The Geirangerfjord encapsulates all the Norwegian fjords and offers everything from the utmost natural beauty, with its waterfalls on steep mountain walls, to evidence of human creativity and determination to make a livelihood from the mountainside farms. In the modern era, it is also home to industrial entrepreneurs.
The Geirangerfjord reaches more than 62 miles from Ålesund to Geiranger. The first stretch is typified by lively small towns and villages, such as Sula on the fjord’s north bank and settlements that were once the center for seal hunting in the Arctic.
The entrepreneurial, ‘go-getter’ attitude manifests itself in Sykkylven and Ekornes, where the 7,000 inhabitants produce furniture such as the Stressless for the world’s markets.A bit further in to the fjord is the small town of Stranda, where the 4,600 inhabitants work in food production supplying all of Norway with frozen pizza.
Otherwise, mountains dominate the mid-section of the fjord, where human activity is restricted to small farms clinging to the mountainside.
Farms only accessible with ladders
The mountainside farms are often so steep that ladders are installed several places. The story goes that more than once the ladders where taken away for ‘repairs’when the tax collector was on his way. The ladders, however, were all there when Queen Sonja and King Harald celebrated their silver wedding at one of the farms. The Queen took the original route while many of the guests chose to fly in with helicopter.
The Bride’s Veil
Provided there has been enough rain, the Hurtigruten deck offers a front-row seat to the waterfalls ‘Brudesløretog de syvsøstre’ – the Bride’s Veil and the Seven Sisters – who dance playfully down the mountain in youthful joy while the manly ‘Friaren’ (Courtier) flirts with them from the far side of the fjord.
At the very end of the fjord is the village of Geiranger, an agricultural center containing the Geiranger Fjord Centre, which, in conjunction with UNESCO, brings the story of the fjords and its people to life.
History that’s set in stone
The mountainous grey rock walls that enclose the mighty sides of Geirangerfjord provide a stunning history lesson: the tops of the cliff faces act as a visual marker of where the earth's surface once laid. For 100,000 years, glacial sheets from several Ice Ages slowly wore down the rocks, creating this giant U-shaped valley. The deep inlet includes rock walls that reach up to 5,000 feet in height in some spots - just a few feet shorter than Mount Mitchell, the eastern United States' highest peak. While Norway coastal cruises feature a number of historic sites, few can boast a history that dates back 600 million years.
A true plant haven
Although Geirangerfjord is well-known for its marine residents, which include orcas, salmon and porpoise, the native plants and land-based fauna that pepper the valley embankments are some of the most rare in the world. Keep your eye out for the Arctic poppy, a delicate creamy yellow bloom which prefers to sprout among the rocky sunny outcroppings near the water's edge. Cruise-goers should also watch for the quick movements of the mountain foxes and lemmings, and if you're lucky, you may even spot a wild reindeer - a true treat that is sure to delight any little ones you're traveling with.
A place of legend
The beautiful sights have been the muse for a number of area folk tales in the region, and knowing the stories behind these sights helps to make them all the more memorable. The Friaren waterfall, for example, is the lone fall that sits across from the Seven Sisters, a series of seven even peaks. According to ancient tales, the waterfall is actually a courtier, desperately trying to impress one of the mountainous beauties from across the waterway for all of eternity.
While the Geirangerfjord is only one part of our Norway coastal cruises, the details of this 9-mile fjord are worth special attention.
See Geirangerfjord with Hurtigruten
On Northbound Norwegian Coastal Cruises we sail through the fjord during the summer months (June 2 - September 30).