Mountains of lush green and snow-white dramatically arising out of deep blue waters - pictures and descriptions such as this have added the Norwegian fjords to my bucket list over the years. When we decided to take the Transatlantic cruise to Europe and had the opportunity to add on a week cruising through Norway, I knew it was the perfect chance to be able to mark that one bucket list item as complete.
Fjords: Valleys Carved by Glaciers
Fjords are formed by the movement of ice in glaciers. These movements cut rock formations, forming cliffs on each side of a valley which then fills with water from a nearby ocean. Although they can be found in a few other countries, Norway is widely known for having the most fjords, at around 1200.
The one thing about fjords that pictures cannot capture is the feeling of purity, peace, and quiet that one can find in cruising through and hiking near these fjords. Besides occasional fishing villages with red houses lining the coastline, it feels as if the only inhabitants in the area are fairies and sprites dancing in the waterfalls.
Cruising the Sognefjord
We started sailing through the Sognefjord, Norway's longest and deepest fjord, in the early hours of the morning. The fjord stretches for 205km inland. At its deepest, it plunges to more than 1,300 metres, and the mountains along the fjord rise to more than 1,700 metres (thanks VisitNorway).
Experiencing the Flåmsbana
We arrived at the picturesque village of Flåm just in time to catch the first morning train on the Flåm railway (Flåmsbana). This train journey is often described as one of the most beautiful ones in the world as it glides through the stunning scenery of this part of Norway. On the way up to Myrdal (867 meters above sea level), the track zig zags its way up steep rocky cliffs, passes through villages dotted with red and yellow houses, and offers scenic views of lakes, waterfalls, and the rushing river below. It makes a stop at the majestic Kjosfossen waterfalls, where if you get lucky you might spot a dancing "Huldra."
After arriving in Myrdal, we asked about renting a bicycle to ride back down to Flåm. It was too early in the season though and since that wasn't an option, we took the train back down one stop so we could hike the rest of the way down and be immersed in this wild nature.
We thought we were in for a short easy hike back to town but the locals must have overestimated our abilities and the length of the trail as what we thought was going to be a 1-2 hr hike turned into almost 4 hours. There is no doubt that it was the most rewarding 4 hour hike though with the mountains surrounding us, waterfalls scattered along their sides, and green pastures full of grazing sheep and goats.
Friluftsliv: Nature at the Heart of Scandinavian Culture
There is a word used in the Scandinavian countries that perfectly describes their love for the outdoors: Friluftsliv which literally translates to "open-air living." It refers to the concept of getting outdoors and spending time outside in nature, no matter what the weather. Relating to this concept, the Scandinavians also have a saying that goes "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes." Snow, rain, or shine, these nature-lovers will get out there to enjoy the beauty no matter what!
If you visit Flåm Getting there: Being nestled in between the fjords, Flåm isn't the easiest to get to and taking the cruise was a beautiful way to see it and the surrounding Sognefjord. The village is accessible by car or train though with connections from major Norwegian towns such as Oslo or Bergen.
Booking your train ticket: The Flåm railway is truly unique, however it comes with a hesty price tag for a relatively short train ride- a roundtrip ticket costs around $67 or $48 one way. Spots on the train get sold out quickly so it is advised to book in advance: https://www.visitflam.com/activities/flamsbana---the-flam-railway/
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”
– Henry David Thoreau