I have a confession to make. I am addicted to Norway and there is no cure. Norway is consistently ranked as one of the happiest countries on earth. I get that – send me there in any season and I’m a happy grandmom. Yes, that includes winter. Norway is magical in winter and a Norway in a Nutshell tour is an ideal way to experience the landscapes that inspired Disney’s mega-hit Frozen.
If you saw Frozen – and, let’s be honest, what parent or grandparent didn’t – you were treated to animated glimpses of Norway’s winter landscapes. I watched the film with my youngest grandson (his first theater movie) and was so excited to recognize places I had been. And while Frozen the movie may be a couple of years old, Frozen on Broadway is in the works for 2017 so if you check out these amazing landscapes before its release, you too will become a Norway addict.
Norway in a Nutshell
From the mountains to the sea each landscape is inspiring, each town intriguing, and each experience alluring. The Norwegian fjords are among the most famous nature-based attractions in the world. Villages with timber houses painted brown, red and gold, rolling countryside, majestic mountains and glistening lakes frozen in winter complete the postcard worthy scenes.
The perfect introduction to these awe-inspiring sights is a Norway in a Nutshell tour. Travel by train through the mountains, cruise through the fjords by ferry, and travel by bus through portions of the countryside. Norway in a Nutshell tours can be done as a round-trip or a one-way journey year-round with each season offering its own unique experiences.
From Bergen to the Fjords
We began our trip in Bergen at the wharf of Bryggen, the inspiration for the design of the city of Arendelle in Frozen, this UNESCO World Heritage site is the old merchant quarter of Bergen and the only preserved business district from the Hanseatic period.
At Bergen’s train station we climbed aboard the beautiful Bergen Railway. The highest altitude railway in Northern Europe, the Bergen Railway travels through over 62 miles of wild mountain terrain on its way to Voss. We passed through dark mountain tunnels and emerged to sparkling snow blanketed fields and frozen lakes.
From the railway station in Voss we boarded a bus to drive through even more jaw-dropping vistas enroute to Gudvangen where we embarked on a ferry to cruise through Nærøyfjord to Flåm. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Nærøyfjord is one of the narrowest fjords in Europe. The fjord is surrounded by snow-capped mountains, cascading waterfalls, and remote farms and villages situated along the water’s edge. The cruise continued to Sognefjord past the tiny village of Undredal. Home to 85 inhabitants and 450 goats, Undredal welcomes visitors arriving by rib boat from Flåm. Locals share stories about life along the fjord and samples of the locally produced award winning goat cheese. When life gives you goats, make goat cheese.
Exploring around Flåm
Nestled in the innermost corner of the Aurlandfjord – a branch of Sognefjord – Flåm is a charming village surrounded by steep mountainsides, cascading waterfalls, and narrow valleys. This is a perfect place to stay overnight and explore the surrounding natural wonders. Formerly a farm, the historical Fretheim Hotel offers a variety of rooms and amenities. Biking the Navvies road, hiking, paddling the Songnefjord, strolling the village, visiting the Flåm Railway Museum, and RIB boat rides to see the UNESCO’s World Heritage area are a few of the popular activities in Flåm.
Climbing Mountains on the Flåm Railway
From Flåm, the trip continues on the Flåm Railway, one of the steepest normal gauge railways in the world. The ride to Myrdal is only 12 miles and lasts about an hour, but what it lacks in distance it more than makes up for in spectacular vistas. The twisting tunnels spiraling in and out of the mountain are testament to one of the most daring and skillful engineering feats in Norwegian railway history. Deemed the most beautiful train ride in the world, the Flåm Railway has panoramic views of some of the wildest and most magnificent mountain scenery Norway has to offer. Rivers cut through deep ravines, mountain farms cling to sheer slopes, and waterfalls plunge dramatically from the tops of snow-capped mountains. The train makes a stop at the famous Kjosfossen waterfall. As I stood amid the winter landscape overlooking the completely frozen waterfall I fully expected to run into Elsa, Anna, and Olaf. It could happen.
I’m often asked which place I would most like to share with my grandchildren. Norway is that place. Isn’t it time you got to know Norway’s landscapes, frozen or not?