DIY Norway in a Nutshell Tour in 2 Days: From Bergen to Flåm to Oslo

Aurland from the fjord

A big part of traveling, you see, is transportation. This means sitting in buses, trains, boats, and cars to get to whichever destination you’ll be taking all the Instagram photos to fool people into believing you somehow teleported to the next place.

Most of the time, traveling from A to B doesn’t warrant a whole lot of picture taking or blogging about. It’s generally more of a snooze-fest filled with Audible books and the person sitting next to who you can’t stop snoring — wait, is he drooling now?

In Norway, on the other hand, I’ve found that the transportation is the destination. In fact, I was more excited to get out on the road and see the countryside than getting to any single place. And I did a good bit of traveling in two days which is why I’m combining them into one post.

Relaxing in the cold by the fjord after being dropped off in Aurland

I started day four in the top bunk of my hostel’s room at 6:15 in the morning. Having to catch an 8:40 train, I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to shower, get ready, and have one last stroll around Bergen (plus get coffee and another Egg McMuffin, of course).

I didn’t sleep well at all the night before. As a light sleeper, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have thought it was a good idea to sleep in a room with three strangers. One girl snored so loud the whole night I could tell all three of the rest of us were awake the whole night. Despite that, I quickly and quietly got ready, dropped my key in the drop box, and headed out.

By now, Bergen was starting to get that familiar sense you get when you’ve explored nearly every nook and cranny of a place. I knew exactly how to get where I was going without the use of a map and even had the bathroom code at McDonald's memorized (because having that go-to free public bathroom is key when exploring a city).

I don’t have a comment for this…except that I found it in Bergen

I loved Bergen and I know I will always have fond memories, but I also knew it was time to leave. So I jumped onto my 8:40 train to Voss to start the first leg of my journey.

For those who may not be familiar with things to do in Norway, one of the most highly recommended is a tour called Norway in a Nutshell. For 1,670 NOK (or around $200 USD in today’s current exchange rate), you can jump on a train, bus, and boat to see some of the most beautiful parts of the country. It’s less of a guided tour and more of a buy-all-your-tickets-in-one-place kind of deal.

You can do this, or you can also create a DIY tour based on that. That’s what I did.

After doing some research, a lot of people said booking the tickets individually yourself can save a lot of money. This is what originally started me down the path of recreating the tour myself. But after I did some calculations, I realized it wouldn’t actually save me that much — the prices ended up being very similar.

However, I still decided to book it all myself. The original tour is packed into an entire day and looks a little like this:

08:39: Train from Bergen to Voss
09:56: Arrival Voss
10:10: Bus from Voss to Gudvangen
11:05: Arrival Gudvangen
12:00: Boat from Gudvangen to Flåm (Classic boat)
14:00: Arrival in Flåm
14:40: Flåm Railway to Myrdal
15:30: Arrival Myrdal Railway station
15:40: Train from Myrdal to Bergen
17:56: Arrival in Bergen

Since I had more time on my hands and wanted to stay in the countryside a little longer — plus, I didn’t want to return to Bergen, but instead go back to Oslo — I decided to adapt the timeline to look a little more like this:

Day 4:
08:39: Train from Bergen to Voss (NSB)
09:56: Arrival Voss
10:35: Bus from Voss to Gudvangen (Nettbuss)
11:23: Arrival Gudvangen
12:00: Boat from Gudvangen to Flåm (Classic boat)
14:00: Arrival in Flåm (got off a little earlier in a village called Aurland, see below)

Day 5:
15:13: Bus from Aurland to Flåm (Nettbuss express; 42 NOK for a ticket bought onboard)
15:30: Arrival Flåm
14:40: Flåm Railway to Myrdal
15:30: Arrival Myrdal Railway station
17:53: Train from Myrdal to Oslo
22:27: Arrival in Oslo

When your bus drops you off in the middle of the road in the middle of nowhere…take a selfie.

Now, I’m actually pretty proud of myself for throwing this together. I booked all this after nearly 30 hours of being awake and managed to keep all the timetables intact.

In between each day, I planned to stay in an Airbnb in Flåm. After looking up a few options, I realized there are pretty much no options except for the large hotel there, and I wanted to save as much money as possible. However, I did find a beautiful Airbnb in Aurland, about a 10-minute bus ride from Flåm.

This place was perfect. Not only did it have an incredible view and plenty of privacy (which I badly craved after the last night’s hostel stay), but also a washing machine and kitchen so I could wash up and cook my own dinner and breakfast.

So that was the plan. I just hoped it was all going to go accordingly.

The magnificent view from my Airbnb in Aurland + the boat that dropped me off leaving in the distance

After getting on my train to Voss, I found my seat in the crowded carriage. There were people everywhere, most of them dressed up for skiing and carrying their own equipment. It was a Friday morning and people were on their way to the slopes for the weekend.

View from the train to Voss

The train to Voss was beautiful. We passed by small villages and large lakes as I watched high school girls braid each other’s hair on the way to their ski trip.

In Voss, I got off the train and realized I lost one of my favorite gloves. Trying not to get hung up on it, I walked to the bus station near the train station and came upon tons of buses waiting to take tourists to Gudvangen for the Norway in a Nutshell tour. None of them were mine.

If you noticed in the timetables above, the original buses were supposed to leave at 10:10. The bus I booked left at 10:35. I wasn’t too worried about this except I didn’t see my bus anywhere and everyone else got onto the ones already in the station.

Feeling lost and confused, I approached a group of drivers and asked them for information on my bus. “Will be here 10:30” was all they said before they got in their vehicles and drove off. Within five minutes, it was just me in an empty bus station in the middle of Norway.

My last morning in Bergen

After about 10 minutes of staring longingly down the road, my bus finally arrived and I was the only one who got on. There were about 3 other people on there total. It was a beautiful charter bus, much nicer than the ones all the tourists climbed into. Each seat was very comfortable and even had their own USB charging outlets, WiFi, and a bathroom in the back. Plus, there was almost no one on there. I knew I did the right thing booking that bus instead of the one everyone else was on (it was $13).

The ride from Voss to Gudvangen was incredible. I couldn’t believe what we were driving by. Waterfalls and fields full of snow and gorgeous homes and incredibly steep cliffs. It was like a dream.

View from the bus ride to Gudvangen

The bus stop in Gudvangen was simply a stop along the highway. I got off, thanking the driver, and watched him drive away into a tunnel within one of the cliffs. Suddenly, I was completely alone without WiFi and forgot to map where the boat was supposed to take off. Oops.

Fortunately, there was only one way to go: not the way I came. I started walking down a street in the small village of Gudvangen where no one was around. After a few minutes, I saw it: a building that said “souvenirs” and right behind it the water. In that water was the boat. I found it.

I bought a new pair of gloves and got on the boat which I later learned is the first fully-electric boat in the world. So that’s pretty cool.

New gloves? Check. Getting to the boat on time? Check.

It was super fancy inside and contained a bar (that also served food), plush leather seats, charging outlets (this is a common thing in most Norwegian public transit, I’ve found), and surprisingly few people. One of the many benefits of traveling in the offseason.

It was an incredible boat journey that boasted amazing views of the fjord and my first time trying a reindeer sausage. Back home, I try to eat as little meat as possible and am about 80% plant-based. But when traveling abroad, I like to try the food they’re known for — and reindeer is one of the things they’re known for.

Trying reindeer sausage for the first time on the boat to Flåm/Aurland

I was planning on taking a bus from Flåm to Aurland but realized the boat was making a quick pitstop in Aurland to drop off a package. I asked one of the crew members if we were stopping here. He said, “well, no, I mean we’re just dropping off a package.”

“Oh,” I said, putting down the backpack that I picked up in anticipation.

“Do you need to get off here?” He asked, after a moment of hesitation.

“Well, I mean…can I?” I asked.

“Let me ask my boss,” he said. He spoke in his walky-talky and a moment later he said, “yes, let’s go.”

So, that’s how I got off the boat before everyone else.

Nærøyfjord boat trip (learn more here)

After getting off the boat and watching it sail away, I sat down in a park bench, got out my notebook, and started writing with the view of the fjord in the background. It was cold but I didn’t care. I was here, in the middle of Norway, making my dream come true. Who cares about a little bit of cold?

I made my way up to the Airbnb, checked in, and immediately felt at home. The view from the living room was incredible. I walked to the grocery store down the hill, picked up a few things for dinner and breakfast, and went back. I threw my clothes into the washing machine and settled in for a relaxing evening in Aurland.

Repeat header image: the town I stayed in, Aurland, from the fjord

The next morning, I awoke with a scare. I got a text message from Allan, my partner, saying Chewie, my cat, wasn’t feeling so well. After an hour of trying to figure out what to do, his condition worsened and Allan had to take him to the emergency vet. I felt helpless, worried, and scared. Should I try to come back early? Even if I could, I’m in the middle of nowhere. It’d take me at least 2 days to get home.

A few hours later, Chewie returned home and was doing better. The vet couldn’t find anything particularly wrong but gave him some medication to help with his upset stomach.

My bus to Flåm wasn’t until after 3 pm so I had plenty of time to kill in a village that had a church, a bakery, and a grocery store. I spent the morning after Chewie’s debacle doing some client work (I had a quick last-minute client project that day) and watching Netflix until about 12:30. Since check-out was at 1:00, I packed everything up and headed to the bakery for some lunch.

The best Norwegian lunch ever from Marianne Bakery & Cafe

I ordered a sandwich and, because when in Norway, a waffle with jam on top. It was incredible. All of it. And much cheaper than it would have been in the city (I think somewhere around 150 NOK which is around $20 but still, a bit cheaper). I did some more work for a couple of hours until around 2:30 when I headed out to my bus stop.

I wanted to be early. I couldn’t miss this one; it was the last bus going to Flåm of the day (and only 1 of 2). Eventually, I got on board and headed out to Flåm.

Once in Flåm, I walked around the museum and learned about their train system. The Flåm-Myrdal train is supposed to be one of the most beautiful train rides in the world and the system is a little over 100 years old. I did a little bit of shopping and then relaxed a bit, watching the snow start to fall outside.

The Flåmsbana from Flåm to Myrdal

I got on the train which was also surprisingly sparse for a tourist attraction. Again, the benefits of traveling off-season. The ride was beautiful, yes, although it was snowing so hard some parts were difficult to see. We made a stop at a waterfall which ended up being a ton of ice frozen over — still, beautiful.

The frozen waterfall between Flåm and Myrdal

I’d love to do that train ride in the summer sometime. From the pictures, the colors seem so incredible and the view might’ve been much clearer. But with that said, it was still a beautiful journey.

The last leg of the trip consisted of a 5.5-hour train to Oslo, much of it in the dark. I regretted taking such a late train as I knew I was missing out on some more incredible views. However, when traveling on a budget, you gotta do what you gotta do to save money, and the other times were a little more expensive.

View from the Flåmsbana

Upon arriving in Oslo, I made my way to my next Airbnb; a tiny apartment-turned-hostel in a sketchy neighborhood that wasn’t very fun to walk in by myself at 11 pm on a Saturday night. More on that in the next update.

Until next time.