Staying in the Sognefjord
Norway's western coast has an intricate maze of more than 1,000 fjords creating a dramatic landscape of steep, lush mountains, tumbling waterfalls, and calm seawater. The Sognefjord, nicknamed the "king of the fjords," is the longest and deepest fjord stretching 127 miles (204 km). Because of its expansive size and accessibility from Bergen and Oslo, it's also the most visited fjord in the country.
There are many cozy villages and towns to choose from depending on your preference: Flåm and Aurland are on the southern side via a narrow branch called the Aurlandsfjord, with access to hiking, cycling, kayaking, and fishing. Meanwhile, Sogndal, Solvorn, Hafslo, and Balestrand are on the northern side with access to the Lustrafjord, a 12th-century UNESCO-listed stave church, and Fjærlandsfjord home to the Norwegian Glacier Museum at the edge of Jostedal Glacier (the largest glacier in mainland Europe). For more ideas, check out the top experiences in the fjord region.
You can't stay much closer to the waterfront than Flåm Marina. Directly on the Aurlandsfjord, this peaceful property is slightly removed from Flåm's cruise ship crowds yet still within walking distance to village attractions. The year-round property offers 12 units—a mix of rooms and apartments (great for families) with simple, contemporary furnishings—and each faces the fjord with a private furnished balcony or terrace.
Guests can also relax at the year-round bar and restaurant with a seasonal outdoor terrace enticing boaters who take advantage of the little marina in front. It has a cool, laid-back vibe with blankets and candles that add warmth and coziness after dusk. The dock in the front of the property is a nice place to catch some rays, and there is a ladder for swimmers. There's also a floating sauna on a boat—often docked near the hotel—available for a fee. Learn more
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This seasonal, family-owned hotel Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri once hosted British salmon anglers in the 19th century. Today, 22 rooms come in a few different categories and buildings right next to each other in the heart of Aurland, steps from a bakery, shoemaker, and glassblower—great for souvenirs. The main hotel offers single, double, and superior rooms with various configurations that blend modern decor with antiques. For more space, there are apartment options, including a row of contemporary fisherman's cabins with balconies facing the fjord, equipped with kitchenettes, living rooms, and two bedrooms.
A light, elegant breakfast spread is offered each morning in the charming Aabelheim House for hotel guests (except those staying in the units with kitchenettes). For other meals, dine at the hotel's gastropub with indoor and outdoor seating, serving locally-sourced meat and seafood and housemade pizzas. Guests can take a dip in the fjord by using a hidden beach next to the cabins, while a larger beach is a short walk away. Or, relax with a book in the private garden surrounded by flowering plants. Learn more
The Heimly Pensjonat is a peaceful guesthouse offering striking views of the Aurlandsfjord—and like the Flåm Marina listed above (a neighbor), is located on the other side of town, removed from the near-daily cruise ship crowds that are often spotted across the vista. The hotel's 22 rooms were renovated as of 2018 and have sparsely furnished yet contemporary decor with hardwood-style floors and bathrooms with walk-in showers. Most rooms have views of the fjord and surrounding mountains.
Common areas include a seated garden with views and a lounge with board games, while the Nordic-style dining room offers hardwood tables topped with rattan chandeliers. You'll be here a few times a day, as the rate includes complimentary breakfast buffets and gourmet three-course dinners focusing on local, organic, and Norwegian cuisine. A bar is available in the evenings for wine, beer, and spirits (for a fee). Learn more
Hafslo's family-run Eikum Hotel dates to 1919 and is a reliable base for those who plan to be out and about. Guests are within a 10-minute drive to the ferry to Urnes Stave Church and within an hour's drive of the Jostedal Glacier (for activities and tours), the Sognefjellet National Tourist Road, the Breheimsenterent Glacier Center, and the Norwegian Glacier Museum. During warmer months, staff can readily recommend hiking and biking trails in the area and can arrange fishing permits for Lake Hafslo, steps from the hotel.
There are 59 rooms with simple, traditional decor that may include clapboard walls, carpeting, and locally woven textiles from previous family members who ran the place. Breakfast is included, and the spacious restaurant prepares a two-course dinner each evening during the summer months with traditional dishes and a local pudding specialty for dessert. Parking at the hotel is free, and there's a grocery store chain across the street for basic supplies. Learn more
Balestrand Hotel is a budget-friendly option in artsy Balestrand with views of the Sognefjord from a large terrace and a private little beach for swimming. In the lobby, the new, second-generation family owners have spruced up the interiors to create a hip, open layout for ordering drinks and snacks, including coffee, tea, wine, and beer, with several tables and lounge areas topped with flickering candles. Though it's a quieter location and a bit removed from the center of town, the owners will pick you up and deliver you at the ferry dock during arrivals and departures.
There are 30 sparsely decorated rooms, and half have big windows and seated balconies overlooking splendid fjord views (especially lovely with a cup of coffee from the lobby or a beer at sunset). The other 15 rooms are in the rear, up against a mountain dotted with houses (for a lesser cost). Most rooms can be configured depending on a guest's preference, and extra beds can be added if a bigger group exists. Learn more