Exploring the Norwegian Fjords
In parts, the Norwegian Fjords are the longest, deepest and narrowest in the world, and they are also some of the most beautiful. The best way to experience the Norwegian Fjords is by boat, where you can while away the hours on deck admiring the steep, green sides of the fjords reflected in the water as a perfect mirror image.
During a cruise through the Norwegian Fjords, there are some fantastic places to stop and enjoy the delights of Norway.
Right on the west coast, Bergen is Norway's second largest city, and well worth a visit. If you plan to stay in the city for a day or two, it might be worth investing in a Bergen Card, which entitles you to free admission to museums and tourist attractions. You can purchase a card from the tourist information centre, railway station or boat terminal.
The city of Bergen is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and your first port of call should be Hanseatic Wharf. The wharf is scattered with museums that offer insights into Bergens fascinating past. Distinctive colourful wooden buildings with steeply pointed roofs create a scene that looks like it has leapt straight out of a postcard.
Whilst in Bergen, pay a visit to the world famous fish market with its huge variety of fish. Sample raw oysters and snack on freshly boiled shrimps. The market also has an array of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a selection of local handicrafts and souvenirs.
Close to the fish market is the Floibanen Funicular Railway, which shoots up to the top of Floyen Mountain, where visitors are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views. From the top, walkers can enjoy guided walks across the mountain.
At the innermost part of Aurlandsfjord, the small town of Flam is surrounded by beautiful waterfalls, green valleys and steep mountains. In fact the name itself means ''little place between steep mountains''. Flam is considered to be one of the most beautiful spots in Norway.
The town is home to the Flam Railway, a world famous railway that is over 65 years old. It is one of the steepest railway lines in the world, taking passengers high up into the surrounding mountains. The Flamsbana museum offers an intriguing insight into the history of the railway.
The area around Flam is a nature lovers'' paradise - cycling, hiking and fishing are all popular activities. Take a step back in time on a guided tour of the ancient settlement of Otternes Bygdetun where you can experience old crafts and cooking practices. Otternes Bygdetun has 27 buildings stll standing, which date back to the 1600s.
Stavanger is home to Norways oldest cathedral. Built in the 12th century, the cathedral was damaged by fire in 1272, when it received a new chapel built in the Gothic style. From the tourist information centre in Stavanger, you can join a guided tour of the city that takes in the cathedral and other historical sites of Stavanger.
Outside of the city, there are some stunning wilderness areas to explore. Follow a two hour hiking trail to Preikestolen, also known as the Pulpit Rock. This flat outcrop offers uninterrupted views of Lysefjord, which is considered one of the most beautiful of all the Norwegian Fjords. Go early in the morning to beat the crowds. The route is better suited to sure-footed walkers as there is no guard rail and it can be quite steep in parts.
Stavanger has some beautiful sandy beaches and Solastranden is one of the longest sandy beaches in Norway - a great place to relax after a long day of walking.
Lonely Planet has earmarked Geiranger as the best travel destination in Scandinavia, and Geirangerfjord has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005. Anyone visiting the Norwegian Fjords should have Geiranger on their itinerary in order to experience the Fjords at their most beautiful.
The region is blessed with an array of waterfalls that tumble into Geirangerfjord, including the Seven Sisters, the Bridal Veil and the Suitor. Hire a small boat for the day to explore the beautiful cliffs and waterways.
Only around 250 people live in Geiranger permanently, and old farmhouses can be seen dotted about the green hills. There are a few large hotels in the area, some with balconies overlooking the spectacular Geirangerfjord.
Marked hiking trails include regular viewpoints, and there is even a path that takes walkers behind the Storseterfossen waterfall.
With a 182m free fall of water, Voringsfossen Waterfall is the most famous waterfall in the Norwegian Fjords. Voringsfossen plunges into the Mabodalen, offering first class sightseeing opportunities.
There is a scenic path that can be taken from Hardanger down to the foot of the waterfall. Hardangervidda Nature Centre at the bottom of the Mabodalen Valley is also worth a look while you are in the area. The centre showcases fjords, mountains and waterfalls and it explores the relationship between nature and human intervention.
Wherever you travel to in the Norwegian Fjords, you are sure to be struck by the fjords'' awesome beauty.