Geographically, this is the archetypal Norway. Although fjords can be found in other parts of the world, the word is Norwegian, and this is the region of Norway where the most of them can be found. A fjord (the "j" is pronounced like an "y" in English) is a long, narrow, deep bay, usually surrounded by equally steep mountainous terrain. In West Norway, the largest can extend 200 km (124 mi) inland, 1300 m (4265 ft) deep. Note that in some areas freshwater lakes, although not an extension of the ocean, are frequently called fjords. The fjords of western Norway has been rated as the world's top tourist destination by National Geographic Magazine. In a rating of UNESCO world heritage sites, Geiranger, in Møre og Romsdal and Nærøyfjord, in Sogn og Fjordane, also obtained top score in a survey conducted by National Geographic].
Several great waterfalls can be found in Western Norway. Many of them fall directly into the famous fjords as well as along the deep valleys extending into the mountains beyond the fjords. Unique in West Norway is that these waterfalls are found in large number all across the region.
The language in West Norway is Norwegian, with dialects that are distinctly different from eastern dialects. Foreign visitors will note a difference in melody only. Written Norwegian may differ somewhat as a different standard for writing, called nynorsk, is frequently used in West Norway.
As in the rest of Norway, virtually everybody under 60 years of age speak or understand English. In tourist hot spots like Geiranger and Bergen, French and German are also common among service personnel. Don't be surprised to meet service workers that manage other languages such as Russian, Dutch, Italian or Spanish.
Bergen and Stavanger are well conected with many European cities. There are also international flights to Haugesund, Molde and Ålesund.
From continental Europe, trains run from Gothenburg and Stockholm in Sweden to Oslo. From Oslo, there are several lines to end stations on the West coast. Raumabanen (an arm of Dovrebanen, the Oslo-Trondheim line) runs from Dombås to Åndalsnes. Bergensbanen connects Oslo and Bergen across the mountain. The famous Flåmsbana (Flåm railway ) branches off Bergensbanen at Myrdal. Sørlandsbanen connects Oslo and Stavanger via Kristiansand in South Norway.
Western Norway occupies the entire west coast south of Trondheim until the mountain passes. There are accordingly numerous domestic entrances, basically along the east-west European highways (E18, E134, E16, E136) as well as E39, the coastal main road. Travellers should also consider alternative routes (often a more scenic option) on national route 7, 50, 55 and 15.
There are frequent flights between Bergen and Stavanger. There are also flights between Bergen and Ålesund, Molde and Kristiansund. Bergen is also conected to Sogn og Fjordane with small planes.
Bergen is connected to many coastal towns to the north by Hurtigruten (the coastal steamer), which is a combined cargo and cruise ship (also accepts cars). North-south along the coast there are a few express passenger boats between Bergen and small towns to the north (operated by Fjord1 ). The small towns along Sognefjorden are also connected to Bergen by these high-speed catamarans. The fjord and island areas are typically best enjoyed from a boat.
Due to complex topography West Norway does not have an integrated rail network. The railway does however offer opportunity for scenic rides. The train is most suitable for transport between Bergen, Voss, Flåm and the mountains; transport between Stavanger, Sandnes and small towns south of Sandnes. Bergen-Voss-Flåm is included in the famous "Norway in a nutshell" tour. The scenic Raumabanen railway from Dombås to Åndalsnes is an alternative to bus or car in the Romsdalen valley.
West Norway has an integrated network of long-distance coaches covering most of the region. Most services operate a few times every day and tickets can generally be bought on board.
Most coach services are listed on the Nor-Way Bussexpress website, who also operate the majority of long-distance routes. A number of long- and medium-distance services in the region are also provided by Fjord 1, and other operators run further services - not all of which are listed with Nor-way, so do your research.
In Møre og Romsdal county there is also the Timeekspressen connecting main towns (Volda-Ålesund-Molde-Kristiansund) by hourly departures.
Local city buses exist in major towns and cities.
There is a new long-distance coach connecting Stavanger with Bergen (Haugesund and Leirvik/Stord) in only 5 hours. It can only be booked online at Nettbuss with tickets starting at 249 kr. The bus service provide Wifi, power outlet, wc, aircondition and luxurious chairs.. The bus schedule can be found here
Because most of West Norway is sparsely populated with limited public transport, a car provides superior freedom and flexibility for the traveler. Because some roads are narrow and steep (not shown on most road maps), travellers are advised to calculate plenty of time for driving and not to rush as this increases risk of accident. Ferries are an integral part of the road network and trips across West Norway often involve ferries. Car ferries on the main roads are rather frequent (typically every half hour), extremely reliable and operate with reserve capacity. Except for the popular Geiranger-Hellesylt and Valldal-Geiranger ferries, tourists generally need not worry about time tables and reservations. Travellers are however recommended to caclulate plenty of time for trips involving car ferries. Buses, ambulances and livestock transport have priority. On most crossings, ferries have cafeteria selling coffee, beverages, sandwiches and some hot food.
Because nature is the main sight in West Norway, travellers are advised not to rush from town to town, but instead to calculate plenty of time for the road.
There are various high class dining facilities in West Norway. See articles for each town. Specialities are plentiful.
When in this area, the local brand of bottled water is called Olden. Hansa brewery is the major beverages provider. The company also produces the arguably best Norwegian-owned beer.
It's safe to drink tap water in Norway as the water is among the cleanest in the world. You should therefore avoid drinking bottle water as it is not good for the environment.
West Norway is as safe as the rest of Norway (see general information on Norway). In western Norway there are several roads with very narrow stretches where even small cars can not pass easily. Be extremely careful around blind corners on these roads. Stick to your side of the road!
Show respect for the sea. Every year tourists die in small rented boats; usually having gone out in bad weather. Waves coming in from the Atlantic can be extremly powerful, but even in what seems like sheltered waters the wind can capsize a small boat.