One of the main reasons to go to Norway is to see the fjords (long, narrow arms of the sea bordered by dramatic, craggy mountains). Many travelers choose a weeklong cruise on one of the numerous lines plying these waters, but it's also possible (and rewarding) to cover the region in a rental car. The fjord country extends inland from Kristiansund in the north through Stavanger in the south, with the major fjords stretching roughly west to east.

The northernmost major fjord is Nordfjord, on whose shores are the towns of Loen and Stryn (a center for summer skiing). Nearby, spear-shaped Geirangerfjord is one of the country's most breathtaking. While visiting this fjord, stop and see the tiny church in the town of Geiranger, as well as Tystig Glacier. Or, if time permits, make the drive from Grotli to Dalsnibba, a breathtaking journey that takes you above 4,700 ft/1,400 m.

The road passes Storfoss, the most spectacular waterfall on the fjord, as it climbs Mount Dalsnibba—the views from the mountain are unparalleled. One other area to visit, if time allows, is Briksdal Glacier, part of Jostendalsbreen Glacier, the largest icefield in Europe (to get there from Olden, a town near Loen, you take a bus to the town of Briksdal, and then either take a horse and carriage or make a long, arduous hike to the glacier).

South of Nordfjord, the Sognefjord is the world's largest and deepest—and the most dramatic in the whole country. Flam and Fjaerland are both on branches of the Sognefjord—and don't miss the pagan-looking medieval churches at Kaupanger and Vik i Sogn. Farther south, the broad Hardangerfjord divides into three narrow arms near Utne, site of the Hardanger Folk Museum (—there's also excellent hiking in the area.

This was the region that inspired Edvard Grieg to write To the Spring. (If you visit in May or June, you'll understand why: Imagine the deep blue fjord, blossoming hillsides and snow-topped mountains under a clear blue sky.) Finally, one of the southernmost fjords is also one of the prettiest—see the jewellike Lysefjord (its name means "light fjord") on a day trip from Stavanger.

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