Sailing the magnificent Geirangerfjord near Geiranger, Norway.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

One of the most frequently photographed locations in Norway is the Geirangerfjord.  At fifteen kilometers in length, it can take cruise ships up to two hours to navigate from open ocean to the small town of Geiranger, nestled at the fjord’s end.  During this time, passengers are treated to some of the most spectacular scenery that can be seen at sea.  
The fjord itself features two famous waterfalls: the Seven Sisters and the Suitor.  The Seven Sisters is arguably the most famous; indeed, if you open any cruise brochure and flip to the Northern Europe section, chances are the Seven Sisters is featured prominently.
 The Seven Sisters, seen in closeup.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

While the Seven Sisters is made up of seven individual falls that cascade down an almost vertical cliff face into the fjord, the nearby Suitor is equally impressive.  While it contains less individual streams, it boasts considerably more power.  The transit of Geirangerfjord is definitely something you want to be out on deck for; because ships must retrace their steps later on in the day in order to reach open ocean, passengers are able to experience both sides of this fascinating journey.
 Notice the size of the passenger ferry in this photo –
the Geirangerfjord is massive.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Some itineraries will include a short “service call” to nearby Hellesylt before proceeding on to Geiranger.  This allows passengers to take overland shore excursions and rejoin their ship later in the afternoon. 
Some day, this beautiful passage may no longer be possible: the Åkerneset mountain is continually eroding, and a large chunk overhangs the fjord.  An eventual collapse would create a tsunami that would completely obliterate the towns of Geiranger and Hellesylt, and block the fjord in the process.  Fortunately, this event isn’t likely to happen for hundreds of years.

 Arrival and tender operations in the beautiful village of Geiranger.
Photo © Aaron Saunders
Like so many beautiful Norwegian locales, Geiranger is nestled comfortably at the end of the fjord, making it a popular port of call for cruise ships.   Tourism is the town’s main source of income, and over 180 ships can visit during a typical summer season.  Thanks to the number of things to do here – overland excursions, kayaking, or simply wandering the beautiful countryside – the town never seems overly crowded, except perhaps at the tender piers.
Only 250 people live here year-round, a figure that becomes impressive when you consider how many passengers visit via cruise ship on a given day.  During our call in August 2009 aboard Crown Princess, we were also joined by the popular German “clubship” AIDAaura and Celebrity Equinox, which was on its maiden voyage from Southampton.
Assuming each of these ships carried their regular passenger compliment, roughly 7,230 people descended on Geiranger that day; twenty-eight times the population of the town.  It’s a testament to the people of Geiranger that everything seemed to run and work so, well, seamlessly.
 Part of the small shopping area near the tender piers.
Photo © Aaron Saunders
Near the tender piers is a small shopping area.  Unlike many ports of call, there are actually many shops here worth looking at that offer goods that are completely unique to Geiranger, or hand-crafted nearby.  Be sure to find a cafe to kick back at and relax while enjoying a delicious cup of coffee or a well-deserved cold pint.  The scenery here is beautiful, and the atmosphere laid-back.
 Heading up the steep roads from the town.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

If you do anything in Geiranger, definitely take the time to wander the twisting, steep roads that lead out of town.  The photo opportunities are more than worth it.
 The Geiranger Church.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

We took the time to wander the grounds of the Gerianger church.  Built entirely of wood, this structure has stood on this spot for hundreds of years, overlooking the same impressive fjord.  If you’re from North America – still a relatively young continent in many places – you’re likely to find the birth and death dates on the surrounding headstones to be very revealing: many date from the 1700’s or earlier.
Re-tracing our steps back through the Geirangerfjord in early evening.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

All too soon, our time in Geiranger had come to and end, but not before our return journey through the fjords.  While the sun never fully sets in summer at these northern latitudes, the impending dusk made for a memorable evening.  If there is one itinerary where a balcony pays for itself, it is this.
For more information on the Geirangerfjord and Geiranger itself, be sure to visit the official Geiranger website.

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