Norway in a Nutshell – Flamsbana

“Norway in a Nutshell” is a group of excursions, one of which takes you to Naerøfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site considered to be one of the finest examples of the Norwegian fjords.  This  excursion is one of the quintessential, must-do tourist cattle-waggon runs if you go to Norway.  It is both stunning and over-peopled in equal measures.  The spectacular spaciousness of the fjord is perfectly juxtaposed by the cramped tourists on the cruise ships as they jostle for position to get the best photographs.  Norway in a Nutshell is one of those things you will be pleased you did but which you will never want to do again, because every other tourist in the country also did it with you.

We had a special reason for wanting to do the Norway in a Nutshell tour.  We had to get to Naerøfjord.  Naerøfjord was the original reason we came to Norway.

It all started with a large, empty, desperately uninteresting patch of magnolia-painted wall at home.  For many years this dreary magnolia wall cried out for a picture to fill it (in fact our hallway is not painted in magnolia.  It is painted in a shade called “Nude Glow”.  I have always believed that the person who gave this particular name to that particular shade needs to study the glow of nudity in greater depth, because to me it looks like magnolia).  Anyway, our particular glow of nudity needed covering up and it took some six years before we found the picture to do it:  Karl Paul Themistokles von Eckenbrecher’s The Auguste Victoria in Naerofjord, 1900.  Here it is, from the website of Felix Rosenstiel’s Widow & Son, the company that prints it.

GM1489As soon as we framed it and put it up on the wall we realised we had to go there.  It dawned on us (incorrectly, as it turns out) that anyone and everyone who visited our home and saw this picture would ask if we had been there.  Besides which, it looked really really inviting and we wanted to see it for real.  Within a few weeks we had booked our tickets for what turned out to be one of the best trips we have ever undertaken.  It was time to see how spectacular the Naerøfjord really was.

Norway in a Nutshell can be booked from Oslo, Bergen, or Voss.  It starts with a train ride to Myrdal along the spectacular Oslo to Bergen railway.  This line is considered to be one of the top ten rail trips in the world and is certainly the best rail journey we have ever taken.  You are deposited at Myrdal and have to change platforms for the Flåmsbana, a train that will take you down 863.5 meters (2,833 feet) over a distance, as the crow flies, of about 8½ miles.

FlamsbanaIt is a comfortable train and at this point of our journey was not at all crowded.  The views during the descent were spectacular (including, apparently, those of my inner ear).

FlamsbanaThe railway line would sometimes snake its way alongside a precipice and photos of the most impressive views often had to be taken through bridge struts.

View from FlamsbanaThe Flåmsbana is one of the steepest non-funicular railways in the world (many sources say it is the steepest).  Its maximum gradient is 55% and it passes through 20 tunnels carved into the hills and mountains.  Of these, 18 were dug through the rock by hand.  Each metre of excavation took up to a month to complete.  One of the tunnels enters a mountainside and then corkscrews 180° inside, before exiting again lower down.

We thought the Flåmsbana and its views was a treat enough, but there was more to come…

Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):

  • Myrdal Train Station:  N 60° 44.126 E 007° 07.341
  • Naerøfjord:  N 60° 55.097 E 006° 52.450

Trip Statistics:


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3 Responses to Norway in a Nutshell – Flamsbana

  1. jcombe says:

    If you ever go back to this area I can very highly recommend a walk (or cycle) through the Flåm valley from Myrdal to Flam (you could go the other way too of course, but then it is uphill!). You can get off the train at Myrdal though the station has no road access, so you have to walk across the rail track at the far end of the platform to get out (there is a member of staff posted there to tell you when it is safe to cross). From there there is a track down the valley (signed Flam 21 (km)) passing the few houses at Myrdral. There is then a zig-zag stretch of the path down to the bottom of the valley passing a waterfall (if cycling, the recommendation is to dismount here). After that it is a track and later a minor road which you can follow all the way to Flåm. Stunning scenery throughout and even a small and remote cafe a couple of miles in. Although you don’t get to see Kjosfossen on the walk (I think it can only be reached on the train).

    There are a couple of request stops on the Flåm railway you pass (and you cross the tracks a number of times) which you can use to break the journey. Blomheller and Berekvan (trains only stop going south at the second one) are the main ones, both request stops. Be aware that a couple of the stations are closed (the timetable still lists them, but has the helpful note next to them “The train does not stop here due to the station being disused”). It is mostly flat once at the bottom of the valley although there are a couple of small hills and a tunnel. There is a free map you can download here (second page) or pick up in Flam: though to be honest you don’t really need a map.

    I have some photos of it I took here – it is so beautiful :

    One thing to be aware of (I wasn’t, and got caught out because of it). If you get on the Flåm railway at Myrdal or any of the request stops, you don’t need a ticket or a reservation, you can buy it on the train and get on the first train that comes. But if you get on at Flåm you do need a reservation to get on the train (though it can be bought a few minutes before departure if there is free space). In my case the next two trains wre both fully booked (or at least the guard insisted the first train was full, but I could see empty seats on it as it left), so I had to either wait 3 hours for the first train with available seats or take the bus to Voss and Bergen (I took the bus, I had already been on the train the day before). You can reserve seats on the train in advance on the internet which is probably a good idea.

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