The village of Skjolden at the end of Sognefjorden, the world’s longest navigable fjord, is one of Norway’s most picturesque cruise stops. It’s a place to appreciate incredible vistas, breathe in the freshest of fresh air and enjoy outdoorsy pursuits such as hiking, biking, and watersports.
Cruise port location
A cruise terminal accommodating one ship was built in 2010 while a tender quay offers four berthing spaces. Inside the terminal is a small general store and café with free WiFi. Walking to the village from the ship takes around 10 minutes.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
The Fjordstova cultural centre, a few minutes’ walk from your ship, houses the Skjolden tourist office and can provide maps and information about the area. It also has a souvenir shop and caféteria.
Skjolden is tiny, so facilities are limited. There are no taxis at the pier though a limited number are available in the village. If you want to explore further than the immediate vicinity of Skjolden then it makes sense to pre-arrange transportation or book a shore excursion.
What to see and do
There aren’t many notable tourist sites within walking distance of the cruise terminal although Sengjaberget Viewpoint about a mile away is popular with camera-clicking passengers. Most cruise lines offer walking excursions to the viewpoint, but it’s easy enough – and of course cheaper – to do this on your own. Independent explorers can hire bicycles from the local hotel if they want to venture further afield. Besides bikes, the hotel rents out rowing boats, kayaks and fishing equipment. Local company Adventure Tours Norway also offer bicycle rental while their guided biking and hiking tours around Skjolden and Breheimen National Park are popular too.
What can I do in four hours or less?
Llama walks through the fjord meadows are popular with cruise ship passengers. The 90-minute visits to the farm start at the tourist information office. The farm is about half a mile away. Visits are advertised at the cruise terminal and can be booked in advance, advisable on cruise days due to limited capacity. The farm is home to around 30 of the animals.
Jotunheimen National Park and Sognefell mountain pass is one of the standard coach tours every cruise line offers. The three-hour long excursion heads out of Skjolden on the Sognefjellet National Tourist Road, poetically referred to as the ‘roof of Norway’ because it climbs to 4,700ft (1,430m). It is northern Europe’s highest mountain pass. The excursion includes plenty of photo opportunities and a stop for coffee and waffles.
Thrill-seekers can hop on a RIB boat to whizz across the Lustrafjord, the inner section of the Sognefjord. The one-and-a-half-hour tours offered by Seabourn, P&O and Holland America start at the small boat pier Skjolden Brygge around half a mile (800m) from the cruise terminal. You may or may not see porpoises and fjord seals but you will definitely see the tucked away scenic village of Sorheim and get close up views of the 656ft (218m) Feigumfossen waterfall, one of the highest in Norway. If flightseeing is more your thing, P&O Cruises offers a dramatic half-hour helicopter ride over Jostedal Glacier, the largest in continental Europe, with jaw-dropping views guaranteed.
There’s historical clout aplenty in the wooden, Unesco-listed Urnes Stave Church, 20 miles (30 km) south of Skjolden. It was built in 1130, making it Norway’s oldest stave church. It has a small visitor centre next door. Most cruise lines offer half day tours to the church and surrounding area or full day excursions which include Jotunheimen National Park (see below). Lom Stave Church is slightly farther afield and houses a grand collection of paintings by Eggert Munch, a distant relative of the famous Edvard. Archaeological excavations in 1973 uncovered more than 2,000 coins and ancient love messages carved on wood.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
Full day coach tour excursions (around seven hours) to Jotunheimen National Park and Lom Stave Church are available through almost all cruise lines that visit Skjolden including Princess, P&O, Cunard and Seabourn. Travelling along the Sognefjellet National Tourist Route which connects the small towns of Luster and Lom you can see ancient stone pyramids called ‘varde,’ which in days gone by indicated safe trails across the mountains. En route, as you’d expect there are plenty of photo opportunities and lunch is included.
The open-air Sogn Folk Museum 37 miles (60km) from Skjolden is a collection of around 30 reconstructed buildings some dating from the Middle Ages showing how life here has changed over the centuries. Among the dwellings are a bailiff’s residence, school house and sea crofter’s home, and there are craftsmen’s workshops and an old general store too. A separate children’s exhibit tells how youngsters lived and played in the early 20th century. There are two playgrounds, café and souvenir shop in the grounds and several nature trails close by.
Eat and drink
Fylte pannekaker (filled pancakes) stuffed with bacon, sour cream and lingonberry jam is a local speciality. Also common to most menus is reindeer cooked in various ways. Lutefisk, dried cod soaked in lye, is another delicacy as are beef meatballs with cabbage and potatoes. Cheese fans might like to sample the local caramel-flavoured brown goat’s cheese.
Don’t get back on the ship without…
Look out for traditional knitwear, always a good buy, as are local handicrafts including pewter drinking bowls and hand painted ceramics. If you’re superstitious you might opt for a troll figure to protect your home.
Need to know
Skjolden is very safe with a low risk of crime. There are no particular areas where you need exercise any specific caution. Having said that and as is the case anywhere, always be mindful of your possessions.
Best time to go
Cruise lines including Holland America, Cunard and Princess visit Skjolden from May to September. Peak months are June to August. Hurtigruten offer year round sailings. Temperatures can be super-chilly out of the main season, but on the plus side you’ll avoid summer crowds at prime spots.
Shops are generally open weekdays from 10am to 6pm and Saturday mornings and closed on Sundays. The tourist information centre is open until 8pm in peak season.
Source: Telegraph Travels