Let’s talk about days that blow your mind. The days that make you feel like a tiny, inconsequential speck in a vast and majestic world.
It’s not like nobody knows that Norway is beautiful…but I kind of wonder if the country flies under the radar a bit in terms of just how vast and majestic its landscapes truly are. It’s easy to kind of classify it up in Scandinavia and forget that it could maybe give Iceland or New Zealand a run for its “scenery” money.
I’ve been obsessed with the idea of cruising the fjords for quite a while. I do love being out on a boat, after all. So as soon as I booked my trip to Bergen (which was fairly last-minute), I started researching to see whether I could find a fjord cruise in the dead of winter. And that’s how I found the Norway in a Nutshell!
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How to take the Norway in a Nutshell tour from Bergen
It’s really quite easy, though I managed to overthink it quite a bit. You can book online or purchase tickets at the Tourist Information office. You can also customize your trip and break it up over multiple days—I honestly couldn’t figure that out myself (and didn’t need to), so I’d maybe call the Bergen tourist office to get their help.
The various legs of the Norway in a Nutshell tour are pretty much all public transportation and do not entail assigned seats at all, so seating is first-come, first serve, and the tour can swell to accommodate large crowds. However, I’m not sure if they cap off tickets at a certain point so during peak tourist season I’d recommend purchasing ahead.
Should you visit in winter?
Yes!!! There are upsides and downsides to taking the Norway in a Nutshell tour in any season, but winter is definitely awesome. The biggest reason is that there are fewer people, so you aren’t fighting for space and can have all the great views to yourself. Obviously weather can be a factor, so try and stay flexible on your date until you have a good idea of the forecast—you want a clear day if possible, and ideally not super windy.
So let’s dive into the 5 legs of the trip!
#1 – Train from Bergen to Voss
I walked the 15-20 minutes to the train station, stopping for pastries and coffee at Gødt Brod on the way. If the weather had been gross I would have just taken a cab.
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I boarded the train to Voss (final destination Myrdal) early and staked out a great spot. This is not a reserved-seating train, so especially in peak tourist season you’ll want to arrive early to get a good seat by the window. In the dead of winter (when I visited), I knew it would be dark basically the entire train ride, so I wasn’t super concerned about which side of the train I was on.
One note, you can watch the screen to know how long you have til arriving in Voss. Don’t be worried if the list changes from time to time and you lose sight of your destination…it will reappear, and these trains are super punctual and dependable. The train to Voss should take about an hour and a half.
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#2 – Bus from Voss to Gudvangen
It had gotten light by the time we arrived in Gudvangen, and we got off the train and easily found the footpath over to the buses. It’s just a very short walk and fairly well signed, plus you’re all moving as a crowd so there’s really no chance for mistakes as long as you pay attention.
I ended up sitting on the left side of the bus (left when actually sitting on the bus, facing forward) and regretted it, as I felt the better views were on the right—more for taking photos, since you could see through the windows from both sides of the bus. So if you are trying to take photos then sit on the right side.
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You’ll wind your way through cliffs, mountains, little hidden waterfalls, and a huge beautiful lake. In general trying to take really good photos through a bus or train window is super hard (as you can see below), so I’d say just sit back and really soak in the views.
#3 – Boat from Gudvangen to Flåm
This is the big kahuna!!! The fjord boat trip was the #1 reason I wanted to do Norway in a Nutshell, as I’ve wanted to do a fjord boat tour for forever.
When we got off the buses we were greeted by gorgeous light hitting the mountains and blue skies. We had about an hour before needing to board the boat, so got to look around, warm up inside, take photos, and do a spot of shopping at the little visitor center. I also ended up grabbing some fish and chips and sweet potato fries, which were surprisingly good (I didn’t have high expectations based on the look of the place).
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Then the “Future of the Fjords” docked, disgorged her passengers, and we got on board. It’s an all-electric sightseeing boat (quite large, holds about 400 people!) that just took her maiden voyage in mid-2018. The ship has won multiple awards and is a good example of the country’s focus on sustainability. It’s also dead silent, which really lets you appreciate the gorgeous quiet around you.
And then we were off on a 2-hour fjord extravaganza!!!
The whole experience was just unbelievably gorgeous. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day to be out on the water…after one day of solid rain and one day of 30+ mph winds in Bergen, this day was chilly but clear and still.
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The inside of the boat is super nice, but I spent most of the two hours outside freezing my fingers off but snapping photos left and right. I only went inside a couple times to grab some hot chocolate when my fingers threatened mutiny…
The scenery and colors kept changing, and it was also awesome to see little glimpses of red houses, or a hidden waterfall pouring off the mountain. I kept changing position on the boat, going from the front to the back and top deck to bottom deck since the angles and views shifted constantly.
The biggest two challenges in photography were scale—fitting everything into the shot since the landscape is massive—and then light. The light early on was amazing, but since I was there during Polar Night, our window of true daylight was fairly narrow. As the boat trip went on, we started to lose the light and move towards a sunset feeling on the mountains (around 2pm).
I totally loved this giant cliff…
While I’m dying to get back to Norway during the summer at some point, having seen all of this in winter was so amazing. I loved how the white boat wake shows up against the deep navy of the water. I love the dusting of snow on the mountains. And I love that Polar Night kind of twilight blue color of the sky.
As we neared Flåm, we really were losing the light, but the water in this part of the trip was so still that we got to see some super cool reflections in the water…particularly as the sunset developed.
Then we docked in Flåm, a cute little town that connects the railway up to Myrdal, for the last part of our Norway in a Nutshell adventure.
Since we had a few minutes, I swung by the Flåm Bakeri for some treats and coffee (and a lovely mug to take home).
#4 – Train from Flåm to Myrdal
This was definitely the second-best part of the trip after the fjord cruise…and a *close* second. This is considered one of the most scenic—and STEEP—train journeys in the world!
Similar to what I said on the bus portion, the biggest bummer is that it’s hard to get good photos from a train. That was particularly true with the light fading on this part of the trip. HOWEVER, some of the train windows open, so make sure to grab a seat next to one that opens so you can occasionally pull it down and snap pictures without a glass glare.
In terms of seating, I was on the right side and it was amazing. There were some sections where the left had all the views as well though, so not sure if there is a better side? If there are two of you traveling together, I’d recommend taking seats across the aisle from each other next to windows that open, so you can flit back and forth as needed.
I can only imagine how gorgeous this is in the summer when it’s still light out, but I was totally wowed by the stark, quiet, snowy landscapes as we climbed toward Myrdal. Look closely at the photo below…you can see the switchbacks necessary to get up the hill!
There is only one stop on the train ride, and it’s in an enclosed space so you can’t get lost. They stop to see a cool waterfall, so you can get off the train for a few minutes and take photos. It was totally frozen over when we visited.
The colorful houses against the almost black-and-white landscape made me so happy!
It’s crazy how snowy the last part of the train ride was, versus down near Flåm and then in Bergen where there was no snow. The difference in climate and elevation is really noticeable!
#5 – Myrdal back to Bergen
Finally we arrived in Myrdal and got off the train. All we had to do was walk across to the other track, and then catch the train back to Bergen. It was unfortunately totally dark for that part of the trip, but not a big deal since I’d already seen so much of the most beautiful scenery. I arrived back in Bergen around 6:00pm (having left around 8:00am), so it’s a long day but note exhausting.
A few tips for Norway in a Nutshell
- It’s smart to grab coffee and breakfast before you go. There will be food and drinks at the Gudvangen stop (around 11am), there is a tiny little concession stand on the boat, and you could grab something light in Flåm as well. But overall bring some water and snacks with you.
- If you’re visiting in winter, be sure to dress very warmly. If you’re outside during the boat trip, it will be quite cold! Even in the summer I assume it’s chilly out on the water.
- Follow the crowds—that is the smartest thing you can do to make sure you’re headed in the right direction!
- I’d recommend bringing something to occupy yourself, especially in the winter since parts of your trip will be dark. My Kindle is my life companion.
- I’ve put individual notes about which side of the train/bus to sit on and other things like that in each section, so be sure to check those out!
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Hopefully this helps you plan your own trip, and the photos give you a taste of what’s to come. This was such an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go back some day in the summer and see it that way as well! If you have any questions, hit me up in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Other boat & train adventures you’ll love:
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- How to Take Switzerland’s Golden Pass Train
- A Perfect Day Sailing Gothenberg’s Archipelago
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