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Olden, at the end of the 66-mile Nordfjord, is an easy gateway to some of Norway’s finest scenery, not least its glaciers. A wealth of nature-related tours leave from the port, which is an increasingly common stop on fjord cruises. The Loen Skylift cable car, opened in 2017, has added to the excursion possibilities.
There’s room for one ship at the dock, which is 10-15 minutes’ walk from Olden centre. Others must anchor in the bay. A new tender pier will bring guests to the village’s doorstep from 2019.
A few ships anchor off Loen, four miles from Olden, where another new tender pier is within walking distance of the Skylift.
Many different cruise lines pop into Olden at least once a year, with the most regular visitors being Fred Olsen, P&O Cruises and Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
Can I walk to any places of interest?
The village has a digital tourist information point, a couple of cafes, outlet stores for clothing, a few shops and one ATM by the supermarket – not much, but the surroundings are glorious. The museum-house of American artist William Singer is in the village.
You can walk as far as you like along the fjord’s edge, or down the spectacular valley past the old church to a lake in less than an hour.
Local buses are available but you’re best taking a tour. If you don’t book through your cruise line, there are operators in the village with a range of trips and activities and they are usually cheaper. Try Briksdal Adventure and Olden Adventure.
What to see and do
The excursion to the Briksdal glacier is the most popular, though it has shrunk alarmingly in the past 15 years. It’s a ‘tongue’ of Jostedalsbreen, Europe’s biggest mainland glacier.
The Loen Skylift up Mount Hoven to 3,600ft (1,100m) is a significant new attraction. Lake boat cruises and coach trips to various viewpoints are also worthwhile.
What can I do in four hours or less?
A good choice of half-day trips are offered by cruise lines, though there are few rainy-day options.
The Briksdal tour involves a 15-mile coach ride through the deep valley, followed by a 90-minute round-trip hike to the glacier viewpoint. It is an easy-to-moderate walk but for those less mobile, electric ‘troll cars’ – like golf buggies – can be booked. Despite the vanishing ice, Briksdal is still worth considering because it’s a lovely trek along a rushing river.
The Skylift offers fabulous fjord and mountain views, though the £40 return cost is as steep as the ascent. Cruise lines and local tour operators should get group rates, so an organised trip with transport included makes sense.
Various half-day coach drives travel along the fjord and up into the surrounding hills and lakes. Some negotiate a string of hairpin bends to the Jostedal Glacier National Park Center, which has interactive exhibits, on Lake Oppstryn (Royal Caribbean among others).
RIB (rigid inflatable boat) rides and kayaking trips of two or three hours on Nordfjord are quite popular. They are fun, though you won’t really see much you can’t see from your ship. Crayfish hunting is added by Silversea for an extra thrill, while Azamara has a fishing outing. Those with deep pockets can take a helicopter ride. Guided bike rides are on offer but personal bike rental is also available – it’s hard to get lost.
What can I do in eight hours or less?
Another of Jostedalsbreen’s glacial arms is Kjenndal. P&O and MSC are among those who combine a trip to its overlook with a short cruise on beautiful, waterfall-strewn Lake Lovatnet.
Some cruise lines, such as Cunard, follow up the Kjenndal visit with the Skylift, which makes a recommended day out.On Princess’s books is a hike to two glaciers, Brenndal and Briksdal – a good choice for active types. If you have a head for heights, Costa lists a ride on the Skylift with a via ferrata climb. Both of these trips last about six hours.
While most scenic coach trips are about four hours, a few are longer, making the most of your time among the abundant splendour. A good choice is to Fjaerland to the south (Disney and others), on a stunning and less-seen branch of Sognefjord.
A mini-cruise across the lakes in Olden’s valley (try Marella), followed by a walk in the meadows fuelled by coffee and cake, forms a pleasing day. The village’s tour operators can advise on walking routes.
Eat and drink
The Olden Fjordhotel, north of the cruise dock, has good buffets. Meals are also served at the Molla and Yris cafes, though you may well just need some waffles or creamy cake. Eating, and especially alcohol, are expensive in Norway.
Don’t leave Olden without…
Taking photos of your cruise ship against a backdrop of green mountain slopes.
You really should concentrate on the great outdoors rather than shopping but if you must, three factory outlet stores sell fashion (including classic woolly jumpers) and sports gear, at prices that are reasonable by Norway standards.
Norway’s costs could be damaging to your health, but the fjords are super-safe, welcoming and almost everyone speaks English.
Best time to go
The cruise season is from April to October, though spring and autumn can be wet and cool.
The outlet stores and other shops are closed Sundays and have limited hours on Saturdays.