The Best of the In-A-Nutshell Tours of the Norwegian Fjords
December 2, 2021
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The fjords are a must-see attraction for anyone traveling to Norway. But with at least 1,700 of these named deep-water sea inlets to choose between, it can be difficult for travelers to know where to spend their time. If this is the case, our guide to the Norwegian Fjords for Travelers should be especially useful.
Although the fjords stretch right along Norway’s coastline for 100,000 kilometer (60,000 mile), many of the most attractivecan be found in the country’s south and central areas. It’s therefore incredible easy for visitors to the country to absorb their wonder on tours from Norway’s largest cities: Oslo and Bergen.
What’s more, the entire region has been showcased in tours carefully designed by our partner Fjord Tours, so you won’t miss a thing.
Rather than rushing you from attraction to attraction, these tours have been created with more than just your transportation in mind.They deliberately takethe ‘slow road,’ to provide you with the most authentic Norwegian fjord experience possible.
Together with Fjord Tours we offer three tours as part of our Norway vacation packages – Norway in a Nutshell, Sognefjord in a Nutshell, and Hardangerfjord in a Nutshell. Each providing visitors with a unique fjord experience, as we detail below.
Norway in a Nutshell
We begin rightly enough with our most popular tour to the fjords – Norway in a Nutshell. It can be taken year-round, with classic snowy landscapes through fall and winter and dazzling countryside views through spring and summer.
Fully reservable, with the possibility of beginning at Bergen, most travelers decide to begin in the heart of downtown Oslo. Norway in a Nutshell begins with the stunning train journey to the town of Myrdal, with a mesmerizing series of vistas possible from the large picture windows over three pleasant hours.
The tiny village of Myrdal is the upper gateway to the world-famous Flam Railway or Flamsbana. Ranked as one of the best rail journeys in the world by the likes of Condé Nast Traveler and National Geographic, it descends to the valley floor of Sognefjord at the village of Flam in around an hour.
But this is just the start of your explorations of the fjords with Norway in a Nutshell. You’ll next swap solid land for the placid waters of two of Sognefjord’s most attractive arms, and discover for yourself why it is known as the ‘king of the fjords.’
Launching onto its Aurlandsfjord arm, this two-hour cruise turns into the UNESCO World Heritage listed Naeroyfjord at Laegdafossen Waterfall. Made up of four cascades, its waters tumble 575 meters, putting on a magnificent demonstration of mother nature’s power any month of the year.
Passing the quaint town of Drydal, you’ll dock at Gudvangen and travel briefly by road to Voss.Its dramatic location amid forest and snow-capped mountains is married with a fine collection of historic farmhouses, and a church dating to 1277.
Norway in a Nutshell ends with the rail journey from Voss to Bergen, Norway’s charming second city. This leg of the tour takes a little over an hour.
While it is possible to experience Norway in a Nutshell in a single day, we’d recommend splitting the tour between two days. You can overnight in cozy accommodation in either Flam or Aurland, safe in the knowledge we’re dealing with all the logistics including the transfer of your luggage from place to place.
Sognefjord in a Nutshell
Our personal favorite, Sognefjord in a Nutshell is so good it forms a major highlight of our Scenic Norway tour during the summer months. Like the Norway in a Nutshell tour, it begins with the landscape-rich journey between central Oslo and Myrdal by train. This is followed by a change of lines onto the Flam Railway for the descent to the shores of Sognefjord.
Your arrival into Flam is where Sognefjord in a Nutshell separates from Norway in a Nutshell. Traveling by boat along the Aurlandsfjord arm of Sognefjord, you’ll follow the fjord further northward to where it meets Fjaerlandsfjorden and the main arm of Sognefjord. Taking around two hours, this part of the tour ends at the wharfs of Balestrand.
Well worth investigating in more detail, Balestrand is where you’ll spend the night. But before settling for the night, you’ll have time to see what has attracted many artists to the area. Its sights include St Olaf’s stave-style church, which was the inspiration for the building used in the coronation of Elsa in the Disney smash-hit Frozen.
You’ll overnight at the nineteenth-century waterfront Kiviknes Hotel – one of the town’s most prominent buildings.
The following morning, you’ll return to the attractive landscapes of Sognefjord for the sailing to Bergen, a spectacular journey along the remaining length of Sognefjord as well as the Norwegian coast. It lasts approximately four hours.
Hardangerfjord in a Nutshell
Rivalling Sognefjord in sheer presence is nearby Hardangerfjord, winding inland for almost 180 km (110 miles). It’s undoubtedly at its most beautiful in the high summer, when Hardangerfjord in a Nutshell tours operate. It’s a time of year when the fruits of nearby orchards are developing and the hillsides are flush with greenery that reflects from the calm, crystal-clear waters.
The tour begins with the journey from Oslo to Voss rather than Myrdal, with views that rival the Flam Railway in their sheer beauty. On arriving into Voss, guests transfer to Norway’s mountain roads for the 40-minute ride to Ulvik.
The town’s vistas are best experienced from the waters of the Ulvikafjorden arm of Hardangerfjord, which is how you’ll make the short sailing of around an hour to the village of Eidfjord.
Viking burials close by suggest the village of around 550 permanent residents has been inhabited for millennia, and its old church has been dated to 1309. While here, it’s also possible to explore the state-of-the-art natural history displays of the Norwegian Nature Center Hardanger and feel the power of Norway’s largest waterfall.
Called Vøringsfossen, its white waters tumble over bare rock for 180 meters. It’s best admired from a spectacular contemporary stepped bridge that crosses the waterfall’s ravine.
Having returned to Eidfjord, you’ll have a further opportunity to take in the astonishing natural wonder of the fjord on route to Norheimsund. The cruise lasts approximately two hours. But your journey doesn’t end until you reach Bergen 1.5 hours later through the mountains by road.
Conclusion: Don’t miss the delights of the Norwegian fjords
A highlight of any tour to central and southern Norway, you won’t want to miss a tour of the fjords. Surprisingly easy to reach by road and rail from Oslo and Bergen, they offer visitors a quintessential Norwegian experience.
Sognefjord, Hardangerfjord and their main arms are the undisputed marvels of the fjords. Sail across their breathtaking landscapes by day, then settle amid them for a night in the fjords with these three tours offered by us and our specialist partner, Fjord Tours.