Last Updated on August 29, 2023
A ride on the Flam Railway, one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, has never been easier…
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
By Jim Ferri
On a ferry on Norway’s stunning Naeroyfjord, I sat entranced by the sights about me.
It was spectacular scenery, woodland and farmland clinging to sheer rock, almost a mile high in some places.
From my vantage point, the tiny red houses clinging to the verdant mountainside looked like the house pieces of a vast Monopoly game. The smooth green pastureland and dense forest surrounding them made them more dramatic, capped by clouds wafting down the mountaintop.
But as spectacular as it was, I hadn’t come to spend my time oohing and aahing at Norway’s stunning scenery. This was a ferry ride with a purpose.
The ferry was taking me to the town of Flam at the far end of the fjord. From there, I would travel on the Flämsbana, Norway’s spectacular Flam Railway.
The railway is world-renowned since it’s an engineering marvel, weaving its way from sea level through the mountains on some of the world’s steepest “normal” tracks. Along the way, you’re carried through numerous switchbacks and 20 tunnels.
“Norway in a Nutshell” Tours
Traveling on the Flam Railway has never been easier. We can thank “Norway in a Nutshell” tours, the great travel packages put together by the Norwegians.
I had spent a few days in Oslo, followed by a wonderful few in Bergen. (Bergen is also a fascinating city too often overlooked by travelers.) I had long wanted to ride on the famous Flam Railway and realized I’d have the opportunity on one of the aptly named “Norway in a Nutshell” tours after I left Bergen.
The “Norway in a Nutshell” tours are unique tour packages that let one experience the best of the country, including the Flam Railway. Since the tours also provide plenty of flexibility regarding length, cost, and time, I quickly included it on my return trip, taking the Flam to the main line to catch the train to Oslo.
I departed Bergen on the 8:40 train in the morning and was in Oslo at 10:45 that night. The entire trip turned out to be flawless and quite comfortable. You can take the whole tour from Oslo to Bergen, or vice versa, or only segments of it.
Off to the Ferry to the Flam Railway
On the morning train from Bergen, I became intrigued by the little towns and the small train stations we stopped at along the way. With typical Norwegian efficiency, after an hour or so ride to the town of Voss, the train met the bus to take us to the ferry.
Since it was mid-September, I had hoped for good weather. But it continued to morph from rain and overcast as the bus passed from one valley to another. Nevertheless, I was surprised I found the ride so enjoyable. All along the way, I studied the little towns we drove through, peeking in windows to get a feel for how people live here.
Out in the countryside, I viewed long slivers of waterfalls cascading off rocky cliffs cleaved from the mountainside. Occasionally, I’d see grazing cattle and sheep. It was a beautiful pastoral setting. Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like here in winter.
The Stunning Naeroyfjord
The bus brought us up to the dock in Gudvangen, where a tourist shop was filled with people awaiting departure. Like the train from Bergen and the bus from Voss, the boat left precisely on schedule. Shortly after arrival, we were off to Flam and its unique railway.
The ferry was also large enough to be comfortable, and most passengers sat next to the large windows. So I grabbed a set and continued my fascination with the fantastic scenery that drifted by. Despite the rain, it was a beautiful cruise up the fjord. And despite it being late summer, I could see snow forming on mountain peaks in the distance.
Sliding along on the mirror-like waters on my tour, we passed a little village. It was small, perhaps only 10 houses and a little white church next to a cemetery. The entire town appeared in the middle of nowhere, seemingly lost from the rest of the world.
The cliffs and mountains along the fjord were a majestic pallet of greens speckled occasionally with little red and white houses and barns, some so minuscule in the distance you could just about make them out.
Water cascaded down the mountainsides everywhere you looked, some in rivulets like little white ribbons running among the trees, others in more stately waterfalls. The picturesque moments kept coming in rapid succession.
Arriving From Bergen for the Flam Railway
When we arrived at the railway in Flam from Bergen, a cruise ship was moored near the ferry dock. Since I didn’t see any passengers, I assumed they had taken an excursion on the famous Flämsbana, the Flam Railway. It links Flam with Myrdal, where the line meets the Oslo – Bergen rail line.
Flam is a tiny little place, just a grouping of souvenir shops, cafes, a restaurant, railway station, and co-op market.
But the shops do brisk business with ship and ferry passengers and those who arrive via bus or train, many on a Norway in a Nutshell tour. It’s a peaceful little place where you can walk in the hills if you don’t like shopping.
Those who arrive by ferry have a two-hour stopover before the Flam Railway train’s departure. Some, including me, use that time to go for walks in the hills. They are easy walks in low rolling hills where a few horses graze beneath the massive mountains surrounding the fjord.
I headed first to the tiny red hut near the tracks to divest myself of my luggage (“just ring the bell, and someone will show up in a few minutes,” the woman in the little tourist office told me). It cost 40 crowns (about $6.50) per person, which I happily paid before wandering off to investigate the souvenir shops.
Not seeing much, I took a walk and then returned to the little Flam Railway Museum near the station. There, while awaiting the train, I learned a bit of history about the construction of the railway.
The Ride on the Flam Railway, the Highlight of the Tour
A trip on the Flam Railway – described by some as a take-your-breath-away trip – is one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world. While the ride from Fläm to Myrdal is only 12½ miles, it takes 50 minutes to go from sea level to 2,800 feet, on switchbacks and through 20 tunnels on some of the world’s steepest “normal” tracks.
One thing that makes the railway trip from Bergen to Flam and beyond rewarding is your proximity to the incredible landscape. While on the train, the bus, and the ferry, we viewed the magnificent Nordic scenery from afar; now, the Flam Railway brought us right into it.
After leaving Fläm, the train ran up the valley that spilled down from the mountains, through a few tiny villages before being thrust into a world of rock and forest where roiling rivers and cascading waterfalls seem everywhere. It was an incredible tour.
The Flam Railway train was comfortable, and TV screens in each car showed our location as we made our way around curves and switchbacks. As we moved further up the mountainside, we stopped at the Kjosfossen Waterfall, which has a freefall of 305 feet alongside the tracks.
We soon continued to Myrdal, and when we detrained there, many of us milled about the station’s little café. I had a five-hour ride to Oslo ahead of me, which was an incredible and comfortable trip across Norway’s and Europe’s highest mountainous plateau.
All three of my train rides that day were tremendously efficient and enjoyable despite the rain that made taking photos through the bus windows impossible.
Tour Cost for the Flam Railway
I found that Norway In A Nutshell tours can be quite cost-effective. For example, the above Flam Railway tour including the Bergen Railway, the bus to ferry, the fjord cruise, and the Flämsbana, is 1595 Norwegian Krone (Norway does not use the Euro), approximately €138 or US$150, per person.
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