The Sognefjord or Sognefjorden is the largest and most well known fjord in Norway and the second longest in the world. Located in Sogn og Fjordane county in Western Norway, it stretches 205 kilometres (127 mi) inland from the ocean to the small village of Skjolden in the municipality of Luster. The fjord takes its name from the traditional district of Sogn, which covers the southern part of the county.
The fjord runs through many municipalities: Solund, Gulen, Hyllestad, Høyanger, Vik, Balestrand, Leikanger, Sogndal, Lærdal, Aurland, Årdal, and Luster. The fjord reaches a maximum depth of 1,308 metres (4,291 ft) below sea level, and the greatest depths are found in the inland parts of the fjord. Near its mouth, the bottom rises abruptly to a sill about 100 metres (330 ft) below sea level. The average width of the main branch of the Sognefjord is about 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi). Cliffs surrounding the fjord rise almost sheer from the water to heights of 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) and more.
The inner end of the Sognefjord is localized southeast of a mountain range rising to about 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above sea level and covered by the Jostedalsbreen, continental Europe's largest glacier. Thus the climate of the inner end of Sognefjorden and its branches are not as wet as on the outer coastline. The mouth of the fjord are surrounded by many islands including Sula, Losna, and Hiserøyna. There are many smaller fjords which branch off the main fjord including: Esefjord, Fjærlandsfjord, Sogndalsfjord, Lustrafjord, Årdalsfjord, Lærdalsfjord, Aurlandsfjord, and Nærøyfjord (which is also a World Heritage Site).
The innermost arm of the Sognefjorden is called the Lustrafjord, located in the municipality of Luster. At its end, there is the village of Skjolden, which is an access point to Jotunheimen National Park. In earlier times, transport between Bergen and the Scandinavian inland was by boat between Bergen and Skjolden and from there on a simple road over the highlands.
Boats connect settlements along the fjord and its sidearms. Larger villages on the fjord and its branches include Leirvik, Ytre Oppedal, Vadheim, Høyanger, Vikøyri, Balestrand, Hermansverk, Sogndalsfjøra, Gudvangen, Flåm, Aurlandsvangen, Lærdalsøyri, Årdalstangen, Gaupne, and Solvorn. Gudvangen is situated by the Nærøyfjord, a branch of the Sognefjord particularly noted for its unspoiled nature and dramatic scenery, and only 300 metres (980 ft) across at its narrowest point. The Nærøyfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From the village of Flåm, the Flåm Railway climbs 864 metres (2,835 ft) up to Myrdal Station in a distance of only 20 kilometres (12 mi)—the steepest unassisted railway climb in the world.
Around the inner end of the fjord, three of Norway's famous stave churches have survived: Kaupanger and Urnes (along the shoreline) and Borgund (30 kilometres or 19 miles into the Lærdal valley).
The Sognefjord Span (power lines) crosses the fjord with a span of 4,597 metres (15,082 ft). This is the second largest span of power lines in the world. The fjord has become a tourist attraction with summer tourists being an important part of the local economy.