Admire the beauty of the fjords up close on a cruise. Credit: Shutterstock

Fantastic fjords: Discover Norway's incredible coastline by cruise

Author: Nicole Carmichael

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Once seen, never forgotten, Norway’s incredible coastline offers dramatic landscapes, picture- postcard villages, gushing waterfalls and some of the best cruise excursions you’ll ever take

Even if you consider yourself the world’s worst photographer and you’re toting a less than brilliant camera, Norway’s Fjordland does all the hard work for you.

With its achingly pretty villages, dramatic forests and majestic mountains rising from inky blue water, there are picture- perfect vistas everywhere you look. And a cruise is the ideal way to take it all in.

Treat yourself to a voyage along this jaw-dropping coastline and you’ll discover lively ports, charming fjordside towns and sprawling national parks.

Here you can embark on incredible rail journeys, take a deep dive into Viking history and discover the unique colours and flavours of New Nordic cuisine.

You can see the world-famous Trolltunga (Troll’s Tongue) rock formation. Credit: Shutterstock

Visit the fjords and you’ll take home memories to cherish for ever – so if you’re yet to discover it, Norway should be right at the top of your bucket list.

No other landscape in the northern hemisphere looks like this, so how was it formed?

Well, the local legends supply one explanation, telling us that the mountains were formed from the body of a great giant, the rocky reefs from his teeth and the vegetation from his hair.

Norse mythology also supplies the names for many landmarks, including the world-famous Trolltunga (Troll’s Tongue) rock formation, while several other fjords are called after ancient deities such as the sea god Njord, who gives his name to beautiful Næroyfjord.

But for those who prefer a more geological account of the landscape, these deep but narrow inlets were carved out of the earth by the relentless grinding of glaciers over several million years.

Then, when sea levels rose at the end of the last ice age, the valleys flooded, becoming the fjords we know today.

Wander the pretty town of Fredrikstad in the south. Credit: Shutterstock

Although parts of Norway are still glaciated, summer temperatures can reach 25 degrees and the fjords are generally milder than the rest of the country, so it may be warmer than you expect.

That said, the Norwegians claim to have invented the adage that there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing, so it would be unwise to visit Fjordland without a good waterproof jacket.

The word fjord can also be a verb, meaning to travel across, and in a landscape that isn’t always easy to traverse by road, these deep waters provide a vital transport link between northerly outposts such as the port of Tromso, 220 miles inside the Arctic Circle, and the pretty town of Fredrikstad in the south.

Norway’s mainland coastline measures more than 18,000 miles, which gives some idea how many indentations there are.

But although the country has around 1,700 fjords in all, only a handful are regularly visited by cruise ships. Happily, these are among the most spectacular.

Sognefjord is the longest fjord, at around 100 miles. Credit: Shutterstock

Sognefjord, nicknamed King of the Fjords, is the longest, at around 100 miles. It’s also at least 4,000ft deep – enough to swallow Ben Nevis whole – with arms and branches that are destinations in their own right.

Then there’s Næroyfjord and Geirangerfjord, jointly named UNESCO World Heritage Sites because they so perfectly embody the fjordland environment.

Many cruise lines operate in Norwegian waters but itineraries tend to be broadly similar, most beginning or ending in Bergen, Norway’s second city.

At half the size of the capital, Oslo, this historic port makes a wonderful day’s excursion with its colourful wooden houses and panoramic mountain views (best enjoyed from the delightful Floibanen funicular railway).

Another stop on most routes is Olden, a charming village surrounded by mountains, glaciers and waterfalls.

And don’t miss Flam, where the famous scenic railway offers the most magical train journey of your life – even if you don’t spot the legendary dancing Huldra, an elusive forest spirit with flowing hair and a bright red dress who is said to be fatally seductive.

You might be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights. Credit: Shutterstock

Architecture fans will love the town of Alesund, famed for its unique concentration of Art Nouveau buildings, while history buffs can pore over prehistoric rock carvings, stroll the dockside piers of Bergen – some of them dating back to 1100 – and visit the impossibly pretty village of Vik, where the wooden Hopperstad stave church is over a thousand years old.

On any Fjordland cruise you can be sure that the suggested excursions will be worth exploring, but the sight everyone really wants to see is the one that can never be guaranteed.

The Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, is an awe-inspiring celestial light show caused by the interaction of solar winds and the Earth’s magnetic field.

Not even expert tour guides can tell you when and where it’s going to happen, but a visit to Tromso between mid September and mid April will definitely shorten the odds. Just don’t forget your woolly hat and mittens...

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