If you’re a leisure cyclist Norway bike tours might at first seem too challenging. Our review of a Norwegian Fjords cycling holiday will reassure you that with the right support you can easily ride through one of Europe’s most impressive landscapes.
Norway bike tours: why cycle to the fjords?
Experienced touring cyclists have known about the challenges of cycling in Norway for some time: the weather can be patchy; there are mountains as high as the fjords are deep; and logistically, it’s not always easy. What’s changing is that there are now guided cycling tours that open up the most impressive routes to leisure cyclists.
There are other routes but few where the scenery in this epic. And that’s before you even get there. The key is not to take the ‘helicopter tourist’ approach. Don’t just drop in, hire a bike and ride around. Instead, make the fjords your destination. Make the approach part of the journey and you’ll not only get the reward of arriving into the spectacular Fjord Norway region, you’ll discover much more along the way.
How to get there?
There are plenty of flights to Oslo, however to start most Norway bike tours to the fjords you’ll need to get a connection to Bergen (55 minutes) and then make your way up to Voss (1hr+ by car).
Go unsupported or guided?
Of course it’s possible to go bikepacking around the fjords. Load up panniers, pack a micro tent, sort your navigation and head off. It’s just that it’s not for everyone. You could also book a hotel on the banks of a fjord and hire a bike. Now, while there’s no doubt you’d have a great time, you’d miss so much. If you want to really explore what is a vast region in a relatively short time – and get some cultural insights along the way – this review of a Norwegian Fjords cycling holiday will show that guided tours are your best bet.
Choosing bikes and stretching our legs
After a restful night at the traditional Store Ringheim hotel just outside of Voss, we met up with local experts Bike the Fjords and started our journey.
After setting up bikes we rolled out for a warm-up day. Neat cycle paths lead out of town to rolling lakeside lanes and soon all we heard was the road hum of our tyres. Occasionally a car passed, but for most of the one-hour ride we were alone. Clean air. Mountain views. Glacial lakes. We had arrived.
The route took us via along the shore of Lonavatnet and via Tvinde waterfall. It’s a tourist stop-off, but still worth the visit. Our guide Martha used her insider knowledge to get us to a viewing point that few others would have found.
As we were still some km away from Sognefjord we jumped in the van to skip ahead, jumping back on the bikes for the last 15km of the day. The short climb to Myrkdalen Hotel was a reminder things were about to get tougher. Showered up we feasted to replace the calories happily burned, memory cards slowly filling up…
Norway Bike Tours: Cycling from Myrkdalen to Sognefjord
The anticipation was building. There are a few Norway bike tours you could choose, but the fjords are the big-ticket tourist items and before we’d got near them we were already overwhelmed with the scenery. Just how impressive will the fjords be? And just how tough is it going to be to get to them? Within a few km of the hotel we found out…
Leaving Myrkdalen Hotel the road meandered for a while through lightly forested valleys straightening to the first real challenge of the trip. Ahead was Vikafjellet and five switchbacks that cut across the hill. For serious riders this is easy stuff; for leisure riders it’s time to get your head from behind your camera and ready for some hard work.
Climbing past a crashing waterfall, I was forever looking over my shoulder to the view, which improved with every pedal stroke. And it’s just the start. From here there’s a gradual climb to the top. Is that a glacier? Yes, it is. Another photo stop – or hastily snapped iPhone picture.
If you’re lucky you can get incredible weather in spring, making it easy to forget these roads only open on May 1 each year – and then only if the snow has cleared. We stopped for food, washing down the icy air with gulps of black coffee, bikes propped up in a wall of ice.
The approach to Sognefjord
After all that climbing, the only way had to be down. Before the fun though we had a chilly blast through one of the tunnels this part of Norway is known for.
Having chosen a road bike this was my chance to get the best out of it. Hanging on, howling my way down, I let out all the emotion that had built up in the approach. Cycling here is overwhelming at times. It’s so peaceful. Nature dominates every moment. And having cycled with others in the group so far, I was having a blast.
Sognefjord is massive; at 205km (127 miles) it’s the largest of the fjords. Our first view was from above the village of Vikoyri and honestly I was underwhelmed… It’s stunning for sure; it was just hard to grasp the scale of it from there.
Not to worry, once down the tightening, swooping road and through what looked like a Swiss alpine village, it wasn’t long before the penny dropped. Actually, it was on the ferry across to Balestrand when I grasped just what a behemoth of a waterway this is – and what a very special day I’d just had on the bike.
Around Sognefjord and the epic Gaularfjellet
Despite feeling mildly battered from the previous day’s adventures, the early light had me wandering the waterfront of the Kviknes Hotel before breakfast – a favoured spot of Kaiser Willhelm no less. It’s so easy on Norway bike tours to find peace, moments of calm before the day.
And what an epic day it was about to be… Gaularfjellet is a serious climb and it was to be our route out of Sognefjord. I’m happy to admit I had concerns it might be beyond me – riding 10km at an average of 7% on tired legs isn’t easy.
By the time I started the first of countless switchbacks it was already getting hot; by the time I reached the top I was baking. Straight over to the melting snow to fill my water bottle and then I wobbled my legs across to take in the view from the top. Epic, like awesome, is hugely overused. Well, on this day it was the word of the day.
Our route passed another glacier and descended fast on empty roads. The noise of melting water building to a crescendo as it filled a powerful river, which passed our hotel for the night, the farmhouse at Flatheim.
Flatheim and finding more than fjords
The most rural of our stopovers, Flatheim is somewhere between working farm and living museum. Still, it’s finished beautifully and modern where it needs to be.
We made an early start on our last day, keen to get every minute spent on the bikes. Again we followed the prominent waterway past crushing waterfalls – but this time to a series of lakes.
At this moment in our review of a Norwegian Fjords cycling holiday we were reminded that the Fjord Norway region is as much about the surrounding landscapes as it is the larger waterways.
Led this time by Vidar, we were riding through Sogn og Fjordane county. Skirting the waterline we descended to cross Jolstravatnet. Toblerone mountaintops towering over its brooding waters. Far narrower than the fjord valleys, this lake crossing served up more drama – by this point I had given up taking photographs, still there’s always time for an exception…
The route back to Bergen
Most Norway bike tours start and end in Bergen. However long you choose to cycle for, look to return by boat via its outlying islands: a great way to end a Norwegian fjords cycling holiday.
For a two-day option you could do a shorter trip, via Myrkdalen to Sognefjord and a night at the Kviknes Hotel. Balestrand could be an ideal place to end your adventure: it’s served by an express ferry, a super-quick catamaran that will have you back in Bergen in four hours.
Ride an additional two days – as described in this piece – via Gaularfjellet and on to Askvoll, and it’s the same type of ferry that blasts you back to Bergen, this time in just two hours.
Review of Norwegian Fjords cycling holiday with Bike the Fjords
Professional and highly personable support from Martha and the team throughout! It’s a family business that caters for everyone, from leisure riders up to a team from Rapha. Our group was of mixed ability and ages so we mixed road, hybrid and e-bikes. And that was the strength of Bike the Fjords: they adapted to everyone, making a route that may seem too difficult on paper, totally achievable for leisure cyclists.
Martha clearly loves this landscape and knows just how much information you might want along the way – and I’m sure in her own time she cycles it much faster than we ever could!
I hope you enjoyed my review of a Norwegian Fjords cycling holiday. For details on more Norway bike tours, take a look at Bike the Fjords and for more specialised and regional information there’s also FjordNorway and Visit Norway.