This past May, I had the privilege of touring Norway via the Sognefjord in a Nutshell tour with my dad. We stretched it out into 3 days of travel and sightseeing by adding on some activities and stopping over in Bergen and Aurland. This trip was absolutely incredible – Norway is probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, right up there with Scotland and Ireland. If you are a nature lover like me, then you will love this tour.
Norway in a Nutshell is known for being overpriced since it isn’t really a tour – it’s more of just organized transportation. The website is also very confusing to use and I had to go back and forth with one of their representative over email to figure it out. However, knowing that everything is arranged and you don’t have to worry about booking everything individually is a big relief. They do want you to book your hotels through their website, which I highly recommend against, in the larger towns/cities anyway. You will find much better deals on your own. The exception is the very small towns like Aurland where there is really only one place to stay.
Once all of the planning was finished, I had several months to wait eagerly for the trip. Going to Norway is something my dad and I have talked about for many years because he is half Norwegian and we have always wanted to learn more about our heritage. I had always idealized Norway and dreamed of being immersed in the majestic fjords. I’m kind of a tree hugger.
Finally the big day arrived. After three connecting flights, all of which were delayed several hours, we spent our first day in Norway exploring the city of Oslo while very jet lagged. Our first night was spent at the Comfort Hotel Xpress Central Station, which was a very bare bones hotel in the city center, but it was exactly what we needed to get some rest before the start of our tour the next day.
Day 1: Oslo to Bergen
Our Norway in a Nutshell adventure began bright and early with our first train departing at 8:25 am. This train journey would last 6.5 hours and take us through a variety of landscapes, finally arriving in Bergen at 2:57 pm. We had collected all of our tickets the day before at the train station so we wouldn’t have to deal with it in the morning, which was definitely a good idea as there was a long line in the morning. It was very easy to find the train platform and we had no trouble finding a place to stow our luggage.
The train journey to Bergen was very scenic and overall a pleasant train journey that certainly did not feel that long. I was glued to the window for the entire 6.5 hours. Once we got to Bergen, my dad’s friend, Knut, picked us up from the train station and brought us to our hotel. We stayed at the Citybox Bergen – another very minimal, budget hotel. This hotel had a self-check in that many other tourists were struggling to use so it took longer to check in than expected. However, the hotel was perfectly adequate for a one night stay. I had mentioned wanting to hike Stoltzekleiven and Knut suggested we do a different hike at the same location. This one he said was off the beaten path, and a much better hike. Me and my dad were both pretty exhausted so we weren’t really up for anything super difficult, and he assured us it wouldn’t be. Fast forward half an hour and we’re basically rock climbing up the side of a mountain. I’m a fairly experienced hiker, but this guy was kicking our butts at this hike and we could barely keep up. These Norwegians know how to keep in shape!
After some pictures we made our way back down the mountain. Knut explained to us how sherpas from Nepal came to Norway to build these stairs and hiking trails all around the country. They know the mountains better than anyone else and we got to see them actually working on the steps as we walked down. We finally arrived back at Knut’s house and his family welcomed us to a barbeque. It was great to be able to spend some time with locals and see more than just the typical touristy stuff, so we were very lucky to have that connection in Bergen.
After dinner, Knut took us to the city center to explore and see Bryggen – the famous historic buildings lining the harbor. We wandered around until it was time to turn in for the night. We had a boat to catch at 8:00 am the next day. As it was late May, the sun didn’t go down until after midnight (I don’t think it ever fully set), so it was very confusing going to bed in the daylight.
Day 2: Bergen to Aurland
We woke up bright and early as we wanted to allow enough time to find the departure point in the harbor. It was luckily very easy to find as there were plenty of other tourists getting on the same boat. There was a mad scramble to get to the upper deck and grab seats as there weren’t many. We managed to get a great spot where we ended up staying for most of the journey, which was about 5.5 hours long, arriving at 1:25 pm in Flåm.
The boat ride was our first time getting a look at the fjords, and this is where the “oohs and aahs” really started. It was super windy, especially near the railing and toward the back, so definitely hold on tight to anything valuable. It was unseasonably warm and sunny, so there were plenty of waterfalls to see along the way from the melting snow.
It’s hard to describe the beauty of the fjords because you really have to see them in person to fully experience it. It’s like being in an oil painting. I didn’t want to look away for even a second and miss something amazing. We stopped a few harbors along the way and people left and boarded the boat, so there are definitely other paths you can take on your personalized Norway in a Nutshell trip. I was so glad I had decided to add on the Heritage Fjord Safari Tour in Flåm because I wanted to be even further immersed in the fjords.
Our tour was scheduled for 3:15 pm and lasted 2 hours. We put on floatation suits and goggles and boarded an inflatable raft. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable about the area and told us stories about various different sections of the fjords and the people who have lived, and currently live there. We navigated into the crevices of the fjords and got to see seals lounging around. Meanwhile, my dad is somehow dozing off during what I thought was a spectacular tour. I guess if you’re not into nature, then it’s not for you!
There was not much to do or see in the town of Flåm, so I was glad we were not spending the night there. After the tour, we boarded a local bus to get to Aurland, which is where we were staying for the night. The person working in the tourism office in Flåm was super helpful about telling us where and when the bus would be coming to pick us up. We definitely didn’t want to miss it as the buses are very infrequent and there’s basically no other way of getting there. The bus took us down winding roads and dropped us off in the very small town of Aurland. We were starving by this point and there is only one restaurant in this town which is attached to the hotel where we stayed, Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri. The food was decent but very expensive. Unless you want to starve, this is your only option.
Aurland is a quaint and charming little town. My dad was exhausted after eating so he went to bed and I decided to go and explore on my own. I sat down in the grass on the edge of the fjord and just sat there for maybe half an hour, soaking in my surroundings. I saw very few people while walking around and it was almost kind of eerie. I suspect during the winter it could be kind of creepy, but when I was there it was so serene, I could have just stayed there forever. I tried to imagine what life must be like for the people who live in this tiny little town, tucked away in the mountains and snow.
Day 3: Aurland to Oslo
I really did not want to leave Aurland, but I was excited to go up to the Stegastein Viewpoint and continue on our journey. The viewpoint required us to purchase tickets for a separate tour bus which would also take us back to Flåm later in the day (we purchased the tickets in Flåm). The tickets are 325 Krone per adult, which is about $38 each. I think it is also possible to hike to the top, but you would need a lot more time and endurance than we had. A small bus took us to the top, up winding roads and some very sharp turns, with a handful of other tourists. We were given about 30 minutes to go and take pictures, which was enough but I wish it had been longer.
The view was absolutely breathtaking and the architecture of the actual structure was pretty cool as well. We managed to get in some good pictures before another bus of tourists arrived and took over the area. It was definitely worthwhile to make the trip up here, so don’t pass it up if you have time for it. I also recommend going to the bathroom while you’re up here – there’s a great view from the toilet!
The bus took us back down to Flåm and we grabbed some food before catching our 4:04 pm train back to Oslo. The first leg of the journey was to Myrdal, which is also known as the Flåm Railway, or Flåmsbana. It has been said to be the most beautiful train journey in the world, so I was super excited for this part of the tour. I had read before the trip that you should sit on the right side for the best view, so we were sure to board the train early and get good seats.
There were plenty of “oohs and aahs” during the entire train ride. I had never been on a train before where literally everyone was filled with delight and rushing from side to side to take pictures. You will see plenty of waterfalls and lush landscapes, but the real highlight of the ride is where it stops to let you off the train briefly and watch Huldra sing her song. According to legend, she emerges from the forest to lure men with her singing and dancing. It was such a bizarre thing to watch – I mean has this ever happened on your daily commute? But with the waterfall blowing mist, and the foggy ambiance, it really did feel magical.
You can’t really hear her in the video, unfortunately, since the waterfall is so loud, but you get the idea. After she finishes her performance, everyone boards the train again and we make our way to Myrdal. Here, we had about 50 minutes to kill before our final train to Oslo. There’s a small cafe at the Myrdal train station and not much else. The last leg of the journey was scenic, but nothing much compared to what we had seen over the last 2 days. After another 5 hours, we were back in Oslo. We stayed at a place called Oslo Central Station Apartment, which was a really nice, spacious apartment with two bedrooms, for the end of our Norwegian adventure. All in all, the Norway in a Nutshell tour was the trip of a lifetime for me and my dad. It was something we will never forget, and I highly recommend going yourself if you can.
Do you have a trip to Norway planned? Comment below with any questions and I will do my best to answer them!