Try Norway in a Nutshell on your own and off the main season, in winter. Discover the best things to do in Flam, in Aurland and around. Visit magical Norwegian fjords in winter. One thing I can assure you of, you are going to love it.
Norway in a Nutshell on your own & things to do in Flam
Norway in a Nutshell is the most famous tour in Norway. The route passes through the stunning landscapes in Norway, through the UNESCO fjords and mountains, linking Oslo with Bergen. Typically, it is travelled by the means of public transport, which includes trains, buses, and boats. It goes through Geilo (where you can try dog sledding), passes a little town of Flam (correctly spelled Flåm), and connects it with Myrdal with the scenic Flam Railway. The journey is world-famous and very popular in the summertime.
This area in Norway is particularly famous because of the beautiful gift of nature – a long and narrow fjord. Nærøyfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and every year it draws in a lot of tourists. The little village in the area, that got famous because of the railway is called Flåm. A bit bigger one, lying nearby, is Aurland.
But how to travel Norway in a Nutshell on your own? Why visit it in off season, in winter? What to do in Flam, is it worth to visit Aurland and what else is hidden around? We tried to do Norway in a Nutshell in a different way, rent a car and drive to the fjords in winter. Below, you can see why it ended up being one of the best trips ever.
Travel off season – Norway in a Nutshell in winter
The beauty of the Norway in a Nutshell trip and the whole area it passes through, including Flam and Nærøyfjord, is in the fact, that it’s raw, natural, and… empty. Sure, the view of the fjords doesn’t change much even with thousands of people travelling there at the same time as you – but your experience will. If you love the outdoors and the raw Norwegian nature, I highly recommend you to travel to the Flam area off the main season and try to visit Norway in a Nutshell in winter.
The crowds are gone
Summer means summer holidays, many tourists visiting Europe, higher temperatures, and easier travel. That’s also the high season, when the most popular touristic route in Norway – Norway in a Nutshell, gets the busiest. You need to book your tickets well in advance, fight for accommodation and squeeze in next to the window to see the views.
Winter is different.
You won’t find many people around. You can be alone with the majestic fjords, admiring nature. The prices will be cheaper, the bookings more available. Some of the places might be closed and it’s getting dark earlier, but this just means later sunrises and earlier sunsets, which are easier to catch.
I loved sitting in the evening by the edge of the fjord and looking at the peaceful mountains (that were still visible because of the snow) and listening to the silence. We often don’t realize how much noise is in our everyday life and it’s so refreshing to cut out of it for a bit and enjoy the peace.
It’s so beautiful
I’m not saying it’s not beautiful in the summer. I’m sure it is. But the winter landscape just blows me away. The peaks covered with snow, the low sunlight, the fluffy snow covering the paths, the fireplace in the cozy cottage. This is real Norway feel for me.
The best things to do in Flam, Aurland and around the Nærøyfjord
At any time of the year, there is a lot to do in Flam and around.
Take a Flam fjord cruise in Naeroyfjord
One of the most popular activities is to take a Flam fjord cruise. Flam to Gundvangen ferry (and the return one) goes through beautiful and dramatic Nærøyfjord. The Naeroyfjord is one of the most spectacular fjords in Norway. The narrow valley cuts in the tall mountains, towering up to 1800 meters above the sea level. The numerous waterfalls and colorful villages are dotting the landscape and look great from the water. In winter the views are even more breathtaking when the mountains are covered with snow.
We preferred to view the fjord from the peacefulness of our fjord-hanging cabin and from the hike in the mountains, but trying the cruise in winter might be even better than in the summer – as there won’t be many people around.
The Naeroyfjord cruise doesn’t take cars on board, but there is a shuttle bus between Aurland, Flam, and Gundvangen, that can take you back to where you started from. The ferry journey takes 2-3 hours and the bus takes 20 minutes. Keep in mind, that even in the winter time, the ferry got booked up quite quickly, so it’s better to book it in advance.
Take a scenic Flam Railway train (Flåmsbana)
The Flam Railway has been named one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world and is also one of the steepest. As you can imagine, it’s a big tourist attraction in the area. The train takes you from Flåm, located at the sea level, to Myrdal, located at 867 meters, and back. You can’t get from Flam to Myrdal by driving, as there is no road, so taking a train, cycling or walking is the only way.
This train journey is the top Flam attraction and brings many tourists to the region. The round trip lasts for 2 hours, but you can also go only one way and return on foot or a bike (in the summertime) on the way back. For an easier trip, opt to travel from Flam to Myrdal by train, which climbs the biggest ascent, and come back yourself, going mainly downhill. When traveling from Flam, the right side of the train generally has the best views. One of the train’s stops before getting to Myrdal powerfull Kjosfossen waterfall. Also, as this is one of the most popular things to do in Flam or in Norway in general, expect many tourists, especially in the summer. Or try it off-season, in winter, spring or autumn.
For those interested in railway history, you can also visit The Flam Railway Museum, located in the old station building. It’s free to all the visitors and has a display of the photos, videos and old train cars, describing the building of the world’s steepest train route.
Pass through the longest tunnel in the world
Lærdal Tunnel measures 24.51 kilometers and it’s the longest road tunnel in the world. The journey through it is rather dull, but it’s always something different, at least when you do it for the first time 😉 You would need to pass through it if you drive through the mountains to get to Aurland or Flåm. The journey itself is amazing!
Admire the view from the Stegastein viewpoint
The viewing platform, hanging 650 meters above Aurlandsfjord, makes a big impression. Stegastein viewpoint sticks out 30 meters from the mountain and provides great views to the fjord and Aurland below. The road leading to it, is the beginning of the Snow road, hair-pinning above the water. If you do a winter road trip in Norway, it’s easy to get there from Aurland by car.
Hike the Snow road
Aurlandsfjellet, also called a “snow road”, because of the amount of snow falling there in winter, is one of the 18 Norwegian Scenic Routes. It connects Aurland with Lærdalsøyrican and can be driven in the summer months when the snow melts. In winter, however, Snow Road is a perfect place for winter hiking or cross-country skiing. Going off the road into the hills will lead you to the wonderful landscape and open a view to the fjords below. You can hike with snowshoes or your own equipment. Remember to always have a map and a compass with you in the mountains. If you are not experienced in winter hiking, you can take an organized tour.
Visit Undredal village
Populated by 100 people and 500 goats, Undredal is famous for its delicious goat cheese. In the local shop in town, you can find different varieties of the cheese, including famous Norwegian brown cheese. It’s a perfect place to buy some of the best Norwegian souvenirs for your friends and family. The cheese production is very important for the local economy and the Undredal farms produce up to 10 900 kg of cheese per year. In the center of town, you can even find a monument of Undredal’s goat.
We bought some young matured goat cheese and goat sausage. The seller in the shop let us try different types. One of them was Gamalost, traditional Norwegian cheese made from soured cows milk and then cured for weeks. I wasn’t the fan.
Undredal is also home to the smallest stave church in Northern Europe. The church was closed when we arrived, but it was very tiny. You probably don’t need the big one for just 100 people in the village, as I believe the goats can wait outside 😉
I’ve heard, that the village can get very crowded in the high season, with several tour buses. I would not like to experience that. The place is very small and its charm lies in the peace and quietness of the area. I’d strongly recommend to visit it offseason for the more authentic experience.
Read more: Experience winter in Polish Tatra mountains.
Where to stay in Flam? With the best views!
When you are in a beautiful location, like this one, I like to treat myself to the 24-hour view. Be it wild camping under the stars or staying in the cozy cottage overlooking the mountains by the fjord. The last one is perfect for those winter evenings. Mulled wine on the terrace with the view – what else do you need? The best accommodation in Flam area, that I personally tested, is actually located in Aurland.
Aurland lies 12km away from Flam, just below the Stegastein viewpoint. It can be easily accessed by car or by a shuttle bus from Flam. Because Flam is normally the most popular place to stay with only a few hotels, it can be extremely busy. Therefore, I recommend going a bit off the main path and staying in Aurland instead.
The Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri is located in the oldest building in Aurland, and located by the shores of Aurlandsfjord, offering stunning views. We had a chance to stay in the little cottages, located just by the fjord, overlooking the mountains. The balcony was literally hanging over the water and I spent countless hours, sitting on the terrace, listening to the silence and admiring the magical view. The inside of the cottage was also extremely cozy, made of wood, modern and comfortable. Add to this friendly and helpful staff and you have one of the best hotels in Flam and Aurland (and Norway?). I loved it so much, that I didn’t want to leave 😉
Book your stay in Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri here.
Read more about Norway:
- Best Norwegian gifts and souvenirs to bring back from your trip
- 13+ Best things to do in Svalbard
- Svalbard snowmobile tour to the East Coast
- Norway winter travel – the best road trip
- Dog sledding in Norway
Would you like to do Norway in a Nutshell in winter and try different Flam activities? Do you agree that winter might be one of the best time to visit Norwegian fjords? Let me know in the comments!
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