Western Norway

Counties: Møre og Romsdal, Sogn og Fjordane, Hordaland, Rogaland
Size of area: 58 513 km2
Population: 1 350 548
Major cities: Bergen, Stavanger, Ålesund, Florø
Major attractions: The fjords, Flåm Railway, Bryggen (Bergen), Ålesund, Old Stavanger
Tourist routes: Hardanger, Gamle Strynefjellsvegen, Sognefjellet, Atlanterhavsvegen, Geiranger-Trollstigen, Gaularfjellet,  Aurlands-fjellet, Ryfylke, Jæren

According to FjordNorway, the regional tourist board, Norway’s four western counties are quite simply “the world’s most beautiful destination!”

Indeed, Norway’s celebrated fjords are all many tourists know about the country. These long,narrow arms of the sea, often stretching some kilometres inland and surrounded by high hills or cliffs, are hugely popular destinations for cruise ships, day-trippers and longer-stay visitors alike − above all in Norway.

The Fjord Country offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities all year round: skiing (even during the summer!), rock-climbing or hiking over glaciers; boating, fishing, cycling. A vast range of land- and seascapes, from the spectacular fjords themselves to the breath-taking mountain passes and the ever-changing coastal areas, is accessible by car, bicycle, boat, and on foot. The fjords, waterfalls and mountains of the region, encompassing the counties of Møre og Romsdal, Sogn og Fjordane, Hordaland, and Rogaland, have become the archetypal vision of Norway.

When glaciers retreat
Norway’s fjords were formed by glacial erosion during the succession of Ice Ages which ended more than ten thousand years ago. Fjords are basically underwater valleys, similar to those created on land by rivers and streams. Only glaciers can create valleys below sea level, however; and when the glaciers retreat, it is these valleys, filling with seawater, that become fjords. The best-known of the western Norwegian fjords, and the most spectacular ones by far, are Sognefjord, Geirangerfjord, Hardangderfjord and Lysefjord. Geirangerfjord has been listed as a Unesco World Heritage site together with Nærøyfjord, a branch of Sognefjord.

Each is unique: Sognefjord for its size (the world’s longest and deepest), Geirangerfjord for its many superb waterfalls, Hardangerfjord for the exquisite flowering of its fruit orchards, and Lysefjord for its spectacular cliff formations such as Pulpit Rock, where only the most daring venture out to the edge.

Cultural treasures
Although the farms of the fjord country are small and difficult to work, there are oases of easy living in handsome manor estates and ornate wooden hotels in Swiss or dragon style that were built in the very early days of tourism. In this part of the world, the sea was the main thoroughfare until relatively recently. Many of the coastal towns and villages, though now well out of the mainstream, survive as cultural treasures that are well worth a detour.

The great coastal cities of western Norway were also founded on the wealth of the sea: Kristiansund on cod, for example, and Ålesund on herring. Today Ålesund is known for its magnificent Jugend (Art Nouveau) architecture, while nearby Molde is the city of jazz festivals and roses. Norway’s second largest city, the Hanseatic city of Bergen, is the gateway to the fjords and the birthplace of composer Edvard Grieg. Attractions include the picturesque market square (Bryggen), a thriving open-air fish market, and a funicular (Floibanen) to the top of Mount Fløyen.

To the south is Stavanger, the Norwegian oil capital, which boasts the largest area of old wooden houses in Europe. Many of the white-painted buildings and cobbled lanesdate back to the time of sailing vessels. At the sardine canning museum you can taste the freshly smoked product straight from the oven. An impressive Petroleum Museum is a more recent attraction.

Outside Stavanger, the coastal district of Jæren is an attractive stretch of long beaches, flat fields divided by stone fences and distinctive, low, white houses. The white city of Skudeneshavn on Karmøy island outside of Haugesund is another architectural gem. Karmøy is an idyllic choice for a holiday, offering stunning ocean views and excellent fishing.

There is no shortage of tour operators in western Norway offering anything from day trips to organized cycling or riding holidays, or rail travel combined with cruises and coach trips. Some package tours of 10 days or more take in a sampling of almost everything: fjords,valleys, mountains, lakes, national parks, cruises and some of the most spectacular railroad journeys in the world.

Counties: Møre og Romsdal, Sogn og Fjordane, Hordaland, Rogaland
Size of area: 58 513 km2
Population: 1 350 548
Major cities: Bergen, Stavanger, Ålesund, Florø
Major attractions: The fjords, Flåm Railway, Bryggen (Bergen), Ålesund, Old Stavanger
Tourist routes: Hardanger, Gamle Strynefjellsvegen, Sognefjellet, Atlanterhavsvegen, Geiranger-Trollstigen, Gaularfjellet,  Aurlands-fjellet, Ryfylke, Jæren

According to FjordNorway, the regional tourist board, Norway’s four western counties are quite simply “the world’s most beautiful destination!”

Indeed, Norway’s celebrated fjords are all many tourists know about the country. These long,narrow arms of the sea, often stretching some kilometres inland and surrounded by high hills or cliffs, are hugely popular destinations for cruise ships, day-trippers and longer-stay visitors alike − above all in Norway.

The Fjord Country offers endless opportunities for outdoor activities all year round: skiing (even during the summer!), rock-climbing or hiking over glaciers; boating, fishing, cycling. A vast range of land- and seascapes, from the spectacular fjords themselves to the breath-taking mountain passes and the ever-changing coastal areas, is accessible by car, bicycle, boat, and on foot. The fjords, waterfalls and mountains of the region, encompassing the counties of Møre og Romsdal, Sogn og Fjordane, Hordaland, and Rogaland, have become the archetypal vision of Norway.

When glaciers retreat
Norway’s fjords were formed by glacial erosion during the succession of Ice Ages which ended more than ten thousand years ago. Fjords are basically underwater valleys, similar to those created on land by rivers and streams. Only glaciers can create valleys below sea level, however; and when the glaciers retreat, it is these valleys, filling with seawater, that become fjords. The best-known of the western Norwegian fjords, and the most spectacular ones by far, are Sognefjord, Geirangerfjord, Hardangderfjord and Lysefjord. Geirangerfjord has been listed as a Unesco World Heritage site together with Nærøyfjord, a branch of Sognefjord.

Each is unique: Sognefjord for its size (the world’s longest and deepest), Geirangerfjord for its many superb waterfalls, Hardangerfjord for the exquisite flowering of its fruit orchards, and Lysefjord for its spectacular cliff formations such as Pulpit Rock, where only the most daring venture out to the edge.

Cultural treasures
Although the farms of the fjord country are small and difficult to work, there are oases of easy living in handsome manor estates and ornate wooden hotels in Swiss or dragon style that were built in the very early days of tourism. In this part of the world, the sea was the main thoroughfare until relatively recently. Many of the coastal towns and villages, though now well out of the mainstream, survive as cultural treasures that are well worth a detour.

The great coastal cities of western Norway were also founded on the wealth of the sea: Kristiansund on cod, for example, and Ålesund on herring. Today Ålesund is known for its magnificent Jugend (Art Nouveau) architecture, while nearby Molde is the city of jazz festivals and roses. Norway’s second largest city, the Hanseatic city of Bergen, is the gateway to the fjords and the birthplace of composer Edvard Grieg. Attractions include the picturesque market square (Bryggen), a thriving open-air fish market, and a funicular (Floibanen) to the top of Mount Fløyen.

To the south is Stavanger, the Norwegian oil capital, which boasts the largest area of old wooden houses in Europe. Many of the white-painted buildings and cobbled lanesdate back to the time of sailing vessels. At the sardine canning museum you can taste the freshly smoked product straight from the oven. An impressive Petroleum Museum is a more recent attraction.

Outside Stavanger, the coastal district of Jæren is an attractive stretch of long beaches, flat fields divided by stone fences and distinctive, low, white houses. The white city of Skudeneshavn on Karmøy island outside of Haugesund is another architectural gem. Karmøy is an idyllic choice for a holiday, offering stunning ocean views and excellent fishing.

There is no shortage of tour operators in western Norway offering anything from day trips to organized cycling or riding holidays, or rail travel combined with cruises and coach trips. Some package tours of 10 days or more take in a sampling of almost everything: fjords,valleys, mountains, lakes, national parks, cruises and some of the most spectacular railroad journeys in the world.

Choose a county