Scenic railways, a fjord cruise and picture-perfect landscape; Norway in a Nutshell is the most popular tour in Norway and it’s easy to see why. It covers a LOT, including two of the must-dos in the area – the Flam Railway and a Fjord cruise – so it’s perfect for those with limited time, and the day we did it was one of my favourites from our Scandinavia trip.
For those reasons I knew I would have to spend a whole post talking about it – but it turns out I’m going to have to do it in two parts, because I like talking and also because we took about a zillion photos. The way Norway in a Nutshell works is as follows; you buy a tour ticket from Fjord Tours and are given a bunch of individual tickets for the different stages of the tour. Here’s what ours looked like:
Bergen – Myrdal (train), Myrdal – Flam (on the Flam railway), Flam – Gudvangen (fjord cruise), Gudvangen – Voss (bus), and finally a train from Voss – Bergen.
That’s a lot of cool stuff guys, and since I’m sure you don’t want to be here ALL day, I’ll just talk about Bergen to Flam in this post.
We were up and out of our apartment in Bergen early, since our train to Myrdal departed at 6:52am. I should say that I’m not usually one for organised travel and will nearly always take the option to make my own way around, but given that we had two days in the area this was a convenient way to make the most of our time. Although it’s called a ‘tour’ you actually make your way around independently, so with no group to meet at the station we were able to hop on the train straight away and take our pick of the seats to enjoy our first journey of the day.
The Bergen Railway
We had already done the full 7 hours of the Bergen railway from Oslo the previous day, but it’s a scenic journey, so I was more than happy to have the chance to do part of it again, particularly bathed in morning light. Plus it was a great chance to see things from the other side of the train; with both this and the Flam railway, at times wish you were sitting on the other side because the views are literally from all angles and it’s hard to be in the right place for the perfect photo. The people on the other side will be thinking that about you too though, so try not to let the FOMO affect you; be present, take your eyes off your phone, stop panicking about missing that damn Instagram shot, and enjoy it.
The views – mountains, bodies of water, and pops of colour from little Norwegian villages – start pretty much as soon as you get out of the station and when you get to Myrdal itself and step out onto the platform it’s almost like another world. It all feels very wild and Nordic…and also a little like you’ve just stepped off the Hogwarts express (the train is red) ready to wander into a snowy Hogsmeade. Or maybe that’s just me.
The Flam Railway is touted as the world’s most beautiful train journey and I have to say; believe the hype. I mean obviously I haven’t been on ALL the train journeys on the planet but I can tell you that this one is stunning. The scenery is out of this world, although don’t take these photos as an illustration of that because again, it was really hard to get good images through the train windows so we had to fight the urge to snap for the sake of it and concentrate on taking it all in.
The 20km journey takes around an hour and the entirety of that includes stunning landscapes and views. It goes through 20 tunnels, 18 of which are built by hand, which is just incredible to think about given where they are situated. The train winds it’s way through the most magnificent of scenery – wild Norwegian landscape including ravines, waterfalls and rivers and snow capped mountains – and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Side note: the oddest part for us was when the train made a photo stop at Kjosfossen waterfall. The waterfall itself wasn’t odd; it was incredible. You know those ‘wow, nature is cool’ moments? It was one of those for sure, because it just looked and sounded so powerful, cascading with a sound like thunder and throwing out spray that covered the camera lense (and us) with water. What was odd though, to me at least, was that they suddenly started blaring out music from somewhere and had this person in a wig dressed up and dancing by the side of it:
This was, unless I’m way off the mark, to do with a story about a creature from Scandinavian folklore that was being told over the speakers inside the train just as we slowed to a stop at Kjosfossen. I assume this is meant to be for the entertainment of the masses of tourists who visit the waterfall but I just found it a bit bizarre – it’s impressive enough without needing someone in a (very obvious) costume next to it!
The picturesque village of Flam, tucked into the corner of Aurlandsfjord, was such a pretty sight to finish our Flam railway journey and we had a couple of hours here to explore. Flam is small and there’s not all that much there – it’s not that you couldn’t spend a fair bit of time there, as there are plenty of walks which are marked on a map right next to the spot you disembark the train – but if you’re not into hiking you probably wont feel the need to be there for long.
We started in the little museum, which I actually really enjoyed (geek alert); it’s tiny, and it’s about as far from flash or fancy or high tech as you could get, but it’s free and the stories of the Flamsbana being built are really interesting. By the time we has finished at the museum it was beautifully sunny outside, so a walk (and some snacks) were next on the agenda. As we had limited time we settled on one of the shorter hikes that stayed close to the village, but we needn’t have worried about missing out because of this, as 10 minutes in we found such a wonderful view:
If I was ever to return to Flam, I’d definitely work it so I could go for a longer hike because the scenery around the village is amazing, but the route we did was a lot of fun and worked perfectly with our timings. It was beautifully green, very easy and relaxed, and though it didn’t go too high it still offered plenty of views, so it was all that was needed in an already jam-packed day. Plus I made some cow friends/talked at some cows until one approached me and then promptly decided that I was a cow whisperer.
It was soon time to make our way to the area we would catch the boat from, as the next stage of the tour was our much-anticipated fjord cruise. I’ll cover that – and the rest of Norway in a Nutshell – in part two, as well as some things to bear in mind and other ways of doing this trip, since it’s expensive and possible to do on your own should you be so inclined. Congratulations on getting to the end of this rather lengthy post, if you made it this far – and see you next time!