Flam – the heart of Norway in a Nutshell

December 31, 2010 (Last Updated: April 27, 2020)
by Carolyn
Flam port

If the spectacular beauty of the Norwegian fjords has been calling but you only have limited time to spare, the Norway in a Nutshell itinerary will show you the best of this magnificent country.  Your journey will include deep blue fjords, shimmering glaciers, fertile valleys, secluded lakes and snow covered mountains.

Norway in a Nutshell is the name given to one of Norway’s most popular scenic journeys through idyllic landscapes to the very heart of the Sognefjord. 

The Norway in a Nutshell ‘tour’ is ideal for independent travellers as you will visit the heart of Norway’s fjordland by cog railway, boat and bus and it can be completed in one day.

If you can afford more time, a two or three day duration is recommended – you’ll want to allow plenty of time for ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at the amazing scenery! The natural beauty of Norway will take your breath away.

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The ‘regular’ itinerary starts in Oslo, in Norway’s east, then travels to Myrdal before joining the Flam Railway for one of the world’s great rail journeys to Flam.

From Flam, you then take a boat on the Aurlandfjord via Aurland to Gudvangen. A bus will then take you to Voss where you meet the train for the trip to Bergen.

The itinerary also operates in reverse and all train, boat and bus schedules are carefully co-ordinated to ensure a smooth journey.

Due to the popularity of the journey, it is highly recommended that you book all train tickets well in advance, particularly if you are travelling in July or August.

Travellers taking the Norway in a Nutshell itinerary over two or three days generally stay overnight on the Fjord in Flam or Aurland.

As we travelled in the summer, we took the Sognefjord in a Nutshell itinerary which comprised of a cruise from Bergen to Flam (where we stayed overnight), followed by the Flamsbana railway to Myrdal and then a train onto Oslo the next day. 

This gave us a comprehensive look at the fjords as well as the chance to ride on the Flamsbana.

Cute cottages in Flam

A bit about Flam ……

Spectacular natural beauty

The beautiful small Norwegian town of Flam is nestled deep in a tributary of the world’s longest and deepest fjord, the 204 kilometre long and 1308 metre deep Sognefjord.

Surrounded by steep mountains, roaring waterfalls and deep valleys, this area is a paradise for everyone looking for a one-of-a-kind experience with nature.

Modern transportation makes today’s Flam a junction that is easily accessible whether you are travelling by car, boat, train or by bus.

Large cruise ships in the harbour are a daily sight throughout the spring and summer months, and it is only a short walk from Flam Port and the many fjord boats to a trip on the Flam Railway (Flamsbana).

Scenic view from Flamsbana

Travel destination with traditions

The name Flam means “little place between steep mountains,” and at the end of the 1800’s many cruise ships with English and German travellers found their way here to experience Norwegian fjords, mountains and waterfalls. The ships’ passengers laid the foundation for hotel operations and a steady stream of tourists.

After the Bergensbanen railway was opened in 1909, Flam became a crossroad for passengers, mail and freight to and from the trains between Oslo and Bergen, in connection with the steamships on the fjord.

The old Navvy road from Haugastøl and Finse down to Flåm – Rallarvegen – has now become an attraction in itself, with thousands of cyclists hitting the road every summer and autumn.


World famous railway

Now more than 65 years old, the Flam Railway is regarded as one of the world’s most fantastic stretches of railway. On this amazing journey you will experience a climb of nearly 900 metres from fjord to mountain top, an incline of one to 18, a tunnel that twists in a spiral inside the mountain, and a view that will take your breath away!

As a private branch line of the Bergensbanen railway, the Flam Railway runs nine to ten daily departures in the high season from May to September and four to five daily departures the rest of the year.

If you are travelling by train from Oslo or Bergen, you will join the Flam Railway at Myrdal for the 55 minute decent to Flam. The journey is so picturesque that the train driver will even stop at the best waterfall for a photo shoot!

You can learn more about the exciting history behind this 20 kilometre long stretch of railway by visiting the Flamsbana Museum in Flam.

Waterfall stop on Flamsbana
The Flamsbana stops to give passengers a closer look at Kjosfossen waterfall

If you’re planning to visit Norway, I highly recommend a visit to Flam. If you can stay overnight in the village, you’ll benefit from fewer crowds after the day trippers have left and have more of a chance to explore the village and its natural surrounds.