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Are Balestrand and Rauma Railway worth cutting elsewhere?

Hi Fellow Travelers!

Our family is visiting Norway and flying into Bergen. After two nights there, I was thinking of taking a cruise to Balestrand, staying there two nights then continuing to Oslo via Flam and Myrdal. But by doing this we’d miss out on the train ride from Bergen to Voss and the Naeroyfjord ferry ride. Are these two legs too spectacular to miss? Should I eliminate the stay in Balestrand and just do a round trip Sognefjord cruise staying a third night in Bergen then doing the Nutshell to Oslo?

One more question—we’re continuing to Helsinki after Oslo and are planning to stay there five nights to see the city and do some day trips. Is the Rauma Railway train ride in Norway from Dombas with an overnight in Andelsnes worth cutting one night from our Finland itinerary?

I’m having such a hard time deciding. Thanks for any advice you can provide!
Mary Ellen

Posted by
6574 posts

It's really hard to give any kind of advice without knowing more about the trip. But yes, the Bergen-Voss train and especially Nærøyfjorden are scenic. Raumabanen is also scenic.

Posted by
197 posts

In 2019, I used the NiN route to go from Bergen to Flam, then took a ferry to Balestrand. After two nights there, I got another ferry back to Flam and continued the NiN journey. All legs of the NiN trip can be booked separately. The train and bus from Bergen to Voss and Voss to Gudvangen were very scenic- especially the bus leg. But the Nærøyfjord ferry was the best part of the whole trip, in my opinion. I don’t know what the cruise from Bergen to Balestrand is actually like, but before deciding on my itinerary I watched a few YouTube videos people posted from that trip. It also looked very scenic, but a whole lot more of the same scenery we saw along the Sognefjord. We opted for the more varied but also more complicated route.

Posted by
27362 posts

I wouldn't do a Sognefjord cruise from Bergen; I'd spend my water time in the narrower parts of the fjord, most definitely taking the Naeroyfjord ferry from Gudvangen to Flam. That's what you don't want to miss, and the bus from Voss (on the main railroad line) down to Gudvangen is also very scenic. I don't think the part of the train line between Bergen and Voss is particularly special; it's the least scenic of the five segments of the (overall extremely worthwhile) Norway in a Nutshell route. So substituting the express boat ride for the train trip between Bergen and Voss wouldn't disturb me. It's the other stuff you're missing that seems (to me) a mistake.

Norway in a Nutshell is one case when the hype is justified. Make substitutions if you have to, but understand that you are probably trading down from a scenic point of view unless you have a lot of time to explore.

I haven't been to Balestrand. I can well believe it's more attractive as a village than Flam (not a high bar), and it's much less touristy. I tried really hard to figure out a way to make it part of my own itinerary in 2022. It's just that Balestrand is inconveniently located on the north side of the Sognefjord while the easy-to-link-together scenic public transportation is on the south side of the fjord. Or rather, Balestrand is much less touristy because it's on the wrong side of the fjord for public-transportation users.

From what I can gather, Balestrand is great if you have time and a rental car, because there are beautiful roads to take advantage of on the north side of the fjord. Buses are so infrequent (sometimes just once a day) that you need a good bit of time if that's how you want to get around; a rental car eliminates what is otherwise a really significant impediment to staying in Balestrand. People who've stayed in Balestrand universally seem to like it, but I only remember one report here by someone who stayed there and traveled around by bus. I think she was there for more than two nights. I'm not disputing that, in isolation, Balestrand is "better" than Flam. However, for most travelers without cars it is quite inconvenient. And Flam is not a bad place; it's just not charming. The little Flamsbana museum is interesting for an hour or so, and I think there are some nice walks possible, heading back away from the fjord.

The Rauma railway is great. There are always a lot more good options than we have time for in Europe. In Norway, especially, I think the issue of balancing city sightseeing and gorgeous rural scenery comes into play. I'm confident you'll enjoy whatever you do (aside from paying for it!).

I like Helsinki a lot. I've spent about 12 nights there in the last two years. But part of that is being absolutely nuts for Art Nouveau architecture (lots of it in Helsinki, which isn't a really old city) and wanting to go to every art museum in town. For a more typical visitor with five nights available, I'd absolutely recommend spending a chunk of time (beyond just daytripping) in Tallinn. For most folks, Tallinn will have more of a "wow" factor than Helsinki. Ferries make the trip easy. Tallinn really needs at least two full days as far as I'm concerned; in addition to the large medieval center, you have the very interesting 20th-century history to explore. I think day tripping to a place like Tallinn is a real shame.

I didn't spend all my Finnish time in Helsinki. There are pleasant places you can day trip to, but in my view they pale beside Helsinki, and there is just no comparison between Tampere/Turku/etc. and Tallinn.

Posted by
9786 posts

I am the one who has gone to Balestrand twice (using public transportation both times) and really loves it. But for your question, given the time you have, I would indeed eliminate Balestrand so you can do the Naerøyfjord, Flamsbana, and Bergen-Voss train (or whichever parts of NIN you want to do).

Posted by
197 posts

Just to follow up acraven’s post, for our stay in Balestrand we stayed in Balestrand and area. We had no car and used no busses, but enjoyed a couple of hikes in the hills overlooking the fjords. There are very few places to see in the town itself, aside from the stave church, but it is a beautiful place to do nothing.
Also, I mentioned that we went for the “more complicated route”. Here is a cut and paste of the relevant portion of our itinerary from that trip, to give you an idea of transportation connections. Other than the Flam-Balestrand-Flam diversion, the rest of the travel was by NiN, so if one leg was late the next would wait. Note that we were there at the beginning of July, so the sun set very late.

Mon. July 1
8:39 am – Bergen railway- train to Voss; arrives 9:53 am
10:10 am – Voss-Gundvangen bus; arrives 11:20 am
11:30 am – Gundvangen – Flam boat; arrives 1:30 pm
3:30 pm – Norled ferry – Flam to Balestrand; arrives 4:55
Check in at Balestrand Hotel

Tues. July 2
Free time in Balestrand- hiking, kayaking possible.

Wed. July 3
8:30 am – Balestrand to Flam Express ferry; arrives 10:30 am
12:20 pm – Flam Railway to Myrdal – arrives 1:15 pm
2:06 pm – Bergen railway Myrdal to Oslo – arrives 7:05 pm