In the land of the Vikings
The word “fjord” is originally Old Norse and means "a place used for passage and ferrying". This is logical enough, because when humans originally settled in Norway after the last ice age, travelling on the water was the only way to get around. Around many of the fjords are relics of both the Bronze Age and the Viking Age.
The fjords along the west coast of Norway were largely ice-free due to the warm water transported there by the Gulf Stream. It made travel by boat possible all year round. The mild climate also made farming possible, there was a plentiful supply of fish along the coast along with excellent opportunities to transport goods to and from the settlements in the fjords and along the Norwegian coast. The hunting was good too, with elk and deer in the forests, and reindeer on the mountains.
It’s perhaps not that surprising that the Vikings liked the western fjords so much. You also did not have to travel very far when it was time to set off on another Viking voyage of discovery.
The Viking Age lasted from around 800 to 1066. In this relatively short period of time, the Vikings managed to leave their mark not only on Norwegian culture, but in Europe too. They are probably best known for warring and looting, as portrayed by “The Vikings” TV series, but the Vikings were just as occupied with trading.
Thanks to their highly efficient vessels and a large helping of courage, not to mention an adventurous spirit, the Vikings actually got as far as Byzantium (modern day Istanbul, Turkey) and traded with the Baghdad caliphate.
Many of them also settled in France, Scotland and Ireland. Others emigrated to Iceland, and Leiv Eiriksson established a settlement on a previously unknown continent when he discovered America around the year 1000.
The Vikings brought back not only riches and slaves with them to Norway, but also Christianity. After the conversion of Norway to Christianity, which began around the year 1000, a number of beautiful and intricate stave churches were built from timber. Some of these are still standing, and three stave churches can be found along Sognefjord: Urnes, Kaupanger and Hopperstad.
The most famous of these is Urnes Stave Church, which is situated at Ornes farm on the shore of Lustrafjord.
Head back in time to the Viking Age
Along the fjords, you will find evidence of trade and settlements. The place names which originate from the Old Norse language, such as Kaupanger, Solvorn and Gudvangen, reveal that the Vikings had their roots here.
if you would like to spend a few hours, a whole day or even longer sampling what life as a Viking was like, this is your chance. Viking festivals, Viking days and Viking markets take place in many towns and villages across Norway.
At Njardarheimr in Gudvangen, deep in Nærøyfjord, you will find a Viking village where you can experience what Viking life was like for yourself.
Here, you can read more about the Viking village in Gudvangen and how to get there.