Although I found each of the destinations we stopped at on our Norwegian cruise to have its own unique charms and offerings, personally I thought the tiny village of Geiranger to be the most spectacular. However, it wasn’t what was in the village that made it special-it was sailing through the Geirangerfjord that made it utterly memorable.
When you come to Geiranger, be prepared to be blown away by the beautiful landscapes that are well, everywhere. It’s so popular that the travel company Lonely Planet has named Geiranger as the best travel destination in Scandinavia and in 2005, the Geirangerfjord area was even listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Seven Sisters Waterfall (I was never able to count seven) is one of the highlights while sailing through.
Our first two ports of call (Stavanger and Alesund) are both cities and so docking was basically in a populated harbor area. However, with Geiranger it was the exact opposite. Arriving in Geiranger meant literally sailing through the Geiranger fjord (the village lies at the head of the Geirangerfjord). The night before the captain recommended we wake up early to witness our arrival into the fjord and so we did, along with scores of other passengers and crew. I have to say nothing was more charming than seeing the looks of genuine excitement and amazement on the faces of crew members from Southeast Asian nations who I’m sure could never have imagined seeing this type of scenery in their lifetimes. Sometimes the most rewarding travel experience is one in which you can bring home a memory such as that.
While there were no glaciers (I guess I’ll need to do an Alaskan cruise in order to cross off that bucket list item), the scenery was just breathtaking. Living in a city and being accustomed to mass development and commercialization, it was so refreshing to see basically nothing in terms of those things. One saw houses and some businesses that capitalize on the fact that Geiranger is the third biggest cruise ship port in Norway, but basically it was the type of scenery that had existed 50 years ago or more. (If I had one complaint about Geiranger it’s that when there are multiple cruise ships in port, there aren’t nearly enough food establishments to meet the needs of cruise ship passengers looking for a meal; we were turned away by multiple restaurants as they were full and ended up sharing a table with other diners as there was no space.)
Geirangerfjord brought to life the Norway I had always envisioned; in fact, images of the area often grace the cover of travel guidebooks since it is such a majestic place. While the weather the day we were there was the worst of the entire trip (definitely colder temperatures, a light drizzle), in a place like that, not even dismal weather could be a deterrent in terms of enjoying ourselves.
I ended up booking a tour through the village’s main tour operator, Geiranger Fjordservice, the Panoramic Duo (355 Norwegian Kroner for adults). It lets you experience the fjord from two different perspectives- from high up on the Flydalsjuvet gorge and Ørnesvingen (“Eagle Bend”) viewpoints and then on the water itself, on the M/S Geirangerfjord. Each part lasted 75 minutes which included round-trip transportation from the bus departure/dock areas (when I say that the village of Geiranger is small, I truly mean it).
I really enjoyed the bus portion since seeing the fjord from high up top was unbelievable; from the water you truly have no idea of the sheer size of this natural wonder and of course the mountains as well. I only wish it could have lasted longer or we could have driven further or higher up. And kudos to the driver who handled the switchbacks on Eagle Bend while driving a motor coach like an absolute pro (i.e. it was nothing).
While our cruise ship had done basically the same itinerary the M/S Fjord did that afternoon, it really is a different experience when sailing on the open water in a boat that is a fraction the size of a cruise liner. For starters, it’s colder, the water will hit your face more at times, and you just feel that much “closer” to it all. Unfortunately, the weather was quite dismal during the boat portion of the tour so we stayed indoors more than we should have.
Personal note: While I would highly recommend booking through Geiranger Fjordservice, I somewhat wish I had ended up booking the Fjord and Mountain combo tour. This also included a ride on the fjord but a bus ride to the Mt. Dalsnibba viewpoint instead. It was slightly longer and cost more than the Panoramic Duo. We talked to people who went to Mt. Dalsnibba (this is higher up) and they said it was quite spectacular.
Be sure to stop at Geiranger Sjokolade which is a chocolate shop right in the village that makes its own crafted chocolates (complete with unique flavors such as brown cheese-D tried this and liked it) but other baked goods and hot chocolate, of course. They also have many prepackaged chocolates to take home with you, which is what we got.
After our excursion was finished, we went in search of food. Although we could have easily returned to the ship, gotten food for free and then come back off the ship, I wanted to eat IN port. Unfortunately, I underestimated what it meant for there to be multiple cruise ships in one tiny port (the fjord may have been massive but the village was the oppposite). We finally ended up at the Brasserie Posten even though I had to ask a family if we could use the portion of the table they weren’t using since there was nowhere else to sit and we had already been turned away by two places that were completely full. Thankfully this worked out and the Kraftkar pizza we split (more than enough for two people) was delicious, one of the best meals we had on the trip (it was a white sauce pizza complete with bacon and rich, creamy cheeses). D also thoroughly enjoyed his massive beer which came in what appeared to be a wine glass.
I really loved my time in Geiranger and dream about returning one day and being based there. The idea of waking up to such marvelous scenery every day is just enchanting.