Norway in a nutshell

by MrsV

Travelling by train, boat and coach from Bergen, you can see some of Norway's most scenic highlights in a single day - or add stopovers along the way and explore this stunning region in more depth

The 'Norway in a nutshell' day trip from Bergen allows you, in the space of one day, to experience this country in all its splendour, whatever the weather.

The trip begins in Bergen at 8.40am with a two-hour train trip to Myrdal. Here you transfer to the Flam (pronounced Flom) railway, which twists and turns down the mountainside through 20 tunnels, stopping half-way at the magnificent Kjosfossen waterfall. Waterfalls cascade down the sides of the mountain faces, their ferocity dependent on the weather - the heavier the rain, the more spectacular they become! As the train reaches the end of its hour-long journey, the valley opens up in front of you to reveal the fjord in all its beauty. Words such as beautiful, stunning, spectacular become overused very quickly in Norway, but the scenery really does have to be seen to be believed. It's like the Canadian Rockies, the Swiss Alps and the Italian lakes, all rolled  into one.

Flam itself is a small resort at the head of the Aurlandsfjord. The small landing jetty for the boats has a cafeteria-style restaurant serving good-value meals. A tip for eating out in Norway is to have proper meals rather than snacks - a coffee and a sandwich can easily cost 200 kroner each, but a set meal can be had for just a few kroner more. Most tourists come off the mountain railway and head straight for the boat connection, with just a brief glance at their surroundings, but the timings  of the boat allow a longer stop. Walk away from Flam uphill out of the village, past the small church, and the views are well worth the small hike. if you have more time and can stay overnight there are many more walking possibilities.

Once you are on board the boat to Gudvangen, it's like stepping into a geography lesson, with sheer rockfaces, U-shaped valleys, corries and tarns at every turn. The last part of this fjord is one of the narrowest in Norway and the mountains fall from 6000 feet to the water's edge on both sides. The ferry has to steer a centre path to keep in the deepest water. There are little villages dotted alongside,  only accessible by boat. The small ferry we were on suddenly seemed enormous as it pulled alongside the small jetties to allow locals and walkers to jump on and off.

As you get off the boat at Gudvangen, buses are waiting to take you to Voss to connect with the train back to Bergen. You board the bus thinking that is the end of the trip, as nothing can be better than the boat journey - only to discover that you are travelling up the Stalheimskleiva, a one-and-a-half kilometre stretch of road that switchbacks up through 13 hairpin bends and passes right by two dramatic waterfalls. Once at the top you reach the Stalheim Hotel, where the bus stops for a few minutes to give you  an amazing view back down to the valley. The hotel does not seem to make the most of its views from its public areas; lunch is served in a banqueting-style room at the rear and even the main restaurant, used at night, overlooks  the garden, not the spectacular view. Lunch, although not cheap, was a very good buffet that was great value for money. The bus continues down the mountain into Voss and connects with the train to Bergen - where you arrive back, 12 hours after you left, with some very special images of Norway and memories of an amazing day.

If you stop in Voss - a resort town with a beautiful lake at its centre - you are in the middle of one of Norway's most famous winter ski resorts. It is worth staying here and then hiring a car and heading back into the mountains. Ski resorts in summer become family holiday destinations with a wide variety of outdoor activities offered. Waterfalls can be gazed at, walked around and even walked under - and then even more waterfalls can be looked at from the roadside. Tunnels can be driven through and the mountain roads that precede the tunnels can be driven on, if you are brave enough!

Back in Bergen, don't miss the much-photographed Bryggen houses, and follow the passageways that take you behind them. Do take the funicular up to the viewpoint, where you can look out over the city and across to the islands that hug the coastline. Take the small train through the narrow streets of the old town and, if you have more time, take a trip to Greig's house, Troldhaugen, and attend a concert in the magnificent concert hall.

Whether you have a few days or longer, Bergen is an excellent starting point for a trip to Norway, with boats and trains providing excellent means of transport.