Visit the Norwegian fjords in winter

The Norwegian fjords are a spectacular sight at any time of the year. This is what you need to know to visit Norway’s fjords in the winter season.

Surely many of you who are reading this have visited the fjords of Norway. Or maybe you are researching the journey of a lifetime from the other side of the world.

Aurlands Fjord in winter
Aurlandsfjord in the winter.

Many people plan to visit the Norwegian fjords in the summer. That’s understandable, as the weather is generally better and the days are much longer. But as the photos on this page show, there is something incredibly special about fjords in their winter coat.

Nevertheless! Visiting Norway in winter is definitely low season, so you have to put a lot more effort into planning your trip as well.

You’ll need to be prepared for closed attractions and lodging, and fewer dining options. Above all, some roads will be closed especially in mountain passes and other smaller roads in more remote areas.

So before you rush to plan a winter trip, read on!

Why visit the Norwegian fjords in winter?

There are some definite benefits to visiting the fjord region of Norway in the winter.

Lysefjord with snow in winter

First of all, the fjord scenery can be simply stunning with a sprinkling of snow. It’s hard to convey in photos how beautiful winter tint can be.

Another plus point: it’s cheaper. That applies to car rental and accommodation prices, compared to high season.

There are also far fewer crowds. Well-known “resort towns” such as Geiranger and Hellesylt are once again transformed into sleepy communities.

Disadvantages of visiting the fjords in winter

That said, there is no doubt that visiting the region at this time of year is a bit of a risk. In early winter, rain could freeze on cold roads, making driving difficult.

Later in the winter, snow storms can cause significant delays or even close roads. If you are a nervous driver or if you have never driven in such conditions, take this into account in your decision.

Winter trip to Geirangerfjord.
Winter trip to Geirangerfjord.

Both rain and snow can also ruin the expected scenic views of course! While the images on this page show the best of the winter landscape, you should be prepared for less.

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Planning is important when it comes to lodging and attractions. For example, many campgrounds will be closed, even those that offer cabin rentals. You may be restricted to hotels in established cities or, at best, a smaller variety of cabins.

Attractions are also likely to operate reduced hours or even be closed. Many museums are only open for a few hours in winter (for example, from 11:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.). The Flåm Railway makes only four departures compared to eight or more in the summer.

Planning a winter trip

Of course, for many people, this lack of things to do is precisely why they plan a winter trip. If you’ve decided to go ahead with your plans, here are a few things to keep in mind. In short: it’s planning, planning and planning some more.

Pick the right time: Visiting in the period from October to January can be a gloomy experience. Rainfall is usually maximum and the short days mean that tourist visits are limited.

Sognefjord in the dull light of early winter.
Sognefjord in the dull light of early winter.

However, February-April is a wonderful time to visit the fjords. There is usually more snow and more daylight to enjoy the scenery. However, some mountain roads will remain closed.

Consider not driving: Chances are you’ll be fine with winter driving here, especially if you’re used to winter conditions. However, if you run into a snowstorm or a closed road or miss a ferry, it can ruin your trip.

If you prefer not to take the risk, it is possible to explore the fjords by public transport. The popular Norway in a Nutshell trip operates during the winter, but the Bergen-Sognefjord ferry does not.

Norway in a Nutshell covers part of the famous Oslo to Bergen Railway, the Flåm Railway and a ferry trip across the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord. There are different options for departure points and optional overnight stays, but there are fewer itinerary options in the winter because there are fewer departures on most services.

I haven’t taken this tour during the winter, but I highly recommend considering it, especially if you plan on spending time in Oslo or Bergen while in Norway. It’s a natural complement to a winter stay in either city.

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Flåm Railway in winter.  Photo: Manida Thiensiripipat /
Flåm Railway in winter. Photo: Manida Thiensiripipat /

There are some advantages to making the trip out of peak season. Of course, there is the spectacular scenery from the train window and the chance to see frozen waterfalls on the Flåm Railway. Depends on the weather, of course! But the biggest benefit is that the trip is much calmer than in high season.

don’t assume anything: As I have mentioned several times, some attractions are closed or have much shorter opening hours during the winter. Guided tours may not be available. Outdoor museums may only have their indoor exhibits open. The list goes on!

If there’s something you’d really like to see, check it out. If you find a museum on Google Maps, check with the museum itself to see if it is open. Do not trust Google listings or other websites.

Plan some free time: I hear from many people planning a trip to Norway. While I offer no help with itineraries, I do see a common thread. People try to pack so many things in a short space of time.

While that’s understandable given the high cost of visiting Norway, I’d highly recommend planning some downtime into your itinerary, especially in the winter.

Norwegian fjord village in winter.
The colorful Norwegian houses really pop against the winter landscape.

With no crowds, it’s a wonderful time to relax in the serenity of the fjords. It also helps to have some spare time in case something goes wrong with your travel itinerary.

dress appropriately: Last but definitely not least, plan your wardrobe! While winters in Norway aren’t necessarily as cold as many people think, that’s not always the case in the mountains. The weather in and around the mountainous fjord region is notoriously changeable.

ask the locals: If you are driving and touring the region on your own, it is a good idea to ask for local advice. No one knows the paths and viewpoints better than them. The locals tend to be friendlier in the winter, which isn’t always the case when the selfie-stick-using tourist crowds descend in the summer months!

Have you visited the fjords of Norway during the winter? What were your favorite memories? Can you share any advice with our readers? Let us know in the comments below.

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