Norway’s Fjords: From Bergen to Flam

With one of the longest coastlines in the world, the small country of Norway boasts some of the most beautiful views in the world. And many hours of travel to get to each end with a variety of scenic transportation modes. While I would love to visit Tromso and the Lofoten Islands, southern Norway was the focus of our recent visit. I grew up in Stavanger and if taking a trip to Norway, it only made sense to explore the fjords. Thus the first leg of our Norway itinerary became the Bergen to Flam route, and it was spectacular.

This route included one night in Bergen, a train from Bergen to Voss, bus from Voss to Gudvangen and then electric ferry on to Flam. It is most certainly a scenic way to travel Norway.

Visiting Bergen

Our Norway itinerary began with the new (as of May 2022) United flight from Newark to Bergen. We arrived to Bergen, after a long-delayed flight, with just enough time to check in to our hotel, Clarion Hotel Havnekontoret to enjoy fresh waffles during afternoon Fika. This is actually a Swedish tradition of making time for friends while sharing a cup of coffee or tea and a snack. In this case, delicious fresh waffles with berry preserves or other toppings was the snack. It was the perfect welcome after almost 24 hours of travel.

Waffles at Fika were a welcome reception at Clarion Hotel Havnekontoret.

Where to Stay in Bergen

While Clarion Hotel Havnekontoret is one of the more expensive lodging options in Bergen, its location and inclusion of afternoon waffles, light international dinner and fantastic breakfast made it the perfect place to recover from our flight and begin my return to Norway with my family after 35 years. This hotel was the most expensive of all that we booked in Norway, but we offset the cost with a $300 credit from our Venture X credit card.

Historic Bryggen in Bergen, Norway is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Bergen is known for rain and did not disappoint. We wandered the town and fish market. The old buildings in Bryggen are incredible, rebuilt after the fire of 1702 on the original foundations from the 12th century. Lopsided stairs lead up to souvenir shops loaded with trolls and julenisse that brought back memories of my childhood. Hand-hewn wooden beams hold these buildings together, while original wood floors squeak under your feet.

London is not the only city where you can spot old phone booths. Bergen has its fair share too, of which some have been converted into little libraries.

Tough decisions at the Bergen Fish Market. Highly recommend something like this fresh off the boat, and not fish & chips.

We had planned on taking a walking to tour to see the museums, or ride up the funicular, but alas the delayed flight prevented that. Fortunately our hotel was located near everything. And, we were able to get a really good perspective of the city from the tower of our hotel.

Insider Tip: Thanks to our new miles and points hobby, we booked the Havnekontoret through the Capital One Travel Portal and used our $300 Venture X credit, making it quite affordable for our family of four as it included a couple of meals for all of us.

tower at clarion hotel havnekontoret
The view from the tower of Clarion Hotel Havnekontoret in Bryygen, Bergen.

Norway in a Nutshell

After one night in Bergen to recuperate from transatlantic travels, we were off to the fjords! We booked the Bergen back to Bergen loop of the Norway in a Nutshell tour, but with a two night stop in Flam. So, we began our trip from Bergen to Flam aboard the Bergen Railway.

We were prepared for stunning scenery. So, barely out of Bergen had our phones poised for pictures. Of course, every time we went to snap one we entered a tunnel. But no fear, the further we got out of Bergen, the better the views and fewer the tunnels.

You may be wondering, what is Norway in a Nutshell? Well it is basically a pre-packaged transportation route through some of the most scenic UNESCO protected areas of the Norwegian fjords. Fjord Tours has pulled together existing train and ferry routes and connected those with the addition of a scenic bus ride. You likely could do the research and book most of it on your own for cheaper. But you can’t pre-book the bus ride that connects Voss to Gudvangen independently of the tour. For us tourists, there was no sense in risking not being able to catch that leg.

As a side note, we packed light. But still had two suitcases to transport and it was no problem. There was plenty of space on all of the trains, buses and ferries.

Kids taking photos on the Bergen Railway portion of our Norway in a Nutshell self-guided tour.

Voss to Gudvangen to Flam

We arrived in Voss to then board on a bus to Gudvangen.

Now don’t expect this on your trip… But, I cannot leave out this part of our story. As we were boarding one of the three buses, my husband pointed out a tall gentleman with his family. He discreetly said to me, “I think that is Keb’ Mo’.” Keb’ Mo’ is my husband’s favorite musician. Tickets to his performances are the only ones that I have procured as a gift for him.

The bus takes visitors along rushing rivers with powerful waterfalls speckled along the way. There’s a brief stop at the historic Stalheim Hotel to take in the panoramic views of the Nærøy Valley below. While I was busy taking photos, my husband wandered into the hotel and ran into Keb’ Mo’ in the gift shop and had a brief conversation.

Views of Nærøy Valley from the backyard of Stalheim Hotel
Views of the Nærøy Valley from the backyard of Stalheim Hotel, a stop on the Norway in a Nutshell tour.

Later, after we boarded the ferry to Gudvangen, Keb’ Mo’ and his family sat next to us and we all chatted for most of the ride. Upon debarking in Flam, they had a couple of hours and didn’t know what they were going to do. We were checking into our hotel which has a nice restaurant for lunch and so we invited them to join us. Not even 24 hours into our trip and had the experience of having lunch with a favorite musician, musician who, along with his family, turned out to be just so kind and personable.

I wasn’t sure if the rest of the trip would be able to measure up to that experience, but it did.

Insider Tip: Skip the food at Gudvangen and get something on the ferry. The ferry has signs posted that outside food is not allowed. That shrimp sandwich we bought and brought with us went to waste. We also bought a fun electric ferry knock-off Lego set while aboard the ferry that later provided a fun project.

Post-lunch selfie with Keb’ Mo’ and his personable family at Flam Marina & Apartments. Photo: Robbie Moore.

Visiting Flam

This spectacular place deserves its own dedicated guide. If you are just passing through, your time may be best spent wandering the town, which is clearly geared towards tourists. Sit out on a deck for lunch and just bask in the views.

But if you have time, spend a couple of nights here. We stayed at the Flam Marina Apartments. These offer a small apartment with two bedrooms, a kitchenette and deck. While not large, they are much more spacious than a European hotel room, The views are unbeatable. The attached restaurant is great too.

Flam Marina Apartments.

While in Flam, we took emobility two-seater Twizzy electric vehicles up to Stegastein viewpoint. It was a crazy drive up a curvy one-lane road with pull offs for passing cars, The GPS gave you interesting information and a glimpse into Norwegian culture as you went.

We saw sheep running down the road with their bells singing as they ran, fancy sports cars not able to use their speed, and then at the top walked out on a partial bridge with panoramic views of the fjords. The road was a wee bit scary. But this was a really fun way to see the area. And, certainly I was grateful to be in a tiny Twizzy vehicle rather than a large vehicle.

Not to spoil the surprise. But you might want to plan for a small hike after Stegastein viewpoint. It was well worth taking a little extra time.

Stegastein Viewpoint.

While in Flam, we also made our way out to the Borgund Stave Church about an hour drive away. We did have to rent a separate car to get out there. There is a tour (bus, not in Twizzy cars) that takes you to both the Stegastein viewpoint and then out to the Borgund Stave Church. But, of course, we had missed that and had already seen Stegastein Viewpoint in what I think was a much more interesting way.

We didn’t need to spend long here. But I am glad that we got to see this. These medieval wooden church buildings are rarely preserved. There’s just a handful left in Norway built between 1150 and 1350. Interesting, for sure, although not nearly as fun as the Twizzy. The emobility tour was the big winner for our family.

Borgund Stave Church is reachable from Flam.
Borgund Stave Church about an hour drive through a very long tunnel from Flam,

Our daughter considered jumping off a sauna boat into the fjord. We didn’t make that happen. But we did watch people jump into the cold fjord waters from our hotel at the Flam Marina, with no sauna to warm up in.

I almost wish we had a bit more time here to venture deeper into Norway’s fjords.

Definitely include the Bergen to Flam route as a part of your Norway itinerary!

Norway’s Fjords: From Bergen to Flam

One thought on “Norway’s Fjords: From Bergen to Flam

  • July 1, 2022 at 1:32 am
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    An interesting scenic trip along the Norwegian fjords. Brings back lots of old memories of having lived in Norway.

    Reply

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