Breathtaking fjords, cascading waterfalls, towering snow-capped mountains, pristine farmhouses with sod roofs, blankets of wildflowers – Norway in a Nutshell is a living picture postcard that you will never forget. Traveling by train, boat and bus, this is a trip that truly lives up to its name, and it allows travelers the unique opportunity to experience some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

Naroyfjord, Norway
Experiencing the fjords helps you understand the Norwegian character, whose national identity has been formed by its passionate bond with nature. PHOTO COURTESY OF INNOVATION NORWAY.

Nestled on the western coast of Norway, the fjords were carved out in a succession of ice ages. When glaciers retreated approximately 12,000 years ago, plants soon appeared, animals thrived and humankind eventually made their way into this spectacular, but remote, heaven on earth. Small fishing villages were established and tiny sod roofed farmhouses quietly dotted the landscape, some situated on mountains so steep that they required a ladder to ascend the terrain. Once tax collectors realized there were people living in this isolated region, they made an annual trek to the farms, only to find that many of the ladders had mysteriously disappeared. When the first tourists arrived – primarily European aristocracy – who came to fish in this untouched paradise of crystal-clear waters, they were guaranteed all the fish they could carry. Word spread, and the fjords became the sportsperson’s paradise. Soon the rest of the world knew about them.

visitors enjoying a view of Bergen from a vantage point
Taking the funicular to the top of Mount Floyen offers spectacular views of Bergen. PHOTO COURTESY OF INNOVATION NORWAY.

If your tour of today’s Norway is limited by time, Norway in a Nutshell is the way to go. There are a number of packages to choose from, ranging in time from seven to twenty-two hours. I opted for the eight-hour roundtrip from Bergen – World Heritage City and “gateway to the fjords.” If you can spare the extra time, Hanseatic Bergen boasts endless tourist attractions, and can be easily explored in 24 hours. The Bergen Tourist Card is an essential component to your tour of this historic harbor town. The price allows you free or reduce-priced admittance to the Bergen Art Museum, Fantoft Stave Church (a medieval wooden cathedral), a harbor boat tour, Bergen Castle, St Mary’s Church, and Troulhaugen, composer Edvard Grieg’s home.

the Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen is now a living museum. PHOTO COURTESY OF DAG FOSSE/KODE.

If you’re lucky you might catch a concert in Troulhaugen’s intimate concert hall, discreetly built into the landscape, and overlooking Grieg’s working studio, where he wrote most of his later work. The card also allows free access on city buses, and both the Ulriksbanen Cable Car and Floibanen Funicular, which feature breathtaking views of the city. Not a bad way to start your city tour. Wander through the harbor fish market and down the wooden streets of the historic warehouses at Bryggen (the Wharf). A fish buffet should be on everyone’s list for a generous sampling of Bergen’s world-famous fish soup, assortments of smoked and cured Atlantic salmon, fish cakes, hearty breads, all washed down with the city’s own Hansa beer.

Flam Railway platform
PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT FLAM

The next morning, hop on the Bergen Railway, easily one of the most beautiful railways in the world, for the journey up to mountain village of Myrdal. You could feel the excitement at Mydral as everyone hurries onto the platform in anticipation for the next part of the journey, a transfer onto The Flam Railway. One of the most dramatic and skilled engineering feats in railway history, The Flam Railway’s high-mountain railway track descends its way down virtual mountainsides. The track had to be laid out on steep inclines and in hairpin bends so that the train could slowly wind its way up and down its almost vertical slopes. Approximately 80% of the line has a gradient of 55%. The train ride between Mydral and Flam runs down (or up) the wild Flamsdalen Valley and is for many people one of the many highlights of the tour. From your carriage window see some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring scenery in the world.

Flam Railway train emerging from a tunnel
PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT FLAM

To experience the fjords helps you understand the Norwegian character, whose national identity has been formed by its passionate bond with nature. When a Norwegian goes on vacation – an average of six-weeks a year – the destination of choice is (usually) the Norwegian countryside. The train’s final destination is the port of Flam. Feast on another buffet in the quaint village, then travel by boat out of the Aurlandsfjord and into the Nærøyfjord – easily the wildest and most beautiful part of the voyage. On the boat from Flam, you will see more waterfalls, charming small towns, a Stave church and working farms, situated on steep mountainous terrain.

Norwegian fjords
PHOTOS COURTESY OF VISIT FLAM

Between Gudvangen and Voss, travel by bus through the Nærøyfjord Valley and up the steep hairpin bends of Stalheimskleiva with stunning, almost birds-eye views of more waterfalls. At the top of the rocky ascent there is a short stop to enjoy fantastic panoramic vistas from the viewpoints at the historic and stately Stalheim Hotel, where overnight accommodations are available. At the Fjord Pass there are also many hotels and guesthouses to choose from.

viewpoints, Norway
TOP LEFT: PHOTO COURTESY OF VINCENT via WIKIMEDIA COMMONS; TOP RIGHT: PHOTO COURTESY OF ED BOITANO; BOTTOM LEFT: PHOTO COURTESY OF VISIT NORWAY

Depending on which tour you have chosen, your bus journey will continue from Voss back to Bergen. From there, you might want to continue exploring Norway’s other attractions on your own or by a Hurtigruten Norway Expedition vessel. Must-see destinations include the idyllic fishing village of the Lofoten Islands, the Sami Museum in Tromsø, and Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.

Lofoten, Tromsø Museum and Trondheim hotels and homes on the river
TOP LEFT: Fishing is the foundation of life at the Lofoten fishing village. PHOTO COURTESY OF HURTIGRUTEN; TOP RIGHT: Sami culture on display at Tromsø Museum. PHOTO COURTESY OF NORGES UNIVERSITETS MUSEUM; BOTTOM: Trondheim hotels and homes on the river, with many for rent. PHOTO COURTESY OF HURTIGRUTEN.

50 Degrees North’s New Signature Tour.

view of Norway's fjord country from atop Mount Hoven
‘The Western Fjords of Norway’ by 50 Degrees North. PHOTO COURTESY OF 50 DEGREES NORTH.

Nordic Travel Specialist, 50 Degrees North, has introduced an innovative new 8-day tour for 2020: ‘The Western Fjords of Norway.’ Although largely unknown to international visitors, the Western fjords are a rare gem: The landscape is pristine and exceptionally beautiful even by Norwegian standards. However, the landscape is not the only factor that makes ‘The Western Fjords of Norway’ tour exceptional. It’s the ease to access such a unique and remote region without having to face peak summer traffic. This journey takes travelers off the beaten path as it showcases sites that aren’t known by many travelers. 50 Degrees North eases the experience by offering private transportation to the various sites in the comfort of a spacious and yet intimate minivan (1 to 12 people) which offers safety, flexibility and convenience, more so for solo travelers.

Norway in a Nutshell is available daily all year, but best to confirm due to the corona virus. For further information, contact www.VisitNorway.com or www.VisitBergen.com.

Load More Related Articles
Load More By Ed Boitano
Load More In World Travel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also

Three Things We Didn’t Know About Connemara

The spectacular cultural region of Connemara, Ireland, is defined as being nestled between…