Both New Zealand and Norway are renowned around the world for their impressive fiords (original Norwegian spelling "fjords"). But which is better? Or maybe that's the wrong question. Perhaps a better question is how do they differ and what do they offer? These are two of the most stunning regions in the world and if given the chance everyone should visit both of them.
New Zealand's Fiordland National Park
Fiordland is home to New Zealand's fiords and some of the country's most breathtaking scenery. The Fiordland National Park is located on the southwestern corner of the South Island. The two main accessible and touristic fiords here are Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound. The gateway to New Zealand's unforgettable Fiordland is the stunning lakeside resort town of Te Anau - that gazes across the lake into the mystical mountains of this impenetrable wilderness.
- Number Of Fiords: 15 (Plus Marlborough Sounds)
- Cost Of Entry To NZ's National Parks: New Zealand's National Parks Are All Free
This region of New Zealand is incredibly wet, so you can expect it to rain if you are there. In fact, Milford Sound receives an astonishing 6,412 mm or 252 inches of rain per year. By comparison, famously wet Seattle in Washington only receives 998 mm or 39.3 inches annually.
- Most Popular Fiord: Milford Sound
- Rainfall: 252 Inches Annually
- Number Of Rain Days: 182
- Most Remote Accessible Fiord: Doubtful Sound
- Largest Tour Company: Real Journeys
This means that while on a cruise in Milford Sound, you can really see the waterfalls swollen and cascading off the mountainsides. The water in these fiords is fresh on the surface as there is so much water pouring into these fiords the water doesn't get a chance to mix, the saltwater is underneath.
- Doubtful Sound Cruise Cost: $199 NZD - $140 USD
- Overnight Doubtful Sound Cruise: $699 NZD - $490 USD
- Milford Sound Cruise Cost: $80 NZD - $56 USD
- Milford Sound Overnight Cruise: $510 NZD - $355 USD
In New Zealand, you are in a very exotic location, the forests, wildlife, and aroma from the forests are unique to New Zealand. New Zealand has been geographically isolated for so long that its flora and fauna are truly unique - unlike Norway which is part of the Eurasian continent.
Top Multiday Hiking Track: Milford Track (In New Zealand "Track" = "Trail")
There are many tours to take you to these stunning fiords. Indeed, getting to the fiords is part of the experience. You have to drive through some of New Zealand's most eye-popping scenery to get to Milford Sound. And you have to take a cruise over one of New Zealand's largest and most pristine lakes to get to Doubtful Sound.
Fun Fact: Scenes From Tom Cruise's 2018 Mission: Impossible - Fallout Were Filmed In Both New Zealand's and Norway's Fiords
Tip: Mosquitos (In New Zealand Called "Sand Flies") Are A Real Nuisance - Bring Good Bugspray
New Zealand also has the stunning Marlborough Sounds in the northern extremity of the South Island. These were the explorer Captain James Cook's (whose Star Trek's Captain James T Kirk character is based on) favorite destination in the world. He repeatedly visited these sounds.
Fiords Vs Sounds
Technically a sound is a valley that has been flooded by rising seas - so the Malborough Sounds are true sounds. Fiords are formally glaciated and carved out valleys that have been flooded by the sea as the glacier has melted. Milford and Doubtful "Sounds" are actually fiords.
While New Zealand has only two easily accessible fiords (plus the Marlborough Sounds), Norway has many many more. And these fiords can be far larger. On a trip in Norway's fiords, it's possible to see wildlife like moose while in New Zealand you can spot its overlooked penguins.
The Norwegian fiords also carry that mystic of being the home of the Norse or the Vikings who so terrified England and other European countries for so long. And they are full of stunning old villages. In other words, these fiords have a longer and deeper history.
- Norway's Coastline: 29,000 km (18,000 miles) With Fjords, 2,500 km (1,600 miles) Without Fjords
- Number Of Fjords In Norway: 1,200
One of the most popular Instagram spots in Norway is the iconic "Trolls Tongue" or "Trolltunga." The Trolls Tongue is situated about 1,100 meters or 3,600 feet above sea level and overlooks lake Ringedalsvatnet (so technically not a fiord at all).
Norway has many fiords but some of the most popular and dramatic are:
The Lysefjord - In The Deep South - Length 42 km
The Arlandsfjord - Branch Of Norway's Longest Fjord (Voted Most Popular In Domestic Tourism) 29 km
The Naeroyfjord - UNESCO Listed - 18 km
The Sognefjord - Dubbed The "King Of The Fjords"
The Geirangerfjord - Also UNESCO Listed Famous For Its Waterfalls
This is only a very few of Norway's many fjords. Norway's fjords dwarf those of New Zealand but it is fundamentally a very very different experience as they are of a completely different character. In Norway, you will see the sheer length and dramatic landscapes, and history of its many fjords. While in New Zealand you will see the dramatic landscapes of a whole other world the other end of the planet that evolved in complete isolation.
In summary, the Norwegian fjords are much larger than the New Zealand fiords, but they offer a completely different experience.