Best time to visit the Norwegian fjords

Even in summer, pack for all seasons – or be subject to the famous Norwegian expression: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.
Norway is beautiful all year round. In the winter, cruise around the north Norway fjords for whale watching, and for a glimpse of the Northern Lights, a capricious sight that’s never guaranteed. Between May and October, western Norway opens to bikers and hikers as well as cruises. Between late June and early August is the best time to visit if you’re hoping to be land-based. You’ll get the most stable weather (western Norway remains one of the wettest areas in the world), highs of 25°C, and all amenities and hotels are fully open – but beware, the prices rise with the temperatures.

Norwegian fjords, month by month

December, January and February are the coldest time to visit, but Norway’s fjords won’t freeze, due to the Gulf Stream. Cruises in Norway’s fjords – even in the north – are able to run all year around. It’s also relatively mild in the Lofoten Islands. March remains a snowy time of year in Norway – winter sports continue through the month, with more daylight hours to enjoy them. As April turns to May, snow melts and Norway’s fjords become very colourful, with wildflowers in bloom and blossom on trees. May is also when most accommodation is open – so most fjord tours will start from now. Late June to mid August is the busy time of year in fjordland, with the weather at its mildest. This is when self guided cycling breaks and guided hiking holidays run, making the most of the pleasant summer weather. Up in the Arctic Circle, the sun will not set – the best time to see this eerie midnight sun is from June until July. In mid August, Norwegians get excited about berry picking: cherries, cloudberries, lingonberries and blueberries – the savviest use a specialised hand-held rake to scrape the bushes. In September the apple harvest begins in Hardanger: a glut might mean residents leave apples outside their houses for passers-by to take. Up in the Lyngen Alps, now is a great time to view the Northern Lights, before the first snow has fallen. By October, beautiful autumn colours are stealing through the hillside, but the days are getting shorter, and there's a possibility of autumn storms. November is a great time to see whales feeding in the fjords and it’s also the best time to swim with orcas now. Massive schools of herring bring the orca, particularly to the fjords around Tromsø, and liveaboard safaris take you to them, sometimes seeing as many as 80 orca at one time. From November your chance of seeing the Northern Lights is higher as there are more hours of darkness. The peak viewing season runs through December, January and on to February, but bring warm clothes as it’s very cold now.

Bergen Weather Chart

RAIN (mm)

Things to do

Things to do in the Norwegian fjords

Travel by boat. The best way to see a few dozen bodies of water? On a boat, of course. Norway has a great ferry system and is currently moving to launch more hybrid, electric and even hydrogen-powered vessels. There is currently a fully-electric vessel operating in Nærøyfjord. If you want your route planned for you, then a small ship cruise is the best way to reach as much of the coast as you can. Try a family-friendly farm stay. Think of Norway and you might imagine red clapboard houses with bright white eaves and a sauna at the back – well, they’re real, they’re red, and you can stay in one. Some working farms around the fjords welcome guests. Wood fires and cosy rooms await, and all sorts of seasonal produce, from mountain trout to reindeer, might cross your plate. Pack your hiking boots. Don’t neglect the ‘fjell’ (mountain) part of Norway’s beloved ‘fjells and fjords’ landscape. Norway has 44 mountainous national parks where you have ‘freedom to roam’ – the 1957 Outdoor Recreation Act ensured that anyone can enjoy the landscape. Climb Molden peak above Sognefjord on a summer night and catch a high-altitude 4am sunrise, or hike across the glacier plateau at Folgefonna. Small group, week-long hiking holidays lead you to the best spots, while tailor made tours can often include a day’s guided hiking.

Things not  to do in the Norwegian fjords

Don’t dismiss public transport. On a small group hiking holiday in Norway’s fjords you’ll rely on ferries to get to the best trailheads. Luckily, transport around Norway’s fjords isn’t just reliable, it’s also beautiful, like the 20km ferry journey along Geriangerfjord (gorgeous all the way), or the Flåm railway, which takes the steepest, most scenic route to Myrdal mountain station. Even getting to the region is pleasant. The train from Oslo to Bergen travels through a medley of meadows and mountains, while keeping your carbon footprint in check. Don’t just drink Aquavit. Norway’s water is amazing. It’s delicious straight out of the tap, supplies most of the country’s power (hydroelectricity represents 98 percent of Norway’s electricity supply), and where would the fjords be without it? In some places you can even refill your bottle straight from the waterfall – though it’s always best to check with your guide first. Don’t forget your long-range lens. Norway’s wildlife is joyous and whether you’re hiking, biking or just on a short break, keep an eye out. In the fjords, you can spot otters, seals and porpoises, plus whales in November, hunting herring. The further north you go, the more animals outnumber Norwegians. Trollfjord is the home to many white-tailed eagles. Some tour guides hold out fish, tempting the birds down to dance at their fingertips. Let them be; use your long-range lens to see the birds at a more dignified distance.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Norwegian fjords or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Norwegian fjords holiday advice

Laura Greenman, from our partner, has this advice:

Best time to go

“I personally enjoy experiencing the beginning of autumn from mid-August onwards when you can go berry-picking and enjoy the changing colours.”

Farmstead stays

“The 360 degree immersion into spectacular surroundings and the warm and friendly hosts make this a really special place. The farmstead has been in the family for generations, which is evident in the careful way the buildings have been renovated or created from scratch. The hosts are proud of their heritage and surroundings and want guests to really feel and experience their setting whether that's in the unique rooms, the locally sourced food or during a guided excursion in the mountains and fjords.”

What does everyone forget to bring?

“Slippers! It's a Nordic tradition to wear slippers indoors, and although they're sometimes provided, it's always handy to have a lightweight pair with you so you can relax Norwegian style wherever you are.”
Caroline Worle, from our supplier the Small Ship Cruise Collection, on cruising around Norway:

Best time to go north

“For Northern Lights you need to go November to February as this is when there is a greater chance of viewing due to the greater number of dark hours. If you prefer to see more of the country then outside of these months would be recommended due to longer daylight hours. For the midnight sun aim for June/July. In Svalbard the sun does not set from mid April to mid August.”

Norwegian fjord cruises

“Coastal cruise offers options to visit many towns along the coast, you get to meet the locals as you are using the same transport that they do. Food is very fresh with fish perhaps being caught from a fishing boat that you may spot from your ship that day.”

Advice from our travellers

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Norwegian fjords travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday - and the space inside your suitcase.
Getting to see the Northern Lights - we were very lucky to have had a clear night to see them. They were amazing.
– Patrick Courtney on a short break to the Norwegian fjords
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: Jeff Sheldon] [Intro: Mark] [Things to do in the Norwegian fjords: Wes Grant] [Laura Greenman quotes: Ximonic] [Caroline Worle quotes: pgwallin] [Patrick Courtney quote: Tobias Bjørkli]