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Visiting Urke with Hurtigruten

Date
Jul, 19, 2020

If you are fortunate enough to be on the Hurtigruten in the autumn/fall season travelling northbound, you’ll get to travel into Urke via the Hjørundfjord. Normally, in the summer months, Hurtigruten travels to Geiranger, the more famous of the two. I think that’s what makes Hjørundfjord even more special – it’s a bit of a secret, and Urke is way, way less crowded than Geiranger.

I visited Urke last October on the Hurtigruten (M/S Nordlys) with a group. I couldn’t go out and do the excursions, but I did get to take my group on a little walk around the village. I’ve put together a little overview of how the stop in Urke works and what you can see in this stunning village.

Watch the YouTube video!

I’ve recorded a video with similar information found in this article plus footage from my trip. You can watch it below.

The Hjørundfjord seen from Hurtigruten

The Hjørundfjord

The Hjørundfjord is a branch of the Storfjorden, which leads into the Geirangerfjord. At 20km (12 miles) long, it is surrounded by the Sunnmøre Alps that rise close to 1000m (3000 ft) above sea level. At the end of the Hjørundfjord, it splits into the Norgangsfjord, which has the famous village of Øye at the end.

The Hjørundfjord started to become popular in the late 19th century as a hiking and tourist destination, and the farmers worked to provide transport services for the tourists.

Me outside the Urke signboard

About Urke

Urke is a small settlement located midway on the Hjørundfjord. The village has a permanent population of between 40 and 50 residents, but there are many who have holiday homes here. Urke is one of the towns experiencing depopulation; fifty years go the population was 350.

Approaching Urke – you can see the tour buses waiting down by the pier.
Hurtigruten in the Hjørundfjord
Urke taken from the pier (the white building in the distance is the pub)

Hurtigruten’s Visit into Urke

Shortly after departing Ålesund in the morning, you follow the same path the ship would take on its way to Geiranger. Shortly after entering the Storfjord, you turn off and start going into the Hjørundfjord. Sometimes, the expedition team will come out to talk a little about the Hjørfundfjord. In any case, you want to be outside for this!

When the ship arrives at Urke, it doesn’t dock at the harbour. Rather, it anchors out in the fjord (this alone is stunning). You access Urke by tender – those who have booked one of the excursions are prioritised. Once they have left, it’s your turn!

The ship is anchored in the fjord between 12:15pm and 3:45pm. Typically, the first non-excursion tender boat leaves around 1:15pm. The Hurtigruten staff tell you that you have to take the tender boat exactly one hour after you leave the ship. This isn’t strictly enforced but highly recommended – that way everyone doesn’t pile onto the tender boats at the end.

The tender boat is free, there are seats on the boat, and the trip across only a few minutes. There are steps getting onto the boat, and when you arrive at Urke the pier is floating and therefore a little uneven (there are railings to hold onto).

Once in Urke, there is usually a local standing there with some maps and walking routes. If not, it’s posted on a sign so just take a photo of it. This is what it looks like:

Urke as seen from the Hurtigruten

Urke Walking Path

I would’ve done one of the hikes if I was by myself, but I wanted to show my group around. You arrive at number 1 on the map, where there’s a cafe and toilet. I made a plan to head straight to the grocery store. You won’t exactly get lost; not only is the town tiny, but there are signboards everywhere. And you can see the ship at all times.

Some of the buildings, particularly the historic ones, have little signs on them with information in Norwegian, English and German.

Here’s what we saw along the way:

Kvernhuset (number 6 on the map)

It was an important house on the farm. This is where the grain was turned into flour. If they didn’t have flour, they ran the risk of not having proper food. You’ll notice it’s close to the waterfall so they could make use of the force to help work the mill.

The Local Power Plant

This power plant is located by the waterfall. It was built by Tussa Kraft. It’s possible to walk further down and have a look inside the building. Sadly I didn’t take any photos!

The power station has a 3 km long pipeline that lies in the ground up to an intake at Myrsætra in Langsæterdalen. It is a working hydro power plant, producing electricity for approx. 2000 households. There is a millhouse close to the river.

Urke Landhandel

In the 1990s, the shop was at risk of being closed down because no one wanted to take over it. However, the locals didn’t like the thought of having to travel to Hellesylt for groceries. The locals decided to form a limited company and the store was bought by the company. The store was then refurbished thanks to the locals – all volunteer work.

You can buy almost anything here – petrol, groceries, medicine. There aren’t any souvenirs, but it’s worth going inside and having a look.

Storage house on stone foundations
Stabburet / The Storage House

This belonged to the original farm property at Urke and was used for storing food. It was common for the servants to have bedrooms here as well. You’ll notice the building has been raised on stones – this is to stop animals from getting inside and eating all the food; the stairs were often separated from the doorstep by an opening of 30cm. It also kept the food nice and dry in case of rain and flooding. You will see nine storehouses around Urke.

Frikegarden (not on the map but parallel from the storage house)

This is the oldest house in the village, was moved to this location in 1872. By that point, it was already 100 years old.

View of the Hurtigruten and Urke from the hiking excursion

Back to the ship

An hour in Urke is plenty of time, unless you plan on doing one of the hikes. The easiest hike is number three on the map.

To go onto the tender boat, just head back down to where you are dropped off. When it makes its way across from Hurtigruten, it’s time to go!

Hurtigruten Excursions

The most popular excursion is A Taste of Norway, which takes you on a scenic drive to the famous Hotel Union at Øye. Once there, you get to eat some local food. Sadly no one from my group took this excursion, so I know little about it. https://global.hurtigruten.com/excursions/norway/2f-a-taste-of-norway/

If you are looking to do an easy-ish hike, there is a standard hike available. Some members of my group did this tour and said it was challenging in some sections but the guides are excellent. https://global.hurtigruten.com/excursions/norway/2g-mountain-hike-in-the-hjorundfjord/

For a little more, there is a hike to a shielng. See here: https://global.hurtigruten.com/excursions/norway/2h-hike-with-a-visit-to-a-shieling/

If you want to see Geiranger, you can take the bus tour. It’s a lot of driving but they have some photo-stops along the way. It covers a lot of ground and a lot of scenery along the way. https://global.hurtigruten.com/excursions/norway/2j-hjorundfjorden-geiranger-and-alesund/

Resources

https://www.hjorundfjord.no/?komponent=statisk&statisk_id=162

Emma Vestrheim

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EMMA VESTRHEIM

Hey, I'm Emma! I'm a tour leader in Scandinavia and local guide in Bergen Norway, and have been for the past four years. These articles are inspired by my job and professional experience.

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