*Ultimate travel guide to the beautiful Sognefjord and enjoy the Flam railway in Norway, and travel tips about how to enjoy the tour a bit more!*
Norway in a Nutshell® (and yes, with a ®) is a legendary scenic trip that takes tourists through some of Noway’s most beautiful sceneries. Tourists could experience the mighty Sognefjord through different spots connected by train, bus, cruise, and scenic railway.
For you to understand a little bit more about Norway in a Nutshell, it is not a single tour agency. All transportations are independent operators, they just collaborated to coordinate schedules that allow tourists to get from point A to point B with ease. Norway in a Nutshell is a clever marketing scheme that created a platform for tourists to customize their itinerary and purchase tickets with one-stop shopping.
The classic route could be completed in a day (and it’s possible to stay overnight in some spots en route). We started our trip from Bergen and took a train to Oslo afterward (some might return to Bergen or the opposite). A 1-day trip could be quite hectic for some and it could get very busy in high seasons. But still, once I entered the fjord I surrendered to the jaw-dropping beauty and soaked it all in. My friends came visit me in the UK for my graduation and it’s a celebration for … summer! We had fun in Bergen and Norway in a Nutshell is the perfect way for us to move on to Oslo. Yet… if I am just to describe all the places that I saw (although I will, a little bit with photos :P). I would like to share some tips for you to enjoy the tour a little bit more! Some tips that travel books may not talk about… As I said in the heading – Making the most out of Norway in a Nutshell!
Making the most #1
Since we were traveling from Bergen to Oslo, we decided to send our big luggage from Bergen to Oslo in the morning and so we did not have to drag them around as we are switching from car to car, or wandering around the town after we landed from the cruise. We used Porter Service as they are specialized to transport luggage between Bergen and Oslo for Norway in a Nutshell travelers. Our luggage was picked up at 6:30am, just before we headed out to the train station; and then the luggage would safely arrive at the reception of our Oslo hotel at night.
8:40 am The scenic Bergen Railway
The first train ride was about 1 hour and 15 minutes and we saw quite a crowd already. Although it was merely a connection, there were some beautiful sceneries outside the window of Bergen Railway already. Yet the train would go through many tunnels and it’s not easy to take photos.
9:55 am Arrive Voss and Bus Trip of Stalheimskleiva
Once the train approached the station, the passengers jumped up in excitement and got ready to get on the buses which had already lined up right outside the station exit. The buses took off at 10:10 am and connected us to the cruise at the pier of Gudvangen. If you are visiting in May to September (like I did), the bus trip includes Stalheimskleiva – the steepest hairpin bends in the Northern Europe. The 1.5 km long stretch of road winds its way up the mountainside from the end of the Nærøydalen valley to the top at Stalheim. Just watching the experienced drivers steering their buses down the hill was already something to see.
Making the most #2
For me, all the buses left around the same time (Even if they don’t, it doesn’t matter because the cruise won’t leave until everyone arrives Gudvangen), so it was not necessary to hop on the first bus you saw. Instead., we were looking for a bus that still had its right side first-row seat empty (a.k.a. the seat at the exit). Every seat on the bus could have a view as the bus zig-zag its way through the steep hairpin bends, yet the front row has a slight advantage of an awesome 180-degree view of the waterfalls and cliffs on both sides. (and we witnessed how the driver went through the Stalheimskleiva, too.)
11:20 am Arrive Gudvangen and Fjord Cruise Departure!
As we got off the bus we were surrounded by sheer mountains at the end of Nærøyfjord. So how the fjord was formed? What’s the difference between fjord, sound, and strait? I think I would explore a little bit about that in the later posts. (or, visit Glacier Hiking: Folgefonna! for more about fjords)
Making the most #3
I know it was hard to resist taking A LOT of pictures around and say no to a bathroom break that was long needed after a thrilling bus ride. There were quite a lot of waterfalls and dramatic cliff at the end but well, I promise there will be a lot more on the cruise. Therefore, don’t forget to get ready and line up for boarding the Cruise as early as you can. Look for an outdoor seating on the deck because they could be taken up really fast.
The cruise would first take us through the narrow Nærøyfjord and then make a turn to the magnificent Aurlandsfjord. This is the highlight of the entire trip. The Sognefjord is a 204km long fjord; the water reaches 1300m deep and the mountain is 1700m in height. The fjord is available all year round. In summer, the glacier melts and the water running down the green mountains as numerous waterfalls. The view of foliage in autumn and snow in winter are amazing as well. (a reminder about on a cruise with your friends – you never know when you have captured a candid snapshot by them even when you were chewing!)
Making the most #4
There was a snack bar on the cruise, but why line up for food? Luckily, we got some coleslaw, biscuits, fruits and ham from the supermarket the night before in Bergen. We enjoyed our lunch with a view of the fjord on the deck without running around for food.
Making the most #5
Even it was in July and a sunny day, it could be chilly out there on the deck. So bring a jacket and keep warm!
2:50 pm Flåm and The Breathtaking Flåm Railway
Okay, we have an hour or so in Flåm before the next train ride. Flåm is a tiny town and I mean it – TINY! There were a few shops and cafes (and a railway museum) there and that was it.
Making the most #6
Some might simply walk around and wait. For us to explore a little more, we rented a bike at and went up the Strandavegen – a road running along the coast all the way up to Aurlandsvangen. An hour was not enough for us to reach another town. However, the view along the road was picturesque as we looked back to Flåm and the cruise from afar.
When we returned the bike and (yes, you know it) we saw yet another queue for the train.
The Flåm Railway is “one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys”, and it’s also the world’s biggest climb. In 20km, the train took us from Flåm (2m above sea level) to Mydral, 866m. It was fun to be jerked backward like I was in my dentist’s chair as the train moved. The railway now might seem purely for tourists, it is actually a train line for the surrounding residents to commune and transport food.
Making the most #7
SIT ON THE RIGHT (For going uphill.). Because most of the stunning views are out of the right windows. To be even more precise, sit on the right side, backward, near the train door, so you have a spare window for photos as well.