Everything you need to know!
ON BOARD THE FAMOUS FLAM RAILWAY
ON A NORWAY ON A NUTSHELL TOUR
There are countless books and magazines, endless articles online on the perfect guide to Norway. Through the north, east, south and west, Norway has always been reached through Sweden, Denmark, Germany and England. Today, travelers across the world are discovering Norway’s historical landmarks where Vikings once ruled. Ferries and sail boats provide trips into the fjords and up north to catch the Auroa Borealis. Norwegians are fiercely proud of their ability to exist in total harmony with the sea.
To me, Norway was always in my heart. Since the 6th grade when I started to study (and fall in love) with history. History studies played a huge role in my life and so has languages. But there was something different about my trip back to Norway this time. I’m not sure how to say it, but despite having gone up North a very long time ago, today, thanks (or not) to social media, people have and can ‘overdo’ a destination. It’s true that images and bloggers, even photographers can transport you (with their photos) to beautiful places, but, in my case, some places have been over done. Today, people have been conditioned (and maybe brainwashed) due to the influencer culture and follow only what is ‘in’ in order not to lose out.
I have been put off by certain destinations because of the social media explosion (I am using a polite term) and so, my direction to Norway led me West and not North, at least for now)
Flam is not a hidden gem, it has been named by Nat Geo Traveler one of the most beautiful scenic journey in Europe and visitors from all over the world flock into this tiny little village to experience the FLAM RAILWAY. But, I have no seen it on social media and, I decided to visit in winter when the crowds are (much) less, the fjords are to myself and the chance to see the wildlife by sea.
It was the best decision I have ever made.
Norwegians are explorers at heart and the sea runs through their veins. I had a chance to experience it first hand and by making new friends throughout my peaceful, crowd less journey, I learned a lot about the history, from the vikings to the kings and the surrounding coastlines. I fell in Love. I’m in love because I chose a life that feels good over a life that looks good. I’ve set goals for myself further than the #perfectabs or #couplegoals and I might not have climbed icy mountains either, but this, this trip exploring the West of Norway, was my adventure and my goals and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
HOW TO GET TO FLAM
I learned that Flåm is pronounced ‘FL-OM’. It took a little correction from a lot of Norwegians and at the end of my trip, I was pronouncing it right, the Norwegian alphabet contains three more letters than the English alphabet: æ, ø and å
Flåm is a village in southwestern Norway, in an area known for its fjords. It sits at the end of Aurlandsfjord, a branch of the vast Sognefjord and is alive in summer for travelers passing by to Bergen. It’s a small village with about 650 people living in it and in 1670, the first church was built. It’s not only till the 19th century that travelers discovered Flåm to ride the 20-kilometre (12 mi) Flåm Line between Flåm and Myrdal, one of the steepest railway tracks at 1 in 18 in the world. It is also said that West Norway holds one of the greatest history of Vikings and in Gudvangen, a viking village and community exists.
I’ve done a lot of research before traveling to Flåm, I’ve had the help of Visit Flåm and Fjour Tours to guide me.
From Oslo, I took the NSB train and booked the family section, I was traveling with my dad and my 6 year old daughter, Chloe. The train journey was beautiful, 5 hours of winter wonderland from my window. I have a thing for trains so I never get bored in them. The NSB had a cafeteria and a kids play area too. My advise is to always sit on the right 🙂 The train stopped in Myrdal and from there, we changed to the Flam Railway Station. Myrdal station is exactly that, just a very small station that allows you to change trains to take the famous railway station.
From there, we took the 50 minute train journey into 20 tunnels and right into the gigantic fjords.
The train then stops at Flåm station, it was an easy 7 minute walk to our hotel.
I booked the Norway in A Nutshell Tour with Fjord Tours. I booked with the NSB Train https://www.nsb.no/en/our-destinations/our-regional-railway-lines/flamrailway
It took me from Oslo to Flam via Myrdal. Myrdal is just a station where you change to take the FLAM Railway that takes you into FLAM.
The one hour train journey takes you from sea level at the Sognefjord in Flåm to the Myrdal mountain station at 867 metres above sea level.
We stayed one night in Fretheim Hotel which is a 7 minute walk from set station where the Flam Railway stops. I was very lucky to have chosen this hotel because it was snowing, the floor was covered in ice and rolling a suitcase was a challenge!
Fretheim hotel is a historical hotel from the 1850’s preserving some of the traditions. The new part of the hotel was built in 2000 and it was originally a farm. The farm was situated where the hotel is located today. The old farm house is currently used as historical rooms.
The next day, at 1pm we took the Fjord Cruise for 2 hours into Gudvangen, the viking village, then hopped onto a bus to Voss where we spent skiing and snowboarding while staying at Fleicher’s hotel which was also very practical as it is part of the train station that will take you directly to Bergen or back to Oslo.
Fletcher’s hotel, a beautiful historical hotel too, built in 1889! In summer, the restaurants open their outdoor terrace and their pool and jacuzzi area too. The architecture has a swiss style. A beautiful soulful hotel. The hotel also has a shuttle bus that takes you up to the ski resorts and we spent two days skiing and snowboarding.
In Voss you will find valleys and forests, rivers, waterfalls and lakes. With 14,000 inhabitants, Voss is in-between the famous fjords of Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord and can offer outdoor adventures all year round and has a world-renowned reputation as Norway’s adventure capital.
We then took the 6 hour journey back to Oslo from Voss ending our adventure!
National Geographic Traveler Magazine calls the Flåm Railway one of the top 10 train journeys in Europe
THINGS TO DO
It is 650 meters above water, the incredible Stegastein Viewpoint. There are many ways to get there. You can drive up alone, cycle, or take the bus from Flåm via Aurland to the extraordinary and spectacular Stegastein viewpoint.
The Flam Railway
The Flåm Railway is one of the steepest standard-gauge railway lines in the world, with 80% of the journey at a gradient of 5.5%. The train runs through spectacular scenery, alongside the Rallar Road, vertiginous mountainsides, foaming waterfalls, through 20 tunnels and offers so many viewpoints that, for many people, a single trip up and down is not enough.
National Geographic Traveler Magazine calls the Flåm Railway one of the top 10 train journeys in Europe while in 2014 Lonely Planet Traveller went even further, and named it the best train journeys in the world.
Fjord Cruise NÆrØyfjord
One of the most incredible experiences I ever thought I would witness and feel. Cruising in the UNESCO World Heritage landscape in one of the most popular fjord areas in Norway. I put my camera down and despite the wind and cold weather, I managed to stay the whole 1.5 outside on the boat deck, occasionally going inside for a quick cup of tea and cookies. The boat has a lovely coffee and inside seating area with sofas. The cruise passes through villages and historical sites you can easily picture the vikings saga days.
Visit Otternes Farm from the 1700
It was too cold to visit and I had very little time on this beautiful adventure, but it was on my list but did not manage to make it. The area is a great place to visit to get a feel and understanding on how farmwife was during the 1700 with beautiful landscapes. Do not miss it!
Hiking, Fjord Safari to see wildlife and the Viking Village
In summer, hiking around the area into the fjords is one of the experiences I intend to do soon. In winter, snowshoeing is very popular. One of the most incredible experience is taking a fjord Safari tour with a speedboat and coming close to the wildlife like the orcas that were found nearby! The viking village too Njardarheimr in Gudvangen! You will experience the authentic life the Vikings use to live when they were not busy at sea. You can book your guided tours through Visit Flam website!
HOW TO GET THERE?
* The NSB train from Olso to Myrdal was very comfortable. We booked the family section for Chloe because they have a little kids area with TV and books and a little slide. The train also has a mini restaurant that serves hot drinks, juices, meals and snacks.
* The Flam Railway is one of the most breathtaking train journeys, during winter, it is much less crowded and gave e an opportunity to jump around my seat very comfortably to take photos. The train stops for 10 minutes before a tunnel where we can get out to take some pictures. In summer, you would see the unfrozen lakes, the waterfalls and the fjords in a whole different way. In winter, it is the replica of Narnia and as magical!
* Flam has couple of hotels, the reason I chose to stay in Freithem is because it was 7 minute walk from the station and I was traveling with my father and my daughter and a rolling suitcase which is always challenging to carry in icy winter conditions with great breakfast choices!
* Exploring Flam by foot is one of the most natural way to discover the little town of 600 inhabitants.
* To prepare for the winter time and activities, it is highly recommend to dress in warm layered underwear and thick outdoor clothing.
* The Aurlandsfjord that leads to Flam is the innermost arm of Sognefjord, the world’s deepest and second longest fjord, which stretches halfway to Sweden.
It has been very difficult today to go to places that has not been overly promoted over social media. I travel to discover and to experience new places and feelings that has not been repeatedly on people’s Instagram because traveling is emotional. I avoid crowds and I avoid places I have seen too much online. One of my sole purpose writing guides is to inspire you to go to new places, places that you don’t need to climb mountains to have an adventure. From train rides, to bus stops to exploring the smallest towns, this is my definition of adventure. Go to go to places that fills your soul and educates your mind, even if its off the beaten path to places that are not captured with your camera. I hope I will always inspire you to do that and to visit places that are beyond your wildest dreams.
Visit Flam for more information on your stay and activities and Fjord Tours for your best Norway experience. Thank you to both for helping me plan my trip, you have been exceptionally helpful and I cannot wait to return in Summer!