Since always we associated the word “Norway” with “fjords”. Beautiful, majestic, characteristically cutting deep into the land. We wanted to see them from close-up, so it was pretty obvious that during our stay in Norway, they were a “must-see”. While being in Bergen or Grimmen (where we stayed on a campsite), we were amazed by the landscapes. But we still couldn’t get enough, so we decided to sail across the fjord. That’s why we took a train to Flåm and from there – a boat back to Bergen.
Train into Norway
At the end of our second day in Bergen, we went to train station in order to buy the tickets for the train to Flåm. The tickets were sold without a specific hour, so we could decide which train to catch. We chose the departure at 8:20, but when we got to the station, we discovered that this train doesn’t run on Saturdays… We got a bit angry with ourselves, and we had to wander around the city for almost 2 hours, because we didn’t want to wait in an empty station. At last, around 10:15, we’ve heard conductor’s whistle and started a trip that amazed us.
There’s not direct connection from Bergen to Flåm, so we needed to switch at the only station from which trains to Flåm run. We took a train on Bergen – Oslo through Myrdal. Landscapes behind the window were changing rapidly. Highly developed surroundings of Bergen gradually changed into single towns, flooding in the sea of hills and green meadows streams, to finally become single houses distracting us from the incredible views. We were just looking through the windows, barely talking to each other – we simply enjoyed delightful landscapes.
When the train stopped in Myrdal, we had to ask the conductor if it’s this the right place, because we were confused. Myrdal is a station in mountainous area, to which no road is leading. The whole station consists of one building with ticket sales, waiting room and small restaurant. There’s only one railroad on each side of the platform. There are also few benches, train schedule boards and two utility buildings for the workers. And the neighborhood? Next to the station a small river, stone pathway, three wooden houses nearby and three more 500 meters down (one of which turned out to be bike rental). The last element, that was not a part of omnipresent nature, was a sign with directions to many different places, yet all pointing the same way. Just like if Myrdal was the point where you can only go back from where you came. Apart from the things we mentioned – there’s really nothing more here. When you’re waiting 5 minutes for the next train – this place is perfect. But we cannot imagine waiting here couple of hours for the next ride.
At last our train has arrived. Antique Flåmsbana is the only railway on the route Myrdal – Flåm, and it’s one of the world’s most steepest railroads. The route leads from placed 865 meters above sea level Myrdal, and ends in Flåm, 2 meters above sea level. The construction was started in 1923, continued for 17 years and was almost entirely done manually; machines were used only to make 2 out of 20 tunnels.
Going with the route of total 20 km lasted nearly one hour, but it went to fast for us. Sitting in antique coach, we were following fantastic views, and at some moments we felt like we were travelling between Tatras (mountains in Poland) and fjords. The route goes through steep mountains, decorated with breathtaking waterfalls, impressive tunnels, and over Flåmselvi river, which course have to be changed on one of the sections, to assure the railway safety. It’s not a surprise, then, that National Geographic Traveler placed Flåmsbana on the list of 10 most beautiful railways in Europe.
Among all waterfalls one can see on the route to Flåm, especially worth mentioning is Kjosfossen. Having almost 225 meters high, it’s one of the most tourist-visited waterfalls in Norway. Despite it’s only 1,5 km from Myrdal, the train is always doing an extra stop by the small platform next to the waterfall. As an addition to the exceptional view, during summertime dancers dressed as Hulders (seductive forest creatures in Scandinavian folklore) do a small performance with accompaniment of Nordic music. The show lasts only couple of minutes, but it’s extraordinary and impressive – it’s also quite fun to try to guess where Hulder will show up next 😉
Flåm is a small place, with a population of 350 inhabitants, and the greatest historical events here are: building a church, Flåmsbana railway and pier. But it all really doesn’t matter, because Flåm is most know of the fact, that it’s located at the very end of majestic Aurlandfjord, which is a branch of the longest Norwegian fjord – Sognefjord. At this very place, all monuments, relics or museums are not important – what’s really essential and crucial, is the omnipresent, astonishing nature. It’s because of the nature, every year 450 000 tourists visit Flåm. They come here with one-of-a-kind railway or sail with ships and tourist boats, and get back to civilization even the same day, without staying and contemplating the amazing views for longer. We were much alike – we came with the Flåmsbana railway, and were sailing away with an express boat. Yet we didn’t want to be just another numbers in the guest book. We’ve set up a tent and went to see (and touch) the nature.
Nature within reach
Already during the train travel, just before arriving to Flåm, one particular waterfall, with water flowing from the very top of the fjord and disappearing somewhere in the forest, got our attention. When at the tourist office we asked about it, we received a map with all the trekking trails – and the red one was leading to the waterfall. The route was fairly easy: get out of the town, under overpass towards the farmlands, then straight for a while and after that turn right and go all the way up, to the waterfall. Great – but why did we go to the end of the farmlands and didn’t come across any right-turns?! If we just had the opportunity to ask anyone about the route, but all around us were only cows and sheep.
It took us about 30 minutes of going back and there, looking for some landmark, and then, on one of the trees, we saw a small red mark with a little wooden board saying “Brekkefossen”. The tree was behind a fence, on what looked like private property, surrounded with a herd of sheep. Not feeling 100% sure if we’re doing the right thing, we crossed the gate, passed the herd, and marched uphill. After some time we started to hear the waterfall, and when we finally found it, we stood there like enchanted. Astonishing view at Flåm and Aurlandfjord bay, and the Brekkefossen waterfall, which looked nothing like the small stream of water we’ve seen from the train window. We stayed there almost until sunset.
Next day we got up before 6:00, just to go one more trail. It was freezing, but what more to expect in the morning in Norway? We chose to go to Vikesland. First, we passed the sleepy town of Flåm towards the pier, and continued walking along the bay. Water looked like a face of the mirror. Crystal clear, completely smooth and calm, without even a tiniest wave, and was reflecting the very first sunbeams. We could just walk and walk – all the way up to the next town, but we didn’t have enough time, so we continued our plan and turned our steps towards Otternes. On this small farm one can find perfectly preserved farm buildings, in which you can try traditional cuisine, and see some of the craftsmanship presentations. We were here too early before opening hours, and we could only see everything on the pictures on information board.
From Otternes we just took the road up, until it ended at some private farm. We weren’t wondering too much, and remembering our trip from the day before, we passed the gate and started walking a small path. Along the way, every once in a while, we were stumbling across some branches and roots or sliding because of wet brushwood and grass. It was quite fun too, because we came across many fallen trees and we had to go over or under them.
Finally, we made it to Vikesland, a place marked as a small village, that turned out to be only 3 houses and a bulletin board. That really didn’t matter to us, because it was the view at the bay that we came here for. Surrounded by majestic mountains, on which we could see intensively green hillsides and occasional snow spots far away, all illuminated by the sun on a perfectly blue sky. We could see some boats that started sailing the bay, that were leaving delicate stripes of waves. We were enjoying the beauties of the nature in silence, up to the moment when… a big herd of goats crossed our way, with shepherds leading them to a meadow. When they finally passed us, we sat under the bulletin board, and had a breakfast while watching the astonishing bay view. After that we went the same path, back to Flåm.
Sailing the fjord, or express boat to Bergen
How to put that in words…? Sailing the longest and one of the most spectacular looking fjords in Norway was incredible. First Aurlandfjord, and then Sognefjord. Both of them can be simply described with two words – majesty and beauty. For over 6 hours sail, we were constantly amazed by the views around us, and sometimes it was hard to decide on what to photograph. But we think we manage to take some interesting photos and recordings. We will not try to describe all the impressions from that boat cruise – you’ve got to see it on your own (although you can try to use our humble gallery and video down below).
- Ticket for Flåmsbana railroad costs 400 NOK (50 USD) for an adult. You’ll also have to get to (or from) Myrdal, where terminal station is located.
- Fjord boat cruises prices are much varied, depending on the company and length of the sail. For example: joined ticket for 1 hour sail through Aurlandfjord and train ride on route Flåm-Myrdal-Flåm costs 600 NOK (75 USD). You can find more information about the tickets here.
- Boat cruises between cities are generally more expensive. Our Flåm to Bergen express boat costed 650 NOK (80 USD) per person.
- In Flåm there’s only one campsite, and because of lacking competition, its prices are nearly the same as for hostel. For us it was almost twice as much as in Bergen (Grimmen) – 200 NOK (25 USD).