The staff at the tourist office can help you plan a tour of the area and put you in touch with local craftspeople. There you can pick up a list of constantly changing excursions and buy tickets for one of the scheduled 1 1/2-day tours -- for example, a taxi plane across the Jostedal Glacier. If offered, the taxi plane, which costs NOK900 to NOK1,100 ($180-$220/£90-£110), is the most dramatic ride in the area.
If you'd like to do something less arranged, and if it's a summer day, we suggest a leisurely stroll south along the banks of the fjord. You'll pass many 19th- and early-20th-century homes and gardens along the way. Less than 1km (1/2 mile) south along the fjord, you'll come to two Viking Age burial mounds. One mound is topped by a statue of the legendary King Bele.
If your appetite's whetted by all the apple trees dotting the landscape, you'll also find several idyllic spots for a picnic.
Want still more walks? Take the small ferry that leaves Balestrand and crosses Esefjord to the Dragsvik side. At this point, you can walk along an old country road that is now abandoned but was in use during the early part of the 20th century. This is a scenic stroll through "forgotten" Norway that goes along for 8km (5 miles).
Kaiser Wilhelm II, a frequent visitor to Balestrand, presented the district with two statues of Old Norse heroes, King Bele and Fridtjof the Bold. They stand in the center of town. Another sight is the English church of St. Olav, a tiny wooden building that dates from 1897. The church is closed to the public, but its construction can be admired from outside.
You can explore the area by setting out in nearly any direction on scenic country lanes with little traffic or a wide choice of marked trails and upland farm tracks. The tourist office sells a touring map for NOK85 ($17/£8.50). There's good sea fishing, as well as lake and river trout fishing. Fishing tackle, rowboats, and bicycles can all be rented in the area.
Back in Balestrand, near the ferry dock, you can visit the Sognefjord Aquarium (tel. 57-69-13-03), with its exhibition of saltwater fish. Especially mysterious is the marine life from the world's deepest fjord. The cast of denizens of the deep include Esefjord herring "lip fish," eels, and sharks. The exhibition consists of a number of large and small aquaria, both indoors and out on the jetty. The marine environments have been authentically re-created, including the tidal belt at Munken and the sandy seabed around Staken. A man-made model of Sognefjord shows the currents of the fjord and provides an impression of its depth. There is also an audiovisual presentation. The admission of NOK50 ($10/£5) includes an hour of canoeing on the fjord. It's open mid-April to May and mid-August to October daily 10am to 4pm, June to mid-August daily 9:30am to 6pm.
Excursions on the Sognefjord
The mighty Sognefjord, one of the greatest and most impressive -- also one of the deepest -- fjords in the world, stretches for a total length of 205km (127 miles). It spreads its powerful "fjord fingers" as far as Jostedalsbreen, the country's largest glacier, and to Jotunheimen, Norway's tallest mountain range. The widest and most dramatic part of the fjord stretches from the coast to Balestrand. After Balestrand, the fjord grows much narrower.
If you have a choice, opt for a late spring visit when thousands upon thousands of fruit trees can be seen in full bloom along both banks of the Sognefjord. This region is one of the most beautiful on earth when the blossoms burst forth. The entire district is ideal for skiing, sailing, mountain hiking, and other outdoor activities.
The best way to see the fjord is to take a boat from Bergen operated by Fylkesbaatane (tel. 55-90-70-70; www.fjord1.no/fylkesbaatane). Balestrand is a stopover on the Bergen-to-Flåm line, with departures from Bergen leaving once a day, taking 5 1/2 hours and costing NOK600 ($120/£60) per person.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.