8 thrilling experiences to try in Norway's southern fjords

Luke Waterson

Luke Waterson

Despite its stunning natural assets, the southern chunk of the Norwegian fjords, straddling an inlet-riven region between Stavanger and Bergen, remains relatively undiscovered. Yet there are plenty of reasons to explore.

Paddling the waters of Lysefjord
Paddling the waters of Lysefjord © Espen - Adobe Stock Image

Norway's southern fjords attract less tourist traffic than the fjords north of Bergen yet harbour their own distinctive appeal.

From some knock-out nature, including the nation's two most fabled scenic viewpoints and mainland Europe's third-largest glacier, through a tempting trail of culinary offerings to some of Scandinavia's most memorable outdoor activities, here we share just some exceptional things to do in the south of fjord country.

Getting to Norway: cruise to Norway on one of Hurtigruten's southern itineraries* taking in cities like Bergen with opportunities to try these activities and more.

Sample the standout food scene

Sporting a Michelin star for every 50,000 residents, Stavanger is one of Scandinavia's more surprising foodie hubs: an out-on-a-limb city where the gastronomic gossip gravitates around two-starred restaurant Re-naa and one-starred sushi joint Sabi Omakase.

Quality local seafood is at the heart of what both restaurants are doing, and in regional cuisine generally.

Fine dining at Michelin-starred Re-naa, Stavanger
Fine dining at Michelin-starred Re-naa, Stavanger - photo courtesy of Re-naa

The Ryfylke Scenic Route, trundling between the Lysefjord and the Roldal ski centre, passes through some of Norway's most fertile land.

Here, producers like nationally-famous salmon smokery Mikals Laks and artisan cheesemakers Ryfylke Gardsysteri make tempting stop-offs.

Meanwhile, Ryfylke and neighbouring Hardangerfjord region comprise Norway's cider capital, with several cideries offering tours and tastings: Hjelmeland's Apal Sideri even managed to scoop gold in the world cider awards in its first year of cider production in 2020.

Hike to Norway's most famous viewpoints

Hereabouts, a gobsmacking panorama hits you with each tentacular twist of a fjord, but two viewpoints in the southern fjords have distinguished themselves internationally.

Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) guards the region's southern entrance: a cliff protruding far enough out over the Lysefjord to offer huge crag-flanked views of the 42 km-long sea inlet.

The popular viewpoint of Preikestolen
The popular viewpoint of Preikestolen © Lukasz Janyst - Dreamstime.com

It's accessible via an 8-km, four-hour, there-and-back hike. The hiking trail to the other renowned rocky viewpoint in the southern fjords, Trolltunga (Troll's Tongue), is even tougher.

Depending on your start point, you'll need to cover between 20 km and 27 km, and allow 10 to 12 hours for the round-trip trek to the vertiginous overhang perched 700 m above the lake of Ringedalsvatnet near the town of Odda.

Swim with wild salmon

The presence of some of Norway's biggest salmon once lured sport-seeking British aristocracy to Suldalslagen and made the river into one of the Norwegian fjords' most sought-after fishing destinations.

Today, the river's lower course near its outflow into Sandsfjorden is a magnet for a rather more singular pastime: wild salmon swimming.

Swimming with salmon in the Suldalslagen River
Swimming with salmon in the Suldalslagen River - photo courtesy of Mo Laksegard

As salmon forge their way upriver to spawn, riverside hotel Mo Laksegard offers the opportunity to don protective gear, mask and snorkel and float for a chilly couple of kilometres with the current, looking under the ice-blue water for the formidably-sized fish which can reach more than a tall adult's arm span in length.

Visit the Folgefonna Glacier

Mainland Europe's third-largest glacier, the more-than 200-sq-km Folgefonna is also the heart of an encircling national park, and there are some special ways to appreciate this mass of snow and ice that reaches over 300m at its thickest point.

Hike to the glacier's edge from gorgeously green Buardalen Valley, using ropes to haul yourself up some of the rock faces, near Odda.

Alternatively, drive the sinuous fjord-to-glacier road climbing 1,119 m from waterside Jondal to the Fonna Glacier Ski Resort, from where you can go snow-shoeing, blue ice hiking on the glacier or kayaking on the icy water.

Kayaking on one of the Folgefonna Glacier lakes
Kayaking on one of the Folgefonna Glacier lakes - photo courtesy of Visit Norway

Go chasing waterfalls

Norway* has well over 1,500 named fjords indenting its rugged west coast, and many more if you include all the further inlets chiselled out by the fjord arms.

And for each body of water there are several spectacular waterfalls ribboning the surrounding cliffs: giving some indication of how cascade-blessed this corner of the world is.

The powerful force of Steindalsfossen
The powerful force of Steindalsfossen © Sergey Mostovoy - Dreamstime.com

Some of the best-known in the southern fjords include Latefossen, where two crashing plumes of water join together halfway down the plunge north of the village of Skare.

Then there's Steindalsfossen near Oystesse, where the cascade rushes above the path to the viewing platform allowing you to walk right behind the falls.

But you will make your way past scores more waterfalls as you journey through the southern fjords, many not even marked on the map and seldom visited.

Hike the Kystpilegrimsleia

Norway's main pilgrimage path connects the capital Oslo to Trondheim, but there is a less-plied pilgrim trail running to Trondheim from Egersund, south of Stavanger, where the walking is interspersed with some magical boat trips to navigate the big sea inlets along the way.

This is the Kystpilegrimsleia (Coastal Pilgrim's Path): a 24-day hike and voyage along many of the loveliest lengths of Norway's coast, winding right across the southern fjords.

12th-century Stavanger Cathedral, the oldest in Norway
12th-century Stavanger Cathedral, the oldest in Norway © Mariuszks - Dreamstime.com

It provides a one-of-a-kind perspective on the journey between Stavanger and Bergen, where it passes by way of several solitary islands and peninsulas.

The route includes a total of 26 major religious sites from dashing parish churches to ruined monasteries to the city cathedrals of Stavanger, Bergen and Trondheim.

It would almost certainly have been Norway's most-used pilgrimage route back in the Middle Ages when the main means of transport would have been by vessel.

Drive celebrated scenic routes

There are 18 designated scenic routes, driving routes notable for their intensely beautiful scenery, across Norway, and two of the best all but link up Stavanger and Bergen through the southern fjords: the Ryfylke and Hardanger scenic routes.

The quieter Ryfylke route passes through prime produce-growing country and skitters along the hair-raising Rv 520 mountain road over a 900m pass.

Meanwhile, the more popular Hardanger route passes blockbuster waterfalls Latefossen and Steindalsfossen, plus the jump-off points for the epic hike up to Trolltunga and for reconnoitring Folgefonna Glacier.

Ski Norway's snowiest terrain

The southern fjords claim to be the snowiest part of Norway. Invariably making the podium for the Norwegian places with the most precipitation and boasting one of Norway's longest seasons for winter sports, its snow and ice garner big attention from lovers of the white stuff.

Roldal Ski Resort, 34 km south of Odda, is Norway's snowiest locale, while Fonna Glacier Ski Resort has the additional appeal of the vast Folgefonna Glacier: Alpine or cross-country ski at either over Europe's deepest and most dependable snow.

Weather in Norway

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Maximum daytime temperature °C
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Sea temperature °C

The above guide shows the weather in Stavanger. For more information about conditions across the country please see our complete guide to the weather in Norway.

Ready to explore Norway's southern fjords? Don't miss the latest itineraries from Hurtigruten, many of which take in the southern sights and cities of Norway's fjords.

Hurtigruten Top deals on cruises across the Norwegian coastline

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Luke Waterson

Luke Waterson

A novelist and award-winning travel writer specialising in the UK outdoors, Scandinavia and Latin America for over 15 years, Luke Waterson writes for publications including the BBC, The Independent, The Telegraph, Lonely Planet and Adventure.com. An avid hiker, runner, ancient history and wilderness-lover, he tries to incorporate his passions into his writing wherever possible.

Article updated on Wednesday 10th January 2024 in: Adventure Europe Excursions Nature

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