Day 1: Ålesund
Day 2: Cruise on the Geirangerfjord, Geiranger (110 km, 4 hours)
Day 3: Skageflå and/or Strynefjellet National Tourist Route (78 km, 1.5 hours)
Day 4: Cruise to Hellesylt, Norangsdalen Valley and Øye (44 km, 2 hours)
Day 5: Sunnmøre Alps
Day 6: Norangsfjord
Day 7: Hjørundfjord and back to Ålesund (60 km, 2 hours)
If you do not have your own transport, you can hire a car in Ålesund for this tour. Main providers include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and SIXT, and all have offices in central Ålesund or at the airport. All the ferries/ships mentioned in this article take cars on board, with the exception of the Hjørundfjord boat, which only takes passengers. If you prefer to travel without a car (which is a perfectly feasible, and arguably the better option for this tour), take the Fjord Experience tour offered by 62° NORD, and hop on hop off as you wish.
Day 1: Ålesund
Norway's Jugendstil town is one of its prettiest, so make sure you spend some time just walking around Ålesund's streets to check out the Art Nouveau architecture. Why not start at Jugendstilsenteret/The Art Nouveau Centre near Brosundet, where you can get a historical perspective on the buildings around you, before heading to Aksla, from where a sweeping panorama over the town and the surrounding islands awaits.
If the 418 steps to the top sound like too much of an effort, don't fret – there is a road up to the viewpoint. Alternatively you can hop on the bytoget, the mini train departing from Dronning Sonjas Plass (four times daily in summer). Don't miss the Atlanterhavsparken while in Ålesund – it is one of Norway's best aquariums, and a definite must-see, with the feeding shows in the huge Atlantic tank and the penguin enclosure the highlights for many visitors.
Day 2: Cruise on the Geirangerfjord
The Norwegian fjords have fascinated travellers for centuries, and the Geirangerfjord is considered by many the most beautiful of them all. There is no better way to take in all this scenery than with a trip on another Norwegian icon – the Hurtigruten. The fjord, which features on UNESCO's world heritage list, is famous for its many waterfalls and lush, steep hillsides. Whatever you do, make sure you don't forget your camera – there will be plenty of photo opportunities from the deck, whatever the weather.
The Hurtigruten departs from Ålesund at 9.30 am every day, and arrives in Geiranger at 13.30 pm, leaving plenty of time at the destination. Chill, indulge in a bit of shopping (Geiranger Sjokolade and Moods of Norway are two popular outlets in the village) or check out the Norwegian Fjord Centre, where you can learn more about local history and geology.
Day 3: Skageflå and/or Strynefjellet National Tourist Route
Feeling energetic after a good night's rest? Then take the hike to Skageflå, the best known of the fjord farms along the Geirangerfjord (the King and Queen of Norway celebrated their silver wedding anniversary here in 1993). A water taxi takes you to the start of the hike at Skagehola. From there it takes about half an hour to ascend to the farm, 270 metres higher up, which affords a great vantage point over the Seven Sisters waterfall. You can either go back the way you came, or take the path over the mountain back to Geiranger via Homlungsætra (allow two hours).
Another, less taxing way to marvel at the scenery is to follow rv. 63 from Geiranger village and drive up via Flydalsjuvet and then rv. 15 past Lake Breiddalsvatnet and onto Strynefjellet National Tourist Route (about 78 kilometres return, allow 1.5 hours), one of Norway's national tourist routes. If you have time, do drive up to Dalsnibba viewpoint (toll road, 100 NOK per car), well worth the detour.
Day 4: Hellesylt, Norangsdalen Valley and Øye
Today you will take the ferry from Geiranger to Hellesylt for another short cruise on the Geirangerfjord, before driving towards Stryn and then down Norangsdalen Valley to the village of Øye, where you will be based for the next couple of days.
Spectacular Norangsdal is one of Norway's narrowest valleys, a gorge little more than 200 metres across, bordered on both sides by steep rocky mountain walls. Stop on the way at Lake Lygnstøylsvatnet, which was formed when a huge landslide dammed the stream running through the valley, flooding the area in 1908. It is still possible to see remains of the village submerged under water.
Accommodation is scarce along the Norangfjord, so book well in advance, particularly if you are travelling in high season. If your budget allows, stay at Hotel Union Øye, one of Norway's most charming wooden hotels, which first opened its doors in 1891. Discovered by Europe's aristocracy and social elite in the late 19th century, the hotel has since welcomed a number of royalties and celebrities - the rooms are now named after them.
Day 5: The Sunnmøre Alps
Many of the guests at Hotel Union Øye were keen alpinists. Why not follow in their footsteps and explore the mountains around Øye? There are many peaks to choose from in this part of the Sunnmøre Alps, with Slogen probably the most famous. The departure point for the hike is a short walk from the village.
There are two ways up to the summit, which culminates at 1,564 metres above sea level. An impressive panorama over the Norangsfjord and surrounding mountains awaits from the top, but getting there is hard work, with a very steep incline pretty much all the way, and you will have to climb the last few metres (although no special gear is required).
Allow five to six hours to reach the summit, depending on your pace, and remember to bring plenty of water. The tour is suitable for families. You can either go back the same day, or stay overnight at Patchell Cabin in Habbostaddalen. Other summits easily accessible from Øye include Saksa or Skårasalen. See Hiking in Ålesund and Sunnmøre for further information.
Day 6: Norangsfjord
All this hiking can take its toll, so today we suggest you while away a few hours along the Norangsfjord, the small arm of the Hjørundfjord leading to Øye, and spend the day sunbathing, going for a dip in the (ice cold) water, fishing, kayaking along the shores or cycling maybe, depending on how energetic you feel. Hotel Union Øye has both bikes and kayaks for hire (the former are free of charge for guests). The road to Lekneset, the departure point for the ferry crossing to Sæbo, is a pleasant option for cycling – it is flat all the way (about 16 kilometres return from Øye).
Day 7: Hjørundfjord and Ålesund
What you do on your last day in the region will depend on whether you are driving or catching the boat back to Ålesund. If you decide on the latter, you will have another day at leisure as the boat doesn't depart from Øye before 5.30 pm. The cruise on the Hjørundfjord takes an hour and a half. If you are travelling by car, you will need to take the ferry from Leknes to Sandal, and drive along the Hjørundfjord to Festøya along fv. 65, a distance of 60 kilometres. The drive takes about two hours, including the two ferry crossings.
Please note that it is possible to shorten the above itinerary by skipping the hiking and spending an extra day in Ålesund instead, taking in a tour to Runde for bird-watching for example, or joining a deep sea fishing excursion.
You will find additional information on what to see and do, where to eat, and where to stay in Ålesund, Geirangerfjord, Hjørundfjord and the Sunnmøre Alps.
360 panorama of Ålesund and Geiranger
Check these images for a sneak preview of the destination.