Since long before the dawn of modern tourism in the middle of the 19th century, travellers have come from afar to appreciate the scenery of the Sognefjord. The county with this magnificent fjord at its heart offers a wealth of activities and adventure possibilities.
Half the joy of the Sognefjord is the many charming and eye-catching villages along the 204 km long fjord – such as Balestrand, known for its ornate Swiss-style houses. At the end of one of the innermost fjord arms lies the wonderfully preserved village of Lærdalsøyri. One of Norway’s most famous salmon rivers flows right through the old centre of town. For many cruise passengers, the Nærøyfjord is the climax of western Norway, with peaks towering 1200 metre high mountains along the narrowing fjord.
Railway buffs consider Flåmsbana one of the most exciting train rides in all of Europe. The 20 km long railway, which passes through 20 tunnels, took 20 years to build. It is a masterpiece of engineering. A popular bicycle journey is Rallarvegen, an old construction road, from the Hardangervidda mountain plateau down to Flåm.
Inner life of the glacier
A perfect place to learn about the inner life of the glacier is Fjærland, home to the Norwegian Glacier Museum. Afterwards, you can accompany an experienced guide for a walk on Nigardsbreen, an arm of the Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier on continental Europe. There are other scenic fjords in this county, such as Nordfjord, winding inward toward the fantastic landscape of Stryn and Olden.
For skiers and snowboarders, summer is no hindrance; at Stryn you have access to snow year round. A fantastic scenic drive is Sognefjellsvegen, with the highest mountain pass in Northern Europe.
Testimony to ancient craftsmen
On a small headland with a beautiful view over the Lustrafjord, stands Urnes stave church, one of the world’s foremost cultural memorials. Its excellent condition is fine testimony to the skilled craftsmen who built the church over 800 years ago. The portals facing west and north are adorned with beautiful carvings of intertwined animal figures that clearly stem from old Norse culture. There is also a remarkable similarity to Celtic ornamentation found in manuscripts like the book of Kells. Five of the 28 stave churches still standing are in Sogn & Fjordane county – Urnes, Borgund, Hopperstad, Undredal and Kaupanger.
The autumn and spring storms that sweep against the Norwegian coastline have Stad as their favourite meeting place. Many sailors stopped at the monastery of Selja, considered the womb of Christendom in Norway, to wait and pray for storms to pass. Not every one was that patient; some seafarers actually pulled their boats across the peninsula of Stadlandet at Dragseidet, despite a distance of 5 km and a strenuous climb up to 240 metres!
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