic Sognefjord cuts through the southern section right to the alpine Jotunheimen mountains, while romantic Nordfjord cuts through the northern part to Jostedalsbreen glacier. Between are several other fjords.
This is the least urbanised part of Norway. There are hardly any towns and some areas only have tiny villages. The area is very mountainous, about 50% of the area is around 1000 metres above sea level or more. Road construction is extremely difficult and long stretches of fjords are untouched by roads. A couple of main roads allow relatively fast transport through the county.
|Sognefjord area |
The area is locally known as Sogn and includes the fjord with numerous branches and the surrounding land.
The area around the northernmost fjord system within the county, including destinations such as Stryn and Olden.
The area between Nordfjord and Sogn area, including the regional centre Førde.
Towns and villages
There are no big towns in this county. Regional hubs include Førde, Sogndal, Nordfjordeid and Stryn.
- 1 Sogndal - regional centre in Sognefjord area.
- 2 Florø Small, charming coastal town.
- 3 Førde. The regional centre.
- 4 Balestrand - A charming village by the Sognefjord.
- 5 Fjærland - Small village beneath the Jostedalsdbreen glacier
- 6 Flåm - A popular port for cruise ships and terminus for Flåm railway
- Leikanger - A fjordside village in Sogndal district
- 7 Luster - Home of a pretty fjord, great waterfalls, glaciers and alpine mountains. Includes Solvorn, Skjolden, Urnes stave church and Nigardsbreen.
- 8 Lærdal Pretty valley stretching towards the mountain passes
- 9 Måløy - Major fishery port at the mouth of Nordfjord
- 10 Sandane
- 11 Skei - A pretty village at the beautiful lake Jølstervatn.
- Skjolden - a key village in Luster district.
- 12 Stryn and Olden. Romantic fjords, lovely lakes and iconic glaciers.
- 1 Jostedalsbreen - the largest glacier in Norway occupies a prominent position within the county, arms can be observed from various parts of
- 2 Jotunheimen - Norway's highest mountains, including alpine summits and blue lakes
- 3 Gudvangen and Nærøydalen - small village at the intersection of iconic Nærøyfjorden and dramatic Nærøydalen valley.
- See also: Fjords of Norway
Sogn og Fjordane is characterized by its many fjords, of which the Sognefjord, with a length of 204 km (127 mi), is the longest fjord in Europe (although not the longest in the world as claimed in some tourist brochures). The fjord systems in this county is complex and mountains rise directly from fjord making land transport challenging. Nærøyfjord an arm of Sognefjord is together with Geirangerfjorden listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. North of Sognefjord there are two shorter fjords, Dalsfjord and Førdefjord. North of those you will find Nordfjord, which is 106 km (66 mi) long. The geography of the county is very varied and complex, featuring high mountain peaks, islands, and glaciers (including the Jostedalsbreen glacier, the largest glacier in continental Europe), gorge-like valleys, lovely lakes and some of the world's tallest waterfalls. Because of the very fragmented landscape settlement and roads are largely confined to narrow spots such as low valleys and shores.
Sogn og Fjordane is also home to Norway's largest population of red deer ("hjort"). Often seen along roads at dusk or dawn, particularly in spring.
People speak a Norwegian dialect. There is a vast variety of dialects, even in single municipalities there may be several. Nynorsk is the official form of writing in all municipalities. This writing form differs from Bokmål Norwegian written in urban areas and East Norway, and is more similar to the dialects spoken on the west coast.
Most people speak English, and many also have some knowledge of German.
- 4 Sogndal airport. (SOG IATA)
- 5 Florø airport. (FRO IATA)
- 6 Førde airport, Bringeland, south of Førde (Road E39 Førde - Sande). (FDE IATA)
- 7 Sandane airport (Road E39 runs in a tunnel under runway). (SDN IATA)
- The nearest airports seeing international traffic are:
Sogn og Fjordane has only one railway line, the railway between Myrdal and Flåm, which is a great scenic ride, and a big tourist attraction. Myrdal is a station on the Oslo-Bergen line. A train journey from Oslo to Myrdal and then to Flåm, is an interesting way to enter Sogn og Fjordane.
There are two high-speed catamaran services from Bergen operated by Norled. One runs from Bergen up the coast and into the Sognefjord, ending in Flåm. The other runs up the coast of Sogn og Fjordane, ending in Selje at the border with Møre og Romsdal. Hurtigruten (Norwegian Coastal Steamer) calls Florø and Måløy.
E39 is the major route from Bergen. From north on E39, from Ålesund. E16 (or the more scenic road 50) from Oslo to southern Sogn og Fjordane. Road 15 is a good road from Oslo to northern Sogn og Fjordane. Route 55 from Lom to Sogndal is a beautiful scenic drive over the highest mountain pass in Norway, 1440 m (4724 ft) above sea level.
By bus and passenger boat
Because of sparse population public transport is limited. The entire county is covered, although departures are scarce. However with some planning it is possible to experience Sogn og Fjordane by bus. Schedules for all http://www.ruteinfo.net/en/ [formerly dead link] public transportation can be found on internet]. Schedules covering all public transportation can be found on ferries, buses, bus stations and tourist information offices. These schedules are however only found in Norwegian. But they can be deciphered in the following way: On top of each row in the schedule some letter and numbers are found. This tells which day this route is operated. D=daily, numbers is days of the week (1=Monday, etc.), x means except (Dx7 means every day except sunday). Schedules on a grey background are operated only in winter(mid Aug-mid Jun), schedules on a red background are operated only during summer.
Express passenger boats ("hurtigbåt") operates like buses on water. Trips must often be pieced together by combining boat and bus service. For some connections car ferries are useful also for travelers without car, for instance the sightseeing ferry Gudvangen-Kaupanger.
By car and ferry
The easiest way to explore Sogn og Fjordane is by car, since the public transportation is not so good, and the distances are long, and some attractions is only possible to reach by car. The main south-north route is E39. Route 5 runs mainly east-west from Sogndal to Skei and all the way to the coast in Florø. Route 13 goes from Balestrand over the mountain to Førde.
The fjords are generally possible to cross only by car ferries. These ferries depart 1-2 times per hour, crossing time is typically 10-25 minutes, and need no prebooking. They have fees, often between 50-100 kr. Car ferries are generally not a separate means of transport as most docks are often in remote places far from towns and villages.
Cycling is nice way to experience the rugged nature of western Norway. Unpredictable weather, many tunnels, narrow roads (without shoulder) and steep hills at mountain passes does however make bicycle travel more challenging than most other places. The bicycle tourist should read maps carefully to understand what tunnels are not recommended or in fact illegal for bicycles. New tunnels often replace an old road that remains open to bikes. Some tunnels, such as Høyanger tunnel on road 55, does not have an old road alternative and bicycles are not allowed in the tunnel. Car ferries and passenger boats are nice ways to avoid tunnels and unpleasant roads such as E16 Gudvangen-Flåm.
|Borlaug-Lærdal||Nice ride, several long tunnels on new road, nice old road open|
|Lærdal-Flåm||Tunnel (25 km) not for bicycles, old road through Aurland mountain pass open (very steep and narrow), nice ride Aurland-Flåm outside tunnels|
|Flåm-Gudvangen||Not for bicycles (tunnels), sightseeing boat instead|
|Gudvangen-Vinje (junction with road 13)||Circumvent tunnels through Stalheimskleiva.|
|Matre-Oppedal (ferry)||Steep and long tunnels, some local roads around tunnels, fast traffic. Alternative road Matre-Stordalen-Sognefjord|
|Lavik (ferry)-Vadheim||Nice horizontal road along the grand fjord, two long tunnels but old road available, some traffic and trucks to/from ferry.|
|Vadheim-Førde||Partly narrow and low quality road, in 2014 a significant upgrade in process, many hills.|
|Lærdal-Sogndal||Two long tunnels not for bicycles, look for alternative transport.|
|Road 55||Sogndal-Lom||Lovely area, no long tunnels, alternative route east shore of Luster fjord. Steep and narrow road through Sognefjell pass (1450 metres), cool on top, no trucks.|
|Sogndal-Skei||Two long tunnels not for bicycles, look for alternative transport.|
|/||Førde-Skei||Pretty area, no tunnels. Use local road on south shore of Jølster lake to avoid main road.|
|Skei-Byrkjelo||Great landscape, no tunnels, traffic is partly fast in the narrow Våtedal valley, no alternative road.|
|Road 60||Byrkjelo-Stryn||Great landscapes, steep climb over small mountain (700 metres), narrow road, no long tunnels, some tunnels between Innvik and Olden can be bypassed along abandoned road.|
|Stryn-Langvatn/Grotli||Great mountain pass long climb to 1000 meters, tunnels on 15 not for bicycles, use old road (number 258)|
The wild landscape is the main "must see" in Sogn og Fjordane. The area has many waterfalls, high peaks and breathtaking views.
- Briksdalsbreen, glacier in Olden.
- 1 Jotunheimen (Road 55 (and/or Tindevegen road to Årdal)). Western part of Norway's highest mountains are in Luster and Årdal districts. These are also the wildest part of Jotunheimen, steep summits and sharp ridges.
- 2 Loen Skylift (Road 60 (Stryn or Byrkjelo)). One of the few aerial tramways in Western Norway. Built only to offer visitors the best panorama of the lovely Loen/Olden area.
- Glacier museum in Fjærland.
- The Norwegian Wild Salmon Centre in Lærdal.
- Astruptunet at Jølster lake near Skei, the home of painter Nikolai Astrup (1880-1928). In his own particular style Nikolai Astrup captured the feeling of West Norway's landscape and Jølster in particular. "Astrup does that rare thing: he makes landscape painting seem fresh and alive again.", Astrup remained too long in Edvard Munch's shadow (The Telegraph).
- The world's longest road tunnel, 24 km, on E16 near Aurland.
- 3 Borgund Stave Church (Borgund Stavkirke), Borgund, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 1 May-30 Sep: 10AM-5PM, 11 Jun-21 Aug: 8AM-8PM. Built around 1180. It is the best preserved stave church in Norway. Adults: kr 80, Students/Children: kr 60.
- 4 Urnes Stave Church (Urnes Stavkyrkje), Urnes (30 km (19 mi) from Skjolden on route FV331, or with ferry from Solvorn.), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. 5 May-30 Sep: 10.30AM-5.45PM. The oldest stave church in Norway, built around 1130 AD. Included on UNESCO World Heritage List. Adults: kr 80, Students/Children: kr 60.
- 5 [dead link] Hopperstad Stave Church (Hopperstad Stavkyrkje), Vik (2 km (1 mi) from Vik village.), ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Built around 1140, one of the most elaborate of Norway's ancient stave churches, set in picturesque Vik village.
- 6 St Olavs Church (The English church), Village center of Balestrand, ☏ . Anglican church built in 1897 with Norwegian stave churches as a model. Known from a scene in the 2013 Disney film Frozen. Free admission.
Off the beaten track
- 7 Kinn island and church (Kinn) (By boat, west of Florø). A small island, one of the western most points in Norway, only a handful of residents but with the oldest church in the area. The church is masonry building from the 12th century. Unusually rich interior.
- 8 Selje abbey ruins (Selje kloster). Selje Abbey (Selje kloster) was a Benedictine monastery on the island of Selja near Stad penninsula. The abbey was founded around year 1100. At the time one of Norway's 3 bishops resided at Selje (the others were in Oslo and Trondheim), the bishop shortly after moved to Bergen. The monastery was abandoned before the 1537 Protestant Reformation.
- 9 West cape (Vestkapp (Mt Kjerringa at Stadlandet)). West cape is a panorama point at Stad peninsula (Stadlandet), the northwestern corner of Sogn og Fjordane. This peninsula has some of the roughest weather in Norway and one of the few places where the shipping lane is totally unprotected by islands. Fine panorama in all directions.
There are many opportunities for an active holiday in Sogn og Fjordane. Many scenic routes for trekking in the mountains can be found with breathtaking views from many mountaintops. Fishing in the sea or in lakes is a favourite with many tourists.
- Lighthouse sightseeing in Florø.
- 1 Flåm railway (Flåmsbana), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. This 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. Single ticket: Adults: kr 300, Children: kr 150, kr 210 for holder of Eurail and InterRail; Return ticket: Adults: kr 400, Children: kr 300.
- 2 Aurland mountain road (Snow road, Aurlandsfjellet), Aurland-Lærdal. Summer only. This 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. Free.
- 3 Sognefjellet mountain pass (Sognefjellsvegen), Road 55 from Skjolden. Summer only. Norway'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. Free.
- 4 Vikafjellet mountain pass, Road 13 Vik-Voss (From Vik at Sognefjord or from Vinje junction in Voss district). Main road 13 runs through Vikafjellet mountain pass with wonderful panoramas to Vik village and Sognefjord. Occasionally closed in winter. Free.
- 5 Nærøydalen and Nærøyfjorden, Road E16 Voss-Gudvangen (Car or bus). All year (boat daytime only). Main 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. Kayaking possible.
- 6 Glacier walking on Jostedalsbreen (car or bus). Summer only. Easiest hiking is on Nigardsbreen arm of the great Jostedalsbreen. But arms also stretching to Fjærland and Olden. Caution: Do not walk on your own, go with guide.
Tap water is drinkable and often of very good quality. Olden is bottled water, the source of which is the glacier Jostedalsbreen. It is sold as natural water (In Norwegian: Uten kullsyre), or as carbonated water (In Norwegian: Med Kullsyre).
The crime rate in Sogn og Fjordane is low. But even so, common sense applies. Visitors should stay a generous distance away from glaciers. Hiking on glaciers can only be done with a guide and proper equipment. Be careful around waterfalls. Along the very coast, Atlantic waves are treacherous. Fjords and lakes are very deep and very cold most of the year.
Glaciers are one of the most dangerous places for visitors to the Norwegian outdoor. Never underestimate the power of the glacier. Observe warning signs. Never approach the front of the glacier. A glacier is not a stable piece of ice, it is constantly moving and huge chunks regularly fall of.
Do not enter a glacier without proper equipment and a skilled local guide. Sunrays get reflected from the white snow, so it necessary to use sunscreen to protect your skin. Bring warm clothes for tours on the glacier.
- Do you want to see more fjords? Continue north to Møre og Romsdal (including Geiranger and Ålesund).
- Or do you want some city-life? Head south to Bergen.
- Inland valleys and highlands: Jotunheimen, Valdres and Gudbrandsdalen in Oppland
|Routes through Sogn og Fjordane|
|Bergen ← Voss ←||W E||→ Valdres → Oslo|
|Bergen ← Lindås ←||S N||→ Ålesund → Trondheim|
|Måløy ←||W E||→ Lom → Otta|
|Stavanger ← Voss ←||S N||→ Balestrand → Førde|