If you’ve ever attempted to plan a trip to Norway you’ve probably seen numerous posts about “Norway in a Nutshell,” and thought, “What is this about?” I mean seeing A WHOLE COUNTRY in a “nutshell,” seems pretty crazy, and typically against what I believe in, but I saw it over and over so decided to investigate. After a lot of research, I ended up doing this tour, and today’s post is my review of it. Let’s answer some of the questions I had before we get started.
Beautiful countryside seen on the Norway in a Nutshell Tour
What is Norway in a nutshell?
Norway in a nutshell is a customizable tour that takes you through some or Norway’s most beautiful locations.
Is Norway in a Nutshell worth doing?
YES, with a caveat. I know many people do this tour in a day and I don’t think that’s enough time to really see the country. The geniuses behind Norway in a Nutshell planned the tour to fit any travel schedule which I appreciate, but I think there’s much more value in the tour if you take your time to see Norway and aren’t running point to point.
Wait, I read about the tour, there’s no guide, so can’t I just book this on my own?
Technically, yes, you can book this tour on your own, but by the time you spend researching what to book, you may as well just pay Norway in the Nutshell the nominal fee they charge and have them book the tickets for you.
Is Norway in a Nutshell worth it?
YES! YES! YES! I went into this thinking I would be disappointed but it was one of the most fantastic tours I’ve ever done. Now, I’ll tell you why.
When booking Norway in a Nutshell, (which I am going to call NIN from now on so I don’t get carpal tunnel disease,) you have a few options. You can start from Oslo, Bergen, Voss or Flam. For our tour, we chose to start from Bergen. I highly recommend that no matter where you start the tour you give yourself a few days in both Bergen and Oslo. (See my previous blog posts for info on both of those cities.) This post is going to focus on the tour departing from Bergen but know you can take this tour from either direction. Here we go!
Bergen to Voss
The first leg on the NIN Tour is from Bergen to Voss on the Bergen Railway. This part of the trip lasts about 1-hour and 15 minutes and takes you through absolutely beautiful country. Expect to see waterfalls, picture perfect green countryside, and cute farmhouses on the way.
Look for this sign and train!
Voss is not only a beautiful town, but is also known as the adventure capital of Norway. So, if you are a thrill seeker, you should consider staying here for a few days because you can go skydiving, whitewater rafting, paragliding and even bungee jumping in Voss. Voss is also well known for skiing and its lovely hiking trails. We didn’t spend an evening in Voss but would love to go back and go hiking! On this trip we continued on our journey from Voss to Gudvangen.
Voss to Gudvangen
The next part of the NIN Tour takes about 1 hour ten minutes and includes the windy, scary, bus ride to Gudvangen. (Ok, I thought it was scary and Christopher thought I was being a baby… he is making me write this…)
In Voss, you will get off at the train station and walk behind the building to one of the many parked buses that will drive you to Gudvangen. Don’t worry about getting lost, if you follow the crowd you can’t miss the buses! Everyone is going to the same place so know you can get on any bus that you want.
Once on the bus, the ride to Gudvangen starts off like any typical bus ride, until you get to the historic, Stalheim Hotel. The Stalheim Hotel is famous for its views, access to the fjords and for being next to the massive waterfalls, Sivlefossen, which is about 413 feet high, and Stalheimsfossen, about 459 feet high. Make sure to have your cameras ready when you see the Stalheim hotel because you won’t want to miss getting a photo of the waterfalls!
After you pass the first waterfall be prepared because you are about to drive down Northern Europe’s steepest road, Stalheimskleiva. The steepest gradient on Stalheimskleiva is 1 to 5, or 20 percent, and it is EXTREMELY narrow. The road takes you from Stalheim to the end of Nærøydalen Valley and consists of 13 hairpin turns. If you are like me and not great with heights it can be a bit scary, but, focus on the incredible waterfalls and mountains while reminding yourself the drivers know what they are doing. The good news is this road is only 1 mile long so you’ll be down in no time and in the charming city of Gudvangen.
Note: The buses only go down the Stalheimskleiva from May- September.
Gudvangen to Flåm
Ordinary Fjord Boat
Gudvangen is a small, picturesque village, and where you’ll catch your boat to start your tour of the fjords. When you book NIN there is an option to book the ordinary boat, or new fjord boat. I spent hours trying to figure out which boat was better online and couldn’t find any information so we ended up going with the ordinary boat. The ordinary boat was fantastic, so, if you want to save some money don’t worry, you won’t miss out.
Anyway, back to the tour. Your bus will drop you off by a tourist center that has restrooms, a cafe and a gift shop. I would recommend getting in line for your boat as soon as possible so you can grab a seat with a great view. The boat also has restrooms and a cafe where you can buy hotdogs, sandwiches, other snacks, wine and beer.
Once on the boat, there are seats in the middle where you can sit, or, you can grab a plastic chair and sit by the railings. Truthfully, I think sitting by the railings is a better option because you don’t have to worry about people blocking your view while they try to take photos. And trust me, you are going to want to take photos of this…For the next 2 hours prepare to have your mind blown by the stunning beauty of Norway’s fjords. On your journey you will go through the narrow, Nærøyfjord, and the magnificent Aurlandsfjord. The Aurlandsfjord offers amazing views but I really loved the drama of Nærøyfjord, which is one of the narrowest fjords in Europe and included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Nærøyfjord is also rumored to be the spot that inspired Disney’s hit movie “Frozen!” We can honestly say that our fjord cruise made this day one of the most magical, unforgettable days of our lives!
Tip: On the boat try a Sveler! It’s a Norwegian pancake served with a sugary-type butter. (Not sure exactly what the butter is but YUM!!!!) I included a picture below so you know what it looks like.
Flåm to Myrdal
Pulling into Flåm
I know, I know, you are going to be SO sad when your Fjord tour is over but don’t worry because you have an hour to spend in the tiny, but incredible, village of Flåm.
There is also a really cool brewery in Flåm called Aegir Brewery & Pub, where you can relax by the fire and enjoy a wide variety of delicious beers. After all the traveling you’ve done today you deserve one!
Great beer selection!
and a cozy fireplace…
After your hour in Flåm, you’ll walk to the train station and board the Flåm Railway, which is the steepest railway in Europe, and known as one of the most beautiful train rides in the world!
The Flam Railway
The Flam Railway takes you from ocean level in Flåm by the fjord, to the mountaintop of Mrydal in about 50 minutes. At the end of your journey you will have climbed 867 meters high and gone through 20 tunnels. Along the way you’ll see rivers, snow-caped mountains, and waterfalls cascading down the steep sides of the mountains. When you get on the train to Mrydal I would recommend sitting on the right side of the train with a window that rolls down. The views are much better on this side. (Sit on the left if you are descending to Flåm.) On the 50-minute journey the train stops one time to see this…
Kjosfossen is a waterfall along the Flåm Railway that has a total fall of 738 feet. There is a platform where you can get so close to Kjosfossen that you are sprayed by powerful water. It’s quite an amazing experience to be close to something so powerful. During the summer a woman in red comes out and dances around the falls. I did some research and found out that this is to represent Huldra, a seductive forest creature that is popular in Scandinavian folklore. I also found out they use students from the Norwegian Ballet School to play Huldra- pretty cool!
Mrydal to Oslo
Mrydal Station (even the train stations are pretty!)
Kjosfossen is only about a mile from Mrydal station where you will transfer to the Bergen Railway and head back to Oslo.
Your journey back to Oslo will take about 3.5 hours but don’t fall asleep because you will see even more of Norway’s beautiful countryside along the way. Note: There is a cafe on board with coffee, food and drinks!
I see why they call this train ride one of the most beautiful in the world…
After a long journey you’ve finally made it Oslo with memories that will last a lifetime. You’ll probably end your day like I did.
Hotel Christiana Teatre (Oslo, Norway)
In the end, Norway in a Nutshell is definitely worth doing! You can get a feel for many towns and see where you would like to go back. I can’t wait to explore more of Norway. Maybe, Northern Norway next time. I mean I HAVE to see Hotel Juvet where Ex Machina was filmed at some point! If you decide to try NIN have a fabulous time! You won’t regret it!
Lindsay & Christopher