Paddling the fjords of Norway (Part 1)

The grand plans for our summer vacation this year had one main focus: kayaking on the fjords of Norway. A good friend of ours had done a similar trip a few years back and both the photos and stories she’s shared were unbelievably amazing. I say unbelievable because they really seemed that way. And then we went over to Norway and did it ourselves. Now I absolutely believe her and know that she wasn’t exaggerating even the tiniest bit in describing just how amazing the trip was. I believe, and I now get to try to make others believers, too.

The trip we booked was a 6 day, 5 night kayaking and camping adventure. We covered about 100 kilometers across the 6 days – some days as many as 25 and some days as few as 5 – setting up camp along the way on some pretty amazing patches of grass in what certainly qualifies as Top 5 in the most beautiful surroundings I’ve spent time. Even better, we got to do it with 10 other folks with whom we quickly became friends. It was an amazing journey and not without a bit of extra sweat and exertion to make it so.

Out into the water on day 1

The western fjords of Norway run pretty much the entire coast. Our trip with Coastal Odyssey focused on the Geiranger fjord and the Sunnmøre Alps. The trip began in Ålesund – quite a nice town, really; more on that in a future post – with a bit of drama. Sure, we had read the packing list. We planned, purchased and planned some more. And then we packed everything into a bag and schlepped it through Denmark on the way to Ålesund. And then we met Brian and Jimmy, our guides for the trip. They handed us each two dry bags and simply said, “Make it fit.” Easier said than done, to be certain. We rather quickly determined which items absolutely needed to be dry through the trip and which we could risk a bit of splashing with. And we learned that with two people squeezing and pushing a dry bag can be made smaller than it seemed possible. We left things behind at the starting point and otherwise manipulated our packing but we eventually managed to make it all fit. We even managed to jam it all into the kayak somehow, along with some of the food and other “common” supplies that we’d be using through the week. And with a shove from behind we were off onto the water. Yippeeee!

The skies were blue and the water was crystal clear. The wind was at our back. Everything was simply great. Being out on the water with nothing but the sound of the paddle pulling through the water was incredibly calming and wonderful.

One of the goats we met on the island where we lunched day one.

Day one was a pretty long paddle – about 20 kilometers – and we spent a long time out on the water. It felt good to be out moving and we made great time on the water, no doubt thanks to the wind. Before we knew it we had made it to our lunch stop and then, after a few more hours of paddling, to our campsite for the first night.

The meals were certainly camping food but the veggies were fresh (hard not to be on the first day) and the we settled in to share some stories and otherwise chat as the evening rolled on. And then the bad news came. Brian had been reviewing the weather forecast and the tide charts and our routing for day two. There is one stretch of water where the currents get tricky and if we don’t time it right we’d never make the pass. Unfortunately, to time it right meant leaving the campground no later than 5:30am. That put us up for a 3:30am wake-up call. On vacation. Ouch.

The good news about the 3:30am wake-up was that it was bright daylight out when we woke up so I didn’t really notice just how early it was and we were pretty much done paddling by noon. We had arrived at our day two campsite and had a ton of time to spare, exploring the grounds of Ytste Skotet, an historic farmhouse that is now operated as a museum. The site has been inhabited since the turn of the last milennium (yup – over 1000 years) and the oldest current building dates back to the 1700s. They do real farming there (though they also have to import some goods because of the number of folks passing through) and they have kids come out to play and live on the farm as part of a summer camp experience. The kids learn all about life on the farm, from chopping wood (yes, they give 7-year olds axes to play with) to where their meat comes from (at the end of the summer the kids are around when the pigs are slaughtered for the following year’s meat supplies). They also cook up some pretty delicious local foods and were incredibly hospitable to us. There was a small stream running through the farm and a pool just off the edge of the farm house where we were able to rinse off in fresh water. The water was cold but certainly refreshing.

One of the kids hanging out at the farmhouse the night we were there

The farmland surrounding the house covers about 750 acres, with fields and trails to go along with the historical buildings. We certainly had no trouble finding ways to spend our time. And we had plenty of time. Thanks once again to the tides we weren’t actually leaving until the following afternoon. We had a full 24 hours off from paddling to explore.

One of many fields of flowers on the farm
This is about as close as it got to sunset while we were in Norway. It was light out non-stop!
The view from the outhouse. Not too shabby.
Looking back down at the fjord across the field of flowers

That’s all for the first couple days of the trip. There are a ton more pictures here, part 2 of the tale is here, and part 3 is here.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Excellent narrative and stunning photos Seth! Thank you for so eloquently recounting the trip – this is a real treasure for all of us. Your fellow paddler, Laura

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