Enthralled by the unmatched countryside and in search of perfect salmon and trout fishing, Europeans (particularly the British) “discovered” Norway’s fjords in the late 1800s. The vertical cliff-walled Geirangerfjord, 10 miles long, was—and still is—held as the ne plus ultra: Norway at its most dramatic. View it from the remarkable Ornevegen (Eagles’ Road), from Andalsnes to Geiranger, with its eleven hairpin, hair-raising turns—completed in 1952, it remains an astonishing feat of engineering. Stop at the Eagle’s Turn to take in the unforgettable view of the fjord winding through the valley. From Andalsnes to Valldal is another of Norway’s audacious serpentine roadways, the Trollstigveien (Trolls’ Path), which crosses one of Norway’s most desolate regions.
Not the most accessible of the fjords but arguably the most popular, tourists can choose from numerous attractions—half-day cruises, excellent salmon fishing, hiking, bicycling, visits to poignandy deserted farming hamlets inaccessible by road, and excursions to Jostedalsbreen, Europe’s largest glacier, and spectacular waterfalls with names like Seven Sisters and Bridal Veil. A great base for enjoying the Geirangerfjord area and neighboring Norangsfjord is the Union Hotel. It’s one of the old-time “fjord castles” so popular at the end of the 19th century. Today renovated and modernized, the hotel still holds sway in the area: Norway’s King Harald and Queen Sonja chose to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary here in 1993. You can even bathe in German Kaiser Wilhelm’s original bath (he returned no fewer than twenty-five times) if you can wrangle Room 12.