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The definition of a fjord

A fjord is a deep, narrow and elongated sea or lakedrain, with steep land on three sides. The opening toward the sea is called the mouth of the fjord, and is often shallow. The fjord's inner part is called the sea bottom. If the geological formation is wider than it is long, it is not a fjord. Then it is a bay or cove.

Read more about the Norwegian fjords:

How were the fjords formed?

The fjords were formed by the giant glacier tongues that through several ice ages have shaped the landscape. A fjord is thus a U-shaped undersea valley, and on the west coast, this valley is often surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery.

In front of the glacier arm, there was deposited a moraine of gravel and sand that formed an underwater barrier, often called "sea thresholds" or "ra". Places where the fjord is shallow.

This shallow threshold in the mouth of the fjord, is the reason that fjords often are quieter than the open sea. Thus fjords are often natural harbors. Fjord is one of the few Norwegian words that have become international, especially in English where it is used directly. Fjord comes from the Norse fjǫrðr. This stems, in turn, from the prehistoric Indo-European word *prtús, derived from *por* or *per, meaning "go", "pass" or "to put over on the other side."

Fjord in its basic meaning "where one fares through", then has the same origin that the word "fare" (travel). The verb "fare" and the noun "ferry", has the same origin.

Famous fjords

The longest fjord in the world is Scoresby Sund in Greenland (350 km), but the Western Norway region (Fjord Norway) boasts the next two spots on the list, with the Sognefjord (203 km), and the Hardanger Fjord (179 km).

The unspoilt fjord landscape was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2005. UNESCO believes both the Geirangerfjord and the Nærøyfjord, as well as the areas around the fjords, are worthy of protection. These fjords are among Fjord Norway’s top tourist attractions, and fjords such as the Lysefjord, Hardangerfjord, Sognefjord and Hjørundfjord offer spectacular scenic experiences.

The Nærøyfjord

What unfolds as you travel Fjord Norway, is a fantastic story of water, with many chapters. The fjords were carved by a massive sheet of ice up to three kilometres thick that covered Northern Europe in a succession of ice ages. As you peer up at the towering mountains surrounding the Nærøyfjord, the narrowest fjord in the world, you can appreciate the immense power of those forces of nature.

You can explore the Nærøyfjord from an electric sightseeing boat. If you prefer a bird’s eye view and are used to hiking in the mountains, you can have a go at Bakkanosi (1,398 metres). This is a demanding hike, but you are rewarded with stunning views of the fjord.

The Geirangerfjord

The Geirangerfjord is seen by many as the jewel of the Norwegian fjords. Waterfalls, abandoned farms far up the mountainsides and unspoilt nature make the Geirangerfjord a memorable experience.

There are also many more attractions in the area around the Geirangerfjord. The Norwegian Scenic Route Geiranger–Trollstigen takes you up the fantastic hairpin bends to the Trollstigen plateau. On the way there, you drive past both Flydalsjuvet and Ørnesvingen, with great views of the fjord and the landscape. Also make a stop at Gudbrandsjuvet gorge, where you can see the giant’s cauldrons and rock formations carved by the river Valldøla. High above Geiranger is Dalsnibba with the viewing platform Geiranger Skywalk, which offers fantastic views.

Fjords and glaciers

You can also experience our glaciers not far from the fjords! Read more about what a glacier actually is and how they are formed.

See the fjords!