Getting to Geiranger proved to be more difficult than we had envisioned. But it did not disappoint once we got there.
The road down to the valley that the town Geiranger sits in has two large descents, each of which is traversed by a switchback road. My mom hates these kinds of roads, and to make matters worse, our car began making a strange noise after taking the very first curve in the first switchback road. The brakes got soft, and there was a burning smell.
I'm usually calm and not overly dramatic in these kinds of situations, but with the steep grade of the road ahead, not to mention how remote the location is, and there was reason to be concerned.
We couldn't find anything wrong with the car, so we inched forward at the slowest pace we could. The brakes held up fortunately, and we reached Geiranger safely. We could breathe again.
From the view on the way down, we could already tell a couple of things:
Geiranger is a very small town (only 230 permanent residents at last count).
There's a ton of tourists here, based on those giant boats sitting there.
When we arrived, we strolled around the small town to see the sights, including the boats in the harbor and the waterfall coming down the valley into the fjord (which can be seen in the Flydalsjuvet picture above):
There's also Ørnevegen (the Eagle Road), a sharp back-and-forth switchback providing the only way out from Geiranger on land in the winter. Prior to it's completion in 1955, the only way to escape in the winter was by boat.
Geiranger by boat
To get the best experience of a fjord, one should experience it by boat. I was also concerned with getting some good film, so being on the water and moving seemed like a good option.
I don't remember the exact price, but I think it was around $30 a person. The info center where we bought the tickets also gave me a chance to ask about having a mechanic take a look at the car.
No dice. In such a small town, the closest mechanic lies in the next valley over, over Ørnevegen that is. We were actually scheduled to stay there, but even then, small town mechanics aren't open late.
We'd just have to enjoy the boat ride and hope for the best.
Now, one reason Geiranger is so noted amongst the fjords is its waterfalls. There are quite a few of them, including the famous "7 Sisters", where there are 7 falls right next to each other, at least when there is enough water flowing.
You can see if you can spot them in the film from the trip:
Another interesting sight along the way are a handful of small farms dotting the coast line. It's clear there are no roads to these farms - water access only.
One is even located a hundred meters or more over the water, so the only way to get there is take a boat and then climb up the steep trail leading to it.
These farms are not new. They've been there for centuries in some cases. Life must have been hard in the old days. Still is, I'm sure, if any of them are still inhabited.
Can you imagine growing up in a place like this? Beautiful, but so isolated!
Under constant threat
One thing many visitors may not know is that there is an immense threat looming over the fjord and town of Geiranger.
It is a large mass of rock near the end of Geirangerfjord, that is shifting as much as 10-15 cm per year. Someday, it is expected to break loose and come crashing down into the fjord. It could be tomorrow, it could be 1000 years from now.
If it happens all as one giant mass, there could be a worst case scenario tsunami wave up to 80m high sent rushing through the fjord. 80m!
Within minutes, this would strike Geiranger and wipe out the entire town.
Sounds crazy? It's not without precedent. It's happened several times in recent centuries in fact, including a 1936 landslide in Lodalen that took 74 lives from the resulting tsunami.
Norway's first ever disaster film, Bølgen (The Wave) was even made about it a couple years ago.
So don't let it stop you from visiting Geiranger, but be aware when you do!
This may not look like much, but one day a huge piece of this mountainside will someday come crashing into the fjord.
Having survived the fjord and the car ride there, it was time to find our shelter for the night. In tomorrow's post, we'll take a look at another beautiful fjord location:
Until next time!