A train, bus, boat sightseeing combination, all perfectly coordinated with each other, a scenic route to experience Norway’s best. The route is one that can be done either forward or backward, starts in Oslo and ends in Bergen, Norway. You can make the journey in one day (long day), or opt to stay in a fjord town for a night or two. The full train ride from Oslo to Bergen is 7 hours.
Leaving from Oslo, we boarded the Oslo-Bergen train early in the morning en route to Myrdal. Myrdal is a small transportation hub of a town, but it is quaint, quiet and beautifully set above the fjord valley.
The official “season” for Norway in a Nutshell ended two weeks prior to our arrival, so we were initially nervous about bad weather, stores being closed and limited transportation options. Had the normal ferries been running regular routes, we would have stayed in Balestrand, a quintessential fjord town.
We hit the perfect weather window with sunny and clear skies the entire time. It was crisp and cold, but we enjoyed leaves falling and changing colors, bright yellow trees highlighting fjord cliffs, oh and there were no crowds.
The ride from Oslo to Myrdal isn’t exactly scenic during the first hour as you are still in Oslo suburbs but oh how it quickly changed into desolate world of untouched beauty.
Passing cottage-filled towns, we crossed a snow plateau, where according to the thermometer in our car it was below freezing. The most beautiful town along the way, Ustaoset . It resembles Nuuk, Greenland, if you’ve ever seen pictures, with red, yellow, bright green and blue cottages, grass roofs and a light snow dusting on a barren wasteland. We were too busy gawking at how remote and beautiful this town was that we didn’t take a photo +_+. We even made a point to later check and see if there is a hotel there that we might stay at for a night, but after researching the price of one night’s stay, it had one too many zeros for us poor travelers to make it work.
We stopped at the highest train station in northern Europe, Fisen, and continued on, passing lakes, countless waterfalls and neon green moss covering house-sized boulders and roofs. Stopping at Myrdal, we grabbed our packs and boarded the Flamsbana train, a separate scenic train that descents the valley floor to the town of Flam, on the end of the Sandefjord fjord.
It’s a red trolley like train that travels up and down from Myrdal to Flam. It stops at a waterfall along the way, allowing tourists to hop out and take a few pictures. The train track is almost 30 degrees steep, so we were looking straight down at the valley floor. Holding our cameras out the windows, we took tons and tons of photos.
We arrived in Flam, a shaded transportation hub of a town on the edge of a fjord and headed to our hostel, where we would be staying for two nights. Small cottages dotted the hostel grounds and the owner’s family still lives onsite, giving it a homey feel. We plopped our bags down in our private room, which slightly resembled a sauna, and set out to explore the town. Flam is small, like super small, but it’s quiet and the streets are empty; we only saw tourists when trains or ferries came in. It was just what we were looking for.
We enjoyed our two days in Flam, although according to Mr. Rick Steve’s you only need to stay there a night (two was perfect) and caught the 3pm fjord ferry to Gudvangen. The fjord ferry isn’t huge – it must be absolutely packed during the summer. We bundled ourselves and sat on top of the ferry, wanting to take it all in.
The ferry ride from Flam to Gudvangen is about two hours and stops in Aurland and Undredal along the way allowing us to view the towns up close and of course snap a few pictures. We cruised through the Aurlandsfjord and the narrow Nærøyfjord, a UNESCO world heritage site. Half frozen from the cruise, we arrived in Gudvangen, a town much smaller than Flam, literally nothing is there but a gift shop, some pretty cool camping spots and the shuttle buses that takes tourists back up the valley to meet the train, in Voss.
The Norway in a Nutshell combination is seamless. Each part, the regular train, Flamsbana train, fjord ferries, shuttle buses all work interdependently, if one is late, the other will wait and so on. They have it down.