12th century wooden Romanesque Urnes Stave Church, listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the oldest stave churches in Norway.

© Dmitry Naumov/Shutterstock

Urnes Stave Church

Top choice in The Western Fjords

If you only have time on your itinerary to visit one stave church, the one at Urnes has to figure at the top of the list (along with Borgund). Dating from the 12th century, it's Norway's oldest place of worship and a Unesco World Heritage Site. Serenely placed on the shores of Lustrafjorden, backed by lofty mountains, and covered in elaborate wood carvings of intertwining vines and battling beasts, it looks like a forgotten set from Lord of the Rings.

The present church was mostly built around 1170 on the site of the original chapel, built around 100 years before.

Ticket prices include an interesting 45-minute tour in English.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby The Western Fjords attractions

1. Sogn Folkmuseum

7.76 MILES

This extensive open-air folk museum is between Sogndal and Kaupanger, beside the Rv5. More than 30 buildings, including farms, a schoolhouse and a mill,…

2. Kaupanger Stave Church

8.43 MILES

The area's most impressive sight is this stave church, raised in 1184. It impresses from within by its sheer height, although much of what you see dates…

3. Dale Kyrkje

11.03 MILES

Spectacular wooden stave churches get all the attention around here, but this little gem of a medieval parish church built of stone shouldn’t be…

4. Norwegian Wild Salmon Centre

14.71 MILES

The River Lærdalselvi is one of the top spots for wild salmon fishing in Norway. Salmon fishing has been part of the culture here since time immemorial,…

5. Supphellebreen

20.32 MILES

Reached via a turn-off from the main road north from Fjærland, this small glacier creeps down the mountainside into an isolated valley. Trails lead from…

6. Norwegian Glacier Museum

20.52 MILES

You can't miss this striking museum: it's a concrete wedge marooned among a sea of grass on the way into Fjærland, and even has a couple of model woolly…

7. Bøyabreen

22.8 MILES

The more spectacular of the two glacial tongues accessible from Fjærland, Bøyabreen looms majestically at the end of the wooded valley. There's a car park…

8. Undredal Church

25.16 MILES

Originally built as a stave church in 1147 and seating 40, this barrel-vaulted village church is the smallest still-operational house of worship in…