Geiranger: Norway’s majestic tourist town
Recently made a UNESCO world heritage site, the fjord that houses Geiranger has beautiful mountainous scenery, and is only two hours from the UK
�Norwegians are rather proud of their fjords and none more so than the jewel in the crown – the Geiranger fjord. If you have seen photos of one of these vast geological oddities, it is likely that you have unwittingly come across the Geiranger fjord.
With mountains climbing high into the sky and dozens of waterfalls thundering down into the calm water, the daddy of the Norwegian fjords is nothing short of spectacular.
Recently made a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fjord and surrounding landscape offers one of the most beautiful and peaceful settings within hours of the UK.
The small town of Geiranger, which nestles neatly in the mouth of the fjord, has attracted tourists for more than a century.
Serving as the main base for excursions to the area, the town’s population of just a few hundred open their doors to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors every summer.
While the majority of those may be passing through onboard one of the ubiquitous cruise ships, the best way to experience the area is to stay overnight or longer.
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Opening your curtains in the morning at the Hotel Union, you are greeted by a magnificent panorama of the imposing fjord surrounding the hotel.
To fully appreciate it though, the best thing to do is either head up or down.
A short five minute ascent by car gets you to a viewing point looking down on the small town and water in all its glory – a great spot for the picture perfect postcard snap.
Even better though is to immerse yourself in the landscape rather than just look at it from a distance.
The Geiranger fjord provides an ideal setting for anything from a gentle hour’s stroll to a more testing day-long guided hike.
Walking under waterfalls, drinking fresh water as it runs down from snow-covered peaks, it is at this point that you feel you are doing justice to the area.
No less spectacular though is to see the scenery from the water.
The ferry ride (or cruise ship should you be that way inclined) into Geiranger ticks all the boxes with views of the fjord and passing porpoises, plus the added extra of a running commentary over the loudspeaker.
But nothing can beat the tranquillity of an early morning kayak on the near-freezing water, paddling up as near as you dare to 100metre-high waterfalls crashing down beside your tiny vessel.
A couple of hours’ drive away from the serenity of the fjords is the region’s main town of Alesund. With a population of just over 40,000, Alesund slips into the top-10 most populous towns in Norway and is located on one of a series of islands – some linked by subsea tunnels but predominantly accessible only by ferry or via long-winding roads.
The town is perfectly located for use as a base from which to travel to the nearby fjords but to pigeon hole it as such would do a disservice to a stunning place in its own right.
Viewed from the Aksla point at the summit of 418 steep steps on the outskirts of town, Alesund looks like a fictional creation slotted in among the rugged terrain of the surrounding islands.
Devastated by a great fire one night in 1904, Alesund rose from the ashes over the next three years to form the charming Art Nouveau town that exists today.
The Art Nouveau Centre of Norway, which is located in the centre of town, contains a time machine that takes visitors right back to the night of the fire and celebrates the hard work involved in the reconstruction of the city.
Situated overlooking the water which runs through the middle of Alesund, the boutique Hotel Brosundet contains floor-to-ceiling windows from which to watch boats sailing by.
The hotel’s piece de resistance though is its Room 47, which is located not in the main building but in the old lighthouse at the end of a rocky wall about 200 metres from the hotel.
Squeezed into just 12 square metres and circular in shape, the room contains a bedroom and bathroom in the same style as those in the main building and provides a truly unique night’s stay for any romantic couple.
A word of warning though – before you go booking a two-week stay there, bear in mind the probability that one night may well be enough before the need to stretch your legs takes over.
With one of the most important fishing harbours in Norway, Alesund is the perfect place to fill your boots with as much fish and seafood as possible and the region’s delicious speciality bacalao – salted and dried cod – is not to be missed.
The unfortunately-named XL Diner is the largest (you would hope so) and best bacalao restaurant in town and offers almost a dozen different varieties all with a magnificent view over the harbour.
A trip to the west coast of Norway wouldn’t be complete without sampling the sublime but exceptionally salty local delicacy – just try not to think about its effect on your blood pressure.
It’s worth it.
The only direct flight from the UK to Alesund is with Norwegian Airlines from Gatwick – from �50 (www.norwegian.com, 020-8099 7254)
Hotel Union – from NOK795 per night including breakfast (www.hotelunion.no, +47 70 26 83 00)
Hotel Brosundet – from NOK1590 per night including breakfast (www.brosundet.no, +47 70 11 45 00)
Sea kayaking – rental from NOK150 per hour (www.activegeiranger.no)
Art Nouveau Centre – (www.jugendstilsenteret.no, +47 70 10 49 70)
XL Diner – (www.xldiner.no, +47 70 12 42 53)
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