Geirangerfjord Norway is a world famous, UNESCO listed site that combines majestic high cliffs, lush green vegetation, magical ice-cold waterfalls and calm, dreamy, emerald waters to make this fjord arguably the most beautiful in Norway and perhaps the world. For people that love or have an appreciation of nature, this is simply a must-see when visiting Norway. Named the best travel destination in Scandinavia by Lonely Planet, Geiranger and the sheer grandeur and scale of this fjord promises to be something that will stay in your memory always.
For a place that draws over 600,000 visitors and between 140-180 cruise ships annually, the town of Geiranger and surrounds are super clean and the waters of the fjord, like everywhere else I visited in Norway are just pristine. Taking a cruise on the fjord while you are in Geiranger is something I strongly recommend to completely immerse yourself in the stunning scenery.
As far as fjords go, the Geirangerfjord system is among the world’s longest and deepest. The fjord’s steep crystalline rock walls rise up to 1,400 m from the Norwegian Sea and extend 500 m below sea level. Of the 200 fjords situated along Norway’s west coast, Geirangerfjord is considered to be one of the most unaffected by human activity and infrastructure.
Geirangerfjord splits off from Storfjorden which is the fifth largest fjord in Norway stretching for 110 kilometres from the sea. Storfjorden might be larger than Geirangerfjord but Geirangerfjord is universally considered to be the most beautiful fjord.
With a resident population of just 250, Geiranger is a small tourist village in the western part of Norway, more specifically in the Stranda municipality within the district of Sunnmøre region of Møre og Romsdal county.
Amazingly, due to the beauty of the fjord and resulting tourism, Geiranger is actually the third largest cruise ship port in Norway. To accommodate people that wish to stay for a while here, Geiranger has 5 boutique-style/size hotels and over 10 camping sites.
It is understood that during peak season (May to early September), Geiranger can get pretty crowded and that the roads are virtually inaccessible during winter. I must say we must have been quite lucky as it wasn’t crowded when we were there in late May. The village itself is really gorgeous and well laid out. Everything is well laid out, well maintained and within easy walking distance, albeit that some of it is uphill.
There are essentially two ways to get to Geiranger: by water or by road.
If travelling by road, the closest major centre/city is Ålesund on the Norwegian coast, some 108 kilometres (67 miles) to the north west. Approximate travel time if driving to/from Ålesund is between 2¼ and 3 hours, dependent on the route you choose.
If travelling by water, there are many cruise ships that visit Geiranger as part of a Norwegian itinerary from and ports in mainland Europe and the UK – or taking a ferry from Ålesund. Being Norway’s 9th largest city, Ålesund also has an airport with connections to Oslo and other major centres.
We travelled to Geiranger by car from Bergen leaving very early in the morning. We saw some awesome scenery on the way including high up in the mountains where there was plenty in the way of snow and ice.
We took the turn off on route 63 to head back down toward sea level where the iconic Geirangerfjord was waiting.
As we descended, the fjord eventually came into view and we stopped at the carpark about 4 klms from Geiranger at a place called Flydalsjuvet. Flydalsjuvet is the spot where most of the well-publicized photos of Geiranger and its famous fjord are taken.
Having taken some of our own photos overlooking the fabulous scenery here, we headed down the rest of the way to the village to look around and wait for the ferry we had booked to cruise the fjord.
We arrived earlier than our scheduled cruise so we took a leisurely wander around the harbour area and checked out the cafes and shops in this area.
The ferry we booked was a car ferry which is the main vessel that cruises across Geirangerfjord and travels to an even smaller village called Hellesylt before returning to Geiranger. We were able to watch the ferry coming into Geiranger and unload its cars and passengers before we were able to present our tickets to board.
As in the case when we cruised Lysefjord, we spent most of our time on the top deck to maximise the all-encompassing vista of the water and cliffs comprising the fjord. It didn’t take long at all before the ferry had departed as they are pretty quick with the turnaround.
As we left the dock, the next significant feature we saw on land was the zig-zag road that we were to take heading out of Geiranger as we continued on our road trip. As you will be able to see from the image below, this road had a number of hairpin turns as it leads back up to the higher altitude of the mountainous terrain that lies above and beyond the fjord.
The other noticeable distraction from the immediate view of Geiranger as we cruised down toward the heart of the fjord was the presence of seagulls. Lots of seagulls. They flew in line with the ferry and quite close to the top deck where many passengers took delight in feeding them. It was clear from their behaviour that this is a regular occurrence and the tourists, in particular, loved the birds getting as close as possible and photographing them.
The Seven Sisters and Suitor Waterfalls
The Seven Sisters (or Knivsflåfossen) is a 410-metre (1,350 ft) tall waterfall consists of seven separate streams, and the tallest of the seven has a free fall that measures 250 metres (820 ft). It is an impressive sight in the middle of a fjord as fabulous as this one.
Directly opposite the Seven Sisters Waterfall, on the southern end of the fjord, is another impressive waterfall named ‘The Suitor’ (or Friaren). These waterfalls are a part of a fable or legend from a long time ago, according to the announcement made by staff on board. The story goes that the Seven Sisters dance playfully down the mountain while, across the fjord, the suitor (or courter) flirts playfully with them from afar.
Remnants of old and now mostly abandoned transhumant farms added a cultural aspect to the dramatic natural landscape. These were abandoned some time ago although a couple remain that also take tours of their farm for those interested in human history and settlement in the area.
An intersection in the fjord
Eventually, the ferry came to an intersection where we turned left to continue along this part of Geirangerfjord to the village of Hellesylt. The other option of turning right would take you through the part of Geirangerfjord where the cruise ships go as they head back out to sea. Everywhere you looked there was just breathtaking for its immense natural beauty.
Hellesylt is a delightful old Viking village and port. It is well known for a well photographed waterfall that runs through the middle of the village. The name of the waterfall is Hellesyltfossen and apparently this place can get quite crowded with people taking photos during peak tourist season. Again, we were lucky in that we wandered off the ferry to check out Hellesyltfossen, took some photos of the falls and surrounds before making our way back to the ferry to make the return trip.
Although Hellesylt might not have the same level of grandeur and beauty that surrounds Geiranger, some people do stay there for a day or two to experience the relatively quiet and tranquil environment. This village has approximately the same number of people living there as Geiranger.
Heading back to Geiranger
Making our way back to Geiranger was just as peaceful, relaxing and beautiful as the initial trip out.
The water across the fjord is just so calm and looking at all the amazing scenery rising high above you is something I don’t think I could ever get tired of.
Having enjoyed such a wonderful experience it was time to get back into the car and get on our way to the next planned stop and attraction, Trollstigen.
And so we started along the road out of the village which took us climbing up the series of hairpin turns, we saw earlier from the fjord. We stopped for a last look down at Geiranger and Geirangerfjord from a different direction than the one we arrived from. While we were doing this, another couple stopped their car for the same reason and we ended up taking photos of each other with this lovely background vista.
We then completed our ascent and before you know it, we were back up in the snow and ice surrounded by the beautiful Norwegian mountains again.
Have you ever researched a place, got excited about going and then felt that you researched too much because it didn’t feel that special once you were there? This sometimes happens in my travels but I must say this was not the case here. I did a fair amount of research prior to visiting Geirangerfjord and I just loved experiencing every moment of it. Being here in the midst of such natural wonder just can not compare with reading a book or looking at photos online.
Have you visited Geirangerfjord? If not, is this somewhere that appeals to you? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Also for those interested readers, do have a look at Fjord Norway’s page on Geirangerfjord.