While a myriad of countries including Greenland, Alaska, and Chile boast these dramatic geological formations, only one country can really lay claim to being the home of the fjord: Norway. A Norwegian word, fjord has become inseparably linked with Norway and the waterways themselves a national symbol. In a country whose coastline measures over 15,000 miles – but only 1,500 miles if fjords and bays are removed, this is understandable. And it’s therefore no wonder that cruises to Norway have become an increasingly popular way of visiting this country and appreciating what have been recognised as some of the world’s most significant places of natural beauty.
A legacy of the planet’s ice ages
Fjords in Norway and around the world are just another reminder of the glacial history of the planet. Originally carved over a succession of ice ages by sheets of ice and glaciers that extended below sea level before starting to retreat, the resulting fjords are u-shaped, over-deepened valleys. Noted for their steep, almost vertical sides, they can sometimes measure over 3,300 ft. (1,000m) in depth, with the deepest point located furthest inland where the initial glacial force was at its strongest.
The terminal moraine or debris that was collected by the glacier and deposited at the furthest point that it advanced is found at the mouth of the fjord, making this part of the channel shallower than the rest. Calmer sea conditions than those experienced in open water are common here; thus making fjords perfect for exploring by boat tour.
Admire the fjords with cruises to Norway
Cruises to Norway are a fantastic way of exploring this unique geological formation, particularly given that two of the longest fjords in the world are to be found here. Sognefjord stretches over a distance of 126-miles (200 km), halfway to the Swedish border, while the Hardanger Fjord is 112 miles (180 km) long. Both can be visited with a cruise boat tour.
Norway is the location of the narrowest fjord in the world, the Nærøyfjord, which stretches across the Voss, Aurland, Vik, and Laerdal municipalities in the south-west of Norway. It is as narrow as 820 ft. (250m) at points and was made famous in 2012 by its inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List for natural heritage.
Alongside nearby Geirangerfjord (a fjord of exceptional picturesque scenery), Nærøyfjord combines steep mountainsides stretching from 5,000 ft. (1,500m) above sea level, to 1640 ft. (500m) below and cascading waterfalls fed by glacial meltwater from the glaciers in the mountains above. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful fjords on the planet.
Marine wildlife in the Norwegian fjords
The Norwegian fjords are also sites of marine interest. Not only are they home to seals, dolphins, porpoises, and whales, they are the location of some of the largest cold-water coral reefs. As yet less understood than their cousins – the tropical coral reef – cold-water corals are characterised by a preference for complete darkness.
Conditions for this habitat can also include water pressure measuring hundreds or thousands of kilograms per square meter, which unfortunately makes these unique marine ecosystems difficult to visit. However, they are a sign of how the Norwegian fjords form part of an intricate ecosystem that has been shaped over thousands of years.
Strategies for promoting sustainable tourism
In light of this and the growing tourism in the region, site managers for the fjords have been investigating how they can promote cruises to Norway and other boating tours around the fjords while continuing to protect and preserve the area’s unique ecosystems. Working alongside staff from the Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska, they’re actively pursuing strategies to ensure that Norway’s stunning fjords, which attract thousands of tourists per year, are able to continue being accessible and environmentally sustainable for the future.