I’ll be happy to simply make this a photo-essay so I can show you all the gorgeousness I saw in Norway rather overwhelmingly within one day. But nope, I actually need to be more responsible to you as a travel blogger! It has taken me almost a year to finally get my ass down and almost one week to craft this post on the travel blog. I hope you get something useful out of it.
As of now, spring season in Norway is rolling in again, which was the season I went for my Norway In A Nutshell experience.
Quick Introduction to Norway In A Nutshell
(I’ll periodically refer to it as “NIN” in my article!)
Though named as a ‘tour’, Norway In A Nutshell is technically *not* a tour.
There’s no tour guide taking care of you or leading the way or giving information about the places. Think of it as simply a pre-designed itinerary or a route template for you to see the most of Norway within a period of time.
What’s Norway In A Nutshell then?
It’s a branding package by a company (Fjord Tours) that sells you the set of tickets for your chosen ‘tour’. Booking a “Norway In A Nutshell tour”, therefore, only includes the public transport tickets. It does not include meals, drinks, hotel stays or anything else. You’re completely on your own the whole way.
Review of Norway In A Nutshell (Bergen)
Our choice: One-day round-trip from Bergen, via Voss
It, being my first time in Norway, this was the day trip I’ve been looking forward to for years. Of course I had to be extra ready for it! By waking up at 5+am to get ready, making sure we ate enough for breakfast as fuel at the hotel, and then heading to the railway station early. So grateful that my friends were agreeable to my enthusiasm! <3
First leg: NSB Train ride from Bergen railway station to Voss
Since our hotel was really, really near the train station, we arrived at 8am when the train was to set off at 8.43am. It was way too early and the train doors had not yet opened for boarding. The good thing was there was also very few other people waiting.
It takes about 1 hour 10min to get from Bergen to Voss by this train. Among the different segments of this Norway In A Nutshell tour, I’ll say this leg is the least overwhelming of all. You can simply sit back and relax.
We sat on the left for this train ride.
Scenic bus from Voss to Gudvangen
After getting off at Voss, follow where the crowd heads towards and arrive at Voss bus terminal, where a group of buses will be waiting. Enjoy this scenic bus journey which takes you to Gudvangen.
Stalheimskleiva – the steep road with 13 hairpin turns
Between the months of May and September, the bus journey includes going through Stalheimskleiva – a 1.5km-long steep road that includes 13 hairpin turns. This road was built by manual labour between 1842 and 1846, wow. The narrow road is also one of Northern Europe’s steepest roads, so it was incredible to experience how the drivers navigated the buses so expertly.
On this road, you’ll also see 2 waterfalls – Sivlefossen waterfall with a drop of 140m, and Stalheimsfossen waterfall with a fall of 126m. Don’t ask me which is which, because I have no idea too, haha.
We sat on the right side of the coach which gives great scenic views along the way, but if you sit on the left, you get a better view of the town below from the road!
And with that, we arrived at Gudvangen!
Gudvangen has an interesting history. For over a century already, cruise ships sailing from Europe have arrived here. Local farmers helped to transport tourists using horse-drawn carriages, from the fjord, up the steep Stallheimskleiva road (yes! That hairpin-y road!) to Stalheim Hotel.
Approximately 120 people live in this small village here, lucky them! We really couldn’t have asked for better weather this afternoon. My friends & I kept gasping at how beautiful and dramatic the scenery was here. It was difficult to peel ourselves away, even though we had to grab food at the restaurant before taking the fjord cruise.
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Amazing fjord cruise from Gudvangen to Flam
My favourite segment for the whole day: the fjord cruise!
Actually, I had no idea what’s a fjord before this trip, and kept seeing the word on articles before coming to Norway. Then, while flying into Bergen Airport, I saw the deep, narrow holes between mountains, and deduced they must be the fjords of Norway. A fjord = “a long, narrow, deep inlet of the sea between high cliffs, as in Norway, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley.”
On this leg, you’ll board a fjord cruise boat to navigate through Nærøyfjord (just think – “narrow fjord”). The Nærøyfjord is the most narrow part of Sognefjord, and is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, running 17km long and at its narrowest – 250m apart. Nærøyfjord is surrounded by mountains towering wayyy above your ferry, as high as 1,600m, which is almost 3x of Pulpit Rock‘s height!).
It was a long way but a super breathtaking two hours spent on this fjord cruise.
Here’s the tip you might not have read on blogposts other than here! The fjord cruise will do a 180-degree turn after leaving the harbour. As you board the boat, you’ll think you’re sitting on the right side, when in fact, after turnings, you’re actually on the left! Not too much to worry about though, because the cruise chairs aren’t fixed with seat numbers. You’re free to walk around on the deck and take empty seats on whichever side you wish along the way.
Not enough of photos yet?
One of the most advertised highlights of the classic Norway In A Nutshell tour has got to be a ride on the Flam railway. A 20km-long track built painstakingly over 20 years, this train runs through the breathtaking Flåm valley, and includes 20 tunnels carved through the mountain – 18 built by hand. The track has a height difference of 866m. Due to the challenge from that height difference as the train ascends or descends, each carriage is equipped with 5 brake systems, each of which has the power to stop the entire train.
After a short stop for food at Flåm, it’s time to board the Flåm Railway.
I love the sounds made by the train – calming and soothing! It’s also a very stable ride, gifting you with a wonderful swapping of scenery – from greeneries to snow scenes as the train climbs upwards to Myrdal.
The train will also make a quick photo stop at Kjosfossen Waterfall – which is the dramatic waterfall that you see photos with a lady in red dancing on Instagram. Not so fortunately for us, the waterfalls were trickling that day. The glacial lake that feeds this waterfall was still frozen, hence all we had was a super mild version of the waterfall. In fact, it was so underwhelming that I wondered why we stopped here, not having any idea that this is a famous thing, oops.
Last segment on Norway in a Nutshell:
Train ride from Myrdal to Bergen, via Voss
Yet another surprise as we didn’t expect Myrdal to be so filled with snow. By this time, my friends and I had gotten used to being constantly & pleasantly surprised by this tour, I’m serious! We stopped having to take photos every now and then, instead, deciding to just take in the sceneries with our eyes.
It was pure bliss to be here and surrounded by the beautiful white scenes. I even managed to get a photo with some of the train crew 😊
Further snow views eventually gave way to rushing springs and vivid green fields on the train journey from Myrdal back to Bergen. We had a short stop at Voss (we didn’t expect this), so had time for a quick photoshoot which was the cover pic you saw for my Solo Traveler Misconception article.
Tips to Know about Norway In A Nutshell
You’re on your own.
If you have things like luggage and stuff, you’ll need to manage on your own. (Worried? Fellow travel blogger Amanda covered this in her post about NIN.)
You can book the trip all-year round, but schedules will differ.
For example, in May 2017, we departed at 8.43am from Bergen, and reached back at 7.55pm. I just randomly checked a NIN schedule for July 2018 and it starts at the same time, but by 5.57pm, you’ll be back in Bergen. Therefore, you should plan & strategize your meals according to your trip’s time-table. We had sufficient time for food at Gudvangen and Flam, but the sample Jul 2018 schedule means you’ll only have time to sit down at a restaurant for lunch at noon in Flam.
For our classic fjord cruise at Gudvangen, there’s cafe food on the ferry but we didn’t buy so I can’t advise what food they serve. There is no food available on trains and buses for the classic tour.
09:56am: Reach Voss
10:10am: Bus leaves Voss for Gudvangen
11.10am: Arrive Gudvangen
12.25pm: Fjord cruise departs Gudvangen
02.43pm: Reach Flam
04.00pm: Set off on Flam Railway
04.42pm: Quick stop at Kjossen waterfalls for photos
05.02pm: Flam Railway train arrives at Myrdal
About 05.10pm or slightly after: Train leaves Myrdal
06.16pm: Reach Voss and have a break (20min perhaps? I didn’t take note) and board train again to continue to Bergen
07.55pm: Reach Bergen
There are many, many combinations you can choose from.
One-day (round-trip) tour that starts and ends in Bergen? Or take the train from Oslo to Bergen? Or include a hike at Pulpit Rock (btw, the hike’s availability depends on season), or another fjord cruise to see Pulpit Rock from the bottom? There’s also the Bergen round trip via Voss vs via Myrdal (we chose via Voss, therefore via Myrdal will run in the opposite direction.) There’re also many other tours to choose from at different areas in Norway.
You can also add overnight stays along the legs of your chosen tour, and continue the rest of the segments the next day. For hotel-wise, either book them along during your booking process for NIN or choose the “I want to arrange hotel on my own” option. I would think booking the hotels yourself might work out to be a better deal. Check and secure your hotels on Booking.com first!
You can DIY a Norway In A Nutshell trip actually.
… by getting the tickets separately, and it should be at least slightly cheaper. Also, if you choose different timings as per NIN’s schedule, you’ll experience fewer crowds.
However, I imagine doing Norway In A Nutshell on your own to be a more tedious strategy, for a few reasons:
(i) Some tickets cannot be bought in advanced.
(ii) payment options might be limited.
Whichever method you choose, remember to read up about collecting the tickets. Don’t forget about collection hours too.
My friends and I simply took the easy way out: Book & pay for tickets online –> Collect our tickets at the Tourist Information at Bergen Railway Station the afternoon before our trip –> Go for our Norway In A Nutshell tour the next morning.
Still not overwhelmed yet? Silvia from Heart My Backpack has a guide on how to DIY your NIN tour!
How much does a NIN tour cost?
It depends on which ‘tour’ you book. We took the Original Norway In A Nutshell tour, a one-day round-trip tour that starts from Bergen and ends in Bergen, in May 2017. It was NOK 1440 /pax (USD$185). I just checked on their website and its prices have increased to begin from NOK 1600/pax (USD$206) this year.
Unforeseen circumstances might happen.
I read some of the reviews on Fjord Tours’ FB Page, and noticed sometimes the worst situations can happen, such as the road to Gudvangen being closed off as rocks fell off and thus the segments after that were thrown into disarray, etc etc. And that you might not be able to contact Fjord Tours in time… Well I have no advice for that, except to tell you to be mentally prepared. And that to not do NIN on the day before you leave Bergen, in case shit happened and you got stuck at Flam or something. Lastly, to pray for good weather. All the best!
Is Norway In A Nutshell worth it?
Yes! If you have very limited time in Norway (I was in Norway for 6 nights – 3 in Bergen), or don’t have the resources to do your own road-trip or DIY this, then Norway In A Nutshell is considered the best way to see Norway. It was the most unbelievable day I had in Norway – getting to see an intense amount of Norway’s beauty at one shot!
Tips to make the most of your Norway In A Nutshell tour:
- Bring enough camera batteries. I had two fully-charged batteries with me and even then, they could not last the whole day. I had to keep my camera switched off to conserve some battery life. Also, remember that batteries deplete faster in cold weather – same goes for your mobile phone. Having a powerbank to charge for your handphone is a good idea too.
- The season you travel in will determine what you see. I went in spring season (May 2017) and was blessed with sunny (sometimes blindingly bright), cooling weather the entire day during my Norway In A Nutshell day trip! If you go in winter, it might be gloomy weather, which makes the views very different.
- At Gudvangen, there’re 2 different boats – 1 is the Premium fjord cruise (more expensive) while the other is the Classic. You would have made your choice when booking your NIN tickets.
- Weather in Norway can be rather erratic, it’s best to be prepared for the weather. Though it was pretty cold for us especially on the fjord cruise, I still felt a little sunburnt from spending two hours at the open deck. Also, bring sunglasses. The sun can be blinding, if you get sun.
- It’s strategic to stay near the starting point of your Norway In A Nutshell tour. The tour from Bergen starts from Bergen Railway Station. We specifically booked our hotel to be somewhere near it, and it was as near as crossing one small road to the station. We chose Zander K Hotel – a beautiful boutique hotel which newly opened in April 2017. It was a great choice – their rooms were cosy!| Check more Bergen hotel rates on Booking.com |
Hope you enjoy reading about this tour from Bergen!
It took me many days to finish this article. Feel free to ask me anything in the Comment section!
Visited: May 2017
More Norway posts!
• Hiking Pulpit Rock, Norway’s most popular hike on Instagram
• How much did 6 nights in Norway cost me?
• 12 photos to inspire you to go hike in Norway
• Underestimating Bergen’s highest mountain