Of all the fjords in Norway, Geirangerfjord is arguably the most well known. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered one of the best things to do in Norway, so we made sure to book a ferry to Geiranger that would allow us a journey through the famous fjord. It did not disappoint, and my only regret is that we didn’t spend longer exploring the charming hamlet of Geiranger.
How to Get to Geirangerfjord
Geirangerfjord is about a nine-mile branch of Storfjord, accessible from Alesund or from the town of Hellesylt. Cruise ships regularly travel to Geiranger, the tiny town at the end of the fjord. If you are staying in Alesund, you can book a boat from Alesund to Geiranger that goes through Geirangerfjord. However, on a local’s recommendation, we instead took the tourist ferry from Hellesylt.
Hellesylt itself is a great place to wait for a ferry — there’s fantastic souvenir shop (after touring the whole west coast, we think Hellesylt has the best prices on souvenirs) and a waterfall right by the ferry dock. You do have to walk a bit from the parking area to ferry dock, so dress appropriately.
Fjord1, which operates many ferries in Norway, runs the tourist ferry cruise from Hellesylt to Geiranger. It’s essentially a fancier version of a regular car ferry, and space is limited, so if you plan to drive on, you’ll want to book in advance.
The cruise is well designed. There is narration in English, so you can learn about the geography and identify the waterfalls as you pass by. There’s food and drink for purchase, and inside the ferry is a fancy seating area with large windows. I can imagine that even during snow, rain, and sleet, this fjord cruise would be cozy and pleasant.
We visited in summer, however, and elected to sit on the rooftop deck, which allowed for stunning views of steep mountain cliffs rising from the fjord. There are waterfalls galore along Geirangerfjord, but it’s the trifecta of the Seven Sisters, the Suitor, and Bridal Veil falls that will really capture your imagination.
Things to Do in Geiranger
Although it rained on us in Geiranger (I mean, what is this, Norway?) I still wished we had more time to explore this little town. Sure, it’s touristy in the summer months (there’s a giant cruise ship docked there), but after you’ve spent days in the countryside hiking, a few shops with overpriced chocolate and baked goods start to look pretty good.
We were lucky enough to have a distant cousin from the nearby town of Stranda showing us around, so I feel confident that we got the best of Geiranger in our limited time there. We started at Geiranger Bakeri for supplies — I mean, pastries are necessary for fortification, right?
The shops here are as adorable as you might expect, including the Fjordnaer chocolate shop where you can go downstairs and watch through a window as better-than-average-looking Norwegian people make chocolate. My kids predictably LOVED this, and we got to admire the fjord while they admired the chocolate, so win-win, right?
I highly recommend that you visit the Norwegian Fjord Center (Fjordsenter) while you are in Geiranger. The name makes it sound less exciting than it actually is. There is a price for admission, but the permanent exhibition was pretty fun with kids. It’s a small museum that aims to tell the history of pretty much everything in the area, so you’ll see replicas of buildings from a century ago (completely with animatronic figures), a moving boat, an avalanche area (that was awesome and scared us all to death), and an exhibit that specifically explains the formation of fjords.
Downstairs at the Norwegian Fjord Center is Fjordheim, a great little kids exhibit that encourages children to learn about geology and how fjords are created. Outside the museum is a large grassy area, picnic tables, and a fire pit, so like many places in Norway, there are plenty of opportunities for picnicking.
Given that most of our party is under driving age, we did NOT rent tiny cars. However, you can indeed rent some super cool little electric cars right outside the Norway Fjord Center if you don’t happen to have other transportation. This would allow you to drive up to one of the popular Geirangerfjord viewpoints for a photo op, such as Ornesvingen, where I was stunned yet again by Norway’s natural beauty, even in the midst of a torrential downpour.
From Geiranger, you can head back on the ferry to Hellesylt…or it’s possible in one crazy day to then drive over to Trollstigen, the “troll road,” to experience the famous switchbacks there. After all, why not keep the kids up til midnight as long as you’re in the land of the midnight sun?
(The answer is because they will go completely crazy and never get over jet lag…but that’s a story for another day!)