The undisputed star draw in Sogn og Fjordane has to be the Sognefjord, the world’s longest fjord, reaching more than 200 km (120 miles) inland. The area where this deep fjord meets the glaciers and Norway’s highest mountains is widely considered one of the world’s most beautiful travel destinations, offering an immense variety of landscapes gathered in one and the same region.
In addition, the extraordinary Flåm railway and the massive Jostedalsbreen, mainland Europe’s largest glacier, are just two of the world-famous tourist attractions that many visitors overwhelmingly associate with this county. Flåm is a very small town nestled in the innermost corner of the Aurlandsfjord, a branch of the Sognefjord, to which the railway − one of the world’s great feats of engineering − plunges 900 metres from Myrdal through a narrow valley of cascading waterfalls and jaw-dropping views. The journey down its 20 km long track looping in and out of the mountains is one of the steepest in the world and takes about 50 minutes; the project itself, completed during the 1940s, took 20 years. Fortunately for nervous travellers, the train is equipped with five separate sets of brakes.
Jostedalsbreen, now a protected national park covering about 500 sq km in the Nordfjord district, has become a tourist magnet for guided walks along one arm or another (there are more than 20) of the vast glacier. One of the easiest and most popular is along the Briksdalsbreen, accessible via the village of Olden. Pure melt water from the glacier is bottled and sold as a guaranteed “natural” - not to mention exotic - mineral water.
Throughout the county, wide-open vistas, green hills, spectacular blue glaciers, narrow fjord or glacier “arms” and massive mountain ranges create the most magnificent natural settings for anything from small, idyllic fruit-growing villages and isolated mountain farms to bustling modern communities. An arm of the Sognefjord, the 17 km long Nærøyfjord, is one of Norway’s Unesco World Heritage Sites.
Activity centres and museums, many closely linked to the very special natural environment of the Sognefjord, offer some truly unique experiences. These include the award-winning interactive Norwegian Glacier Museum in the district of Fjærland; Breheimsenteret, an information centre for the Jostedal Glacier National Park, where you can journey 20,000 years back in time, and the Norwegian Wild Salmon Centre at Lærdal, which runs a fly-tying workshop and a salmon observatory.
Fjærland is also home to the Norwegian Book Town, comprising a dozen or so second-hand bookshops of various sizes operating out of old barns and boathouses - a very special experience.
The coastal districts of the county, and their cultural heritage, are among Sogn og Fjordane’s best-kept secrets. The logical starting point for a journey of discovery - and a most enjoyable attraction in its own right - is the Coastal Museum on the island township of Florø, where a complex of modern buildings and open-air exhibits occupies an 18.5 acre site with its own islands and bathing areas, a wide range of exhibitions and a comprehensive library.
Florø, known as the birthplace of the Viking chieftain Erik Bloodaxe, is also the most westerly town in Norway. Once a year, visitors and residents are invited to help themselves to free herring served at a 400 metre long table in the town centre.
An exciting route to the coast is via the Nordfjord, a two-hour drive through an incomparable variety of scenery ranging from blue glacier arms and towering mountains to fertile valleys and deep lakes - including, at 514 metres (1686 feet), the deepest lake in northern Europe – and emerging by the relentless breakers of Stadhavet, one of the wildest stretches of water on the entire Norwegian coast.