If a recent bout of the city-life doldrums has left you pining for the fjords, then what better way to see them than by gliding soundlessly through the waters on a kayak?
Norway has some of the world’s deepest fjords. They protrude into the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean like the bony fingers of an elderly hand. And through these almost-impossible-to-navigate waterways, kayakers can see the beauty of a landscape nearly unmarred by human presence.
Nowadays, taking a kayak tour of the fjords is much easier than ever before because of the increasing popularity of the sport. The water is as smooth as glass which makes the exercise simple and relaxing, even for the most novice kayaker.
The most famous fjords are located on the western side of Norway, several hours by train from the country’s capital Oslo and about an hour from Bergen, one of the larger cities. The train schedule is fairly easy to navigate and remarkably, almost everyone in Norway speaks flawless English, or at least, their English is significantly better than my Norwegian.
Guide books and locals definitely recommend visiting during the summer season of July-August, when the sun reaches its peak in the sky and twilight can begin at 10 p.m. Even farther north of the most famous fjords, the Northern Lights dance their way across the wild Norwegian landscape at midnight.
Start your adventure from Bergen and stay there for a night or two. Bergen is recognized as the unofficial capital of Western Norway and is situated at the mouth of a fjord itself. The picturesque old, wooden houses and buildings on the wharf called the Bryggen are fascinating. Not only are they some of the oldest wooden buildings still standing, but they are also a refreshing change of pace from the typical European buildings seen in downtown Paris or London.
From Bergen, take a train to Voss, a city that has emerged as the adventure capital of Norway. Voss specializes in all sorts of extreme sports such as skiing, skydiving and paragliding and can easily met the adrenaline requirement for even the most hardcore adventurer. It is also located on the historic Flåm Railway, which is used mainly as a tourist transport along the breathtaking Sognefjord. Another attraction along this famed railroad is the waterfall Tvindefossen. The source of this fall is just a small stream that cascades from the top of the mountain and supposedly has many health benefits and powers as an aphrodisiac.
Then, take a bus to Sogndal. This small city is the perfect launching place to tour the Sognefjord, one of the deepest and longest fjords in the entire world. There are many different kayak tours that start from the docks of this small port town, as well as kayak rentals available for more experienced enthusiasts. All along the Sognefjord there are small towns and settlements that are accessible from the water, so if you choose to not do a tour, there are more than enough options for lunch or exploring. Many of the hikes through the mountains and valleys that border the waters of the fjord are also accessible from the shore, so kayakers can simply pull their boats onto the beach and hike up well-maintained trails to get better views of the scenery.
Another cool feature of this landscape is the presence of the ancient stave churches that dot the pastures. From Sogndal, there is fairly easy access to at least two beautiful churches: the Kaupanger Stave Church and the Urnes Stave Church. The Urnes church is believed to be the oldest stave church in the world, built around the year 1130. These churches are remarkable, melting into the landscape as though they were born from the earth, rather than built by human hands.
Norway is a magical place where it is easy to imagine the legends of ancient Norse mythology walking among the hills and inlets of the fjords. The best way to see the fjords and their surrounding lands is from a kayak, as you glide through the peaceful waters and breathe in the fresh air.
Written by Paul E. Lee, Los Angeles car accident lawyer and world traveler.