For this first visit of Norwegian fjords, I chose to go through Fjord Tours to directly book a “package”. One of them raised my interest, the Geirangerfjord & Norway in a Nutshell® tour. It is an organized, unaccompanied tour which only includes transportation and covers two of the most popular excursions in Norway: a cruise on the Geirangerfjord and the famous Norway in a nutshell®, which is a beautiful trip from Oslo to Bergen (or vice versa/roundtrip) via Voss, Gudvangen, Flam and Myrdal. Moreover, a visit of Ålesund and a cruise on the Hardangerfjord, second fjord of Norway, are on my to do list. I make this trip with a friend and we stay in hotels which provide us some comfort after long days of sightseeing. We eat from time to time in local restaurants and take the opportunity to do some activities on site.
We board on the MS Nordnorge, one of Hurtigruten coastal express boats, and leave Ålesund at 9:30 am for a cruise of about 4 hours to Geiranger. Once there, we spend the same amount of time, which is enough to visit the area and to have lunch. Then we go back to Ålesund by bus and visit one of two magnificent views of the region, Ørnesvingen.
As the title of the article sums it up, this fjord is nothing less than amazing. It is a landscape that comes out from a fairytale, with its majestic mountains, snowy tops, beautiful and wild waterfalls, lush vegetation, not to mention the gorgeous colors and the calm of the water of the fjord itself.
It stretches over 100 km from Ålesund to Geiranger. The dominant aspect of the first kilometers is the presence of small communities along the fjord. On the north shore is Sula (7,500 inhabitants) and on the south side is what was once the center of the seal hunt in Arctic waters. The cities of Sykkylven and Ekornes, whose main industry is the manufacture of furniture, are established further east on the south shore. Life must be nice there, as 7,000 people are able to manage the production for the world market of famous Stressless recliners!
The central part of the fjord is characterized by mountains literally plunging into the sea. Man could not build any city on this area, but there is an exception. It is called Stranda (4,600 inhabitants), a town early known for its furniture manufacture, later for its sausages production, and nowadays for its a pizza industry. The bottom of the fjord gives the impression that the mountains take control over the place and let just a few drops of the Atlantic Ocean going through. Here, everything happens according to the rules of the mountains.
It is with admiration and envy that we gaze over some farms built on top of these hills. Trails which begin at the fjord level were sometimes so craggy that ladders were installed to allow access to some houses. It is even said that these ladders were removed “in order to be repaired” when the tax collector was in sight… We imagine that the postman was more easily welcomed as some hamlets perched on the hills have their own post office!
Thanks to snowmelt and recent rain, we are able to see Brudesløret (the “Bridal Veil”) and De syv Søstrene (the “Seven Sisters”) waterfalls, which in youthful exuberance, descend the slope while the valiant Friaren (the “Pretender”) court them from the other side of the fjord.
Finally, at the bottom of the fjord is hidden the lovely village of Geiranger, which is one of the favorite destinations for travelers worldwide. Nestled in one of the branches of Storfjorden, it offers some of the most beautiful panoramas in the world and has been declared “best destination” in Norway by Lonely Planet. It is also the third largest Norwegian cruise port, receiving nearly 160 ships during the four months of the tourist season (May-August). Hundreds of thousands people make a stopover there, making tourism the main activity of its 250 permanent residents.
Barely back ashore, it begins to rain in torrents for about 15 minutes. We just have time to go inside the tourist office, perfect to get some information until the rain stops. In addition to the amount of brochures on various excursions and activities, we obtain a small map of the area. Questioning the receptionnist about schedules for the sightseeing bus which can take us to different points of view, we learn that the first and last bus of the day has already left about an hour ago. Too bad.
Once the storm is over, we walk around the village, visit a few shops and finally go to eat to Ole Buda Restaurant, an excellent restaurant set in an original style.
Before the meal, we spotted a chocolate shop, Geiranger Sjokolade, just in front of the restaurant. As inhabitants of the country of chocolate (and don’t tell me Belgian chocolate is better), it goes without saying that it is our duty to try out this Norwegian chocolate which is made on site. There are so many variants to taste, all very original and delicious. Yummy!
It’s a beautiful afternoon we spent in Geiranger, certainly cloudy but definitely greedy. On the way back to Ålesund, our bus stops on the Ørnesvingen viewpoint on the top of the Eagle Road. This is the steepest section of road on the mountainside between Geiranger and Eidsdal. The road climbs on 11 hairpin bends from Geirangerfjord to the highest point of the road, Korsmyra, at 620 meters. Opened in September 15, 1955, this road has enabled the village of Geiranger to be reachable all year long. It was nicknamed Eagle Road because its top used to house a large number of those birds.
The name also reflects the wild and spectacular appearance of the road. A stop at Ørnesvingen is mandatory as it is one of the two viewpoints of the area. This platform was created to allow visitors to admire the magnificent panorama of Geiranger, Geirangerfjord, De syv Søstrene (the Seven Sisters Waterfall) and Knivsflå alpine farm, or watch the many cruise ships which circulate in the fjord.
We continue our journey and arrive back at Ålesund in the evening.