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Sailing the Sognefjord: A Norwegian fjords boat trip from Flåm

Sailing the Sognefjord: A Norwegian fjords boat trip from Flam

It’s Norway’s longest fjord, has been ranked as one of the world’s most beautiful fjord landscapes and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Sognefjord comes with a whole lot of superlatives and even more expectations, but it doesn’t disappoint. We already had a sneak preview of its stunning scenery when we arrived at the fjordside village of Flåm, but to explore it properly you need to get out on the water. We decided one a two-hour fjord boat trip from Flåm to Gudvangen which takes you along two different branches of the Sognefjord – starting from the Aurlandsfjord and going through to the end of the Nærøyfjord.

Read more: The Flåm Railway: Norway’s most scenic train journey

Norwegian fjords boat trip frm Flam

Sailing out along the Aurlandsfjord

A boat trip through the fjords from Flåm

The landscapes in this part of Norway are just immense. The scale of the mountains and the width of the fjords dwarfs everything. Boats are just specks in the distance and even a fjord cruise ship coming in to dock looks like a toy boat. There are endless shades of green everywhere you look, with flashes of red from the wooden buildings along the waterfront and white from the waterfalls cascading down the cliffs. You might even spot a porpoise or a harbour seal in the water if you can drag your eyes down for long enough.

Sognefjord villages on a Norwegian fjords boat trip

Villages along the banks of the Sognefjord

The fjord’s shoreline is dotted with farms, mainly producing goats’ cheese using the same traditional farming methods which have been used here for centuries. One of the most famous villages for cheese is Undredal, which has 100 residents and four times as many goats. Many of the farms are located on the water’s edge, in little hamlets you can only get to by boat. You can’t help thinking what it must be like to live here – to be in the middle of such a popular and well-visited part of the world, but still be so remote.

Waterfalls in the Norwegian fjords

Fjord waterfalls

The most inaccessible of them all is the farm at Stigen. This is built way up on the mountainside, 300 metres above sea level. The only way to get up there is via a narrow, winding path that’s been cut into the cliffside. Although that’s an improvement on a few hundred years ago when there was just a ladder. The farm gets its name from the Norwegian word for ladder, and the story goes that if the farmer ever got any unwelcome visitors – like the sheriff coming to collect his taxes – then he’d just pull the ladder up.

A Norwegian fjord boat trip from Flåm

Red wooden houses along the fjordside

As we sailed on, an almost vertical rocky mountain at Britelen marked the point where the two branches of the Sognefjord split. This is where you leave Aurlandsfjord and move into the Nærøyfjord. One of the villages along this stretch of water is Styvi. It started life as a farming village, but in the 1600s it was made the terminus of Norway’s Royal Post Road – the Kongevegen. Back then if you were transporting post through the fjords you could travel as far as Styvi by road, then you had to get into a boat and row the next 48 kilometres as far as Lærdal. Styvi’s still got its own post office – the smallest still in operation in Norway.

Norwegian fjord boat trip from Flam to Gudvangen

Rocky mountains and endless shades of green

At this point the walls of the Nærøyfjord start to get closer and closer, and it reaches its narrowest point around the hamlet of Bakka. Here the gap is only 250 metres wide and water is as little as 12 metres deep. The steep sides tower above you and it’s hard to imagine those huge cruise ships fitting through this stretch of water without scraping the sides. Bakka’s one of the oldest settlements along the fjord and has a pretty white traditional Norwegian wooden stave church. The church was built in 1859 and can seat up to 200 people – though with only 100 people living in the parish now it can’t be full very often.

Bakka in the Norwegian fjords

The fjordside hamlet of Bakka

At far end of the Nærøyfjord, the boat docked at its final destination – Gudvangen. It was an big trading post back in the Viking era and there’s a Viking centre nearby where you can find out how they used to live. Today the town is home to a few hotels and shops, and was almost empty on the late spring afternoon when we visited. Browsing the gift shop I came across a book that explained that Gudvangen translates as ‘God’s field by the water’ – a pretty apt description, not just for the town but for the whole of the Sognefjord. This unique and beautiful landscape where the mountains meet the water and create something truly special.

Viking statue at Gudvangen on Norwegian fjord boat tour

Viking statue at Gudvangen

The details

A two-hour fjord boat trip from Flåm to Gudvangen costs 335–490 NOK (£31–£45/$40–$60) per person, depending on the day and time of year. From Gudvangen you can get a 20-minute bus back to Flåm for 90 NOK (£8/$11). There are several departures a day and you can take the trip in either direction. You can also combine a fjord cruise with a trip on the scenic Flåm Railway with a private day tour from Bergen.

Read more Norway posts

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A scenic Norwegian fjords boat trip from Flåm to Gudvangen through the Sognefjord – Norway's longest fjord – on a fjord cruise past waterside villages, mountains and waterfalls #fjords #Norway #boattrip #cruise #Flam #Sognefjord

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    precedent2013
    June 26, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Reblogged this on precedent2013 and commented:
    Discover The World

  • Reply
    Marc Latham
    June 26, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Nice photos and descriptions Lucy. I was there last May and also loved it. Didn’t know they are mostly goat farms, so thanks for the explanation. I also wondered what it must be like to live there: now and in Viking times!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 27, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      Thanks Marc, glad to bring back some good memories. I didn’t get to try the goat cheese but apparently it’s really good – they’re one of the few animals hardy enough to cope with the steep hills.

  • Reply
    Vlad
    June 26, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Stunning pictures, Lucy, it’s unbelievable that places like this actually exist! I’d love to visit the western part of Norway as well, it moves higher and higher on my bucket list with each post you write. 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 27, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      Thanks Vlad, it’s such a gorgeous area – I’m taking a break on the Norway posts for a bit now but have s few more about the Bergen area coming up next month (I took so many photos they’ll keep me going for months!).

  • Reply
    atravelingb
    June 26, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Beautiful photos, Lucy. I love the little wooden houses on the shore, they look so quaint and peaceful. It is nice to see that places like this still exist outside all the hustle and bustle of cities!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 27, 2014 at 4:25 pm

      They’re so cute aren’t they? Some are holiday rentals now, I would love to go stay in one right overlooking the fjords!

  • Reply
    raastha
    June 29, 2014 at 2:16 am

    Hey Lucy….Its early morning in India…and reading such a wonderful post has alreay made up my Sunday…Norway is in my bucketlist….The pics speak a lot and left me speechless. Hermoso!!!!!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 29, 2014 at 10:10 pm

      That’s so lovely to hear! It is a really beautiful place and hope you get to see it someday!

  • Reply
    Worthy Girl
    June 29, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Just gorgeous! Would love to visit someday.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 29, 2014 at 10:09 pm

      Thanks, the whole place is just like walking into a postcard, so pretty!

  • Reply
    aBitofCulture
    June 29, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    Great pics – the Independent had a feature on sailing in the fjords yesterday, worth a read if you can find it on-line.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      June 29, 2014 at 11:36 pm

      Thanks will have a look and see if I can find it!

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    June 30, 2014 at 8:48 am

    So beautiful, green and fresh looking. As always lovely shots Lucy.

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      July 10, 2014 at 11:02 am

      Thanks Suzanne, was hoping for some sun but the colours still looked great even without!

  • Reply
    Arianwen
    July 9, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I’ve heard a lot of people compare the fjords of Norway to Milford Sound in New Zealand and it really does look so similar!

    • Reply
      Lucy Dodsworth
      July 10, 2014 at 11:02 am

      There are definitely a lot of similarities – the amount of rain they both get being one!

  • Reply
    Meanne
    July 11, 2014 at 10:13 am

    I love the photos… I’m looking forward to my Norway Getaway in 3 days time

  • Reply
    Sarah
    May 10, 2016 at 3:43 am

    I’m glad I came along your wonderful post! We are traveling to the Sognefjord this summer and already have booked the boat along the Aurlandsfjord to Balestrand and are wondering if we should make the extra trip on the Naeroyfjord. Any tips? Thank you!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      May 13, 2016 at 11:17 pm

      So glad it came in useful. I’ve not done the Aurlandsfjord trip but that looks gorgeous too – the scenery does seem fairly similar but if you have the time free the Naeroyfjord was stunning (and two chances to get good weather – it can be pretty cloudy out there!).

  • Reply
    Deborah B.
    May 16, 2016 at 3:54 am

    Love your blog about where my ancestors came from! One day I hope to visit❣ I will have a place to stay perhaps also! I’ll share this so they can see how beautiful it is there❣Deborah

    • Reply
      Lucy
      May 18, 2016 at 10:34 am

      How lovely! It’s a gorgeous part of the world – hope you get to visit one day.

  • Reply
    Sharlyn
    May 10, 2018 at 12:58 am

    Hi,

    We are going to Flåm on July 26 and planning to take the Fjord Tour. What do you think is the best among the two? Fjord cruise to Næroyfjord or Sognefjord`?

  • Leave a Reply

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