Licensed Guide and Norway Tour Planner

Western Region Guide

The western parts of Norway are renowned for their stunning natural beauty characterized by dramatic fjords, towering mountains, picturesque coastal villages, and vibrant green landscapes.

This guide covers the western coastline from Stavanger in the south to Ålesund in the north, to a few hundred kilometers inland. For the major cities in this part of the country check out my City Guides.

When to Visit

When planning your visit to Western Norway, consider the activities you want to do and the weather conditions that suit your preferences. Keep in mind that weather can vary widely even within the same season, so it's a good idea to check the forecast closer to your travel dates. Additionally, if you're visiting during the peak season, it's advisable to book accommodations and activities in advance to secure your preferred options.

Blog: See my packing list for Norway.

Summer (June to August): This is the peak tourist season in Western Norway. The weather is generally mild, with long days and temperatures ranging from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F) in coastal areas. This is an excellent time for outdoor activities such as hiking, fjord cruises, kayaking, and exploring the picturesque coastal towns.

Spring (April to May) and Autumn (September to October): These shoulder seasons offer milder temperatures compared to winter and fewer crowds compared to summer. Spring brings blooming flowers and vibrant green landscapes, while autumn showcases colorful foliage. These seasons are ideal for hiking, sightseeing, and experiencing the natural beauty of the fjords and mountains. However, be prepared for some rainfall, as Western Norway is known for its unpredictable weather.

Winter (November to March): Winter in Western Norway is characterized by shorter days, colder temperatures, and the possibility of snowfall, especially in mountainous areas. While it may not be the peak tourist season, winter offers unique experiences such as skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing in ski resorts like Voss and Myrkdalen. Additionally, if you're lucky, you may have the chance to witness the Northern Lights, especially in the northern parts of Western Norway.

Getting Into

The western parts of Norway are generally well connected with buses, trains, flights, and a good road network, although roads might be windy and narrow.

Train: VY covers a lot of the region with the Bergen Line going between Oslo and Bergen, and the Rauma Line covering the area from Dombås to Ålesund. To get to Flåm you can ride the scenic Flåm Railway from Myrdal to Flåm (also with VY).

If you are heading to Stavanger (from Oslo or the south) then the Sørlandsbanen (Southern Rail Line) is a good option. Get tickets at Go Ahead Nordic.

Bus: Nor-Way Bus Express has two great lines that cover a good chunk of the west. The Fjord Express goes between Bergen and Førde and is good for visiting small idyllic coastal communities and dramatic landscapes. For inland travel check out their Sognefjord Express route which connects Bergen with popular destinations such as Voss, Gudvangen, Flåm & Sogndal. To get to Stavanger (from Oslo or the south) you can ride the Konkurrenten route.

Vy Buss also has the line VY170 which can take you between Oslo and Sogndal.

To reach Geiranger, you might want to check out their VY25 line which goes between Ålesund, Åndalsnes and Geiranger. And for the Hardangerfjord you can take a VY train to Geilo, and Vy Bus to Eidfjord from there.

Flight: Most convenient airports on the west of Norway you find in the larger towns such as Bergen, Stavanger and Ålesund. Find flights here.

Car: A great way to see the west coast is by rental car. But be prepared to drive on narrow windy roads next to a fjord, and to cross steep mountain passes.

Borgund Stave Church Norway

Places to Stay

Here are some of my favorite places to stay in the western part of Norway. Many of these are historical hotels and well-known for their charm and hospitality.

Bergen & Stavanger Area

Want to splurge on an island close to Bergen? Bekkjarvik Guest House is located just south of Bergen by the harbor of Bekkjarvik. Stay in the old historical part or the new Beckerwyc House and enjoy delicious food made by renowned chefs Ørjan og Arnt Johannessen (gold in Bocuse d´Or Lyon). Great hiking possibilities nearby and Galleri Bekkjarvik displays various types of art.

Another gem is Haaheim Gaard (farm) located by the foot of Mount Tysnessåta just south of Bergen. Haaheim has individually decorated rooms and fruits and vegetables are harvested on site and served in the cuisine. The area is great for both fishing, kayaking, hiking, and biking.

Kronen Gaard Hotel is close to Stavanger and is a comfortable full-service hotel. You can expect elegant, traditional accommodation and a lot of charm. Relax in their garden, dine in the in-house restaurant, and if you travel with children, they can play in the children’s playground or a playroom with toys and games.

Sognefjord Area

From 1640, Hotel Walaker is the oldest hotel in Norway and a landmark in the Sognefjord area. At Walaker you get beautiful fjord views, historical rooms, a big garden where you can hang out and enjoy tea, coffee and food, and you can dine on a 4-course menu of Norwegian dishes in their restaurant.

Kviknes Hotel is a grand historical waterfront hotel located in the village of Balestrand. The hotel consists of a modern and a historical part, and is decorated with historic art pieces and antiques. Most rooms are in the modern part and come with a balcony and a stunning view of the Sognefjord. The hotel organizes many activities including wine tasting, cultural walks, and day trips to nearby sights such as the Urnes Stave Church.

Hardangerfjord Area

In the Hardangerfjord area I like to stay close to the fjord, cider farms, and great hiking. Hotel Ullensvang in the village of Lofthus will most likely tick all your boxes if you want a comfortable hotel with a fjord view. The hotel has an outdoor and indoor pool, and rents out row boats to use on the fjord.

For a budget option, you should look into the nearby Ullensvang Gjesteheim. Here you’ll find basic, but nice rooms and the guest house has a restaurant serving Norwegian and Thai food. Bike rental is also available and you can fish in the river running through their property.

Ålesund Area

In this area you are surrounded by stunning nature and also the home to one of my favorite fjords in Norway; Hjørundfjord. Here you can stay at Hotel Sagafjord in the small village of Sæbø. From the hotel you have a great view of the mountains and the fjord. You can enjoy kayaking, boating, fishing, hiking, and skiing in the winter.

Another great place to stay is close to Åndalsnes, which is known as a “hiking Mecca”. Check out Hotel Aak which is located in the heart of the Romsdalen valley. This is a charming and comfortable hotel surrounded by nature and with a restaurant specializing in Nordic cuisine.

Note that prices for hotels highly fluctuate throughout the year, and if you book early you can sometimes find good deals! The high season in Norway goes from June to August.

Places to Eat

The cuisine of Western Norway, like much of Norway, is heavily influenced by its coastal location, abundant seafood resources, and traditional farming practices. Expect exquisite seafood restaurants, lamb on the menu, locally sourced berries, and home-made bread.

Here are a few of my favorite restaurants in the western parts of Norway.

  • Cornelius Seafood Restaurant (close to Bergen). This restaurant can be reached with a 25-minute ferry ride from Bergen and into the archipelago. A prestigious restaurant serving a Meteorological Menu, “prepared using innovative culinary techniques and with a genuine passion for seafood”.
  • Havnechefen Osøyro Restaurant (close to Bergen). This casual restaurant serves up delicious food just south of Bergen. 30-minute car ride, or 50 minutes with the bus. I think this is a great spot if you want to explore beyond Bergen, or perhaps you are passing by on a road trip. They serve both lunch and dinner and have outdoor seating in the summer.
  • Buer Restaurant (in Odda, close to Folgefonna Glacier and Hardanger). Buer serves gourmet food and has an authentic Nordic cuisine. The restaurant is surrounded by the dramatic and beautiful landscape of western Norway. The charming restaurant building, once a barn, makes for an inviting and cozy atmosphere.
  • Restaurant Raus (close to Ålesund). Raus is located in the small town of Sykkylven and is a cozy restaurant/café with unpretentious and tasty food. Try their burgers or the open face shrimp sandwich.
  • Jordbærstova (Strawberry room, along scenic road 63 south of Trollstigen road). A cozy small road-side restaurant serving traditional Norwegian food. I always stop here for a meal! They also have rooms, and you can stroll in nearby strawberry fields.
  • Nilsgardstunet (south-east of Ålesund). A bit out of the way, but well worth a visit for some traditional Norwegian food in a rustic setting. Sunday’s they serve a hearty buffet.
  • Hoven Restaurant (Near Loen) sits on top of a mountain and you need to take the Loen Skylift to get up there. Food is good and the view is spectacular!
  • Vossa Sushi (in Voss). If you happen to stop by Voss, make sure to head to Vossa Sushi. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find such a great sushi place tucked into a small town in fjord Norway.

Things to Do

Western Norway is a region packed with stunning natural beauty, charming towns, coastal landscapes and a rich cultural heritage. Here’s a few things I’d recommend you check out:

Fjords

The best fjords are on the west side of Norway. Here are my favorites that I’d recommend you to explore:

Outdoor Adventures

The west has a mix of high mountains, lush valleys, fjords and coastal charm. You can be sure to find some of the best outdoor adventures in Norway here. I’d recommend to try these:

Waterfalls & Viewpoints

With steep mountain walls overlooking fjords and valleys you can be sure to find plenty of breathtaking waterfalls and views. Here are some of my favourites:

Waterfalls

Viewpoints

And there are many many more…

Road Trips

If you drive on your own, the west delivers some of the most scenic road trips. Below I’ve listed a few scenic roads. Rent a car at rentalcars.com.

Road E39 Stavanger to Bergen

Driving E39 from Stavanger to Bergen will get you close to the sea, and the drive includes a couple of nice car ferry rides along the way. You can easily do this drive in one long day, but I would recommend doing a detour to the city of Haugesund and to the history museum at Avaldsnes to learn about the Vikings.

To extend the road trip, make your way to the Hardangerfjord region and potentially spend a night or two in Lofthus (Hotel Ullensvang) or in Utne (Hotel Utne), while further exploring the Hardangerfjord. A ferry from Utne or Jondal can take you across the fjord before driving into Bergen.

Road E39 Bergen to Ålesund

Road E39 from Bergen to Ålesund crosses fjords and mountain passes, and will take you through small villages and scenic landscapes. You can drive it in one long day, but ideally you’ll have at least one night somewhere in the middle. Consider staying in Loen or Nordfjordeid.

Driving on E39, you can make a detour to the beautiful Hjørundfjord, or to extend the drive, you can drive to Hellesylt and take a fjord cruise ferry to Geiranger. Consider staying one night in Geiranger, for instance, at the renown Hotel Union Geiranger.

From Geiranger you can drive the road 63 through UNESCO-listed fjord landscape which will eventually lead you to the Trollstigen serpentine road and you can make it to Ålesund from there.

Also check out the YouTube-episode I made from the Trollstigen road.

The Atlantic Ocean Road

The Atlantic Ocean Road, also known as Atlanterhavsveien in Norwegian, is a breathtaking and unique stretch of road located in Møre og Romsdal county, Norway. It holds the title of National Tourist Route and is often referred to as the world's most beautiful car journey.

You find this road just north of Molde. I recommend driving to the small fishing village of Bud (have lunch) and then make your way east along the coast. The most scenic stretch is between Vevang and Kårvåg on road 64. Make sure to make many stops along the way, especially at Lyngholmen where there is a walking path going around a small island with panoramic views of the sea.

Want to see more? I made a YouTube-episode from the Atlantic Ocean Road.

Fjord Road Trip

A great way to enjoy some fjord landscape is to start in Bergen and drive east to Skjolden along the Sognefjord. Follow the E16 to Voss and Flåm and you can enjoy driving through a typical fjord landscape with waterfalls, mountains, green farmland, and forest.

You can drive Bergen to Skjolden in one long day, but I would recommend staying at least one night in a fjord village along the way. If you want to do a fjord cruise on a passenger ferry, consider spending a night in Flåm or Aurlandsvangen. Or, stay in one of the smaller villages of Lærdalsøyri and Solvorn (Hotel Walaker). Or, you can make a detour to spend a night in Balestrand.

For a scenic mountain drive (instead of driving E16 through the Lærdals tunnel), take the route from Aurlandsvangen over the old Aurland Mountain road. You’ll end up in the small village of Lærdalsøyri. Note that you need to drive a windy mountain road to get up on the mountain, but you’ll be rewarded with some amazing views, including the Stegastein viewpoint.

Once in Skjolden, I recommend spending a night at Skjolden Brygge or a farmstay at Eide Gård. If you are heading on furter, you can drive the scenic road of the Sognefjell mountain the next day, which will take you to Lom, the Gudbrandsdal valley, and further on to Lillehammer and Oslo.

For more about the Sognefjord region check out my Sognefjorden Guide.

Stave Churches

A Norwegian stave church (stavkirke) is a unique type of medieval wooden church characterized by its distinctive construction and rich history. If you are traveling to the western parts of Norway, you want to see at least one of these amazing churches. Note that many of them are closed in the winter season.

Borgund stave church was built around 1180 and is exceptionally well preserved. You find it sitting close to the road E16 only a thirty minute drive from Lærdalsøyri. If you don’t have a car, you can join this tour from Flåm.

Hopperstad stave church is located close to the village of Vik, just next to the Sognefjord. It is believed to have been built around 1130 and is one of the oldest stave churches in Norway.

Urnes stave church is also located along the Lustrafjord, a fjord arm of the greater Sognefjord. You can get there by riding a ferry from Solvorn. The church dates back to the 12th-13th century. It is beautifully preserved and brings together traces of Celtic art, Viking traditions, and Romanesque spatial structures.

Røldal stave church is north-east of Stavanger and close to the Hardangerfjord, just a short drive from Odda. The church was built around the 1200s, and is known for its crucifix, which according to the legend, has healing powers.

Check out this page to read more about the Stave Churches in Norway.

Geirangerfjord with a boat going down river next to a waterfall

How to Get Around

Public transportation

The western part of Norway is connected together with buses, trains and ferries, and they run quite frequently. If you have time and budget for it, I’d recommend you to rent a car. This will make it easier for you to get around and you can explore places that are hard to get to by public transport. Note that you do not have to book a ticket for the fjord ferries (except the one on the Geirangerfjord). You basically just show up at the docks and line up.

The website ENTUR can be helpful for tour planning in the area and will also show ferry connections

Geirangerfjord with a boat going down river next to a waterfall

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