Views from the window of the Flåmsbana train journey. Photos by Meg Williams.
Before I studied abroad, I didn’t think magical places existed. I always wondered if other traveler’s “wow” moments were exaggerated for stories and posts until my trip to Norway. Growing up in New England, I’m no stranger to snow and winter. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I hoped for a long time that the Polar Express would pick me up in the middle of the night. These feelings of holiday magic faded as I got older, but I remember how it felt to believe. To my surprise, once my friends and I made our way onto the Flåmsbana train, they all came rushing back.
Getting to Flåm, especially in the winter, is not the easiest feat. The best way to make the trek is by starting your adventure in Norway’s second-largest city, Bergen. It’s a beautiful destination to see before going to the fjords. Situated right on the water, the colorful houses and surrounding mountains will give you your first taste of Norway. From here, two trains are the only thing standing between you and Flåm.
You’ll want to take your first train from Bergen Station to Myrdal Station. Once you get off at Myrdal, you can transfer over to the Flåmsbana, a real-life Polar Express. This historic railway is often regarded as one of the most scenic train rides in the world. It even stops at Kjosfossen waterfall for passengers to hop off and take photos. This is not the only way to get to Flåm, but you should take this route there to have the full experience.
It’s essential to book your tickets, activities and hotels for Flåm ahead of time. Luckily for us, the village wasn’t bustling in March, but our guides were telling us it gets packed in the summer and spring. Since there are only a handful of hotels, you shouldn’t have a problem deciding where to stay. We chose the Brekke Apartments due to affordability, but other accommodations can be found here.
Visiting Flåm allows you to see Aurlandsfjord, Nærøyfjord and Geirangerfjord in many different ways. The village offers a fjord cruise for $44 as well as other more adventurous options through the company Fjord Safari. The guides on both of our Fjord Safari excursions were incredible. They were full of interesting fjord facts and stories. With one full day in town, we opted for the Morning Snowshoe Hike and Winter Fjord Safari. Both activities cost around $88 each. These options are more expensive than others, but it’s an unbelievable price for an almost-private tour of the fjords. They also provide all of the gear you need.
Both tours will make your Norwegian fjord dreams come true. Photos by Meg Williams.
The morning hike first stops at Stegastein viewpoint. We weren’t so lucky the day we went because the fog was clouding the view, but we could tell it was supposed to be a breathtaking experience. From there, the guide leads you up the mountains and stops at a lookout point for local snacks and drinks. On the way down, you’ll have the chance to sled through the woods. This hike was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Being the only people in the middle of the forest in Norway sledding and surrounded by fjords was unlike anything I could ever imagine.
If you sign up for both activities, there’s an hour break in between. This is the perfect amount of time to head a few steps over to Flåm Bakeri. I was blown away by the quality of the baked goods and food in this shop. I still dream about their chicken sandwiches.
My only regret from this trip is not trying more of their delicious pastries. Photos by Meg Williams.
The Fjord Safari leaves from the same point at the harbor. It’s important to arrive ahead of time to put on the huge neon yellow suit that keeps you nice and warm on your high-speed boat adventure. The best part of the safari is stopping at Unredal. The small village only has 112 residents but boasts a church built in 1147 and its famous brown cheese. You’ll get to try it and a few other varieties at their local grocery store. The cheese may look a little strange, but it’s sweet and tastes a bit like caramel.
At night, there are a few restaurants around at the larger hotels, but you can’t miss Ægir BrewPub at the Flåmsbrygga Hotel. They offer pints and flights, giving you the chance to try all of the beers you want. You can also buy beer to take home too.
Flåm is a winter wonderland and summer oasis. At any time of the year, you’ll be stunned by how charming and beautiful one town can really be. The feeling of being so secluded by nature is truly magical. It will make you feel like a kid again in a constant state of wonderment.