It is important to note that although Norway in a Nutshell is a tour, with schedules and transport readily organised for you, it is still essentially self-guided. There is no single tour guide leading the way and no food included. You just pick up your booklet of tickets, which cover all of your transport and activities and follow your chosen schedule.
Saying this, you could indeed attempt to book the entire itinerary without using the tour operator and potentially save some money doing so. But this would take a great deal of effort, coordination and research and quite frankly, I just didn’t have the time or patience on this particular trip!
Out of the two available itineraries at the time (2017), which at a glance, varied only slightly in timings and sequence of events, I chose the option which gave us more time in the little town of Flåm. This additional time allowed us the freedom to hop on a bus and head up to Stegastein viewpoint; but more on that later.
So, without further ado, here is my experience of Norway in a Nutshell:
Bergen to Myrdal | By train | Approx. 1.5 hrs
Beginning in the beautiful city of Bergen, the journey began with an hour and a half trip up the scenic Bergen Railway to a remote stop called Myrdal. The scenery along the way was so magical that I was happy to be retracing my steps along the train line (I’d already come this way from Oslo).
Myrdal to Flåm, via Flåmsbana | By train | Approx. 1 hr
At Myrdal station we jumped off our train and switched onto the Flåm Railway. A light snow was falling and I spent as much time as possible crunching up and down the white platform before boarding the Flåmsbana.
The train journey between Myrdal and Flåm is described as one of the most spectacular tourist attractions in Norway and several hundred thousand people flock from all over the world to experience it. Being late winter, we were over the moon to find ourselves amongst only a handful of other visitors and got an entire carriage to ourselves.
The train gently meandered down along deep ravines sliced by frozen rivers, through rickety tunnels cut into sheer mountain and past remote farms poking through the snow and clutching tightly to steep hillsides. We creaked to a stop at Kjosfossen waterfall, which had been reduced to a magnificent ice sculpture in the cold temperatures and hopped onto the platform for a better look.
Flåm is a quaint little place. It is located on the innermost Aurlandsfjord, which is a branch of the world’s longest fjord, Sognefjord. It is surrounded by steep, looming mountains and as we jumped off the train at the eerily quiet station, we were greeted by the chilly air and a ribbon of low lying cloud.
Flåm to Stegastein Viewpoint (optional)
By shuttle bus | Approx. 1.5 hrs roundtrip
With an extra few hours to spare before our next leg of the journey, we bobbed straight into the visitor centre and purchased a ticket to Stegastein viewpoint. In low season, there was plenty of space on the bus. However, if you plan to visit in peak season, booking ahead of time would be very wise.
Our shuttle bus zoomed through the mountains to the peaceful village of Aurland, which has churches dating back to the 1200’s. From there it zig-zagged up a ladder of hairpin bends, sending my head spinning, until we were in the clouds. My heart sank a little as the view became more and more obscured by white.
But as we pulled up and climbed out of the bus, nothing could have prepared me for what I saw next. I crunched towards the viewpoint in a trance-like state; eyes wide, lips parted.
The platform, which alone, is celebrated as some of Norway’s finest architecture, stands at 650 metres high and juts 30 metres over the edge of the mountain. The view was panoramic, and above the cloud line, the mighty peaks of the Aurlandsfjord hung silently.
And it really was silent. The air was deadly still, there was no hum of wildlife and nobody spoke a word. The only sounds came from the busy clicks of cameras and the squeak of shoes on the slippery, compact snow beneath our feet.
Then, as if by magic, the clouds parted for the briefest of moments and revealed to us the fjord below My eyes only widened, and my lips parted further.
Flåm to Gudvagen | By fjord cruise | Approx. 2 hrs
The fjord cruise took us along the Aurlandsfjord and on the narrow Nærøyfjord. We excitedly began the journey by commandeering a couple of deck chairs and diving into the remains of our packed lunches. As the boat chugged along between the towering snowcapped mountains and peaks, we passed valleys, waterfalls, small, secluded villages and even caught sight of a lone seal, gliding silently alongside the boat.
But it was bitterly cold out on the water and my fingers and toes eventually began to ache in protest. I retreated to the snugness of the indoors, where the views were still something to behold, through the dirty windows.
Gudvagen to Voss | By bus | Approx. 1.5 hrs
After thawing out and disembarking the boat, we scuttled up to the bus stop and had an uncomfortable wait in the cold, until our coach driver finally showed up. The excitement of the day was starting to tire me out and I spent a good amount of time nodding in and out of consciousness during the trip to Voss station.
Voss to Bergen | By train | Approx. 1 hr
From boat, to bus, to train. This was the final stint back to Bergen. Daylight disappeared and so did the views from my window.
The tour in total took nearly 12 hours and quite characteristically, it consisted mostly of transport, with activities slotted in between. For me, what made the amount of transport during this tour more agreeable, were the views and scenery along the way.
I was forever gazing excitedly out of windows, fearful I’d miss a frozen waterfall or lake, or quaint hamlet buried waist deep in snow, or low-lying wisp of cloud. I wanted to see it all. It’s safe to say that Norway in a Nutshell stole my heart.