If you are looking to experience routes traveled by Vikings in northern Europe, visiting the fjords along the western Norwegian coastline would be the best destination. Discover the Vikings’ seaworthiness and their travel bug that developed the Norwegian coastline, toward the west to Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, Scotland, Ireland and Greenland.
The Norwegian Vikings also discovered Vinland, The modern America, by 1000 CE — much earlier than Columbus. Although Fjords can be found in many parts of the world, the word originates from Norway, and the western region of Norway is where most of them can be found.
Fjord (the “j” is pronounced like an “y” in English) is one of the few Norwegian words that have been internationalized, especially in English where it is used directly. Fjord comes from the Norse fjǫrðr. This stems, in turn, from the prehistoric Indo-European word prtús, derived from por or per, meaning “go”, “pass” or “to put over on the other side.”
A fjord is a long, narrow and deep bay, usually surrounded by equally steep mountainous terrain. The largest fjords extend 200 kilometers (125 miles) inland and go around 1300 m (4265 feet) deep. In July 2005, a number of Norwegian Fjords were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The outstanding landscape was inscribed in the list due to its unique natural quality and beauty.
Sognefjord is believed to hold the most beautiful fjord landscapes in the world. The depth varies between 10 and 500 meters and the surrounding mountains are up to more than 1400 meters high. Sognefjord has more than 1300 meter deep at the deepest. Numerous beautiful waterfalls and rivers characterize the landscape, crossing the rocky mountains, deciduous and coniferous forests on their way down to the fjords.
Stunning villages with a sustained cultivated landscape with remainders of old farms and mountain meadows and unique cultural monuments give an extra dimension to the dramatic natural landscape. A fjord is formed when a glacier cuts a U-shaped valley by grazing the surrounding substratum through several ice ages.
Glacial melting is complemented by the ricochet of the Earth’s crust as the ice load and eroded sediment is removed. In some cases this rebound is faster than the sea level rises. Most fjords are deeper than the adjacent sea. Fjords generally have a sill or rise at their mouth caused by the previous glacier’s terminal moraine, in many cases causing extreme currents and large saltwater rapids.
Saltstraumen in Norway is often described as the world’s strongest tidal current. These characteristics distinguish fjords from rias, which are drowned valleys flooded by the rising sea. In 2000, some coral reefs were found along the bottoms of the Norwegian fjords. These reefs were found in fjords from the north of Norway to the south.
The nautical life on the reefs is said to be one of the most important reasons of why the Norwegian shoreline is such an important fishing ground. Since this discovery is objectively new, little research has been done. The reefs are the home to thousands of lifeforms such as plankton, coral, anemones, fish, sharks and many more species.
Most are adapted to life under the greater pressure of the water column above it, and the total darkness of the seemingly bottomless sea. In some places near the seaward margins of areas with fjords, the ice-scoured channels are so many and varied in direction that the rocky coast is divided into thousands of island wedges, some are large and rugged, while others are merely rocky points or rock reefs that are difficult to navigate.
These are called skerries. The skerry term is derived from the Old Norse sker, which means a rock in the sea. Skerries are most commonly formed at the channel of fjords where glacially formed valleys that are perpendicular to the coast join with other cross valleys in a complex grouping.
The island fringe of Norway is such a group of skerries (skjærgård); many of the cross fjords are so arranged parallel the coast and provide a safe canal behind an almost endless chain of rocky islands and skerries. By this canal one can travel through a protected passage almost the entire 1,601 kilometers (995 miles) route from Stavanger to North Cape, Norway.
The Blindleia is a skerry-protected waterway that starts near Kristiansand in southern Norway.