When we transferred trains to the Flamsbana in Myrdal we left behind a snow drenched wilderness. It was awe-inspiring and at the same time frightening.
On the way there, I found that my brain had switched casually into survival mode. How many layers do we have? What food do we have left? Just a few slices of bread, some cheese, and a bar of Melkesjokolade, the Norwegian milk chocolate. I wondered how we would make these supplies last when inevitably, the train is derailed into the snowy abyss and our fellow passengers begin to sniff us out. Had I known that we would be out in the tundra, I would have packed a fourth layer of socks.
My mind rambled on, and we ventured out through the station to the train awaiting passengers on the other side. There was barely a seat to be found. If it weren’t for the cheery, expectant faces, you would have thought it was the last train out.
The Flamsbana is a short railway connecting Myrdal to the Sognefjord below in Flåm. It is one of the steepest railways in the world and travels at a reassuring Disneyworld pace. In the hour or so that it takes to travel the route, the scenery changes dramatically beginning with snowy tundra and ending in a lush wonderland of sheer mountain faces and grassy meadows. When the train stops for a break, be sure to go out and stretch your legs and take in the magical cliffside interlude.
Down at the bottom it is impossible to take in the view without craning your neck upwards at the rock faces and towering waterfalls. It is a bit like a slow motion pan. I swung around left and then right. I wondered why I wasn’t wearing my hiking backpack or clutching hiking poles. What am I doing wearing these jeans? I am clearly in a Patagonia Catalog cover and should be outfitted as such.
This town is not for relaxing. It is for adventuring, for bike riding, fjord cruising or trekking through the valley. We opted for the fjord cruise and lucked out with a sunny, albeit cold and breezy day out on the water. We snatched a few chairs along the upper deck, bundled up with some coffee, and settled in for the three hour cruise. For anyone that does take the fjord cruise, I beg you, for the benefit of all passengers, please do not feed the seagulls. You don’t want to be the one wiping the inevitable mess off your fellow passenger’s shoulder.
As we pulled away from the dock, I wondered if the four identical boathouses along the water we’re built just to delight photographers and post card makers.There were dozens of waterfalls and little fishing villages along the fjord. The air was sharp and clear and each turn through the fjord was thrilling. Its a wonder that a James Bond movie has not been filmed here.
After cruising past Sognefjord to the end of Naeroyfjord, the narrowest fjord in the world, you have three options. You can take the cruise back, continue on to your next destination, or otherwise hop in a van to take the twenty minute return trip by car. Buy your ticket in advance online or before boarding the cruise, and don’t take any large luggage with you. It won’t fit in the van.
Flåm’s town center consists of a couple of restaurants, a tent covered stand where you can buy fresh fried fish, and one super market. There’s also a quick and easy hike to the top of the hill in the middle of the valley overlooking the fjord. It’s a nice way to do something active especially if you aren’t prepared for a longer more strenuous hike.
The trip to Flåm, the fjord cruise, and the time spent milling around the valley are well worth it. You won’t find geography like this anywhere else. It’s overwhelming and humbling. The exchange rate is a little bit of a wallet buster though, so plan accordingly and keep in mind that you can buy the makings of sandwiches and other meals at the supermarket.
What: Flåm and the Sognefjord
When to Go: May through September, but July will be warmest
For How Long: 1-3 days
What Else to Know:
- Take a ride on the Flamsbana, the scenic railway line. Tickets can be booked online. Be sure to go out and walk around when the train takes a break.
- Book the fjord cruise online ahead of time, but if possible wait until you know the weather forecast. Pick a nice sunny day.
- The car ride back is much quicker, but don’t take any luggage with you. It won’t fit in the van.
- There’s a short easy hike on the small hill at the mouth of the fjord with great views. So check it out if you're looking for a quick hike.