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.
What is Norway in a Nutshell?
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 itineraries and purchase tickets with one-stop shopping.
Bergen is the popular travel hub for tourists to visit Sognefjord. They can either go to the fjord as a day trip, or they could go further and head to Oslo to continue their journey.
A day trip from Bergen
There are travel agencies that operate day trips like this during summer (April to October); taking off on a scenic cruise from Bergen at 8 am, and arriving at Flåm around 1:30 pm, after passing the Sognefjord and Aurlandfjord. The cruise then returns to Bergen at 3:30, allowing tourists to spend two hours in Flåm. The advantage of this trip is mainly for family travelers as it doesn’t require any transit, and enjoy the breathtaking sceneries with the comfort of one cruise.
Norway in a Nutshell classic route
For Norway in a Nutshell, what you get is a more “comprehensive” overview of the dramatic landscape, and for you to take a closer look at the diversity of the area – from land to water.
Another advantage of this route is that you move forward and you don’t have to return to Bergen. 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 to 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!
Tip #1: What about the luggage?
How about your luggage? If you are on a long trip in Norway, it is impractical for you to transit from one transportation to another with big suitcases dragging along; or exploring each pitstop, worrying about how to store or handle your luggage. Lastly, all these transportations have a loading limit that makes bringing the luggage with you impossible.
Since we were moving from Bergen to Oslo, what we did was to have our luggage delivered to Oslo. There are a bunch of Porter Services that are specialized to deliver luggage between the two cities. Simply arrange the pick up in the morning at your accommodation in Bergen (Our pick up was at 6:30 am, 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.
An introduction of Sognefjord
A Fjord and I might have already shared in other posts, probably in New Zealand, is a long, narrow, and deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs. Fjords were usually formed by the submergence of a glaciated valley, and therefore, they are always found in countries like Norway, of course, and also Canada, New Zealand, Chile, and Greenland. If you are interested to find out more about the differences between Fjord and Sound, check out What You Need to Know about Milford Sound Scenic Flights, which I had the pleasure to view the majestic Milford Sound on a scenic flight, I have also explained a little bit about the above question.
There are numerous fjords along the coast of Norway (as you can see from the map, Norway’s coastline isn’t really that smooth), and Sognefjord is one of the five most popular fjords that attracts tourists to visit. Among these five fjords, Sognefjord is technically the most tourist-friendly, and the most beautiful. One reason is that it is very well connected with Bergen and Oslo, and it is on the route of Norway in a Nutshell; It is also the only fjord among the five that’s open to the public all year round. having said that, Sognefjord does have its natural beauty of deep and vertical cliffs that won so many people’s hearts.
- Hardangerfjord: Opened from May to September, this fjord is actually even closer to Bergen, with a landscape that is comparable to Sognefjord. However, the cliff on both sides of the water appears less steep that may be less appealing to foreign travelers who came for the dramatic scene.
- Geirangerfjord: Opened from May to September, it is another major fjord that attracts a big number of visitors annually. Similar to Norway in a Nutshell, the Golden Route is a Fjord cruise package with the most spectacular highlights, starting off from Oslo or Alesund
- Nordfjord: Located between Geirangerfjord and Sognefjord, this is the area that should be explored on a bus as a road trip. Most tourists visit Briksdalsbreen along the way.
- Lysefjord: This is the only fjord among the five that requires tourists to actually take a hike and reach the top of the viewpoint. It might require energy and strength, but it’s all worth it once you step on the pulpit rock.
The trip begins at 8:40 am
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 the 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 from May to September (like I did), the bus trip includes Stalheimskleiva – the steepest hairpin bends in 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.
Tip #2: Sit on the “right” side of the bus
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 it’s 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 at 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? I think I would explore a little bit about that in the later posts. (or, visit Glacier Hiking: Folgefonna! for more about fjords)
Tip #3: Get a good seat on the cruise
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 cliffs 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 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 runs down the green mountains as numerous waterfalls. The view of foliage in autumn and snow in winter is 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!)
Tip #4: BYOL – Bring your own lunch!
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.
Tip #5: Keep warm, even you are there in July
The scenery of the fjord changes different tie of the year and you will get to see the fjord from a different perspective. The best time, commonly agreed among tourists, is between mid-May to mid-September. Later in the year, the cruise is less crowded which you may enjoy the ride a little less hectic. Having said that, even you are there in July and it is a sunny day, it could be windy and chilly on the deck. Bring a jacket or windbreaker to 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.
Tip #6: What to do in Flåm?
Some might simply walk around and wait. The town center is a small area where you could check in the Fretheim Hotel (if you are staying for the night), and explore the Flåmsbana Museet, a railway museum about the history or the Flåm railway. A little bit further, go to Otternes Bygdetun – a cluster of old residences with a great view of the fjord and the town. If you are staying in Flåm you could even take a hike, which takes 4 to 5 hours to reach Myrdal or consider kayaking in the crystal clear water.
Since we have to catch a train and time is limited. For us to explore a little more, we rented a bike at and went up to 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 Myrdal, 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.
Tip #7: Sit on the “right” side of the train, too!
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.
The train made a brief stop at the Kjosfossen Waterfall and there was a “special” performance in the summertime on the rocks!
5:03 pm Myrdal – 5:54 pm – 10:35 pm Oslo/ Bergen
After we arrived in Oslo, we had a good sleep and it was another day in the capital city of Norway. For more about what to see and do there, check out A Perfect Two-day Itinerary in Oslo. If you have only a day or two in Oslo, here is the list of some highlights and things that you should know for a quick spin in Norway’s capital city, including the Royal Palace, National Gallery, Munch Museum, and Nobel Peace Center, Vigeland Park and many more!