Norway is gorgeous: fact. Norway is expensive: fact. These can be reconciled to an affordable, unforgettable experience: fact.
The village of Flam, with its 400 or so full-time residents, is located in the heart of Norway’s fjords. It is part of the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour, a combination of trains, buses and ferries that brings tourists across the country from Oslo to Bergen. The town is a transit hub for Nutshellers changing between the train and the ferry, but stay the night here. In fact, stay two. The town may be small, but the sights are not, and after all the traveling to get here, you deserve a rest.
The 4 ½ hr train ride from Oslo Sentral station to the mountaintop town of Myrdal has some of the best scenery in all of Europe. It begins the outskirts of Oslo, then chugs along through forests, past lakes and over hills, and finally, makes a stop at the village of Myrdal. At an elevation of 880 meters above sea level, the little town looks like it is in a snowy Mordor. It is here that the local Flamsbana Railway connects the the main train line across Norway to get passengers to the Flam and the fjords. The 20 km journey takes 50 minutes to descend to an elevation 6 meters. Along the way, the train snakes along cliff edges providing a breathtaking view of the valley below. And if that isn’t enough, the driver stops for photo ops in front of waterfalls.
There is only one place to get a beer in Flam: the Aegir Brewery. It is done up in a traditional Norwegian manner: all wood, high ceilings, few windows, a lot of candles and a fireplace in the center of the room surrounded by a circle of benches with sheepskins on them. The beer is so good and the place so cozy, you quickly forget that you are drinking $15 beers. So order a ½ liter, cozy up next to the fireplace and enjoy a lively conversation.
The Naeroyfjord ferry is part of Norway in a Nutshell and you can take it one way to Gundvangen (2hrs) or round trip back to Flam (4 1/2 hrs). Get on the early ferry and you are all alone. But beware: mornings are cool (cold, actually), so dress like it is winter, even if it is summer. The ferry has a small cafe, so if you get cold, head in for a hot coffee. Don’t worry, there are plenty of windows so you won’t miss any of the scenery. The fjord is absolutely gorgeous. The view makes all of the effort getting here worth it. Waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, scenic villages, green hillsides: it is all stunning, and it never gets old. Two hours later, your camera will still be clicking away capturing unforgettable images.
If the weather is warm, rent a kayak and paddle the fjord. Fit in with the locals and buy a Dale of Norway sweater at any of the souvenir shops in town. Make sure to follow the river from the fjord through the valley to the old village. Stop by the church (built 1667) and think about what this place must look like in December.
The train trip from Oslo to Flam can be purchased online from the very easy to use NSB website. There are different fares available. The more expensive the fare, the more flexible the ticket. Buy the cheapest one (called Minipris) and treat it like a plane ticket.
The weather can be cold and rainy, so dress in layers and bring a rain coat. A hat and gloves is not a bad idea, either.
Norway is expensive when it comes to eating out, so a trip to a grocery store (Coop is the name of the one in Flam-you can’t miss it) followed by a picnic is an easy way to save money and to enjoy the scenery while eating.
Flam is the perfect place to see the fjords. It is relatively easy to get to and the views are stunning. The people in town know they have something special and are eager for you to enjoy it.