On an arm of Sognefjord, Gudvangen is at the foot of steep cliffs soaring 5,500 feet above the water's surface and plunging deep to form one of the region's deepest fjord basins. Snow-capped mountains, green cliffs, and veils of tumbling waterfalls characterize the vertical landscape on the approach to Gudvangen. The fjord is so narrow in places that during winter the sun can't reach the valley floor. Mystical Gudvangen is the site of white caves and medieval stave churches. Standing sentinel over the ornate entrances to the venerable wooden sanctuaries are visages of fierce trolls and dragons, carved by long-dead Viking craftsman from the region. Cruise passengers are brought ashore by tender at one of two small piers, which are both in the center of town.
Gudvangen Fjordtell, which is right at the port, has two souvenir shops that are open daily during the cruising season. Look for Viking souvenirs, Dale sweaters, and accessories made of seal, fox, reindeer, and moose.
The village of Undredal, home to 80 humans and 500 goats, also has Norway's smallest stave church, which has probably built in 1147.
From Stalheim it's not a long drive to Tvinde, a name derived from the Norwegian word for two. En route, you'll pass the villages of Oppheim and Vinje, as well as Oppheim Lake. But the best waterfall of this area is Tvindefossen, which has a 152-meter (500-ft) drop down steep stone cliffs. Nearby is the town of Voss, the bottling source of one of the world's most expensive waters.
In the spectacular Nærøyfjorden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site of steep mountains and waterfalls that forms a beautiful valley, drivers must navigate 13 hairpin turns on Stalheimskleiva, a section of road not quite a mile in length, to reach this hotel. An inspiration to painters and other artists, Stalheim Hotel is furnished with a spectacular collection of Scandinavian furniture and antiques, and it also has a large collection of buildings dating back from the 16th and 17th centuries.
These impressive caves are composed of anorthosite, a type of marble that contains both gold and aluminum. A stone bar and restaurant serve refreshments. The caves are just off the E16 to Voss, about 6 km from Gudvangen. Only pre-booked groups can visit.