Last week I posted part one of a two-part post on the Norway in a Nutshell tour that I did a couple of months ago while we were in Scandinavia (it’s taken me ages to get round to writing about it, sorry). This will be part two, where I’ll cover the second half of the tour plus some general thoughts and tips; and naturally, because this whole area is ridiculously stunning, there will be plentiful snaps of beautiful landscape. Part one is here if you need to catch up, but if not – I ended that one in Flam, where we were due to hop on the boat for the next section of the tour…
I was really excited for this part of the day – a fjord cruise is one of the must-dos in the area, tours are advertised all over the place and the photos of the scenery I’d seen beforehand looked AMAZING. Plus, offer me the option of any kind of boat trip and I am so there.
We waved goodbye to Flam from the boat, but needn’t have worried about leaving the views behind; for one thing, Flam looked as charming as ever from the water, but there were plenty more sights to see along the Aurlandsfjord; it’s incredibly picturesque the whole way along and surrounded by tall green mountains. We passed the pretty villages of Aurland and Undredal laid out on the banks, with the speakers on the boat – no idea who was on the other side of them doing the talking but it wasn’t recorded – giving us a bit of information on their populations, points of note, and history.
The boat next moved into the Naeroyfjord, a narrow fjord with stunning surroundings that has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Traditional farms and tiny hamlets cling to the sides of slopes and the scenery is insane, with waterfalls, valleys, steep mountains and snow-capped peaks. It really speaks volumes that I’m running out of words to describe the views in this area; I don’t want to just repeat stunning/beautiful/incredible five thousand times but those things are exactly what it was and I don’t want to start saying words that I would never use for the sake of it.
What I’m saying is, it looked like it might have been Middle Earth, and if that’s not a brilliant endorsement of a place I don’t know what is. Hopefully the photos do the talking but essentially the landscape in this part of the world is epic; not in the way that people sometimes say and certainly went through a phase of saying a lot a few years ago to basically mean ‘great’, but epic in scale and grandeur. It was the kind of scenery that you almost can’t believe you’re seeing with your own eyes and a camera will never quite capture everything that you felt when you saw it (neither will writing about it 2 months afterwards incidentally – note to self to write immediately afterwards next time I visit somewhere of comparable natural beauty).
Saying that, we were finally able to take some good photos of the views while in transit, since the rest of the travel on the trip is by bus and train and there’s a window in front of your lense which can get annoying if you love to take photos. So much as I was keen to make sure that we took it all in and appreciated it with our real life eyes instead of just through the camera and all that, it was great to be able to stand on deck and get some decent snaps of the surroundings. The fjord cruise was just over 2 hours long so we were able to do both – and had such a lovely time!
Gudvangen – Voss: Stalheimskleiva
The next leg of the tour was from Gudvangen, where the cruise ended, to Voss; a bus journey that included Stalheimskleiva, a stretch of road up a mountainside famous for its hairpin bends. It’s apparently Northern Europe’s steepest road, which I can certainly believe – lets just say I wouldn’t have fancied driving it myself. We wound our way up the mountainside between two incredible waterfalls, pausing every now and then as the driver navigated the super tight corners – at which point we really were on the very tip of the bend in the road and right up against a sheer drop, but it didn’t feel unsafe the way that this type of thing sometimes can.
After that particular section the journey becomes a lot smoother, although the scenery is still crazy impressive, as seems to be standard throughout this trip. I actually fell asleep for about an hour at this point, waking occasionally to admire more Lord of the Rings-esque scenery through the window – so before I knew it we had arrived in the town of Voss.
Our train from Voss to Bergen was delayed, so while we were meant to have less than an hour in Voss it ended up being a little over two. Even so, we didn’t have enough time to do anything in particular – but easily enough time to see the town itself, which is pretty small. Voss is Norway’s adventure capital, with a vast array of outdoor pursuits available for thrill seekers to take advantage of, from hiking to canyoning to kayaking to mountain biking and beyond. Since we were there for such a tiny amount of time none of that was on the agenda for us, so we wandered through the town and by the water, plus went onto the roof of a building that turned out to be a cinema – as in there were stairs and a slope to wander up to the top of it, we didn’t just fancy a climb – to sit and while away some time before our train.
Voss – Bergen
When the train arrived, I was pretty pleased to be heading back to Bergen. This final leg of the journey is part of the Bergen railway – the same railway that had taken us from Bergen to Myrdal that morning and from Oslo to Bergen the previous day. We were getting very well acquainted with it by now but it was no less enjoyable!
Needless to say, I slept well that night after such a packed day! It was one of my favourites from our whole trip and one that we have so many memories and a crazy number of photos from, so despite the expense (it costs around £140pp, say whaaaaaat) I would definitely recommend it – or any of the individual elements. I’m not generally one for organised tours and I’m also a bit cheap, so this was an unusual one for me, but I can very honestly say that for the views, the experience, and the volume of stuff it includes, it is worth every penny.
For anyone wondering; yes, you can do this for a lower price if you do it on your own. The whole tour is done by public transport so you could just buy all of those tickets separately and you would save some money by doing so (although it would still be fairly expensive); we didn’t, because we were already separately booking everything to visit 5 destinations in 12 days so we had email confirmations and booking references coming out of our ears and opted for convenience over savings. Not something I’ve ever done before I don’t think (told you I was cheap, my solo backpacker self from last year would be raging about this) and I usually enjoy the process of figuring out how to do stuff by myself. Still, by this point in the trip it turned out to be quite nice to make one payment and be handed a load of tickets and timings without having to think about everything, so I wasn’t complaining!
Some things to bare in mind, if you are considering Norway in a Nutshell:
- This isn’t a guided tour, so if that’s your jam you might want to be aware that there is no one taking you around or directing you from place to place
- If you did want to do a DIY version of the tour, it’s probably worth noting that some legs of the trip cant be booked in advance/booked online – its no problem to purchase tickets as you go for those elements but if you like to be super prepared that might not be for you
- It was busy but not unpleasantly so when we were there (early June); apparently it gets busier in July and August
- Bring lots of snacks. It’s a long day and the food available from shops or restaurants along the way is VERY expensive
- Wear layers. Layers to keep you warm if you’re going in winter and layers that you can take off or put on in summer because as you’ll see from the photos, even in summer there was bright sunshine for parts – I think I was wearing just a sleeveless top and jeans at one point – and sections where we were surrounded by snow and freezing
- There are several options of start and end point plus the chance to add in overnight stays and/or extra activities along the way I believe, which could be a fun way to do things if you do have more time!
To finish, here’s a photo where it looks like I’ve been photoshopped in. I WAS THERE I PROMISE. Hope I haven’t bored you to tears by this point – thanks for reading!