After a good night’s sleep at the Flamsbrygga Hotell and another hearty breakfast, we are ready to explore what Flåm has to offer. Late last night the rain had turned into snow and covered everything with a light blanket of fluffy goodness to greet us in the morning.
The village of Flåm is in Flåmsdalen at the inner end of the Aurlandsfjorden – a branch of the Sognefjorden with 350 people living here. As a cruise ship port however, it receives around 160 cruise ships every year (April-October season) offloading over 300,000 visitors into the town. In addition, the Flåmsbana (year-round train scenic train service) and some drive-in tourists bring the total number of guests to about 1 million per year! We are glad to be here in the off-season.
We stroll through town to get some more photos before climbing into the mini bus towards Aurland. Next stop, the Stegastein viewing platform. The observation point sticks out 30m (98ft) from the mountainside, 650m (2,130ft) above the fjord (sea level). The sun works hard to get a few rays through the cloud-cover and we are finding spectacular views of the fjord and villages below.
While I had originally thought the $39 per person price tag for this 90-minute round trip excursion was a little steep, we now feel it was worth every penny. While you could drive up there yourself (assuming you had a car), the road is almost less than 1 lane wide. With oncoming traffic, it’ll be a challenge to find a tiny turnout spot to pass. Sitting back in the van we get to enjoy the ride while our driver points out some of the highlights. There’s Aurland’s church (built back in 509!) and the penny loafer shoe workshop (dating back to 1930s where Nils Tveranger “invented” the penny loafer style after an inspiration from traditional moccasins of the Iroquois tribe in North America), and the view back to Flåm at one of the hairpin turns up the mountain (the town is not actually visible from the viewing platform).
Once back in Flåm we take a break at the Flåm Bakeri to warm up and relax. Soon after it is time to collect our bags from the hotel and board The Future Of The Fjords, the first all-electric, carbon-fibre vessel in the world (or as I would say: our boat) from Flåm to Gudvangen. This cruise along the Aurlandsfjorden and Nærøyfjord offers more breathtaking views, steep rock walls and frozen waterfalls through a UNESCO world heritage site. Along the way we see several tiny villages, some of them with as few as 10 people or not even inhabited year round. Most did not get road access until the 1980s and had to use boats to go anywhere.
Undredal has about 100 inhabitants on the western shore of the fjord. Famous for its goat cheese and a tiny church from 1147 which is one of the only 29 remaining stave churches that are unique to Norway. It seats only 40 people and is said to be the smallest church in Norway.
There is also Bakka, a town of only 10 located at the northern shore of the fjord and at the foot of the Bakkanosi Mountain (1,400m). Most people are involved in goat farming – as goats make excellent use of the large grazing areas up on the mountainsides.
It is just before dark when we arrive in Gudvangen, our transfer point to the next leg of the Nutshell Tour–a bus to Voss. Supposedly another great viewing opportunity as the bus winds its way up the mountain through all the switchbacks, but given the warmth and darkness enveloping us in our seats, we doze off into a nap rather than trying to see anything outside where it’s pitch black.
50 minutes later we arrive at Voss where we transfer one more time – back onto the Bergen Bahnen. The train will cover the last part of the Norway in a Nutshell tour and drop us off at the final destination for today: Bergen.
Our accommodations in Bergen is the Citybox, an economy hotel with automated check-in. It’s no frills yet nice, but has a great location just 1/4 mile from the train station!
My recommendation for anyone doing this tour in in the winter–take the 9:30am boat departure instead of the 3pm. This ensures you have daylight for the whole trip rather than missing out on the last hours due to early nightfall.