Geiranger is a small town located on the fjord of the same name in the Norwegian Sea. Norway boasts many natural attractions, but Geirangerfjorden is undoubtedly one of the most famous and recognizable of them. In 2005, it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List, along with Naeroyfjord (Narrow Fjord). It is considered the pearl in the crown of the Norwegian fjords – surrounded by majestic mountain peaks, 800-meter cliffs and cascading waterfalls, with an impressive 15 kilometers in length and 260 meters in depth.
The history of the development of the town of Geiranger is interesting. Although Geiranger wasn’t developed until cruise ships started coming in the mid-19th century, the area itself has been inhabited for thousands of years. In the village there are finds from the Stone Age and the Viking Age. There are old animal graves and buildings from the Stone Age on the mountain. There are indications that some are as old as the last ice age and may even be among the oldest buildings in Norway.
The name Geiranger (Geiranger comes) from Old Norse geirr meaning “spear” and angr meaning “fjord”. Many place names in Norway end with the word angr (Hardanger, Evanger, etc.). In the early years of Geiranger’s settlement, it was primarily a meeting and trading place for the people of the fjord region and the people of the inland region. They used to meet by the fjord in Geiranger at a place called Merak. Fishermen and farmers would trade goods (fish, hides, grain, salt) and animals (cows, horses, pets) and then head home
As elsewhere in Norway, the Black Death led to a sharp decline in the population and growth was not seen again until the 19th century.
Although it is a meeting place between East and West, Geiranger has historically been very isolated. Travel to other villages was difficult and the road through the mountains was long and winding. In 1858, the first regular shipping line started between Geiranger, the villages and Ålesund.
In 1869, the first “Iåna” (small shop and guest house) was built, which later became a hotel. The store and hotel did not bring enough income by themselves, so their owner raised cattle, sheep and pigs. At that time, preparations for Geirangerwegen (the road to Lom) had already begun. When the road opened in 1889, it contributed to an increase in tourists and visitors. The natives introduced a system by which transportation was provided by horses. Many hotels began to be built in Geiranger: Hotel Geiranger dates from 1885, Hotel Union dates from 1891 and is the only one open all year round.
When cars come to Norway, the authorities do not allow cars on Geirangervegen. Local man Karl Mjelva, husband of Julie Mjelva, who owns Hotel Union, used his influence and connections to create a chassis specifically for the Norwegian high mountain roads. Then cars were allowed in Geiranger and many farmers started offering taxi services. By the 1930s there were 50 cars used to transport workers. During the war, the occupation troops seized 37 cars. After the war, only 9 remained in service. Karl Mjelva and his family made great efforts to find and recover the missing cars. You can see some of Geiranger’s taxi cars in a special exhibition at the Union Hotel. In 1955, to Eidsdal was completed and became Geiranger’s first year-round road.
In the summer of 1869 the yacht “Neried” sailed for Norway as one of the first tourist boats to visit the country. This marked the beginning of tourist ships coming to Geiranger. By 1906, 110 cruise ships docked at Geiranger carrying 11,000 passengers. At that time, the whole of Norway has 25,000 visitors – that means almost half go to Geiranger.
Today, the population of Geiranger is about 250 people. This is the number of people who live here year-round; the population increases greatly during the summer months as temporary workers arrive. Geiranger has a school, a home for the elderly, a grocery store, a bakery, a brewery, a chocolate factory and a church.
The main industry so far is tourism. Most of the old farms have been converted into campsites, lodges or other accommodation. Most people work in tourism. Geiranger is one of the most visited places in Norway with around 700,000 visitors a year. Most people come by car, although cruise ships are becoming very popular.
You can enjoy Geiranger in many ways. One of them is from above. The Eagle Road – is the name given to the steepest section of the road up the mountainside from Geiranger to Eidsdal on road no. 63. The road goes through 11 sharp bends from Geiranger and up to the highest point of the section, 620 meters above sea level level. It was officially opened on September 15, 1955, providing year-round road access to the city. It became an attraction from day one and was named Eagle Road because at its highest point it passes through terrain that has traditionally been home to a large number of eagles. The name also reflects the wildlife, the spectacle that tourists and others using the road will experience, especially if they stop at Ørnesvingen, the highest bend of the serpentine. A wonderful observation deck has been built here, from which visitors can enjoy the magnificent panorama over the town of Geiranger, the Geiranger fjord, the Seven Sisters waterfall and the Knivsflå alpine farm, or gaze at the many cruise ships that travel the fjord far below. The site was recently renovated and opened on 21 June 2006 with a ceremony as part of the “Nasjonal Turistveg” (National Tourist Roads) project under the auspices of Statens Vegvesen, the Norwegian Public Roads Authority.
At 1500m above sea level and at the top of a winding mountain road is the Geiranger Skywalk. This platform in Dalsnibba offers a panoramic view of Geirangerfjord and the snow-capped mountains that surround it. Be prepared to pay NOK 300 toll to get there.
One of the most common ways to see Geiranger Fjord is by boat tour. The boat departs from the port in Geiranger and on board you can enjoy a cup of coffee and freshly baked waffles while enjoying the view of the fjord and the majestic mountains around. If you look up, you will see small mountain farms clinging to the rocks, a breathtaking sight!
Your audio guide will tell you fascinating stories about life high in the mountain farms and the people who lived there. The boat approaches the famous waterfalls “The Seven Sisters”, “The Suitor” and “Bridal Veil”. Get out on the deck to get the best views and keep your camera close! You’ll also get up close to the animals in and around the fjord, and if you’re lucky, you’ll even see porpoises playing in the water – a classic Geiranger experience!
For more information, check this site.
I will make a slight digression to tell about one of the farms we chose to visit – Skageflå. In fact, this is probably the most famous farm along the fjord. Norway’s King Harald and Queen Sonja celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in Skagefla in 1993. The Queen also unveiled an official UNESCO World Heritage plaque here in June 2006. Boarding the boat, we first enjoyed a leisurely cruise to explore the fjord . You will then be dropped off on the way back to Geiranger at Skagehola, the point of the excursion that is only accessible by boat. The trail to Skageflå is steep and difficult, but you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of Gairanger and the Seven Sisters and The Suitor waterfalls. The farm itself is perched on the edge of a mountain about 270m above sea level. If you want to do the same tour, you can book it here.