Earlier this month I set off on a trip unlike my other travels these summers and I experienced Norway by embarking on the Sogneford in a Nutshell tour. Because of her Norwegian heritage, my friend Ashley wanted to include this excursion to Norway when she visited me in Copenhagen along with our friend Marilyn. Over four days we experienced the breathtaking Scandinavian landscape from Bergen to Oslo through the fjords and mountain trains with stops in Flåm and Myrdal. Norway was never high on my travel bucket list, but on this trip I was pleasantly surprised and the getaway made me reconsider my travel priorities going forward!
So what is Norway in a Nutshell?
The Norway in a Nutshell tour is a popular summer voyage that takes travelers across Norway with a combination of cruises buses and train rides. Throughout the cross-country trek you get to take in the beautiful views and nature that is so well-preserved by the Norwegian people. There are a plethora of options available through NSB (Norwegian Railways) where you can book different routes, round trip tickets and different length voyages with overnight options in multiples cities. We opted for a shorter variation, the Sognefjord in a Nutshell (tour pictured above). This gave us highlights of Bergen, Flåm, Myrdal and finished in Oslo. You can also book online – if you have ever considered a trip to Norway, there’s an option for you and you won’t be let down!
To begin our tour, we spent two nights in Bergen, the nation’s second largest city located on the Southwestern coast of Norway. In Bergen we enjoyed the natural beauty and fascinating history of this quaint waterfront city surrounded by seven mountains.
Upon our arrival we wandered around town to take in the sights: steep mountains dropping into the Byfjorden or “city fjord,” medieval merchant houses lining the harbor and a fresh seafood market with fishing vessels unloading their daily catch. Our position on the globe meant the sun did not set until after 11:00PM and full darkness came well later. We took advantage of the daylight to make the most of our first night and grabbed a snack and a drink at one of the many pubs lining the waterway.
The following day we took a cable care to the top of Mount Ulriken, the highest of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen. The views from the top and the challenging hike made this one of the early highlights of the trip. Every step we took, the sight of our elevated surroundings and the city and harbor below grew more and more exquisite.
After enjoying some time at the peak, we made our way back to the cable car station to have a few drinks at the restaurant there. We then descended via cable car and to took in dinner along the waterfront. The fresh seafood options and gorgeous backdrop made for a wonderful evening at Fjellskål Fisketorget. The restaurant and fish market is also located conveniently beneath the tourist information center.
Our final day in Bergen consisted of city exploration and admiring the cute streets and homes built along the mountainous fjord city. We meandered the city center and walked around the harbor to Bergenhus Fortress. Located at the mouth of the harbor, this structure is one of the oldest and best preserved castles in Norway. While some European castles can be impressive but overwhelming, Bergenhus was simple and best of all – free.
Finally we were ready to leave Bergen and continue the Sognefjord in a Nutshell tour. The first leg of our transportation package was an early morning cruise through the coastal archipelago and deep into the Sognefjord. Unbelievable mountain scenery and tumbling waterfalls got more impressive the deeper we cruised into the fjord.
After five hours we arrived in Flåm, a tiny mountain hamlet on the edge of the fjord. While we didn’t have much time in Flåm, we were able to take in the beauty, eat lunch at one of the many food options and visit the Flåm Railway Museum. Explaining the history of the region and the construction of one of Europe’s steepest railways, the museum made me excited for the next stretch of our journey – The train from Flåm to Myrdal along the Flåm Railway, named one of the world’s most beautiful train rides.
The landscape and water features that awaited us on the Flåm Railway were worth the entire trip. From our tiny traincar we scaled the mountains and witnessed the true beauty of nature in Norway. The pictures that I captured on this portion of the trip don’t do justice to the actual views but made me happy that we purchased a new camera before moving to Europe. On the ride we stopped at Kjosfossen Waterfall to take in the stunning sight of this masterpiece of nature.
From Mydral we were in for another four and a half hour train ride to Oslo. By now it was 6:30PM and we had been trekking across Norway since 8:00AM. The first stretch of the final leg had more gorgeous views but the last half of the ride was simply transactional – it took us to the city we were flying home from the next day.
My takeaways from this trip:
- Norway is gorgeous. Besides history and nightlife, I will now consider the natural attractions of places that I choose to visit.
- Norway is expensive. Normally I mention prices of the places that I write about, but Norway is expensive and most people know that before visiting. For reference, beer is $10-12, meals are $30-60 and our tour was $255.
- Norway takes a while to cross. I loved this trip and highly recommend Sognefjord in a Nutshell or looking into the full Norway in a Nutshell tour. Still, be aware that doing even this shorter version of the Norway in a Nutshell trek will take over 16 hours of travel. This was a heavy lift in one day, especially the day before we flew home. If I was planning this trip over again I would rearrange our cross-country travel day and spend a full day in Oslo, or break up the travel day to spend a night in the Norwegian interior.
- Norway is a MUST!