In July 2017 I set off on a trip unlike my other travels that summer. I experienced Norway when I embarked on the Sognefjord in a Nutshell tour. A friend of mine visited and because of her Norwegian heritage, she wanted to include Norway in her travel plans. I gladly jumped on the chance to explore Norway. Over four days we experienced the breathtaking Scandinavian landscape from Bergen to Oslo.
After a few amazing days in Bergen we took off on the Sognefjord in a Nutshell portion of our trip. We traveled through one of the best fjords fjords in the world and the most beautiful mountain trains. It included stops in Flåm and Myrdal as we traveled from Bergen to Oslo.
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!
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What is the Sognefjord in a Nutshell Tour?
The Songefjord in a Nutshell tour is a popular summer voyage that takes travelers across Norway with a combination of fjord cruises, mountain trains, and cross-country train rides. Throughout the Norwegian trek, travelers take in the beautiful views and nature that is so well-preserved by the Norwegian people.
There are a ton of fjord tours available in Norway and you can book them through NSB (Norwegian Railways). The routes range in distance, modes of transport and starting/ending destinations. Some are round trip, but we decided to begin in Bergen and finish in Oslo. We chose the abbreviated Sognefjord in a Nutshell tour which gave us a taste of all the enchanting landscapes and some incredible transportation.
Our route started with a fjord cruise through the Sognefjord and meandered from Flåm to Myrdal via mountain train before a long train journey to Oslo.
Beginning Our Tour in Bergen
To begin our tour, we spent two nights in Bergen, Norway. It’s the nation’s second largest city and located on the Southwestern coast. In Bergen we enjoyed the natural beauty and fascinating history of this quaint waterfront city surrounded by seven mountains.
Bergen was once the capital of Norway and its defining feature is a serene harbor in the center of the city. We explored the town by foot including walking through the bust fish markets surrounding the harbor.
Upon our arrival we wandered around town to take in the sights. We gazed at the steep mountains that drop into the Byfjorden or city fjord. We stroleld past the medieval Hanseatic merchant houses that line the harbor. One of the coolest things to see was the returning fishing vessels dropping off their daily catch to replenish the fish markets.
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.
Our Top Things to Do in Bergen
We had two full days in Bergen and we were on a mission to make the most of it. There are a lot of things to do in Bergen, especially for those who love outdoor activities. Due to time restraints, we narrowed these things down to a few of the most popular Bergen attractions.
1. Hike Mount Ulkrien
The following day we took a cable car 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.
There are a series of trails from the platform of the cable car. You’ll also find a small restaurant and lodge to relax after hiking or just enjoy the views. We decided to hike to the highest peak of the mountain spent about 90 minutes with frequent stops for photos and to soak in the views.
2. Enjoy a Seafood Meal at Bergen Harbor
After hiking Mount Ulkrien, we decided to head back to Bergen Harbor. There we explored the busy fish market and stopped at one of the wonderful seafood restaurants, Fjellskål Fisketorget, for dinner. The fresh seafood was incredible.
The restaurant and fish market is also located conveniently beneath the tourist information center. That’s where we stopped before dinner to make sure we were set up for the trek to Oslo.
3. Discover Bergen Castle
We meandered the city center and walked around the harbor the next morning. Then we entered Bergenhus Fortress at the mouth of Bergen Harbor. This structure is one of the oldest and best preserved stone fortifications in Norway.
While some European castles can be impressive but overwhelming, Bergenhus was simple and best of all – free. The grounds were exciting to walk around and the signs around the fortress enabled you to enjoy a decent self-guided tour.
4. Enjoy the Hanseatic Medieval Merchant Houses
Around Bergen Harbor you’ll also spot brightly-colored medieval homes. These stunning buildings are restored and meticulously well-preserved. Today they house merchants and stores which are worth your shopping time.
I spent some time on my own shopping for gifts and picked up some post cards. In front of the Hanseatic Houses there are a number of waterfront restaurants and outdoor pubs. I stopped for a beer and wrote out some postcards for family back in the States.
Embarking on the Sognefjord in a Nutshell Tour
On our third day in Bergen we woke up early and headed to the harbor. That was the starting point for our trek from Bergen to Oslo through the fjords, mountains and stunning landscapes of Norway.
Part 1: Express Boat to Flåm
Finally we were ready to leave Bergen and begin our Sognefjord in a Nutshell tour. The first leg of our transportation package was an early morning fjord cruise through the coastal archipelago and deep into the Sognefjord.
Right away the scenery was stunning. We loved sipping our morning coffee on the deck of the fjord boat. The unbelievable mountain views and tumbling waterfalls grew more impressive the deeper we cruised into the fjord.
Part 2: Exploring the City of Flåm
After five hours of fjord sightseeing, we arrived in Flåm. It’s a tiny mountain hamlet on the edge of the fjord which is full of boats delivering tourists for the Flåm Railway.
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.
The museum was fantastic because it explained the history of the region and the construction of one of Europe’s steepest railway. This obviously made me excited for the next stretch of our journey – riding the mountain train from Flåm to Myrdal. This stretch of the Bergen Railway has been named one of the world’s most beautiful train rides.
Part 3: The Mountain Train Journey from Flåm to Myrdal
Finally one of the trip’s highlights was ready to begin. We made our way to the train cars that waiting near the harbor. The mountains around us were a tremendous sight, but nothing compared to what was waiting for us.
The landscape and water features that on the Flåm Railway were worth the entire trip. From our tiny train car 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 that year.
Along the ride we stopped at Kjosfossen Waterfall to take in the stunning sight of this masterpiece of nature. The high volume of water was impressive and we were treated to a song and dance performance from a woman in red who danced in the spray of the waterfall. I wasn’t aware of this treat, but it appears that the woman in the Kjosfossen Waterfall is a regular performer who entertains tourists all day.
Part 4: Myrdal Railway Station to Oslo
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 making our way 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. Besides the fact that it was starting to get dark, the travel fatigue of such a long day was starting to creep in. Still, the day was incredible and the landscapes of Norway were truly magical.
Overall Experience of Sognefjord in a Nutshell
I loved my trip to Norway. In case it’s not obvious, I found it to be magnificent. The nature was exquisite. In fact, it changed how I look at travel and today I seek out outdoor activities and the nature attractions of destinations.
I also found out that Norway is expensive. Most people know that before visiting, so I wasn’t overly surprised, but there was certainly some sticker shock. I didn’t realize that a single beer cocts $10-12. Each meal was $30-60 and our tour cost $255.
I was a little surprised at how long the entire Sognefjord in a nutshell crossing took. Norway is a big country north to south but traveling from west to east took a lot longer than i assumed. I loved this trip and I highly recommend Sognefjord in a Nutshell or looking into the full Norway in a Nutshell tour. In the future I’d even like to do the trip with Mike, but with some alterations.
Since the Sognefjord in a nutshell travel day included over 16 hours of boats and trains, I would split up the travel. Sognefjord is the largest fjord in Norway and the cruise stops in several small villages along the five hour trip. This means there are plenty of stops for an overnight respite at one of the hotels along the fjord. Doing the whole trek in one day is a heavy lift.
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