In Dire Straights: The World’s Most Beautiful Fjords and Sounds

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

A fjord is a geologic event caused by the cutting of a glacier in a valley. It is also considered as a body of water surrounded by cliffs and connected to the sea. However, there is a difference between the use of the term fjord in English and Scandinavian language.

On the contrary, what is a sound? In geography, a sound can also be caused by glaciers, like fjords, but sounds are wider. But in addition, sounds can be formed by running water like a river.

Due to the uncertainty of the use of the term fjords, there have been instances of confusion and misnaming of some of the world’s most gorgeous travel spots. The Geirangerfjord in Norway, for example, is often considered by some as a false fjord. However despite the confusion, I believe that it will not make a difference once you see any of these, the world’s most beautiful fjords and glaciers.

Geirangerfjord, Norway

First on the list of the most beautiful fjords is the splendid Geirangerfjord in Norway. It is located in the southwest portion of the country and has been considered by National Geographic and UNICEF as the world’s most exotic destination. It’s just one of those places you kind of see in person – from the incredible color of the water to the waterfalls that seem to pour from every spare surface. The best way to see Geirangerfjord is via a cruise, either part of a larger itinerary or one of Norway in a Nutshell cruise.

Misty Fjords, Alaska

The Misty Fjords in Ketchikan, Alaska are another one of the most beautiful fjords in the world. You have more or less three options if you want to visit here: travel by plane, by cruise, or if you want to be more adventurous then you can kayak. When you choose kayak (which is a thrill and a surprisingly inexpensive option), you can also alternate your time on hiking trails and camping on the beach. It’s another great option for the things to do in Alaska besides cruising and glacier hopping.

Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

The next sound is perhaps my own personal favorite – Doubtful Sound of Lake Manapouri in New Zealand. It can be reached through a boat and a bus ride – the bus is on a road that doesn’t actually go anywhere except the lake and the sound and doesn’t connect anywhere. It was built to assist with the enormous hydroelectric plant built here. You will see bottle-nosed dolphins, fur seals, long-finned pilot whales, beaked whales, and tons of wildlife that are the only thing to break the peaceful silence. Aside from the kayaking and fishing options, I highly recommend an overnight stay (almost necessary given the long journey) and you’ll find lots of great food and hospitality with the only company to tour in this sound, Real Journeys.

Howe Sound, Canada


Not to forget on the list of the most beautiful sounds is the Howe Sound in Vancouver, Canada. This place is great for water sports like diving, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, swimming, and other adventures like fishing, camping, rock climbing, and hiking. There are clusters of islands surrounding the Howe Sound such as Bowen Island, Gambier Island, Anvil Island, Keats Island, and Passage Island. From ferries to driving to just exploring the area on foot, you can have lots of different experiences here, from the adventure to the romantic. Perhaps that explains why just a few miles away is one of Canada’s most livable cities, Vancouver.

Lysefjord, Norway


Another one of the most beautiful fjords that I consider a must-see is Lysefjord in Norway. You probably should rent a car, but you can also travel by bus or boat to get to Lysefjord. And then you’ll need to hike – a lot. But who can top the adrenaline rush when you walk out and stand on the Kjeragbolten, a rock wedged in a cliff face. Other sights you can explore in the area include the Hengjanefossen Waterfall, the rock carvings at Solbakk, the prehistoric village of Landa, the Old Tou Mill, and the village of Flørli. Consider overnighting in a mountain lodge, the perfect way to experience Norway’s incredible hospitality.

Scoresbysund, Greenland

Our list of the world’s most beautiful fjords wouldn’t be complete without the world’s longest fjord, Scorebysund. They call this area the Artic Rivera, because of the stable weather patterns and stunning scenery created by the effects of the fjord on the climate. Really the only way to explore this area is via one of the boat tours that depart from Ittoqqortoormiit, a hunting settlement nearby. Tours are typically one to two weeks, and you’ll get to see lots of wildlife (including polar bears and whales) as well as Inuit settlements and experience authentic Greenlandic hunting villages. Reach out and try to touch one of the massive icebergs as your ship navigates around the glacial melt.

Hardangerfjord, Norway

Don’t forget to add to your list of the most beautiful fjords, the Hardangerfjord in Norway.  The Hardanger National Tourist Route is a great place to start for glacier and waterfall viewing. Then transform yourself into a hopeless romantic in The Barony in Rosendal – the flower and fruit trees are enough to change anybody. Like the other fjords in Norway, there are many other famous attractions to visit nearby, including the Vøringsfossen Waterfall, the Trolltunga for a great family hike, the Mikkelparken in Kinsarvik, the Hardanger Folk Museum to learn more about their culture, and Hardangervidda Nature Centre in Eidfjord to know the importance of human and nature interaction.

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Finally, we end our tour of the most beautiful fjords in the picturesque Milford sound. Located in southern part of New Zealand, not far from neighbor Doubtful Sound mentioned above, it is known for its very volatile weather patterns – so one minute it’s pouring, and then it is sunny and calm. The experience of getting to Milford is different than Doubtful, but also noteworthy – you’ll have to drive (or be driven) through a very tiny, one lane tunnel that is pitch black. Whatever the weather was on the one side will be completely different on the other. Many boat tours operate in this area, and once you see the incredible mountains and waterfalls that surround this sound, you’ll see why.

Photo Credit: suomi star, adactio, Tim Gage, Arno van den Tillaartnick russilldammit jackmissbossy

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