Sognefjorden is a fjord in the county of Sogn og Fjordane in Norway. The district surrounding the fjord is known as Sogn. Sognefjorden is the longest fjord in Europe and the second longest in the world. Nærøyfjord, a World Heritage Site, is one of the fjords of Sognefjorden. Several of the few remaining stave churches, including UNESCO listed Urnes stave church, are found in Sognefjord district.
- See also: Fjords of Norway
Sognefjorden is the longest fjord in Europe and the second longest in the world. The fjord stretches more than 200 km from the rugged islands on the North Sea to the central mountains, including the alpine Jotunheimen. With the many arms or branches the entire Sognefjord system has a coastline of at least 500 km, more than the French and Italian Rivieria combined.
It is also the second deepest fjord in the world, more than 1000 meters deep – if all water was removed the fjord would appear as a huge gorge some 2000 to 3000 meters deep. The fjord is actually 1300 meters at the deepest point, or 1500 meters to the bedrock because of some 200 meters thick sediments. The greatest depths are in the central parts of the fjord, at the mouth there is a relatively shallow threshold of some 150 meters. From the water surface to the high summits there is some 1500 to 2500 meters. About 5,400 km3 (or 5,400,000,000,000 m3) were removed to create this vast gorge. Sognefjord’s scale can be compared to Arizona’s Grand Canyon. The Sognefjord area is about the same width as New Zeland’s Fiordlands. While there are large and deep fjords in Greenland and Antarctica, this is the only such great fjord with significant ordinary settlement and easily accessible by road or public transport. In fact, two of Norway’s main roads, the E16 (Oslo-Bergen) and E39 (Bergen-Trondheim) runs along or across the fjord.
The main fjord is too deep and wide too to cross by conventional bridges. There are 3 main ferry crossings for each of the 3 main roads E39, road 13 and road 5. It is basically not possible to travel north-south direction except by ferry, although in summer it is possible to circumvent the fjord via a mountain road through Jotunheimen.
Sognefjorden is more than a single fjord, it is wide fjord system. Each branch (arm) of the Sognefjord is a great fjord on its own and with its own name, but is still regarded as part of the greater Sognefjord system. Even a single branch like Nærøyfjorden is longer than for instance Milford Sound in New Zealand. Steep mountains rise directly from the water leaving little space for roads and settlement, except in the deep valleys such as Lærdal valley and Flåm valley. These river valleys are surprisingly flat offering excellent ground for farming. This complex topography makes overland transport challenging but highly rewarding in terms of scenery and impressive engineering.
On the northern shore, Sognefjorden district includes Jostedalsbreen, mainland Europe’s largest glacier. Numerous rivers transport “thick” (opaque) glacial melt-water to lakes and to the fjord, giving fjords and lakes a milky turquoise appearance, particularly in Luster area. Because of generous precipitation and altitude differences, the area is also home to significant hydro electric power plants as well as a couple of aluminum factories. These man-made objects are however dwarfed by the grand scale of the landscape.
The Sognefjord district covers some 11,000 square kilometers (about the size of Montenegro) with some 30,000 inhabitants.
The Sognefjord is crossed by the second largest stretch of a powerline in the world. Its span width is 4597 metres. Do not expect tall pylon at the end of this stretch. They are not required, because of the topography.
Because the fjords runs from the ocean to the deep interior, both landscape and climate changes along. The outer section where mountains rise from the ocean, is one of the rainiest areas in Europe, but also one of the mildest areas in Norway. The easternmost or inner part of the fjord is one the driest areas in Western Norway. In particular Lærdal do not get much rain. The shores of the inner area enjoys relatively warm summers allowing extensive fruit and vegetable production.
- Indre Sogn – literally Inner Sogn. Comprises Aurland, Leikanger, Luster, Lærdal, Sogndal, and Årdal municipalities.
- Ytre Sogn – literally Outer Sogn. Comprises Balestrand, Gulen, Hyllestad, Høyanger, Solund, and Vik municipalities.