Norway in a Nutshell is a scenic tour of Norway. Targeted towards travelers on whirlwind tours of Norway, this is a convenient way to see the “best of the best” of Norway in just one day. If you only have a week in Norway and want to cruise the fjords and ride one of the world’s most scenic train rides then Norway in a Nutshell may be perfect for you.
What is Norway in a Nutshell?
Norway in a Nutshell is a packaged tour that combines a scenic ferry ride on two connected fjords (Naeroyfjord & Aurlandsfjord), a bus ride on the steep hairpin bends of Stalheimskleiva, an epic view of the Naeroydalen valley from the rear patio of the Stalheim Hotel, and a spectacular railway journey in the mountains. Visitors can start and end the tour in several of Norway’s most popular cities with all transportation included. For the traveler with only a limited amount of time in Norway, this tour can be very appealing. Important update: we just recently received a comment that the bus ride to the Stalheim hotel is no longer being offered as part of Norway in a Nutshell…yet another reason why it’s better to do it on your own.
The Naeroyfjord is one of the narrowest and most scenic fjords in Norway. With towering mountains, quaint coastal towns, and waterfalls, Naeroyfjord is definitely worth visiting. The Flåm Railway, also called Flåmsbana, has been described as the most beautiful train journey in the world (by Lonely Planet in 2014). It is a 20 km trip that connects Flåm and Myrdal and is one of the steepest routes in the world.
Norway in a Nutshell is a packaged tour that is operated by Fjord Tours. The tour can start in Oslo, Bergen, Voss or Flåm and end either where you started or at one of its other destinations. For example, in just one day, you can take a train from Bergen to Voss, a bus from Voss to the Stalheim Hotel to enjoy the stunning view of the Naeroydalen valley, a bus ride on one of Northern Europe’s steepest roads (Stalheimskleiva), a cruise on Naeroyfjord & Aurlandsfjord, take the Flåm Railway to Myrdal, and then take a train onward to Oslo. It’s a big day and it also has a big price (prices start at NOK 1878), but includes your transportation across a large part of Norway.
To read more about Norway in a Nutshell, visit their website.
How to do Norway in a Nutshell on Your Own
You can piece together your own Norway in a Nutshell tour. Tickets can be purchased separately for the fjord cruise and the Flåm Railway. You provide your own transportation (so you will need a rental car), doing the scenic drives on your own. If you do not have a rental car, you should book the official Norway in a Nutshell tour.
Norway in a Nutshell on your own (with optional places to visit).
The following assumes you are arriving from Bergen or locations south of Gudvangen/Flåm (follow in reverse order if arriving from locations north or east of Gudvangen/Flåm).
Stop #1: The Stalheim Hotel
As you drive towards Gudvangen on E16 you first want to stop at the Stalheim Hotel. You don’t have to stay at the hotel to enjoy the spectacular view of Naeroydalen valley from its rear patio. Just walk straight through the lobby to the rear of the hotel and be ready to be amazed!
Next, you have two choices for driving to Gudvangen. The less adventurous and less scenic option (due to tunnels) is to get back on E16. The more adventurous and more scenic option is drive the Stalheimskleiva. It is one of the steepest roads in Europe, complete with hairpin turns and views of waterfalls. This is a one way road that travels in the direction from the Stalheim Hotel towards Gudvangen. If the view from the Stalheim Hotel didn’t get your heart pumping then driving the Stalheimskleiva certainly will!
Now that you’ve arrived Gudvangen, if you have time, take a quick look around and then move onward to Flåm (by car: 20 km, 20 minutes drive).
Once you are in Flåm, you can start the fjord cruise and then take the Flåm Railway. In Flåm, there is ample parking, a large gift shop, and food options available.
Stop #4: Cruise from Flåm to Gudvangen
The cruise will take you from Flåm to Gudvangen, sailing down Aurlandsfjord and Naeroyfjord. This cruise takes about 2 hours, one-way.
This is a view of Naeroyfjord.
Stop #5: Bus from Gudvangen to Flåm
Once in Gudvangen, you will board a bus to return to Flåm (make sure you purchase a roundtrip ticket so the cruise & bus are included). This takes about 2.5 hours for the entire round trip journey. For timetables, updated pricing, and ticket reservations for the round trip fjord cruise and return bus journey, visit the Visit Flåm website. It is highly advisable to purchase these tickets in advance.
Stop #6: Flåm Railway
Once you arrive back to Flåm, take a round trip journey on the Flåm Railway: the round trip Flåmsbana journey to Myrdal and back to Flåm. This takes 2 hours for the entire round trip journey. For timetables and ticket reservations, click here. It is highly advisable to purchase these tickets in advance.
You’ve just completed your Do It Yourself, Norway in a Nutshell tour, covering all of the same elements provided by the packaged tour.
Tips for Booking Your Tickets
Book your cruise and railway tickets in advance, they do sell out!
If your desired time slots are sold out then:
- Consider doing the Flåm Railway before the Cruise.
- Consider starting the cruise from Gudvangen. With a roundtrip ticket you will cruise from Gudvangen to Flåm and then a bus will take you from Flåm to Gudvangen. You can then drive yourself back to Flåm for the Flåm Railway.
Bonus! Make Your Day Even Better with these Optional Excursions
From Flåm, drive up to the Stegastein viewpoint, a scenic lookout over Aurlandsfjord. It offers a spectacular view.
If you are travelling north towards Laerdalsoyri then you have two options; you can take either the Snow Road or the Laerdal Tunnel.
Snow Road: From the Stegastein viewpoint you can continue on Bjorgavegen (Fv243), a national tourist road known as the Snow Road. This ride was gorgeous, even in our less than ideal rainy, overcast weather. This road is typically closed from mid-October through early June due to snowfall.
Laerdal Tunnel: From the Stegastein viewpoint you can back track down to the Aurlandsfjord and take the highway E16. This will take you through the longest car tunnel in the world, a 24.5 km (15.2 mi) long tunnel.
Can’t decide between the Snow Road and Laerdal Tunnel? There is a way you can do both. Instead of booking the cruise on both the Naeroyfjord and Aurlandsfjord, you can book a car ferry from Gudvangen to Kaupanger. From Kaupanger, you have to take another car ferry (which is quick), drive towards Laerdalsoyri, and then take the Snow Road to the Stegastein viewpoint. Proceed down to Flåm for the Flåm Railway. Then as you head back north towards Laerdalsoyri take the Laerdal Tunnel. This is what we did when we were in Norway.
This alternative itinerary means you will not cruise on the Aurlandsfjord, but you will still cruise on the Naeroyfjord (the more famous of the two fjords), and you will still overlook the Aurlandsfjord from the Stegastein viewpoint. But note that this alternative option adds a lot more time to your day and any delays (two car ferries and lots of driving) could cause you to miss your Flåm Railway reservation time.
If this alternative itinerary interests you then can book the car ferry here.
Summary: Norway in a Nutshell on Your Own
Enjoy the view of Naeroydalen valley from the rear patio of the Stalheim Hotel.
Drive the Stalheimskleiva, a winding, steep road with views of the Naeroydalen valley.
Cruise Naeroyfjord and Aurlandsfjord.
Take the round trip Flåmsbana to Myrdal and back to Flåm, one of the steepest and most beautiful railways in the world.
Drive to the Stegastein viewpoint for a spectacular view over Aurlandsfjord.
Drive onward towards Laerdalsoyri via the scenic Bjorgavegen (Snow Road) or via the Laerdal Tunnel (the longest car tunnel in the world).
Visit Flåm website (for booking the cruise on Aurlandsfjord and Naeroyfjord).
The Flåmsbana website (for prices, timetables, and booking your tickets in advance).
Norway in a Nutshell website (for tour options, prices, and tickets).
More Information for Your Trip to Norway:
10 DAYS IN THE FJORD REGION: On this 10 day itinerary through the fjord region, visit southern Norway: Bergen, Geirangerfjord, and Stavanger and hike Trolltunga, Pulpit Rock and Kjeragbolten.
BEST OF THE LOFOTEN ISLANDS: For an overview of the best things to do, read our Lofoten Islands Top Ten List. Great hikes in the Lofoten Islands include Ryten, Reinebringen, Festvagtind, and Svolvaer Floya. For a big adventure, climb Svolvaergeita for one of the most unique experiences in the Lofoten Islands.
SVALBARD: Plan the perfect visit to Svalbard with our Svalbard Travel Guide. We also have articles about the best things to do in Longyearbyen, what it is like to go glacier kayaking, and how much does it cost to visit Svalbard?
EUROPE TRAVEL INSPIRATION: For more great ideas on where to go in Europe, check out our article 30 Beautiful Places to Visit in Europe and the 20 Best Hikes in Europe. You can also get more travel ideas in our 10 Days in Europe itinerary guide, which has 10 great itineraries for your next trip to Europe.
Planning a trip to Norway? Read all of our articles in our Norway Travel Guide.
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