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Norway’s magical fjords

05/11/2012

Norway’s pristine fjords, rugged coastline, dramatic rivers and picturesque fishing villages are best admired from the water

Norway's breathtaking fjord and mountain scenery

 

Stavanger

Hugging a peninsula on Norway’s southwest coast, Stavanger boasts a number of nicknames, each of which give an insight into the city’s diverse attractions.

The ‘Pearl of Norway’ is a charming city surrounded by sandy beaches and snow-capped mountains, which also serves as the gateway to the 25-mile-long Lysefjord, one of the country’s most scenic fjords. A cruise along Lysefjord takes you away from the city’s bustling Vågen fishing harbour, past cascading waterfalls and tiny villages to the Pulpit Rock, a vast flat-topped outcrop of rock that looms ominously above the fjord.

Stavanger has a cosmopolitan feel, with many chic boutiques, cafés and restaurants, yet the ‘Cradle of Vikings’ also boasts a 12th-century cathedral, while the Three Swords monument on Hafrsfjord rock commemorates the Viking sea battle that took place here in 872.

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Norway's breathtaking fjord and mountain scenery

 

Flåm

The town of Flåm is tucked into the head of the Aurlandsfjord, a tributary of the mighty Sogneford – at 127 miles long and 4,290 feet deep, the world’s longest and deepest fjord. Flåm’s name sums up much of its charm – ‘little place between steep mountains’ – although it doesn’t detail the majesty of those mountains or the tumbling waterfalls, salmon-rich rivers and lush pastures that surround it.

Experience a vivid snapshot of Norway’s pristine, diverse beauty by riding the Flåm Railway to Myrdal and continuing by coach down the dramatic Raundalen Valley to the atmospheric town of Voss. Then, pressing on to the Tvinde waterfall, you can descend Norway’s steepest road, the twisting Stalheimskleivane, to the lush shores of Aurlandsfjord, before returning to Flåm for restorative waffles and lingonberry jam at the Fretheim Hotel.

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Tromsø

Home to the world’s northernmost cathedral, university and brewery, Tromsø also boasts more bars than any other Norwegian city. And despite being located on a small, forested island some 220 miles inside the Arctic Circle, thanks to the temperate Gulf Stream Tromsø also has the warmest climate of any place in the world at the latitude. Celebrated for being a superb location from which to see the Northern Lights in winter, balmy temperatures and midnight sun make Tromsø an idyllic city in summer, too.

Originally a bastion of seal and walrus hunters, the city later became a centre for Arctic exploration and the site of the strikingly modern Arctic Cathedral, built in 1965. Meanwhile, Tromsø’s university population lends the city a vibrant atmosphere, and locals take full advantage of the multitude of outdoor activities on offer here, from dog sledding and snowmobiling to fishing, kayaking and horse riding. Make sure you leave enough time for the cable car ride up to Mount Storsteinen, which offers unbeatable views of the surrounding fjords, mountains and town.

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