A Day in the Norwegian Fjords

Western Norway is known for its fjords. It is one of a handful of places in the world you will even find the geological waterways. One summer I was able to spend a day driving through a small part of Norway that included a stop at one of its most famous fjords, the Geirangerfjord. It is known for its majestic waterfalls and high cliffs and is considered one of the most beautiful fjords in the world. After my visit there, I would certainly agree.

My day traveling through the fjords started in the town of Andalsnes along the Romsdalsfjord. I got up early in the morning after having hiked Romsdalseggen the day before; read my story about that adventure here. I checked out of my hotel, got in the car, and headed toward the town of Geiranger which is at the head of the Geirangerfjord. It was a cloudy and cool day. The light grey clouds hung low along the mountain peaks. It wasn’t raining as I left Andalsnes but felt like it was going to any moment.

About 20 minutes into my drive I came upon Trollstigen, a back and forth roadway up the mountains that includes 11 hairpin turns. Like many of the back of forth roadways up the Norwegian mountains there was only room for one car with various designated areas to pull over when you met another vehicle. The road wound over multiple streams where water was gushing down from the mountain.

Once I got to the top, I came upon a large parking lot with a visitors’ center. I parked in the parking lot and got out of my car. Along with the visitors’ center there were several areas to lookout over the mountain that I had just driven up. I took some time to walk to each one of them to get a different view down into the valley below where I could see for several miles,including the edge of Andalsnes. There were waterfalls in almost any direction I looked out, including under some of the paths to get to the lookouts. I didn’t spend too much time here as I had a long day of driving ahead of me.

The next part of my drive took me through an area called Valldal. This scenic drive took me past more waterfalls. I stopped several times along the way to get out and take it all in,including a stop at Gudgrandsjuvet, where there were some paved walking paths along the river and falls. Also along this drive there were several small stands selling strawberries. I regret not stopping at one of these to try some. I heard they are very good. But I kept on driving and soon came upon the next fjord and the end of the road.

Here I had my first experience with the car ferries that take automobiles across the fjords. As I pulled up to the end of the road there were two lines of cars sitting and waiting for the ferry. A worker came up to my window and took the fee for taking my car on the ferry. Once the ferry came in, it let off the cars that had come from the other side. When the ferry was empty I was able to drive on to the boat with the other cars that had been waiting. Some people got out of their cars once they parked on the ship, but I stayed in mine. The ride was not very long, it only lasted about 10 minutes. When we got to the other end of the fjord the front of the boat came down and I was able to drive right off. The whole process worked seamlessly.

Once off the boat, I continued on my journey to Geiranger.  This part of the drive had me trekking through more of a farmland area with some straighter roads and less mountains.  Shortly I was to a point of the road where I could see the Geirangerfjord carved into the landscape.  The road came into the fjord at a fairly high point with a lookout area called Ornesvingen.  I stopped here to get the first of what would be many views of the Geirangerfjord.  The parking lot for the lookout was very small and many people were parked along the narrow road, which is what I ended up doing.  I only stopped for a few minutes to take some pictures and went back to my vehicle.  Because of how I had parked along the narrow, curvy road I ended up going back up the road away from my current destination.  Eventually I turned around and headed back down the hairpin curves that led to the town of Geiranger.

To say that Geiranger was busy would be an understatement. When I got into town there were people and cars everywhere. My plan had been to park somewhere near the water as I had an appointment to get on one of the RIB boats for a tour of the fjord. After driving around for a little while I soon figured out that I would not be able to park anywhere near the boat tour pick up. I ended up driving through the town and up out the other end where I found some side streets that had open parking spots.

From my parking spot I was able to find a pathway back down into the town that was along one of the streams, which were mostly waterfalls, that flowed into the fjord. The 10 minute walk from my vehicle took me to the tour boat meeting point. I walked past many of the town’s stores and restaurants on my way but didn’t have time to stop at them before the appointment time. However, I made sure to note which ones I would check out afterward.

At the tour boat meeting point I checked in at my designated time. The tour guide then took those of us in the tour group to a room where we put on appropriate gear that included a full body suit, like a snowsuit, and life jacket. We were going on a RIB boat that would be open, fast and had the possibility to get wet.

Once everyone in the tour group was all geared up, we went to the dock and got on the boat. Being in such a small boat the cliffs on the sides of the fjord felt enormous. It seemed like we were ants in a large bowl floating on the water. The tour guide took us to a few different points of interest along the fjord, one which included a farm at the top of the cliffs that had ladders down to the water. The other more interesting points were a couple of waterfalls that we were able to get so close to that the mist from them sprayed onto the boat. The tour was technically an hour long but felt like it was only 10 minutes.

Soon the boat dropped everyone off. I took off my gear and put it back in the tour headquarters. At this point I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, so I walked around town looking for somewhere to grab lunch. I found a place that had outdoor seating with a view of the fjord and some local brews on the menu. Luckily the place was covered as a light rain had started to come down.

After I ate lunch and enjoyed my beer, I walked around a little bit to some of the stores that I had passed earlier in the day. I found some souvenirs and local chocolate to bring home with me. I then walked from where the shops and people were to a calmer area along the shore of the fjord which led me to the path back to my car.

Instead of going right to my car I decided to take a little trek in the woods. I knew there was a look out point called Flydalsjuvet further up the hill from town. I wasn’t quite sure how far it was, but I thought maybe I could walk there. So, I followed I the trail for about 20 minutes, most of which was along the same stream that went all the way to the fjord. However, the trail left the stream and eventually went in a loop that took me back to my car.

I ended up driving to the lookout point, which by the time I drove there came to realize it would have taken me quite a while to have walked to. It was a bit further than I had thought. Once I got to Flydalsjuvet I was able to get a new higher up view of the Geirangerfjord and sit back on what they call Queens Sonja’s chair and enjoy the scenery. I thought this spot was the best view of any of the Geirangerfjord. It wasn’t too high up, but it wasn’t too close either.

I next continued to drive up the mountains away from the town. There was another lookout point that was even higher up called Dalsnibba that had another view of the fjord. As I drove up the mountain, I stopped several times to get out and look at the surroundings. Again, there were waterfalls coming down the sides of the mountains everywhere. I soon got so high up the mountains that I was above the clouds. The terrain changed from forests to grass to mostly rock as a climbed higher.

Eventually I reached the entrance to Dalsnibba where I paid the fee to get to the lookout and got out of my car. The temperature was about 20 degrees cooler than it was in town and there were scattered snow patches on the ground. I walked out onto the viewing platform where I could see for miles. The town of Geiranger looked smaller than an anthill. Light clouds wisped by periodically blocking the view of the city below. After standing on the lookout platform for a few minutes I walked down on along the edge of the mountain to get some better views. I was lucky that day that the cloud cover was light enough that I could see the fjord. And thankful that it wasn’t snowing. The Dalsnibba lookout is only open a few months of the year and had been closed because of snow only two weeks before I was there.

The Dalsnibba lookout was supposed to be my last adventure of the day before I drove to my hotel in Stryn.  However, what was supposed to be an easy 1 hour drive ended up taking me on a journey I wasn’t expecting.  As I was driving to my next hotel suddenly, I came upon a line of cars that was completely stopped in one of Norway’s many tunnels.  Since I was in a tunnel I couldn’t see how far the line of stopped cars went and I had no idea why we were stopped.  Slowly the line of cars started to move.  At the same time more and more cars zoomed by the other way.  I thought maybe the road had opened back up.

I finally reach the end of the tunnel and saw what was happening.  The line of cars still stretched in my direction as far as I could see to the next tunnel and was still stopped.  What people were doing at this point was turning around.  I looked at my GPS to see if there was another route to get to my hotel. Thankfully there was.  It took me a bit out of the way, but the current traffic jam did not look like it was going to get resolved anytime soon.  I decided to turn around and take the detour.

The first part of the detour was perfectly normal. Then I made a turn onto a gravel road. At this point it had started to rain slightly and I was engulfed in the thickness of the clouds. It was almost as dark as night even though it only about 4 in the afternoon. The dirt road I was going along was only wide enough for one car to fit through and with the thickness of the clouds I couldn’t see very far in front of me. I passed very few cars along this route but when I did there wasn’t much notice before I could see them and pull over to let them go by. This road was also very curvy as it wound around the mountain and there were parts of the edge of the road that had steep drop offs. There were times in which the cloud cover did clear up and I could see the landscape which on a nice day would be very picturesque. However, considering the conditions I had to concentrate on driving. This dirt road did eventually meet back up with a paved highway where I would continue my journey. I later found out that the road I had driven on was known as Gamle Strynfjellsvegen, which is known for its hiking, biking and scenery.

When I was back on the paved highway I started to descend down from the mountains. The clouds were clearing and my drive opened up to a valley where I could see another fjord off in the distance. As I drove down this valley I saw more of the same landscape I had earlier in the day with waterfalls and streams tumbling down the mountains all around me. Even though I had seen similar views throughout the day it still didn’t get old.

I made my way all the way down the valley which led me along the fjord I had seen in the distance. The road wound its way along the fjord and into the town where I would spend the night. It was a long day a driving but with the scenery it was hard to complain. If every day of driving was like that day, I would be doing a lot more driving. I haven’t been anywhere else in the world that has the landscape that Norway does. It is somewhere I certainly want to go back to explore more in the future.

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