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Often called 'King of the Fjords', Sognefjord is Norway's longest fjord. Sognefjord is also the third longest fjord in the world. An amazing 4,291 feet deep in some areas, the spectacular fjord is set between steep cliffs soaring another 3,300 feet above the water's surface. Averaging over 2.5 miles wide, the scenery along the shoreline is always changing, from steep mountainsides showcasing spectacular waterfalls to small meadows, goats grazing on precarious slopes to small villages, and many branching fjords often famous in their own right. The surrounding terrain is mountainous and includes several national parks holding such natural wonders as the Jostedalsbreen, continental Europe's largest glacier. One of Norway's famed tourist roads, the Sognefjellet shadows the fjord's innermost branch, the Lustrafjord, before it heads into the mountains past the Jostedalsbreen glacier and across Northern Europe's highest mountain pass. In the opposite direction the Sognefjord stretches 127 scenic miles to the Norwegian Sea. It is no wonder that the Sognefjord is one of Norway's most attractive tourism destinations.
Many visitors tour the Sognefjord by boat. Luxury cruises can be arranged from several of the cities along the fjord. In fact, one of the most direct routes between towns along the shoreline is by boat, as steep cliffs along the shore require many additional miles by road. The fjord is a favorite for kayakers, small boats and fishermen, with watercraft available for rent in several areas for a day on the water. Several marinas on the fjord branches offer slip space and supplies for boaters. Nearly all larger towns have a small harbor which is friendly to visitors, and many are regular boarding points for the cruise ships sailing the fjord. These harbor towns are the point of entry to trails and roads into the surrounding mountains, with fishing guide services and tour guides leading glacier treks and excursions to local sights.
Fishermen enjoy the Sognefjord for the sea life it holds. The most common catches include pollock, flounder. whiting, cod and halibut. Fifteen of the rivers flowing into the Sognefjord are designated for sea trout and salmon fishing where special regulations apply. The town of Laerdal is home to the Norwegian Wild Salmon Centre, where avid anglers can learn all there is to know about these protected fish and observe them from a viewing station. The Sognefjord Aquarium in Balestrand exhibits over 100 kinds of fish that inhabit the Sognefjord. Wild trout are available in many of the mountain streams. Combining hiking with a little fly fishing is a favored activity in the area.
Mountain bikes may be rented in several areas, so active visitors may enjoy the spectacular scenery while engaging in their favorite sport. Some cyclists enjoy touring the entire 127-mile Sognefjellet with its scenic overlooks. Jotunheimen National Park can be accessed from the village of Skjolden on the Lustrafjord. The Jostedalsbreen National Park is easiest to access in the Luster and Sogndal areas; both offer glacier hikes and have glacier museums. Of particular cultural interest are the three stave churches that still exist near the inner end of the fjord. Kaupanger and Urnes are located along the shoreline, with Borgund the best preserved 19 miles up the Laerdal valley. These ancient wooden churches were built primarily in the 12th century and some are still in use today. All are a marvel of wood engineering and a tribute to the human search for meaning in the Middle Ages.
Plenty of other special sites are dotted around Sognefjord. Waterfall fans will be delighted with spectacular Vettisfossen waterfall in Ovre Ardal. The waterfall has a freefall drop of over 900 feet and is the highest protected waterfall in Norway. Other beautiful waterfalls are Feigumfossen in Luster, Kjosfossen in Flamsdalen and Kvinnafossen between Leikanger and Hella. Sogn Folk Museum at Kaupanger displays life along the Sognefjord with open-air exhibits and a traditional farm with live animals. And no visit would be complete without a tour on the Flam Railway. Once a part of the regular rail line, this short route climbs 2,835 feet in elevation up to Myrdal Station in only 12 miles-the steepest unassisted railway climb in the world. One branch of the Sognefjord, the Naeroyfjord, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site noted for its wild and unspoiled beauty.
Like other fjords, the Sognefjord is a natural feature complete with ancient myth and modern mystery. Although connected to the ocean and technically an arm of the sea, geophysical explorations suggest fjords formed from a number of different geological events in prehistory. Many lie along fault lines, and plate tectonics is suspected to have had a major role in their formation. Sognefjord is unusual in that its greatest depths are located near the inner end of the fjord, while the bottom rapidly rises near the sea where the water is only about 330 feet.
The high mountain peaks surrounding the fjord make its appearance even more dramatic and have led to the development of many facilities in the area for tourist lodgings. Hotels, inns, guest cottages and apartments are all available, often with spectacular views of the fjord and the surrounding mountains. Campgrounds and caravan resorts can also be found near the water. Holiday flats can be located year-round, and visiting the area blanketed with snow exposes a fantasy winter wonderland. Come visit Norway and Sognefjord-it will be an unforgettable experience!
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