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Fjords: should you head north or south?

way to Trolltunga

Norway, New Zealand, Chile… Which destination should you choose?

When people talk about fjords, the first country that springs to mind is Norway. Although these geological formations are particularly common there, they also crimp the edges of plenty of other countries including New Zealand, Chile, Canada, Alaska and Iceland. But which destination should you choose if you want to visit fjords?

In the north, the prize goes to… Norway:

It has more than a thousand of the most impressive fjords in the world. Sognefjord, which stretches 204 km inland from the ocean, features extremely steep-sided valleys, creating otherworldly landscapes where the mountain seems to fall into the water. Nærøyfjord boasts bluish water, green pine forests and, in the distance, you catch a glimpse of snow-capped peaks. The contrast is so striking that it almost feels like you’re looking at a mirage. And yet, it isn’t a hallucination but rather the work of nature. The list of spectacular landscapes in Norway could go on and on: Lysefjord, Geirangerfjord, Hardangerfjord, Trollfjord, Hjørundfjord…

From left to right and from top to bottom: Sognefjord, Nærøyfjord, Lysefjord and Sunnylvsfjorden

Choose Norway if you:

  • Want to be blown away by fjords. There is a reason why the word “fjord” comes from Norwegian: the country is unbeatable when it comes to quantity (and it’s not a question of quantity over quality either!).
  • Feel like exploring picturesque villages, discovering Nordic culture and visiting bustling modern towns.
  • Would like a European getaway between April and September to discover one of the happiest countries in the world!

In the south, it’s full steam ahead for Chile and New Zealand

They boast some of the most magnificent landscapes the hemisphere has to offer, shaped by successive ice ages.

The fjords of New Zealand are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Doubtful Sound, also known as Sound of Silence, has astoundingly diverse flora and fauna. Its tranquillity offers a sharp contrast with that of another spectacular fjord in the South Island: Milford Sound. Rudyard Kipling called it the “eighth wonder of the world”. After heavy rain, hundreds of temporary waterfalls appear, adding to the two majestic waterfalls that flow into it all year round. The surrounding vegetation is particularly lush. Dusky Sound is also worth marvelling over with primitive forests, waterfalls, sheer cliffs and shimmering lakes that rival each other in beauty.

Top: Milford Sound. Bottom: Doubtful Sound.

In Chile, the jagged coasts of Patagonia are home to a whole host of fjords. This region has the third largest ice cap in the world after Antarctica and Greenland. Prepare to explore archipelagos and channels and discover fjords sprinkled with thousand-year-old glaciers such as Garibaldi and Pio XI. A hike through the lush Magellanic sub-polar forests and the national parks than run alongside the Chilean fjords is the perfect way to enjoy this area of unspoilt nature. The contrast between the green of the vegetation and the white of the snow-capped peaks of the Andes Mountains is particularly striking.

Left: a fjord in Patagonia. Right: the Italia glacier in Alberto de Agostini National Park.

Choose the southern hemisphere if you:

  • Want to go away during European winter and have at least one week of holiday.
  • Fancy combining a trip to the fjords with other discoveries, on both land and sea. The landscapes in New Zealand are breath-taking, and fans of The Lord of the Rings will have the opportunity to explore the film’s natural settings. In Chile, you can explore the desert, get a close look at volcanoes and perhaps even reach the “end of the earth” at Cape Horn. You’ll experience a complete change of scenery!

North or south? Whichever you choose, mind-blowing landscapes await! So use your other travel criteria, including the duration, time of year and other activities you want to enjoy during your trip, to help you decide between the two hemispheres.


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