The Norwegian Fjords - Top 5 Experiences From Stavanger & Bergen
In partnership with P&O Cruises
From the moment we first saw a picture of the Norwegian fjords, we’ve wanted to visit. Such an incredible feat of nature, we were awestruck and intrigued in equal measure. In September our dream to visit the fjords became a reality when we were invited by P&O Cruises to explore the coastal towns of Stavanger and Bergen. We went to sample some of the experiences that will be available to passengers on Iona, their Norwegian fjord cruise ship that launches next year.
Below are our top 5 experiences from the trip, but first we’ll start be explaining what a Fjord is… (neither of us knew before our trip so hopefully we can share some of our newly acquired knowledge!) A fjord is a long, narrow inlet of the sea, sandwiched between high cliffs, formed by the submergence of a glaciated valley - so basically where glaciers once used to be.
Now for our top 5 experiences:
Take a boat down the Lysefjord
Quite simply, one of the best ways to see the Fjords is to get up-close and personal on a boat trip. We took the X boat which took us on a winding adventure along Stavanger’s Lysefjord. Starting from Bergen harbour the boat soon left the confines of the city shoreline and entered rugged Norwegien nature as the landscape began to tower around us… this is what we came for! It was every bit as epic as we’d imagined, and soon we were made to feel completely insignificant as we passed under the famous Preikestolen or ‘Pulpit rock’, a steep, flat topped cliff rising 604 meters above the fjord.
Next we passed Hangjanefossen waterfall, falling 400 meters from the mountains above. Our captain was adamant that this water was the tastiest and freshest water in the whole world and so wasted no time in driving the boat straight for the waterfall and proudly getting out a bucket to fill with this life-enhancing elixir. We’ve got to say, despite the slightly yellowish tinge (hoping it's due to minerals or something!) it was pretty darn refreshing.
Just when we were starting to feel peckish the boat pulled up to Lysefjord-Helleren, a waffle house tucked away on the edge of the Fjord. A small, wooden shack, the restaurant is only accessible by boat and blends into neatly into the surrounding rock. What’s more, you get welcomed in by a Viking - an interesting addition but entertaining none-the-less. It’s safe to say you won’t get a view much better than this while stuffing yourself with fresh waffles and jam, anywhere in the world.
2. Hike To The Highest Waterfall In South West Norway.
Our usual motto is ‘don’t go chasing waterfalls’ and this is because we see so many copycat pictures of waterfalls in South East Asia on Instagram that we do our best to avoid these kinds of experiences for fear of disappointment. That said, there are exceptions to every rule and Norway’s Manafossen waterfall is one of those. Looking over the edge and feeling the force of the water as it hurls itself 92 meters into the canyon below makes you feel quite inconsequential in comparison - something that is strangely reassuring when you’re faced with Mother Nature’s might like this.
While the hike up to the top is fairly short - 30 minutes at most, it is steep and slippery (I definitely banana-skinned a couple of times!), so wear proper walking shoes or trainers and make sure you hold on to the ropes! It is well worth the effort though, as you stand watching the waterfall in all it’s glory, safe in the knowledge that you’ve earned the incredible view.
3. Get your fill of fresh King Crab at Bergen’s Indoor Fish Market
If you love seafood then Bergen’s indoor fish market has to be on your list. Lined with counters of straight-off-the-boat catch, you don’t get seafood much fresher than this. Now supplying restaurants worldwide with its famous King Crab, Norway is actually fairly new to the industry and the crabs aren’t native to the region. First released into the waters by Soviet biologists in the 1960s, there’s been an ongoing debate as to whether or not they have been beneficial to marine life and fishing in the region. Either way, they are there to stay and positively thriving. They also taste absolutely delicious and we can hands down say that it is the tastiest crab we have ever eaten.
While at the market, we ordered a seafood platter from one of the stands, taking a seat on a small wooden table, rolled up our sleeves and got stuck in Norwegian style. The local approach to cooking and eating Crab is simple - they gently steam it for 8 minutes and serve it straight to your plate, no need even for salt. The only accompaniments are some lemon mayonnaise for dipping and maybe a crisp glass of white wine. Perfection. The prawns also need a special mention from here, although modest in size, they are some of the tastiest little things we’ve ever eaten. Charlie single handedly put away 50+ (true story).
4. Take A Helicopter Ride Over Stavanger
This was a trip of many firsts for us, not only did we get to finally see the Norwegian Fjords, but we also took our first ever helicopter ride - something we had always wanted to experience, and it did not disappoint. Due to the weather, the original plan to view Pulpit Rock from the air had to be abandoned and instead we flew above the city where the weather was better. Whenever we find ourselves in a new city, we love to get up high and see it from above - it allows us see how everything is connected, giving us the feeling that we know our new surroundings that little bit better. Therefore getting to see Stavanger from a helicopter was awesome as we dipped and dived across the city and along the dramatic coastline. An adrenaline rush plus incredible views - this was definitely a highlight of an already incredible trip.
5. Dinner at Cornelius Seafood Restaurant, Bergen.
This meal deserves a special mention for a few reasons; first and foremost the food was fantastic - our 5 course seafood dinner being paired perfectly with wine from their extensive collection (just ask if you can have a look inside their cellar). Adding to this, the waterside setting, which is only reachable by boat is idyllic and adds a special feel to the place, and to top if off, the owner of the restaurant, Alf, is an absolute character!
The restaurant is situated on the islet of Holmen, in the archipelago outside of Bergen. The boat leaves from Bryggen docks in Bergen city centre and is included in the price of the meal and is where the experience begins! Here we were met by our driver and restaurant co-owner Alf, aptly nicknamed Oyster Dundee due to his taste in hats and love of diving and Oyster catching. A man of many words, Oyster Dundee entertained us with his tales of love, loss, adventure and exploration as we sped across the water towards the island.
The menu at Cornelius reflects whatever Alf may have caught that day along with other fresh seafood they keep in tanks at the restaurant. It’s fair to say not a morsel was left on any of the five dishes we were served and the generous servings of wine washed down the food perfectly. Feeling happy, full and fairly tipsy we finished the evening with a boat trip back to the mainland. A true feast and one that should be on anyone’s list if they’re in Bergen for a couple of days.
An action-packed few days and we still only scratched the surface of what the Norwegian Fjords have to offer. Spectacular scenery, delicious food and slightly eccentric Norwegian locals make the Fjords a place we could happily return to time and time again without ever getting bored.