I’m no stranger to Norway. Before I joined Wilderness Travel, I called Norway home for two years and spent all of my spare time on trails, summits, and ridges throughout the fjords.
I was excited to return to my old stomping grounds in the summer of 2018 when I joined WT’s Norway’s Fjord Country trip. I was amazed to learn how different it was to live in the fjords versus having the fjords brought to life with Wilderness Travel.
We began our trip in Bergen, and although I’ve walked those streets countless times, our local guide Urte taught me more about the quaint buildings and cobbled streets that I had previously only appreciated at surface value. Our afternoon hike up to my favorite local peak, Blåmanen, was a treat to retrace my steps and share the view with a new group of friends. I even pointed out the island where I lived, which you can see from Blåmanen’s highest point!
From Bergen, we ferried into Norway’s largest fjord, Sognefjord, and spent a couple nights tucked away in Flåm. We enjoyed a RIB boat ride through dramatic Nærøyfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for it’s narrow, steep waterways. Our boat dropped us off at a small dock, where we began our hike to an isolated goat farm for a fresh, local lunch and an amazing view—a highlight of the trip! It’s here that the owners craft the famous Norwegian brown cheese, or brunost, from the leftover whey after producing the lighter goat cheeses. Brunost is somewhere between sweet and savory, and has a creamier texture than what you would expect—it pairs best with fresh pancakes and jam. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!
To round out such a fun time in Flåm, we headed back to the town center to learn more about the ancient art of beer with a flight and lively dinner at a local brewery.
We make our entrance to the next town, Ulvik, by foot. After a short transfer, we hike from the forest above, past lakes and meadows, then down into the next fjord, Hardangerfjord. The sweeping views of the waterfront hotel make it an ideal place to kick off your boots and dive into the fjord. It’s not as cold as you’d think!
Ulvik locals welcome us onto their land for hikes, stories, lunch, and apple cider tastings. It is one thing to visit Norway—but it’s so much more enriching to spend time with the residents.
After a stop for a quick hike to visit Viking burial sites, we arrive by ferry at our hotel in Lofthus. Hotel Ullensvang is rich in history and has long been a fjord escape for Norwegians, most notably composer Edvard Greig. The hotel shines brightly along with the scenery of apple orchards, waterfalls, and steep fjord faces. With many available activities, such as row boats, indoor and outdoor pools, and a golf simulator, Hotel Ullensvang kept us well entertained after our hikes.
One of our more challenging hikes takes us up the Kinso River to three huge waterfalls: Tveitafossen, Nyastølfossen, and Nykkjesøyfossen. Even during a “dry” year and at the end of summer, Norwegian waterfalls still put on a show.
Western Norway is the rainiest part of Europe, but we were incredibly lucky with blue skies for most of the trip. Freyr, the Norse god of rain and sunshine, gave us some of the best weather I have ever seen in the fjords.
Another highlight of the trip for me was walking on the glacier, Folgefonna. I’d spent two years gazing at this glacier from my former bedroom, but hadn’t before had the chance to experience it up close. On a clear day, the scenery from up top is beyond impressive.
We wind down our trip with some educational cultural experiences such as visiting the Hardanger Folk Museum to learn more about the traditional clothing and crafts of the region, and the Hardanger Maritime Center focusing on the art of boat building. Not to mention spending a couple nights in a quaint historical inn with a surprise or two sprinkled in—I don’t want to ruin the magic for you before you get there!
We end our trip back in Bergen, the Gateway to the Fjords, for one last night as a group before heading off in different directions.
Takk for oss, Norge! As always, I can’t wait to see you again.
—Text and photos by Emily Vernizzi, WT’s area specialist for our Nordic adventures, Norway’s Fjord Country.