Norway in a nutshell

This is a name of bestseller Norwegian tour that includes various types of transportation through most picturesque places in Norway – fjords. There’s plenty of options available for tourists. In our case we travelled from Bergen to Oslo with overnight stay in Flåm.

This trip is very flexible. For €160 per person you may choose between one day journeys and options with overnight stay anywhere on the route. You can travel from Bergen to Oslo, Oslo to Bergen, Bergen to Bergen, Oslo to Oslo. But during winter months the most precious asset you have is daylight time. Due to geographical conditions in Norway, the day starts at around 9:30 AM and the sun sets very early, just after 3 PM. And if it’s dark outside, it’s literally dark. There’s no much illumination outside cities and your one-in-a-lifetime fjord trip may become relatively boring as you won’t be able to see anything. Keeping that in mind we booked our trip starting in Bergen (not Oslo) and had an overnight stay in Flåm.

Day started pretty early, in a full darkness. Departing from Bergen Central Station after our lovely stay we’ve met roughly a hundred (maybe even more) of our fellow tourists taking the same tour. I didn’t really expect it to be that popular but then I realised that Christmas may be a real “high” season for such attractions. Trip consists of multiple changes, you start with a train, then change to bus and then goes the fjord cruise. But as soon as the sun wakes up, you may unwrap your camera. While in the train from Bergen to Voss you’ll see only an introduction to fjords, bus trip from Voss to Gudvangen unleashes the beauty. There are a few moments when shutters are particularly noisy. Snow, lakes, forests, mountain rivers – it’s just a handful of things that you don’t usually see out of your office window.

Upon arrival to Gudvangen, we had around 40 minutes to take few selfies with mountains in a background, recharge our batteries, drink a cup of hot chocolate and buy a couple of overpriced souvenirs just in case we wouldn’t be able to do that later. Here starts the most spectacular part of the trip – fjord cruise.

Fjord is a unique geographical phenomenon. Before ancient glaciers melted down, the land underneath them was deformed and narrow, river-like passages were formed between the mountains. Mighty oceans filled them with water and now we can see the result of this extraordinary process. While fjords are not unique to Scandinavia and Norway in particular, viking ancestors of modern European people were the ones who gave them this name and then found them all over the North Atlantic during their sea campaigns.

Fjord cruise takes you from Gudvangen to Flåm through waters of the longest European fjord – Sognefjord. Don’t get too excited, it covers just a few kilometres out of total length of 205 km. Due to their nature and location (Norway is a final destination of Gulf Stream) fjords are acting as a heater for surrounding mountains. That’s why there’s a lot of small villages and farms around the waters. And virtually no snow, well, just a tiny bit. During the cruise you’ll hear some of the interesting facts about those villages.

Many people choose to proceed further in Flåm as the cruise ship arrives early in the afternoon. But honestly, you can’t miss a city (or village) like Flåm. With the population just above 300 it is a perfect location for anyone looking for a quiet and relaxed holiday. Take a short walk around the hills near Flåm, sit on a bench in front of the harbour and feel the tranquility of your very own fjord. The only hotel available in winter is Flåmsbrygga and it’s not just a hotel but a whole “resort”. House full of ecological rooms with stunning views is just one building. Next to it we found a daytime restaurant and a huge “Viking-built” cottage. It is Ægir BrewPub where you can have a mighty platter of traditional food and enjoy probably the best beer in a region in front of a roaring fireplace. Make sure that a glass of Ægir Tors Hammer is in your hand this night.

The next day starts early with a complimentary breakfast. And just after that starts another adventure – Winter Fjord Safari. Do you want to have a real waterway experience in a fjord? Book this tour!  For €80 we boarded a RIB boat with a qualified skipper and tour guide. We were wandering around the fjord for around two hours and stopped for a short local cheese tasting session in Undredal – village where a number of goats is 5 times bigger than a number of people.

This is truly a must do experience and we don’t regret a single time we’ve done it. Special thanks goes to Rune – our skipper and guide who also, apparently, runs the company organising those trips. He is extremely dedicated to his job and knows, probably, everything about the surroundings. We disembarked with a great knowledge of a region and were so excited that we nearly missed the train to Myrdal.

The next mean of transportation on this trip is train. But it’s not a regular one. This train uses Flåmsbana (Flåm railway) and climbs 1300 meters above sea level. You can only imagine what kind of scenery you can expect.

TIP: “Fjord tours” – an official provider of “Norway in a nutshell” tour – has several options for anyone who’s travelling, as always. A regular train we had in our itinerary (as we had a boat tour as well) was departing Flåm at 16:50. It arrives to Myrdal just 10 minutes before departure of the train to Oslo. But they also suggested taking an earlier train, departing at 14:40 to catch last rays of sunshine and enjoy the scenery. They also recommended alighting one stop before Myrdal, in Vatnahalsen, and have a short break at Vatnahalsen Hotel next to the station. This is certainly a recommendation everyone should follow! Myrdal is a small railway junction and staying for two hours at the station does not sound like a smart idea. But in Vatnahalsen you can have a proper lunch and even create a snowman (there’s plenty of snow up in the mountains).

The last segment of the trip covers the way from Myrdal to Oslo. It’s completely dark outside so you won’t see that much. A good idea would be to take a nap and start planning the stay in Oslo.

Summary

How to get there?

“Norway in a nutshell” is an official tour with one-way or return trip starting from either Bergen or Oslo and with optional overnight stay. The tour can be purchased online and begins on the central railway station.

Where to stay?

If you choose overnight stay, Flåm is the best location to break the trip. Flåmsbrygga hotel is located next to the pier and has perfect mountain views from most of the rooms. One night will cost around €150 during holiday season.

What to eat?

Ægir BrewPub is one of the buildings of Flåmsbrygga hotel resort. It offers traditional Norwegian meals and has onsite brewery with excellent selection of craft beers to try.

What to do?

The tour will entertain you on its own. You may also opt for Winter Fjord Safari on a RIB boat with guided tour around the fjord.

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