For this first visit of Norwegian fjords, I chose to go through Fjord Tours to directly book a “package”. One of them raised my interest, the Geirangerfjord & Norway in a Nutshell® tour. It is an organized, unaccompanied tour which only includes transportation and covers two of the most popular excursions in Norway: a cruise on the Geirangerfjord and the famous Norway in a nutshell®, which is a beautiful trip from Oslo to Bergen (or vice versa/roundtrip) via Voss, Gudvangen, Flam and Myrdal. Moreover, a visit of Ålesund and a cruise on the Hardangerfjord, second fjord of Norway, are on my to do list. I make this trip with a friend and we stay in hotels which provide us some comfort after long days of sightseeing. We eat from time to time in local restaurants and take the opportunity to do some activities on site.
For our way back to Oslo from Bergen, we take the famous “Norway in a nutshell” trip, the most popular Norwegian tour. It takes us on a journey through majestic landscapes and includes breathtaking passages on Flåm and Bergen Railway, Stalheimskleiva road, the Nærøyfjorden and Aurlandsdalen valleys. Departures for this tour are planned throughout the year from Bergen, Oslo and Voss.
We start our journey by train from Bergen to Voss in just over an hour. On arrival and without wasting any time, we get into one of three available buses going to Gudvangen through Stalheimskleiva. There are a lot of people there and this is not suprising according to the fact that we are in high season and this tour is the most reserved of all. After half an hour, we begin our ascent of Stalheimskleiva road.
This road goes up in zigzags and offers a magnificent view of the valley below and the Stalheimsfossen waterfall. A short break on the top allows us to admire the panoramic view from the Stalheim Hotel. Stalheimskleiva is open between May and September. In winter, the bus takes the new road to Voss.
Next stop is Gudvangen, small pier at the end of Nærøyfjord, where ferries and small cruise ships arrive and depart regularly.
We have 15 minutes to board the ferry which takes us to Flåm. Once on board, we eat a small snack and we comfortably sit on the back deck to enjoy the scenery during the cruise.
Nærøyfjord is on the World Heritage List of UNESCO and is spectacularly beautiful. This fjord is an arm of the Sognefjord and is one of the smallest in Europe. During the cruise, we pass by the pretty villages of Aurland and Undredal before arriving in Flåm .
The village of Flåm is located deep in the Aurlandsfjord, one of the other arms of the majestic Sognefjord. This village is a tourist destination since the late 19th century and welcome about 450,000 visitors every year. Most of them come to see the Flåmsbana railway line, which runs through 20 km between Flåm and Myrdal in a grandiose setting. That’s the next part of our journey, but before that, we take advantage of about two hours of free time to eat, visit this lovely village and Flåm old train station which now houses a museum dedicated to Flåm railway line.
The Flam Railway, which is the next part of our journey, is a must do activity for any rail lover. This masterpiece of Norwegian engineering is, among the standard gauge railway lines, the one which has the highest elevation in the world (the slope is 55/1000 on almost 80% of the line). The journey allows us to discover some of the wildest and most magnificent scenery in Norway. In about twenty kilometers, we can see rivers that make their way to the bottom of narrow ravines, waterfalls which flow on the slopes of snow-capped mountains and farms cling to steep hillsides. Impressive! It is also one of the most visited attractions in Norway. The journey between the two stations takes about an hour.
During our trip, we stop twice : once at an intersection to let the other train (which travels in the opposite direction) go down and the other at the foot of the impressive Kjosfossen waterfall, where we can get out of the train. Kjosfossen is one of the most visited natural wonders in Norway. Water from lake Reinungavatnet fall with a total height of 225 m over a horizontal length of 700 m. The train stops here only in summer.
A few seconds after the train stopped, music can be heard over the roar of the falls, and we can see an Huldra, a seductive forest creature in Norse mythology, who performs a dance in front of the waterfall. During the performance, she hides to instantly reappear a few dozen meters away. Of course, they are three to four actress, but it is still a charming show with very nice music. The actresses are all students at the Norwegian School of Ballet. Not being able to record this with my camera (which is not really made for that anyway), here’s a video I found on Youtube.
We finally arrive at Myrdal, located 867 meters above sea level. It is just a small moutain train station and there is nothing to do here apart waiting for our train. One hour onsite allows us again to eat a small snack. A glimpse of it below, a true delight!
Our Bergen-Oslo train arrives on time and we reach our seats for a journey of about five hours. No other train runs between two cities in Europe as high altitude as this one. The line between the two largest cities in Norway go through an impressive landscape, the most spectacular being the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, the highest in Europe. Finse, at 1’222 meters above sea level, is the highest point of the line. The Oslo-Bergen line is popular among both tourists and the local population. As it deserves several ski resorts, it is greatly used both winter and summer. Construction of the line begun in 1875 and lasted 34 years, with a workforce of about 15,000 men and with 182 tunnels in tota, which were all dug by hand.
We arrive in Oslo at about 11.p.m. and reach our hotel. It is not the end of this trip in Norway yet, as we still have its capital city to visit!