The history of Geirangerfjord as a cruise destination

“The Geirangerfjord is one of the strangest and most interesting of all the Sunnmøre fjords, in fact of all the fjords.”

This quote comes from author and hillwalker Kristoffer Randers, and we heartily agree. This is certainly a strange and interesting landscape, as the fjord slices its way 16 km into precipitous mountain scenery, the peaks capped with snow and the towering rock faces adorned with thundering waterfalls. As you travel further in on the fjord, you suddenly spy houses and hamlets, perched and almost clinging on far up on the steep mountain sides – an amazing proof of the strong will and fight for survival of the olden day settlers. Today, practically all the mountain farms located along the Storfjord have been registered and many have been well preserved and restored. This would not have been possible without the hard work of the association, Friends of the Storfjord, and local house and farm owners. They have donated an impressive amount of their time in preserving these wonderful historical monuments situated on the mountain sides along the fjord.

Friends of the Storfjord and “save our heritage”

The interest group “Storfjordens venner” or Friends of the Storfjord, celebrated its 25th anniversary in the year 2000. Since its very establishment, the group’s purpose has been to preserve cultural monuments and living traditions. The group receives financial subsidies, and cooperates with other organisations involved in cultural work. The majority of the work performed is voluntary. Throughout the years, this interest group has been extremely active in the preservation of important cultural monuments in the Storfjord area. The work involved has included the reconstruction and restoration of buildings, and clearing and maintenance of paths and cultural landscapes. Many of these picturesque mountain farms and attractions are now accessible and are great destinations for hikes, perfect for large and small groups. The hike up to some of these farms is more difficult than others, and you will have to be fit and have good walking shoes and equipment.

“A busy little beehive in an isolated nook”

This is how author and programme designer Oddgeir Bruaset aptly described our area. Before the tourists discovered the beauty of the fjord, waterfalls and mountain, this was a quiet, peaceful area all year round. Major events in those days were funerals, childbirth, an avalanche or flood. The locals lived in total isolation, although there were days when the fjord boat pulled in to quay or people from neighbouring valleys and fjords came to visit, crossing the mountain on their packhorses.

“The very first cruise ship”

Tourism was not initially welcomed by the local community in Geiranger. They feared this would only bring about “drunkenness and idleness”. However, the first cruise ship to call in to the Geirangerfjord in 1869 proved them wrong, representing the very opposite of “loose living and immorality”. The passengers were a group of Quakers who came ashore to hand out religious pamphlets to the villagers. They stayed in Geiranger for several weeks, and left the locals with a whole new impression of foreigners. There were several enterprising souls among the locals, including Martinius and Siri Maraak, who built the very first guesthouse in the village in 1867 – with a shop in the basement. From these modest beginnings, Stranda Municipality and the Geirangerfjord have now grown into a major tourist attraction, with approx. 800,000 visitors a year from every corner of the world. In the summer months, this“isolated nook” really does become a “busy little beehive”. The peak season is from April to October.