Navigating Norway in a Week

Norway is another one of those countries that constantly pop up on Pinterest or Reddit for its beauty, and it’s no wonder people have listed the west-Scandinavian country as one of their top bucket list places to visit. If you’re short on time and want to experience both the modern and scenic parts of the land of the midnight sun, there’s one way to see the country in a “nutshell”.

Disclaimer: These opinions are my own and is not sponsored by any companies or agencies listed in this article.

Navigating Norway in a Week

Norway is another one of those countries that constantly pop up on Pinterest or Reddit for its beauty, and it’s no wonder people have listed the west-Scandinavian country as one of their top bucket list places to visit. If you’re short on time and want to experience both the modern and scenic parts of the land of the midnight sun, there’s one way to see the country in a “nutshell”.

Norway in a Nutshell

If you do a simple search on Norway tours or packages, and there’s a great chance you’ve encountered an organization called Norway in a Nutshell (for simplicity, I’ll refer to this as “NiN” going forward). While the organization, Fjord Tours, call themselves a “tour service”, the NiN “tour” only handles transportation accommodations, so your trip is self-guided. They simply bundle your transportation options into one package and helps you get from one point in Norway to another with stopovers that let you experience the fjord and mountain scenery.

You’ll explore the following cities along the route:

  • Bergen
  • Voss
  • Gudvangen
  • Flåm
  • Oslo

The package includes two railway services, a fjord cruise, and a bus layover:

  • Bergen Railway – Train service between Bergen and Voss, Myrdal and Oslo
  • Bus – City bus service between Voss and Gudvangen
  • Fjord Cruise – Ferry service between Gudvangen and Flåm
  • Flåm Railway – Train service between Flåm and Myrdal (for layovers only)

While you can do this entire tour in one-day, I highly advise against it. Instead, spend a day or two in Flåm to take in the beautiful lakefront scenery in a quiet village.

Start in Oslo (3 Days)

While you can choose to start your NiN tour in Oslo, Bergen, Voss, or Flåm, I started my trip in Oslo. After flying into Oslo’s Gardermoen Airport, I took a half-hour train ride to Oslo Central Station. Conveniently, Fjord Tours let me pick up my tickets at the train station, so I had my tickets ready to go. At the train station, the customer service agent pulls up your itinerary and prints out and staples your tickets together: this is your “passport” to hop on the trains, ferry, or bus.

Oslo is more of a business-y and modern city. Three days is a good amount of time to explore the Opera House or the museums on the Bygdøy peninsula.

Credit: Fjord Tours

Here is how I took advantage of NiN to explore these cities in less than a week. I’ll write up about my experiences within the different cities at a later date; the purpose of this article is to highlight the adventure and my experiences travelling from Oslo to Bergen through the NiN tour.

Note: You may be able to save significantly by booking these legs separately, but the trick is finding the right prices, times, and services. Fjord Tours may be able to provide assistance if your transit options are delayed or cancelled, while a self-booking may cause your plans to shift.

Oslo to Myrdal via Bergen Railway

From the Oslo Central station, there is a train waiting to take you through the country side to Bergen. After about 4 hours, you’ll arrive at a layover stop called Myrdal. This is where you’ll connect to the Flåm railway to take you down a steep hill to… you guessed it – Flåm!

Myrdal to Flåm via Flåm Railway

The Flåm Railway is a 13-mile track connecting Myrdal to Flåm. It’s considered one of the steepest railways in the world, with an elevation change of 2,800 feet in 40 minutes. In order to get some of the best views along the trip downhill, sit on the left side of the carDo the opposite if you’re going uphill from Flåm to Myrdal and sit on the right side. About halfway into the journey, they will stop at a platform in Ksjosfossen where everyone can hop off and take in fresh air and views of the waterfalls. During my visit, it was completely frozen over, however, it’s a magnificent waterfall to see in the springtime. After about five minutes of soaking in the views (or getting soaked), the train conductor will blow his whistle, indicating that it’s time to continue onward (or downward?) to Flåm.

Stay in Flåm (1 Night)

Flåm definitely has a different vibe from Oslo. With a village of about 350 inhabitants, you’ll notice the peace and tranquility this village has to offer (as long as there aren’t too many tourists). Spend a night here because you’ll most likely be tired from hauling bags across two different trains and sitting for five hours. If you’re more ambitious, however, you can go straight from the train to the fjord cruise.

Flåm to Gudvangen via Ferry Cruise

I believe this is the highlight of the trip. After relaxing for a night in quiet Flåm, rise up for another day of adventure. Check-out of your hotel and head toward the pier, where a large ferry awaits you on a trip through then. To my surprise, this Fjord cruise was about two hours, which made me realize how large these fjords are! It should go without saying, but if you plan on staying outside to take pictures, bring a heavy coat, gloves, and a hat! Even with all of my winter gear and bags insulating me, I felt like I walked off the ferry with a minor case of frostbite – ouch!

Gudvangen to Voss to Bergen

The next two cities simply serve as layover cities. Upon arrival in Gudvangen, you’ll have about an hour to walk around, take photos, or warm up with a cup of coffee. Except… every tourist has the same idea about that cup of coffee, causing a long line-up! Be sure to plan accordingly and hop onto the bus on time – if you miss it, you might be stuck in Gudvangen for a night! Like Flåm, Gudvangen is another quiet village isolated from the busy metropolis where there’s not much to do besides relax, disconnect, and unwind.

The buses that drive between Gudvangen and Voss are actually city busses. Be sure to buckle up! Yes, the law in Norway requires passengers on buses to fasten seatbelts, or risk a fine of 1,500 NOK (~$200). Several Norwegians who live in the area hopped on our bus heading towards Voss. The bus drives through mountainous villages and small highways heading back south toward the Bergen railway. The bus ride ends just outside of Voss Station.

Depending on your itinerary, you may have your next train ride to Bergen within a half-hour, or you have three hours to spend in Voss. This is a great time to get a snack or lunch and walk around the trails around the Vangsvatnet lake.

Once it’s time to continue onward, head to the Voss Station and hop on the last leg – the train ride to Bergen.

Leaving Norway (Fly from Bergen to Oslo)

Norway in a Nutshell allows for tourists to easily visit the two largest cities of Norway and showcase the beauty that is Norway in between these two cities longitudinally through transit east-to-west. Taking a train between Oslo and Bergen is about 6.5 hours but adding the extra stops with help from NiN only increase that to a day and a half.  I decided to take the long way from Oslo to Bergen, but then flew one-way from Bergen to Oslo in order to prepare for my flight out of the country. You’ll find that the costs are very similar between taking a train and flying, but a 30-minute flight is much more convenient than a “full-day” train.

Verdict

I found that the entire experience of booking online through Fjord Tours, picking up my tickets, and hopping on to a train, boat, or ferry was extremely simple and well-integrated. If you’re planning a last-minute trip or just want the best way to see Norway without overloading on research, booking through Fjord Tours is your best option. If I were to do it again though, I’d consider looking into booking my rail and bus services separately to save a penny, now that I’m more acquainted with Norway’s geography, and its rail, bus, and ferry services.

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