See a fjord

Fjord in its basic meaning “where one fares through” has the same origin as the verb fare (travel) and the noun ferry. The narrow canyons with steep sides called fjords were formed by giant glaciers slowly moving across the land and carving these paths. They are quite breathtaking to experience and just one of the many unique types of nature you find in Norway.

To find most of Norway’s fjords you’ll have to head west. The majority of them can be found on the west coast around the areas of Bergen, Flåm, and Stavanger. Although technically even Oslo has its own fjord.

Perhaps arguably the most beautiful fjord in Norway is Geirangerfjord, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although when it comes to fjords, much like Norwegians themselves, they are all very nice to look at.

Defining Fjords

A fjord, pronounced “fyord,” is a narrow, deep inlet of the sea that is typically flanked by steep cliffs or towering mountains. Fjords are characterized by their U or V-shaped valleys, often with a calm body of water surrounded by dramatic natural scenery. These geological marvels are found in various parts of the world, including Scandinavia, New Zealand, Canada, and Chile, but Norway’s fjords are arguably the most famous.

Glacial Beginnings

Fjords owe their existence to the last ice age, which ended around 10,000 years ago. During this period, massive glaciers covered a significant portion of the Earth’s landmass. These glaciers, which could be kilometers thick, had an enormous erosive effect on the landscape.

The Formation Process

The process of fjord formation can be broken down into several key stages:

1. Glacial Advancement: Glaciers, with their tremendous weight and pressure, advance and retreat due to temperature and climatic changes. During the ice age, glaciers extended well beyond their current boundaries.
2. Erosion: As glaciers move, they act like colossal bulldozers, grinding away at the landscape beneath them. This process, known as glacial erosion, carves out deep, U-shaped valleys.
3. U-shaped Valleys: Over time, glacial erosion sculpts valleys with a distinctive U shape, creating deep, elongated channels with steep sides.
4. Glacier Retreat: As the climate warms, glaciers start to recede. The meltwater from these retreating glaciers fills the valleys they’ve carved, creating the characteristic long, narrow bodies of water within the U-shaped valleys.
5. Connection to the Sea: The fjord’s connection to the sea is essential. As the glaciers continue to retreat, the sea eventually inundates the valleys. This seawater is often brackish, a mix of freshwater from the glacier’s meltwater and saltwater from the sea.
6. Cliff Formation: The steep cliffs that frame fjords are the result of the glaciers’ relentless erosive action, cutting through rock and shaping the land.

Unique Fjord Characteristics

Fjords are not just visually striking; they also boast unique ecological and geological features:

1. Tidal Currents: The seawater in fjords is subject to tidal currents, creating rich marine ecosystems and nutrient cycling.
2. Hanging Valleys: Smaller glacial valleys often intersect with the main fjord, creating “hanging valleys” that can lead to picturesque waterfalls cascading into the fjord.
3. Deep Waters: Fjords can be remarkably deep, often exceeding 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) in depth.
4. Breathtaking Scenery: The combination of towering cliffs, calm waters, and pristine landscapes makes fjords some of the most stunning natural attractions in the world.

The Fjords of Norway

Norway is renowned for its fjords, with the most famous being the Geirangerfjord, Nærøyfjord, and Sognefjord. These fjords, with their towering cliffs, lush greenery, and pristine waters, attract tourists and nature enthusiasts from around the globe.


Fjords are geological masterpieces shaped by the immense forces of glaciers and the persistence of time. They are not only aesthetically captivating but also play a crucial role in local ecosystems and human history. The formation of fjords, from the grinding advance of glaciers to the serene inlets we admire today, is a testament to the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of our planet.

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