Go Viking in Norway's Sognefjord and Loen

by  Laura Kiniry | Nov 15, 2019
Sponsored by  Fjord Norway

When temperatures dip, the air turns crisp, and the nights are longer than the days, it's time for a visit to Fjord Norway, a region on the country's western coast where natural beauty abounds, and the possibilities for adventure are endless. October through April are some of the best months to experience the true personality of this magical landscape, much like Norway's intrepid Viking ancestors did. The heartiness and curiosity of these fearless warriors were an ideal match for the area's rugged landscapes and wild weather.

Are you ready to Go Viking, immerse yourself in Fjord Norway’s jaw-dropping winter scenery, engage with locals in cozy fjord villages, and set out on incredible cold-weather adventures? The legendary Sognefjord — Norway's longest and deepest fjord — and the beautiful village of Loen are the perfect place to start.

Høyanger, Norway / Courtesy of Fjord Norway/Arvid Fimreite

Delve into Incredible Nature

Known as the “King of the Fjords,” Norway's Sognefjord is a massive body of water surrounded by rising cliffs and steep mountainsides. It has many distinct arms, and two of the most impressive are Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord, the latter of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

There are many ways to explore this area, but one of the easiest is with Fjord Tours' “Sognefjord in a Nutshell” tour, which begins in Oslo or Bergen and includes scenic railway journeys and a fjord cruise on the sometimes icy waters.

Snowshoeing / Courtesy of Fjord Norway/Loen Skylift

The fjord village of Loen itself, with its incredible position below tall mountains and glaciers, is within easy reach of Sogndal by bus or car and is well worth exploring on its own. This is where you’ll find the brand new Loen Skylift, which climbs 3,316 feet to Mt. Hoven. Back-country skiing, sledding, and hiking adventures await here – not to mention astonishing views of the fjord below – once you reach the top. Loen Active offers guided adventures that include the Skylift and a trip to the cliff-edge Hoven Restaurant, where you can enjoy local specialties. 

There’s also “Norway in a Nutshell,” a fully customizable tour that lets you cruise between two fjord arms, taking in dramatic scenery such as hanging valleys, massive snowfields, towering white-capped peaks, and occasional hamlets and farms as you go. 

Courtesy of Fjord Active

There are lots of other touring options here as well. One of the region's most exciting winter experiences is an expedition into the blue ice caves of the Nigardsbreen glacier. The adventure includes a snowshoe or skiing excursion from the Jostedalen Valley to this magical underworld, where a cavern of shifting light and luminescent colors await.

Or, join Fjord Safari on one of its seasonal outings, which range from an afternoon snowshoeing high above the village of Flåm and the hamlets below, to a full-day excursion that includes a RIB boat ride, hiking or snowshoeing, and dog-sledding.

Bulder & Brak Adventures offers snowshoeing adventures high above the Sognefjord to Paradise Gorge, as well as winter kayaking trips beginning from Årdal, the gateway to Jotunheimen. A region of superb backcountry beauty, this stunning mountain area is home to more than 250 towering peaks and a wealth of challenges for skiers.

For alpine skiers, Sogndal on Sognefjord's northern shore is a winter wonderland of plush powder spread across two downhill ski resorts, Sogndal Ski Center and SOGN Skisenter Hafslo. Of course, if you want to go full Viking, there's the Ski & Train, a multi-day experience combining the beauty of the Flåm Railway with incredible backcountry skiing and an overnight stay.

Get Into Viking Culture

The traditions and culture of this region of Norway can take many shapes, from throwing an ax to sampling an incredible local beer. Start with the Flam Railway — one of the world's most scenic train journeys — as it winds its way from the snow-covered mountains of Hardangervidda National Park to the banks of the Aurlandsfjord, one of the country's most picturesque. You can also experience daily life firsthand in quaint villages like Flåm, Aurland, Loen, and Undredal. The latter is known for its picture-perfect red-roofed church and its beloved goat cheese.

To go straight to the heart of things, head to Viking Valley in Gudvangen-Njardarheimr, where you can step into a recreation of a traditional Viking community. You’ll hear tales of the inhabitants’ travels, watch a typical Viking battle, take part in ax throwing and archery, and sit down to a banquet of delicious Viking-style cuisine.

In Balestrand, on the north shores of the Sognefjord, history and heritage come to life through a daily walking tour that highlights this fjord town's role as an artistic capital. See the Dragestil (“dragon-style”) architecture, with its steep roofs and traditional Norse motifs, that typifies the area, as well as the furnishings of local craftsman Ivar Høyvik. You’ll also learn how landscape painters and watercolorists from around the globe came here for artistic inspiration.

From November through March, visitors to Flåm have an opportunity to partake in Fjord Tours' Cultural Evening Walk combined with a five-course “Viking plank” dinner and beer pairing at the village's Ægir Brewery. Discover how life in this fairytale town has changed from prehistory to the present, enjoy stories around a warming bonfire on the beach. Dinner includes plates of pork shank and smoked reindeer that are accompanied by amber ale and double IPA tastings. There are vegetarian and vegan options as well.

Bonfire in Norway / Courtesy of Fjord Norway

Dine and Drink, Viking-Style

The natural bounty of Fjord Norway’s fields, coasts, and forests are key to this area’s hearty traditional cuisine. The terrace restaurant at Flåm Marina, for starters, lets you dine with incredible waterfront views. Over at Flam's Ægir Brewery — a cozy two-story space with mythological themes — get a taste of Viking living with dishes like sweet shellfish soup and venison burgers, as well as a variety of craft beers. In the town of Aurland, not far from Flåm, Marianne Kafe & Bakeri whips up breads and cinnamon buns from scratch daily. 

Rest Your Weary Head

The Kvikne family has been running Balestrand's Fjordside Kviknes Hotel since 1877, though its history dates back even further. Choose among guestrooms in the hotel's original Swiss-style building, and more modern accommodations.

It takes some Viking know-how to reach the mountainside Vatnahalsen Høyfjellshotell (only accessible via train, bicycle, or on foot), but this 40-room hotel is a great base for exploring the wild outdoors and has both a restaurant and sauna on-site.

With good proximity to Nigardsbreen glacier, Jostedal Hotel is a modern space with bright soundproofed rooms and an eatery serving homemade Norwegian food.

There are rooms for every type of traveler, from solo adventurers to entire families at the Viking Valley's Gudvangen Fjordtell, a Viking-inspired property built by local craftsmen. Many have mountain or waterfall views.

In the village of Loen, spend the night in the Hotel Alexandra where you can swim in the heated outdoor pools while snowflakes drift down from above. Opened in 1884 and family-run, this hotel combines a traditional atmosphere with modern amenities.

Getting Around

Direct flights to Oslo, Ålesund, and Bergen are available from cities like Amsterdam (KLM) and Copenhagen (SAS), making a trip to Norway's southern fjords easy. Sogndal, on the Sognefjord, Sandane, and Hovden, near Loen, have local airports with flights chartered by Widerøe, a regional airline that serves the Nordic countries. Once you’ve arrived, Fjord Tours allows you to travel at your own pace, Viking-style, with just one ticket.

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