Late summer 2022, I had a great road trip in the deep fjords of the Sognefjord and the beautiful coastal landscapes in Sunnfjord and Nordfjord.
The road trip went through the old county of Sogn og Fjordane, now part of the larger county of Vestland. It started and ended in Oslo. Great hikes, boat trips, a church from the middle ages, national tourist route, rib-boat trip, fjord cruise, an outdoor museum and beautiful nature are some key words from this fantastic adventure which took eight days to complete.
Visit Sognefjord, The Fjord Coast and Sunnfjord and Visit Nordfjord are the official destination companies for Sognefjord, Sunnfjord and Nordfjord.
SOGNEFJORD – From Oslo to the Sognefjord
I drove from Oslo on a Monday afternoon and my only goal was to see how far I could drive that day. The drive went over the Hemsedalsfjellet mountain pass and down along the Lærdalsdalen valley. Due to some road construction work, I needed to drive the old road along the valley, and due to this I was lucky to see the beautiful Borgund Stave Church along the road.
Borgund Stave Church was built around year 1181 at Borgund in Lærdal, Vestland. This is the most visited Stave Church in Norway, and with its charasteristic design it has often been used as a “model” when other Stave Churches has been restored or built. There is a visitor centre and café near by where you can buy tickets for a guided tour and to get information about the stave church.
The drive continued to Lærdal and through the tunnel to Fodnes ferry pier. I had finally arrived at the Sognefjord, the King of the Fjords. It was good to feel fresh air and to hear the sound from the Sognefjord. The ferry took me across the fjord before I continued to Kaupanger and to Amlasanden Fjordcamping.
The plan was to stay the night over at Kaupanger, but after a short photo session down in the Amlabukti Bay in Kaupanger, the drive continued to Sogndal and towards Fjærland. The new plan was to stay the night over at Fjærland. But I got tired and decided to stop for the night at Vatnasete in the Sogndalsdalen Valley between Sogndal and Fjærland.
The Sogndalsdalen valley is surrounded by some of the most famous mountains for skiing and mountaineering in western Norway. In the summer you can visit Anestølen Mountainfarm, which is located a little further into the valley.
As I often do, I slept the night over in my car. The advantage of sleeping in the car is that you sleep poorly and therefore get up earlier than if you had spent the night in a good bed. Very often you get the best photo motifs early in the morning, and this morning was no exception.
Vatnasete showed its best side, with a mirror-like lake Dalavatnet with a veil of fog that still lay down on the water.
It was still early morning when I arrived at Fjærland, now with a mirror-like Fjærlandsfjord covered with fog as a backdrop. It is a three kilometer long drive from the main road to Fjærland by the Fjærlandsfjord, along the road there are the Norwegian Glacier Museum and the historic Fjærland Fjordstove Hotel. The short drives to and from Fjærland are like driving in backdrops of beautiful and wild nature with fjords, mountains and glaciers as surroundings.
Fjærland Guiding offers guided tours in Fjærland and on the Fjærlandsfjord. Fjærland Guiding also offers you to experience the Floating Sauna “Dampen” which is situated on the Fjærlandsfjord just outside the center of Fjærland.
SEASON GUIDING IN FJÆRLAND: Summer. Check with Fjærland Guiding when they offer guiding. Sauna Season is all year round.
It was still early in the morning, the village down by the fjord was quiet, only the seagulls were awake. It was such a peaceful morning, I didn’t want to leave this beautiful place and continue my journey. The pictures and video below is from Fjærland and the drive towards Fjærland. Here you can see a video from the same road, but the drive is in the opposite direction. Same beautiful road, but totally different scenery.
Later that day, I met my good friend Reidar in Florø which is a coastal city in Sunnfjord. He had arranged our next adventure which was the boat trip to the beautiful saga island of Kinn on the coast off Florø.
Kinn with its cleft mountain Kinnaklova has been a sailing landmark for more than a 1,000 years, and we wanted to hike around the island, along Sunnivaleia / Pilegrimsleia to see the island, the coastal landscape and Mt Kinnaklova up close. This is a hike around the island of a total of 4.6 kilometers , it takes about two hours to walk.
During the hike, we visited Kinn Church that dates from the Middle Ages and which is a beautiful monument from a bygone era. The church, from around 1150, is one of Norway’s oldest stone churches. We were lucky and had a guided tour and got to see the beautiful church from the inside.
The last part of the hike, from Kinn Church and back to the pier at Kinn, was about 1.3 kilometers along a gravel road.
We had notified the shipping company/boat when we needed the return from Kinn. We did this in good time before the boat left Florø, it is not certain that the boats will stop at Kinn if it has not been booked and informed about it in advance by those travelling.
The boat trips can vary greatly depending on the weather and wind. You can experience sun and summer and flat seas. But there can also be autumn and winter storms with foaming wave tops where you can feel the forces that only the nature on the west coast can have.
NORDFJORD – Hiking at Bremangerlandet
Next day we drove towards Bremangerlandet on the coast of Nordfjord. Our goal the first day was the hike to Vetvika Beach on the North-West side of the island.
Note – Most hiker´s goals are the mountain ridge where you can see down to Vetvika and then back the same way as you came. You can also join a RIB-Safari and visit Vetvika Beach from the sea.
The day after, we drove to Grotlesanden Beach at Grotle. Grotlesanden Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in Norway. Grotlesanden are two beautiful beaches of a total of 800 meters, only divided by Grotlesholmen with a parking lot and sanitary building with toilets.
We wanted to see the Grotlesanden Beach and the Atlantic coast from a bird’s eye view and decided to hike up the hillside towards Mt Veten. The trail started at the outermost part of Grotle, close to the beach. It was steep up the first mountainside towards Grolsdalen, at around 300 masl where we had a fantastic view down to Grotle and Grotlesanden.
NOTE – The hikes to Vetvika and to Mt Veten are not suitable for children! These are long and demanding hikes, and you should be an experienced hiker. There are several steep, narrow and exposed sections along the trails.
SEASON: July to mid August, depending on temperature and snow.
Our “Base Camp” at Bremangerlandet was Kalvåg. Kalvåg is an idyllic fishing village which is a great starting point for all you can do at Bremangerlandet.
We stayed overnight in an apartment at Knutholmen, which are some old sea houses that has been turned into special places to stay. In the evening we visited the pub and the restaurant at Knutholmen which focuses on fresh, good and short travelled food. We had a delicious meal of fresh cod together with some ice cold beers, it was a “grande finale” after the long and demanding hike to Vetvika.
There is a wealth of activities and experiences that can be done from Knutholmen. Boat safari, floating sauna, hiking trails leading to beautiful viewpoints, kayaking and joining a fishing boat are some of the things you can experience from Kalvåg.
After the hike to Mt Veten, me and my friend Reidar split apart. My drive back towards Oslo had started, but along the road towards home I decided to see and experience more from the Sognefjord area.
I drove eastwards to Bortnen and over the mountain to Svelgen, then to Førde and towards Gaularfjellet National Tourist Route.
The scenic road over Gaularfjellet takes the traveller into the waterfalls in the mighty Sognefjord area, which is Norway’s longest and deepest fjord. The 130 kilometer long drive is exciting and varied, and is closed during winter.
I parked the car at the parking lot beside Likholefossen Bridge and slept the night over in the car. In the morning I walked across the bridge and on parts of the Fossestien trail on the other side of the Gaula River before I continued driving over Gaularfjellet to Vetlefjorden and further out the fjord to Balestrand by the Sognefjord.
The view from the inner part of Vetlefjorden towards Balestrand and the Sognefjord was beautiful that day despite the rainy weather.
After driving over Gaularfjellet I arrived Balestrand around midday. The Sognefjord Aquarium, the Norwegian Museum of Travel and Tourism and the Historical Hotel Kviknes were some of the sights that I got to experience that day. It was a beautiful afternoon, and after a great meal, the night was spent at Hotel Midtnes, close to the St. Olaf´s Church in Balestrand.
In the middle of the Sognefjord, where the fjord is at its widest and the mountains starts to rise, you’ll find Balestrand, an idyllic village down by the fjord.
Balestrand is one of the first places the foreign tourists visited when they discovered Norway in the mid-19th century. Due to the beautiful nature, the wild mountains and the location down by the fjord, Balestrand became a favorite place to visit among artists and the Norwegian and foreign society from the end of the 19th century until the beginning of World War I.
I have wanted to visit Finnabotn for many years, and the next day I finally got the chance to experience this great place in a Rib-boat from Balestrand Fjord Adventures. It was a beautiful day on the fjord, the tour to Finnabotn was an adventure I will never forget. See video below.
Balestrand Fjord Adventures offers fjord sightseeing on the Sognefjord in a RIB-boat. A tour to Finnabotn on the other side of the Sognefjord is an adventure you´ll never forget.
The day was still young, and after the adventure on the fjord I decided to hike to Mt Raudmelen in Balestrand. Orrabenken viewpoint and Mt Raudmelen above Balestrand are popular goals for hikers, in the summer you can join guided hikes to Mt Raudmelen.
NOTE – The hike to Mt Raudmelen are not suitable for children! This is a long and demanding hike, and you should be an experienced hiker. There are some narrow and exposed sections along the trail.
SEASON GUIDED HIKE TO RAUDMELEN: July to September, depending on temperature and snow.
Orrabenken at 370 masl is a viewpoint by the same trail as the hike to Mt Raudmelen. From Orrabengen there is a fantastic view down to Balestrand and towards the Sognefjord where it is at its widest.
Many of the most popular hikes in the mountains around Balestrand can be started from center of Balestrand, and most of the hikes are well marked.
SOGNEFJORD – From Balestrand to Sogndal
In the evening, my adventure continued towards Sogndal. Late evening I arrived at Kjørnes Camping which is a high standard campsite with beautiful view towards Sogndal and the Sogndalsfjord. I put up my tent and stayed at Kjørnes for two days while exploring the area around Sogndal and Kaupanger.
Sogndal is located in the middle of all the side fjords of the Sognefjord. From Sogndal there is a short way to all the fjords in addition to being a great area for hiking along the fjord, kayaking, fjord cruises, mountain biking, climbing and bouldering and mountain hikes.
Next day I took a fjord cruise on the Sogndalsfjord which is a branch of the Sognefjord. The cruise started from the pier at Sogndal and lasted for two hours.
I joined a fjord cruise from Sogndal to Fimreite. This is where one of the main historic events in the Viking age, the battle of Fimreite, happened. In year 1184, King Sverre Sigurdsson with his 14 Viking Ships and King Magnus Erlingsson with his 26 Viking Ships met in the Sognefjord outside Fimreite for the final battle about the Kingship of Norway. King Sverre won the battle and King Magnus and more than 2000 men were killed in the battle.
After the Fjord Cruise I visited The Heiberg Collection Outdoor Museum at Kaupanger, not far from Sogndal and Kjørnes Camping. It was a great experience to walk around the outdoor museum and look at the old buildings and all the animals. I enjoyed the silence and the beautiful view towards the Sognefjord and to the mountains in the distance.
At the museum you can get the feeling of what life was like in the old days. The museum is a beautiful oasis where you are brought back in time, to different eras where you can see and experience what life in the Sognefjord area was like before.
Sogn Outdoor Museum was established as early as in 1909 on parts of landowner Gert Falch Heiberg’s property in Amla at Kaupanger. Heiberg had collected more than 3,000 objects from the Sognefjord and Western fjords in addition to a house, and in 1909 he donated the collection to “Historielaget i Sogn”, which then established Sogn Outdoor Museum. The museum was Heiberg’s great passion, and he managed the museum until his death in 1949. By then he had more than 20,000 cataloged objects in the collection.
SOGNEFJORD – Visiting Gamle (Old) Lærdalsøyri on my way home
That was the end of my road trip in Sogn og Fjordane, it was a week filled with many great experiences and beautiful nature, from the coastal landscapes in Sunnfjord and Nordfjord to the deep fjords in the Sognefjord area.
After one more night at Kjørnes Camping, I took the ferry across the Sognefjord and drove to Lærdal where I had a stroll around the beautiful old town of Gamle Lærdalsøyri. I visited Galleri Bryggja where the local painter and artist Kristen Olav Grøttebø showed me his beautiful paintings in the exhibition in his painting studio/workshop.
Also a visit to Fredag & Fretland had to be done. This is the local bakery and patisserie near by the old town in Gamle Lærdalsøyri, I had to fill up “my tank” before the long drive home…