Some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet is easily accessible to travelers from the U.S. and Europe, in a way which is...

‘Norway in a Nutshell’ packages are flexible, allowing different options in terms of beginning and ending points and offering a variety of accommodation options before, during and after the tour. Many people complete their ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour in one day, beginning their trip in Oslo and ending in Bergen (or vice versa).


Many others start and end their tour in Bergen, which involves slightly less of a train journey than starting out from Oslo. However, the train journey from Oslo is most definitely worth taking, because it passes through spectacular lake, mountain and glacier scenery as the train heads west towards Bergen.

Going west from Oslo, the Bergensbanen ascends to a peak altitude of just over 4,000 feet at the station of Finse, the highest station in Norway’s entire railway system. The scenery along the route gets increasingly spectacular as the railway gradually climbs. Starting many miles east of Finse, the train begins to pass ice-covered lakes, snow-bound mountains and frozen rivers, even as late as mid-May.

This view from Finse station shows the northern end of the Hardangerjøkulen glacier near Finse

At Finse itself, the train waits for 15 minutes to let passengers get off to enjoy the clear mountain air and the spectacular view of the Hardangerjøkulen, Norway’s sixth-largest glacier, which is about a mile away to the south. On May 17, Norway’s national day, skiers create a procession from Finse to Hardangerjøkulen, many wearing national costume.

At Finse, the highest station in Norway at over 4,000 feet, the train stops for about 15 minutes so that passengers can get off to enjoy the fresh mountain air and look upon the nearby Hardangerjøkulen glacier

As the train departs Finse going west, it immediately enters a tunnel. Several tunnels and some spectacular scenery later you find yourself at Myrdal station, a key point on the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tours.

Two important parts of the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ packages are the train journeys between Oslo or Bergen and the stations of Voss or Myrdal on the main Oslo-Bergen line. If you take the train first to Myrdal, you switch at Myrdal to the intensely spectacular Flåm Railway (or Flåmsbana), about which we have published a separate feature article, entitled Riding Norway’s Amazing Flåm Railway. The Flåm Railway drops 2,840 feet in just 12 miles through a mountain valley to the village of Flåm, where the marine part of the ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour begins. Flåm is at the head of the Aurlandsfjord, a side fjord off Sognefjord itself.

Myrdal station is one of the major transfer points for 'Norway in a Nutshell' tours. Here travelers transfer between the Oslo-Bergen Railway (known as the Bergensbanen) and the Flåm Railway

If you take the train first to Voss (which is about an hour’s journey east of Bergen), the railway follows the Osterfjorden near Bergen and the Vossavassdraget river system between the stations of Dale and Voss. The Vossavassdraget is a raging torrent of snow-melt water in the spring and the railway runs very close to its southern bank, so the trip is quite spectacular.

At Voss, you transfer to a coach which takes you along scenic roads – including one of Europe’s steepest short stretches of road, a one-in-five-gradient, 13-hairpin road on a ridge between two massive waterfalls at Stalheim – to the little village of Gudvangen at the head of Naerøyfjord.

This side branch of the Aurlandsfjord and Sognefjord is reputedly the world’s narrowest fjord (it is just over 900 feet wide at its narrowest point) and is hemmed by almost-sheer mountain peaks. Because of the fjord’s dramatic scenery and unspoiled little farming settlements, UNESCO has declared Naerøyfjord a World Heritage Site.

Looking back at the village of Flåm from the fjord-cruise ferryboat, the mountains surrounding the village and the southern end of the Aurlandsfjord provide an impressive sight

Depending on the direction the traveler is heading on his or her ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ tour, the traveler boards a sizable ferryboat at either Flåm (for a trip going westwards) or Gudvangen (for a trip going eastwards) for a two-hour cruise on the Aurlandsfjord and Naerøyfjord. Here you will experience probably the most spectacular scenery you’ll see anywhere on the trip.

At one point on the western side of the Aurlandsfjord, you can see a little farm perched more than 300 meters (985 feet) up on an almost-sheer cliff. The farm, which has sheep and goats, is reached from the shore of the fjord by a steep hairpin path which even requires the use of ladders in some places.

A word of advice: even in late spring the wind on the water can be very cold and blustery, despite the narrowness of the fjords; and rain showers can drench you in a sudden downpour. Even if the weather at the beginning of the cruise seems fine, it’s best to have a warm sweater and a waterproof coat or poncho along with you – because, even if the weather changes, you may not want to stay inside the ship’s enclosed passenger decks for the entire trip. Even in changeable weather, the scenery is just too spectacular to be missed, and it can best be experienced from the ship’s outdoor top deck.

Even on a gray day, the view from the Aurlandsfjord to the north is spectacular. The view looks out to the more open expanse of the Sognefjord and the mountains behind it

The fjord-cruise boat only makes one intermediate stop en route, at the waterside town of Aurlandsvangen not far from Flåm. Aurlandsvangen, a village of about 600 people which is a center for hydro-electricity production, is the site of the main local market and a center for local commerce.

Our feature on ‘Norway in a Nutshell’ continues on Page 3

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