I am interested in the train from Bergen to Oslo after a Northern Lights cruise. What is it like in the winter? Should we take two days on the train or one?
Hi jb, we did the same thing in February 2019. Book the train tickets in advance because they sell out. We chose Komfort Plus and were able to select our seats. There was a little table in the middle of 4 seats (we picked the ones facing forward), and free coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. There was also a small snack bar on the train where we purchased sandwiches. The route is supposed to be among the most scenic in Europe and takes about 7 hours.
We stayed for a few nights at the Thon Opera hotel in Oslo, right next to the train station, very convenient (note - we took also took a train to the airport, quick, easy trip). The weather was chilly but not terrible. There wasn’t much snow but it was wet. Highlights were the tours we did of the opera house, the fortress, and the Nobel Peace Museum. There’s plenty to do. Enjoy your trip!
I haven't been to Europe in the winter, much less to Norway, so I have no idea about the weather beyond what I read on the Internet. You can find a weather-summary chart in the Wikipedia entries for Bergen and Oslo. As you can see, Bergen is likely to be considerably warmer than Oslo but is simply a very rainy place all year round. For a better idea of the range of conditions you may experience, I'd check several recent years' worth of data on timeanddate.com. For one thing, the Wikipedia averages are based on a time period that cuts off in 2010.
Many people follow some variation of the Norway in a Nutshell route as they travel between Oslo and Bergen. I think that would be manageable even in February, though some transportation links may run less frequently then, so you'd have to research things carefully. I took the trip going in the opposite direction and in June, so my experience was quite different. These are the basic legs of the trip if starting from Bergen:
- Train Bergen to Voss
- Bus Voss to Gudvangen (scenic)
- Fjord ferry Gudvangen to Flam (highly scenic if weather cooperates)
- Flamsbana train from Flam up to Myrdal (highly scenic if weather cooperates)
- Train Myrdal to Oslo (scenic)
That's a long day even if the transportation links are ideal, which it's possible they would not be in February if departing from Bergen. Another possible issue is that this is an expensive day of transportation even if you book things separately rather than buying a package from NorwaysBest.com at a somewhat higher cost, and if you're really unlucky with the weather you won't see much. It's somewhat of a risk even in mid-summer.
If you decide to break the journey along the way, I think Flam's the best place along the classic NiN route when you only have one night available. I don't know how many of the (limited) lodging places in Flam remain open over the winter. (You can explore options on booking.com but might get better rates by contacting the hotels directly.) It's possible you'd need to book now to get a room. Expect it to be rather costly, as is the case for just about everything in Norway.
There's not a lot to do indoors in that part of Norway, so I'd recommend thinking about how you'd use the extra time if you decide to spend a night in the area. I took a bus over to the Borgund stave church, but I think the direct bus doesn't run in the winter, and it could be a cold and/or wet walk from the winter bus stop to the church, and back, in February. The little museum about the construction of the Flamsbana rail line, located in Flam, is interesting but doesn't take long to see. If the weather is not conducive to enjoying the scenery and you're in Flam overnight, there may not be a lot to do except contemplate how much your hotel room is costing you per hour. Or you could eat (also $$$).
Voss is known as an area with some active-sport options, but I have no idea about those, or what might be available in February. Voss isn't situated on a fjord, so the area's not as picturesque as the area around Flam.
Like in the summer, but more snow. And later sunrise, earlier sunset. So if you want to just take the train from B to O, choose a mid day departure to be able to enjoy the views. But if you have the time, making a stop along the way is not a bad idea. It all depends on what you are looking for and how much time you have. And to be honest, if you want to see the Northern lights, a cruise might be worst option.
Voss is known as an area with some active-sport options, but I have no
idea about those, or what might be available in February.
Why s a cruise bad for Northern Lights… just curious as we are doing it.
Hi again jb, Norway is beautiful any time of the year. We did Viking cruises in July (Midnight Sun) and again the following February (Northern Lights). We did a lot of cool stuff in the winter (dog sledding, ice fishing) but, unfortunately, we didn’t see the Northern Lights. The cruises before and after ours did see them. Some report they saw them from the ship without even going on an excursion. I guess it’s all based on weather conditions and timing. If we were to do it again, we’d arrange private tours (as many as possible) with small shuttle busses that actually chase the lights and stay out very late. Good luck 🍀
Bergen Line railroad across the Hardangervidda during winter is a spectacular experience. NRK video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql2qXpNVTjw
If you want to see the Northern lights you need a clear sky. If it is cloudy it doesn't matter how much the lights are dancing on the sky, you won't be able to see them. The drawback of cruises is that they tend to be on water, meaning in areas with a lot of moisture in the air and a high risk of clouds. The Norwegian coast is also on the windward side of the Scandinavian mountains meaning an additional factor that results in more clouds. And while cruise ships are mobile, they are usually slow compared to transportation on land, and while you can climb up on the top deck, the ship itself will always be at sea level.
My recommendation for seeing the lights in northern Europe is to stay on land, on the leeward side of the mountains.