During a whirlwind tour of Norway’s Western Fjord Region, I had the chance to sit back, relax, and catch my breath in one of Norway’s remote villages located at the end of one of its most magnificent fjords, Geirangerfjord.
Geirangerfjord is a one of Norway’s most visited tourist sites, thanks to its stunning scenery that helped it attain its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Geirangerfjord’s dramatic natural beauty can be attributed to its narrow and steep-sided crystalline rock walls rising up 4600 feet and extending down 1600 feet below sea level. It’s one of the world’s longest and deepest fjords.
With its glass-like water, narrow passage, dramatic waterfalls, and hovering low clouds, you’ll feel as if you are in a mystical place when you visit Geirangerfjord. It’s easy to see why it’s often referred to as Norway’s fairytale fjord, and it’s a must-see destination for anyone visiting Norway.
Then there’s the small village of Geiranger that sits on the end of the fjord. It may see hundreds of thousands of visitors each season arriving by cruise ship, ferry, tour bus, and car, but the town itself is quite small and sleepy with only about 250 residents. For most people, a day in Geiranger to see the fjord would suffice. However, I think Geiranger is one of those fjord towns that is worth the overnight stay. Doing so will allow you to take in the spectacular scenery at a relaxing pace. Not to mention, you’ll have the surreal experience of spending a quiet night on this beautiful fjord (just don’t watch the Norwegian film, The Wave, before you visit or you might have a restless night’s sleep).
There are quite a few ways to get to Geiranger depending on where you are coming from. When planning out my itinerary, I decided to drive from Alesund. Driving in Norway is no problem at all, thanks to modern, well-marked roads. It took me just under 3 hours to get to Geiranger, and that was with a stop or two for photos (thanks to the jaw dropping scenery that I encountered along the way) and the short ferry ride that you’ll have to take across a fjord between Linge and Eidsdal.
Another option is to drive to Hellesylt (either from Alesund or points south) where you can catch the car ferry that takes you right up Geirangerfjord to the village.
Geiranger – the Town
Getting your bearings
Geiranger is not very big, and it’ll take very little time to explore what it has to offer. Depending on when you visit, the town can be bustling with a number of cruise ships in port or it can resemble a ghost town with some restaurants closed. I visited Geiranger in early September, a time of year that is considered the end of the tourist season. There were no ships in port that day, and the village appeared dead with just a few souls wondering the streets. It was actually quite peaceful, albeit a bit eerie with the crisp chill in the air and the fog rolling in from the fjord.
All that changed when I entered the small grocery store at 5:30PM. It was PACKED … I swear it felt like everyone who was visiting Geiranger was in the grocery store at that time. I later found out that the grocery store was only open ‘til 6:00PM, and everyone was making a last minute grocery run (more like a beer and snack run) before it closed. I’m not going to lie; I was in there for the same reason.
I had to giggle as I watched a 70 year old woman next to me try to make up her mind about which extremely overpriced 6 pack of beer to buy, Hansa or Norlands. I decided to go with the beer from Bergen, but limited myself to just two cans. After all, I was planning a big night out to explore the nightlife of Geiranger so I had to pace myself, unlike the elderly woman next to me who appeared to be staying in for the night with her 6 pack.
There is no nightlife in Geiranger!! I sadly realized this as the sun was setting on my two cans of beer. Oh, karma is a b*tch, and now, I was the one wishing I had purchased the 6-pack for my room (or at least knew which room the elderly woman was staying in). I tried to go to the hotel bar for a drink, but not only was it empty, there wasn’t even a bartender there. Instead, I found a tap freely flowing all over the floor (probably the hijinks of some mischievous tweens shooting pool close by). At probably $15/pint, I was tempted to pour myself one. After all, I was the one who turned the tap off and reported the mess. But, by then, I felt defeated in my effort to find nightlife, so I just retreated back to my room. I sat on my balcony nursing my two beers as I stared down into the fjord until there was nothing more to see under the cover of night. Then I went to bed by 9PM.
Shopping for souvenirs
While in Geiranger, there are two shops worth a stop for a souvenir or two. First, the chocolate shop, Fjordnaer, is where you’ll find unique chocolates made with flavors inspired by Norway and the fjords, like brown cheese and cloud berry. Read more about this delicious chocolate shop here. The second shop is conveniently located on the ground floor of the Hotell Geiranger. It is quite large, and they sell pretty much every type of Norwegian souvenir you could imagine from the inexpensive trinket to the pricey treasure including Christmas ornaments, troll dolls, and Dale of Norway sweaters.
Grabbing a bite to eat
There are a few places to grab a bite to eat in Geiranger (Brasserie Posten, Naustkroa, Friaren Bistro at the Hotell Geiranger, and Café Ole). For lunch (or a casual dinner), try Naustkroa. It’s not fancy, but I found it to be quaint, charming and laid back…just like Geiranger. You’ll find a decent pizza here that goes great with a cold mug of beer. It’s located on the main pedestrian street. (If you happen to visit during nice weather, grab a seat outside along the pedestrian street to do some people watching or use the indoor stairs to access the terrace that overlooks the harbor).
When it comes to dinner, keep in mind that the few restaurants in Geiranger are small with limited seating. Try to make a reservation in advance, if you can, by emailing the restaurant of choice. Otherwise, you can still find a seat if you are not picky about where you eat, and you are willing to avoid the dinner rush by eating early or late. For example, in early September, at about 6:30PM, the restaurant at Hotell Geiranger was pretty empty, but the popular, chic Brasserie Poston on the water was packed and had a waiting list.
Geiranger – the Fjord
The reason you are in Geiranger is to see the main attraction, the fjord. Happily, you can easily enjoy the views offered on this spectacular fjord from both the water and from the top of the mountain. I highly recommend doing both to get different viewpoints of the fjord, as neither disappoint.
Cruising the fjord
There’s no better way to really see the dramatic fjord scenery than to take a cruise along its waters. From its majestic cliffs to its enchanting waterfalls (Seven Sisters, Bridal Veil and Suitor), there will be plenty of photo opportunities for you on the 90 minute cruise from Geiranger’s harbor. You’ll even get an up close view of the abandoned mountain farms, and I guarantee you’ll be trying to imagine how they even got to the remote locations let alone farmed the steep land.
Geirange Fjord Service provides the cruises and you can buy your tickets at the Visitor’s Information Center located at the pier. (Cost: $27.00) There’s also commentary on the cruise so you’ll know what you are looking at.
A drive up Eagle’s Road for a bird’s eye view
The other way to view the fjord is from the top of the mountain that overlooks Geiranger. Norway does a fantastic job at designing and creating viewpoints for many of its popular and beautiful fjords, integrating these tourist lookouts into the landscape. The viewpoint overlooking Geirangerfjord is known as Ørnesvingen. Here, visitors can step out on a floating concreate platform with a 1,968 foot vertical drop for jaw dropping panoramic views. (Interesting fact, the waterfall that runs under the platform is man-made! With so many waterfalls in Norway, U was surprised they had to actually make one?!)
Getting to the viewpoint from Geiranger is a treat in itself. The drive goes along the steepest portion of the mountain and swings you around 11 hairpin turns. I found the drive exhilarating, but of course, nothing beats the view once you reach the top. You’ll easily recognize the view, as it’s one of the most photographed views in Norway, so have your camera ready to capture your own perfect shot.
Where I Stayed
During my visit to Geiranger, I stayed at the Hotell Geiranger. The hotel is conveniently located right in the center of Geiranger, just off the pedestrian street and just a short walk to the pier. The hotel offers balcony rooms with views of the fjord that I think are worth the upgrade. The hotel offers a full buffet breakfast, so be sure to ask if it’s included in your room rate. If you drive to the hotel, you’ll find free parking behind it.
Special thanks to Visit Norway USA for hosting my visit to Geiranger. As always, opinions and recommendations are 100% my own.