When my friend suggested we travel to Norway to see the fjords, I was completely on board with the idea. Norway boasts some of the most stunning scenery in
Europe the world, with two fjords included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. But what’s the best way to enjoy them? My friend and I didn’t fancy strapping on heavy backpacks and hiking through the mountains, but we also wanted to see as much of the country as possible. I looked into different cruises and tours and ultimately decided the Norway in a Nutshell fjord cruise from Bergen was the best fit for us.
Norway in a Nutshell isn’t a conventional tour with a guide. There is no cumbersome headset to wear. Rather, the company prearranges various means of transportation, leaving you to free to enjoy the scenery without worrying about buying bus or train tickets at the next stop. Norway in a Nutshell makes the process so easy! I loved that the only thing I needed to do was get myself to the next departure point on time. (And when it turned out a family of four had gotten on a train going in the wrong direction, the conductors worked to get them straightened out.) Could you manage the same tour route on your own? Probably, though you might not see as much in one day.
We did the standard route in reverse, riding the lovely Bergen Railway to Voss and quickly hopping a bus bound for Gudvangen. Part of the trip took us down the impossibly steep Stalheimskleiva road which boasts a total of 13 hairpin turns; the talented bus driver paused at bends to give everyone a chance to appreciate the engineering feat.
From Gudvangen, where we picked up a boat, we cruised through two breathtaking fjords (Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord) as the morning fog just began to lift over the soaring snow-capped mountains. Even in June, there was snow on the ground in places and a chill in the air. As we sailed through passes carved over millennia, we marveled at small towns and villages that must be cut off from the world for half the year. I wonder what it’s like to live in such a remote place!
Food wasn’t included in the Norway in a Nutshell tour price, but there was time built into the schedule to eat along the way. We enjoyed a tasty lunch at a cafe in Flåm, facing the water and surrounded by craggy mountains. I had a brief pang of regret that we hadn’t planned an overnight stay in Flåm. The sun was shining brightly and I could have soaked up the view (and warmth) for hours!
Instead, we took an unforgetable ride on the Flåm Railway to Myrdal which surely must be one of the world’s most magnificent journeys. Snow cover increased as we climbed higher and colorfully painted farm houses appeared like toy models in the vast landscape. To everyone’s delight, the train stopped at Kjosfossen waterfall so that we could disembark and be duly impressed by the spectacular sight.
We changed trains in Myrdal and headed back to Voss, the so-called “adventure capital” of Norway. As we waited for the next connection in the sunshine, brave souls paraglided far overhead of those of us who kept our feet firmly on the ground. I’ve since read that it’s possible to go horseback riding in the mountains surrounding Voss and I would love to go back and do that one day.
The final train ride from Voss to Bergen was spent in sleepy silence as we watched the ever-changing landscapes pass by, returning in time for a scrumptious seafood dinner at the waterside Bergen fish market. All told, Norway in a Nutshell was one day and US$145 (1200 NOK) well spent!
Now for the most important question: where to sit on your Norway in a Nutshell tour for the best views? I Googled this same question before my own trip and took copious notes (and photos) en route. While there is no bad view, some sides do afford more dramatic sights than others. Here are my recommendations (reverse them if you are traveling in the opposite direction):
Bergen > Voss // Train – sit on the LEFT
Voss > Gudvangen // Bus – sit on the LEFT
Gudvangen > Flåm // Boat – sit on the RIGHT
Flåm > Myrdal // Train – sit on the RIGHT
Myrdal > Voss // Train – sit on the RIGHT
Voss > Bergen // Train – sit on the RIGHT
Is Cruising the Norwegian fjords on YOUR bucket list?