But with our 24/7 modern lives not everyone has the luxury of extra time. No one understands that better than busy Petra, one our Norway specialist travel consultants at Nordic Visitor. In just one week — through a combination of a self-drive tour and railway journey — she accomplished an admirable amount of experiences in Norway, which she explains for us in detail in our Q&A below...
Where did your journey take you?
Petra: I first got a rental car in Bergen and drove to Sogndal, where I stayed in the nearby village of Hafslo at the most cozy and authentic hotel called Bestebakken. A home away from home kind of feeling. It was a fun experience—everyone staying at the hotel ate dinner at a big communal table, so you got to mingle. At first I was quite unsure about the concept, but it was a great experience to dine with people from all over the world. The food was local and VERY GOOD! They also had some alpaca animals in the garden. I could tell you how great this hotel is all day…
Otherwise, in the Sogndal area I looked at Norway‘s oldest hotel, ate some fresh local raspberries, took a swim in the fjord and drove on some extremely tight roads with lots of twists and turns and through many tunnels!
Then back in Bergen I met with a small group of other travellers, which included my Nordic Visitor colleague Bjössi, and we went on a 3-hour guided city walking tour. It was amazing because our guide was so fun and knew everything about Bergen. She told us funny local facts about its history, such as the big fires they had, the kings, the history of the Bryggen wharf, etc. We also got to taste different things at the fish market, and at the end of the tour we took the cable cars up to Mount Fløyen and enjoyed the beautiful view. And the weather was really good!
The rest of the day was free to explore the city, which I definitely did. We stayed at Hotel Terminus just beside the train station, so it was nice to just cross the street the next day when we had a train to catch. We were doing a trip similar to the Bergen to Oslo leg of the "Norway in a Nutshell" classic tour, which is a combo of train, boat and bus travel.
First we took the train from Bergen to Voss, and from there we took a bus to Gudvangen. The bus tour was really scenic, with nice waterfalls and steep hairpin bends of Stalheimskleiva, Northern Europe’s steepest stretch of road. At Gudvangen we took a ferry for two hours over to Flåm, and during this ride we bought tasty cinnamon rolls and coffee and sat on chairs on the upper deck of the boat. So nice! It was raining but warm, so we just sat there enjoying the stunning views in our waterproof rain jackets.
Finally we got to Flåm. It is a very small village and when I first saw it I thought it was amazing. It does have a lot of tourists from cruise ships, but mainly the crowds are around the pier and souvenir shops. Here we went to the local brewery called Ægir Brewery and had a really nice meal and a local beer. Highly recommended! We stayed at a nice hotel called Fretheim Hotel – very good atmosphere there.
The next day, we took the Flåmsbana railway to Myrdal and biked down the valley to Flåm. I would say this was in the top 10 most fun things I have done in my life! Some people from our group opted instead to take a bus tour to the Stegestein viewpoint and others chose to go on a RIB road safari. So very action packed day for us.
For the return trip to Oslo, we took the Flåmsbana train again to Myrdal and then connected to the train to Oslo. It was a comfortable ride all the way, with Wi-Fi and of course nice views. We got to Oslo late in the evening, so my last night in Norway was just relaxing in the hotel.
How would you describe the Norwegian fjords in 3 words?
Petra: Oh my…Green, Peaceful, Powerful. I find the fjords very peaceful but I get a lot of energy around them. So maybe I'll add a fourth word: Energizing.
What were your personal highlights from this trip?
Petra: The bicycle tour was my favourite. It was fun and easy and we could stop for breaks when we wanted to. It was 20 kilometers (12 miles) but downhill most of the time. So much fun, so close to nature without sweating! It’s like winning the lottery.
We met goats, took a lot of great pictures, saw amazing waterfalls and ate some Norwegian pancakes and cheese at a cute farm called RallarRosa Stølsysteri. They make traditional brown and white cheese from fresh, unpasteurized goat milk. The goats on their summer pastures come from the Sogn School of Organic Agriculture and Horticulture and from Dalsbotten, a farm some 10 kilometers further down the valley.
We also biked along the fjord to a farm called Otternes, where you can take a guided tour of the historic farm buildings and enjoy a local food experience as well as demonstrations and workshops about traditional foods. Great idea for foodies! It was also good to see the Flåm church and where the locals actually live. I believe we got the most authentic experience of Flåm by taking a bike tour and getting away from the popular, busy areas of the village.
Tell us more about these goats! Did you also meet other friendly animals or people?
Petra: The goats are very friendly. Probably because they're so well feed since Norway has all that green grass and trees. So they are never grumpy. They are probably also spoiled by the tourists that pass them. We know for a fact that their milk makes really good cheese!
We also saw some cows and I met some alpacas in Luster (Sogndal area). They were also friendly. Of course, so were the people.
What did you like most about travelling in a group for part of your trip?
Meeting people. And the guide! The guide takes care of everything for you. You do not have to think about missing the train or finding your hotel. They are like your personal GPS or day-planner on the tour, but you also have enough free time to break away and do what you want on your own.
A guided tour is great for a person who likes to meet other people, like me, and enjoys travelling with a local that really knows the area and takes care of all the stressful detailed things for you. They also give you the do’s and don’ts of your specific destination and does their best to make the tour enjoyable for you. For me, I felt it was a great social and cultural experience, and I hope other people get to enjoy that.
For the traveller on the go, with only about a week to spend in Norway, Petra recommends our Norway in a Nutshell railway tour or, if you prefer to drive yourself, our Express Norway or Natural Wonders of Norway self-drive tours.
Remember, you can always ask your Nordic Visitor travel consultant about customizing a tour, or get more itinerary suggestions from our Norway at a Glance Guide.
This post is part of our “My Destination” series, in which we ask our staff to tell us about their favourite highlights from our Nordic destinations. Would you like to ask your own questions about planning a trip up north? Drop us a line!