Urnes Stave Church & Scenic Drive
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Approximately 3½ Hours
In 2004, National Geographic Traveler Magazine rated the Norwegian fjords as the 'world's best travel destination', so it it comes as no surprise thatcLustrafjord has a place on many a bucket list. Today, you have a chance to cross it off yours.
Lustrafjord is the innermost arm of the Sognefjord -- Norway's largest fjord and the second-longest fjord in the world. Sognefjord reaches inland approximately 124 miles from the open sea all the way to Skjolden. You'll visit a number of picturesque spots around the fjord, including the Urnes Stave Church.
Your motorcoach leaves Skjolden on a narrow, winding road called the Romantic Road, named for the storybook countryside it passes through -- dotted with quaint little villages tucked into the folds of undulating, tree-covered hillsides.
Resting on the shores of Lustrafjord is one of Norway's prized stave churches. Of the original approximately 1,000 stave churches constructed across Norway, only 28 remain today. The Urnes Stave Church is the oldest and most-decorated of them all and is the only one in the country to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A knowledgeable guide will lead you on a tour of the church. Built in 1130, the church you see today is actually the third church built on this spot. The first one was built after Christianity arrived in Norway in the 10th and 11th centuries. Ruins of a second church, erected between 1050 and 1070 have been found beneath the present church. Outside, you'll see the typical high-rising turrets and sloped roofs. Inside, is a tribute to Viking pagan art with carvings adorning two door panels, and the old portal in the church's northern wall depicts a snake curling upwards. At the lower end there is an animal with four feet biting the snake, portraying the eternal fight between good and evil.
Next, hop aboard a ferry and set off on a scenic tour of the villages that reside on the western side of the fjord. Across from the church is the peaceful village of Solvorn. Colorful boathouses on the waterfront and white wooden houses give this little hamlet a fairytale quality. Here, you'll board your motorcoach and head north to another small village called Hafslo. A photo stop rewards you with picture-perfect views of the fjord, the emerald meadows and the quaint town.
Your final stop is at the town of Luster, tucked among the glacial mountains where Sognefjord begins its journey to the North Sea.
Wear sturdy, non-skid walking shoes. Dress warmly in layers with a wind- and waterproof outer layer; bring gloves, a scarf and a warm hat.