Sailing is the best way to experience Norway's many spectacular fjords, mountains, glaciers, glittering sandy beaches and scenic fishing villages. With more than 100,000 kilometres of coastline including the 1,190 fjords and 239,057 islands, Norway has countless tranquil anchorages that offer a wonderful cruising ground for anyone looking to explore the inimitable scenery and wildlife of Europe's northernmost country. Sperm whales, minke whales, puffins and sea eagles are only some of the interesting species that can be seen on a Norway coastal cruise.
A sailing trip in Norway offers plenty of opportunities for adventure, from exploring the country's fjords and remote islands to whale watching, hiking, fishing, skiing on a different hill each day, and enjoying the spectacle of northern lights and the midnight sun on Norway's north coast.
Dramatic landscapes are found everywhere along the coast, but the most visually stunning ones are scattered on the west coast of southern Norway and on the country’s northern coast. Norway’s largest cities and urban areas – Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger/Sandnes and Trondheim are also its most popular sailing destinations.
When planning a Norway sailing route, there are three sailing areas to choose from. The south coast, which stretches from Egersund and Flekkefjord to the border with Sweden, is the most popular destination, with countless bays and coves providing a safe playground even for less experienced sailors. The area is densely populated, with many towns and villages with safe anchorages, good facilities, and short distances from one port to the next. The major ports are located at Fredrikstad, Moss, Oslo, Tønsberg, Kristiansand, Mandal, Farsund, Sogndalstrand and Egersund.
The Oslofjord is Norway’s top sailing destination. In the summer, it is also a popular area to go kayaking, canoeing and fishing. Surrounded by mountains, green hills and numerous islands and lakes, Oslo offers an array of cultural monuments to explore and is known for its striking architecture, many museums and vibrant nightlife. Each of the innermost islands in the Oslofjord has a unique character and history, as well as countless beaches and coves that provide a safe cruising ground for an island hopping holiday.
The west coast, which stretches from Tananger and Stavanger in the south via Haugesund, Bergen and Ålesund to Trondheim in the north, is famous for its spectacular fjords, which are best experienced on a boat.
Bergen is one of Norway’s most popular sailing areas. Situated between two spectacular fjords – Hardangerfjord and Sognefjord – Norway’s second largest city and former capital is both a cultural hub famous for its wooden buildings, unique atmosphere, stunning mountainous landscape and diverse nightlife, and the gateway to the country’s most impressive fjords. Hardangerfjord is one of the world’s longest fjords, stretching across 179 kilometres, and has some of the country’s best hiking trails, with waterfalls, a national park and lots of cultural heritage to be discovered along the way. Known as the King of Fjords, Sognefjord is Norway’s largest and deepest fjord, occupying an area of 205 kilometres. It branches into a number of smaller fjords, with beautiful glaciers, mountains and lush green landscapes, and contains the UNESCO-protected Nærøyfjord, its wildest and most impressive arm.
The north of Norway, which sits in the Polar Circle, offers stunning scenery and natural phenomena which can be seen from few places on Earth. The untouched landscapes with magnificent snow peaked mountains, large glaciers, caves and green lowlands, as well as various sea birds, whales and seals, are among the region’s main attractions. The main ports are situated in Bodø, Svolvaer, Tromsø, the Lofoten Islands and North Cape.
Most fjords in Norway are safe to sail in despite having many underwater rocks and shallow areas, as they usually provide sailboats with enough water under the keel. The more challenging areas are always marked on navigation charts, which also outline the safe passages and should always be consulted when plotting the sailing route. Even the fjords on the northern coast offer protected passages that allow skippers to plan a comfortable sailing itinerary.
Arctic Norway, which stretches from the Lofoten Islands to North Cape, harbours countless islands, mountainous landscapes, and sheltered fjords. The region appeals to adventurous travellers looking to spend their days hiking, climbing, skiing, fishing and watching the diverse wildlife.
Northern lights and the midnight sun are among the main lures of an Arctic cruise. Tromsø is one of the best places in the world to watch the northern lights. The city is in the centre of the aurora borealis zone and offers the view of the light spectacle from 6 pm to midnight. The only time of year when the northern lights are not visible is from late April to mid-August, while the midnight sun can be observed from late May to late July.
The best time of year to go on a sailing holiday in Norway is from June to August. The west coast enjoys plenty of relatively warm weather thanks to the Gulf Stream, with temperatures staying around 20°C in July and August. North Norway is somewhat colder, but summer temperatures can sometimes reach more than 20°C. Sailors encounter the roughest sailing conditions from October to January. Storms are less common and shorter throughout the rest of the year.