Handsome Hellesylt sits proudly on an arm of the Geirangerfjord that curves around to the namesake village of Geiranger. It may be one of your highlights on a Norwegian Fjord cruise as the scenery is absolutely jaw dropping – Tom Cruise (now there’s a fitting surname!) even filmed a hair raising motorcycle stunt here for Mission Impossible!
AD: Just so you're aware, I worked with P&O Cruises during this cruise.
I recall some of my first glimpses of Hellesylt on a cruise was after we had docked – it was a bright and blue September day on P&O Cruises Iona and there was a stream of passengers making their way into the village. Ahead of them was a wide waterfall tumbling down the rocks surrounded by several detached wooden houses with a traditional white Norwegian Church on the hill. It looked very inviting and idyllic to say the least!
This was my first time in Hellesylt and I was up late seeking out the Northern Lights so I was content with the idea of wandering around this charming village in the sunshine and seeing the waterfall up close. There’s a footbridge that crosses in front of the waterfall and a road bridge at the top, so I did my own circular route past the church, across the top of the waterfall and down along a path on the other side.
About half way down is a viewpoint with a bench which a few ahead of me had stopped to take a photo by. It had been dry so the water wasn’t thundering down like I’d imagine it would on a rainy spring day, but still, it’s an impressive and beautiful sight to stand beside. I almost missed the watermill just a bit further down from here so I was glad to have retraced my steps to see it as it’s quite an intriguing little bit of history.
Water-based activities in Hellesylt
If you do want to make the most of your time in Hellesylt there are a couple of water-based activities you can do in this port of call. From Hellesylt Marina (close to the cruise ship) you can set off on a 90 minute RIB ride on the Geirangerfjord, or alternatively you can take it slower on a kayaking trip from Hellesylt with a local guide (different departure point). I can just imagine how awesome it must be to see the cruise ship towering over you from the water before taking in all that stunning scenery!
Before I got back onboard I spent some time walking along the shoreline to Hellesylt Bathing House where people were swimming, diving and jumping into the water. I assumed they were mostly locals accustom to the cool waters, but I think even some brave passengers saw an opportunity to give it a go after a bit of encouragement! I feel compelled to say if you do try this please be careful and swim well within your comfort zone – Fjord waters are deep and cold so don’t throw caution to the wind because you’re on holiday! Alternatively, you could always opt to stay dry (weather allowing) and relax on one of the picnic benches nearby and admire the views of the fjord and cruise ship.
The Seven Sisters Waterfall – a memorable sail-by
Even though Iona wasn’t visiting Geiranger (which would require passing the Seven Sisters), our cruise included a sail-by on departure from Hellesylt which meant the ship cruised towards Geiranger and did a 180º turn to exit the Fjord, allowing us to see the Seven Sisters two times in quick succession.
The dry weather had reduced the falls to a trickle on this cruise (I don’t think I even counted 7), but even so, the scenery was absolutely outstanding and I couldn’t get over the occasional house you’d see perched high on the hillside!
The Retreat on P&O Iona – make the most of those views!
My one tip for the sail away from Hellesylt, get back onboard your cruise ship with enough time to find a good spot to soak all of this up! On Iona (and many other new British ships), the top deck at the front of the ship is usually an adult-only/premium area that comes with an additional charge.
If you’re going to pay to access this area once, do it here, it was so worth it – not just because we were blessed with good weather, but having an uninterrupted panorama of the Fjord, little luxuries like blankets and cushioned beds made this experience one of my favourites from years of cruising!