One of the world’s steepest and most beautiful scenic train rides.
At the risk of sounding like the obsessive science guy from the Big Bang Theory TV series, but “I like trains”. They’re a comfortable and sustainable way to get around and unlike buses on boring highways, they often run through the most gorgeous scenery imaginable. Well, one such train ride is the Flåm railway in Norway, a 20 kilometre line with 20 tunnels through the mountains and deep into the Sognefjord.
The railway was built in the 1920s to connect the Sognefjord and its villages with the Bergen – Oslo line and allow the transportation of mail and goods. Sognefjord is one of the longest and deepest fjords in Norway, over 160 kilometres in length, and the mountains around it are really steep, so the Flåm railway was quite a feat of engineering back then and it took 20 years to finish. The trains climb up about 1 metre of altitude per 18 metres of track (a crazy 5.5% gradient) over rugged mountain terrain and there’s a beautiful clear blue river with multiple waterfalls running along the track for most of the way, so the views over the Flåm valley are absolutely stunning and my photos don’t do them justice.
THe Flåm RAILWAY VIEWS THROUGH THE WINDOW
Nowadays the Flåm railway is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Norway and you can take a green vintage train for the round trip from Myrdal station, located 867 metres above sea level, to the Flåm village at sea level in the fjord. At this point it feels more like an amusement park ride than a real train ride and you should expect it to be packed with tourists, but I still loved it. There’s a short photo stop at the Kjosfossen waterfall where you can go out to the platform and enjoy a surprise performance by the mythological huldra, a singing forest spirit. The performance is a nice touch and the waterfall is impressive – there is so much water that the whole platform is permanently shrouded in a fine water mist and it is kind of funny to watch people running around trying to protect their photo equipment while taking the best selfie possible in the allotted 5 minutes.
THE Kjossfossen Waterfall
The Flåm train ride takes about 1 hour one way and you can combine it with the regular trains on the Bergen – Oslo line, which connects at Myrdal. You can find the tickets, prices and all the current information here. I was travelling from Oslo to Bergen at the time in 2019, because that train line is also known for its beautiful scenery and deserves its own blog post, and for me half a day to visit Flåm before moving forward was more than enough. Alternatively, you could visit Flåm via the old supply road between Flinse and Flåm, which is now a popular cycling path (see details here), or with one of the fjord cruises by sea.
I found that there’s a certain duality to Flåm – on the one hand, there’s the ultra touristy, super busy cruise ship port by the sea, with shops and even a fancy Ægir microbrewery with hundreds of visitors streaming in and out every day; while on the other hand you can walk further inland towards the old, peaceful and half-forgotten Flåm village with idyllic traditional farmhouses. Walking from the Flåm beach at the port to the old village will take you about 50 minutes along the river and you can see and hike up to the Brekkefossen waterfall on the way. I encountered a lot of cute fluffy brown cows and there’s an old wooden church with a small graveyard, which was built in 1667 and is well worth taking a look. You can also rent a car at the port instead of walking, which apparently most people do, but for me the walk was part of the scenic experience and it is an easy one.