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Fjord-ish Tours

I'm in the midst of planning our trip to Fjord country in late May. Right now, I'm trying to figure out that area covered by the Norway in a Nutshell tours.

I think I've got the big transportation part, Getting train, bus and ferry tickets seems fairly straightforward and doable. Whether we get it packaged as a tour or buy the pieces separately is an analysis that I've yet to do. We have two nights booked in Flam. (And extreme gratitude to those who said, "Just booked it because the town fills fast." Little is available now. ) We're planning nights in Bergen, too.

The whole NIN tour operation seems like a well-oiled machine that accommodates thousands of tourists each day. It would make sense that the add-ons are just as organized and I'm having a hard time visualizing it. I'm accustomed to Mexico or Hawaii where it's relatively easy to walk up to a kiosk or a pier and find somebody who will take you out on boat ride or fishing or a bus tour that day. We particularly want to take a RIB tour of some fjord. I did a zodiac boat tour in Victoria once and it was the highlight of my trip. I'd also like to see a stave church but still thinking about the logistics of that. In Bergen, I've look at fjord biggish boat tours going south. It sounds tempting to book but by that point, will we have seen all the fjords we need to see? What if the weather stinks and we're committed? We're not very good with tours. I hate being too locked in.

Here's my questions:

Is there any benefit to prebooking RIB or other fjord tours via NIN or another operator?

Are there local people who offer the same kind of tours that could be booked while in the town?

Capacity: Do things book up quickly given the sheer numbers passing through?

Does anybody have any recommendations? Is there anything that was really great and not to be missed?

Are there any food tours that are worth it? We did one in Rome and it was a blast!

If there's any other hints or snippets of information that would be helpful, spill...I appreciate all thoughts and advice. Thanks!

Posted by
22998 posts

Comments are based on my experience in June 2022. May is probably less busy, but the various bits of transportation and tours might run less frequently then, and I wouldn't be surprised if tourist demand is still increasing.

The RIBs are small. That's one of the main things I'd worry about selling out. I didn't do that excursion so I don't know anything about getting RIB tickets. Perhaps handles them?

The Naeroyfjord ferry whose tickets are sold by the NorwaysBest website is quite large. I don't know that there's any limit on the number of tickets sold for each sailing.

Tour groups, including those from large cruise ships, do buy blocks of tickets on the Flamsbana, and I think some of those folks ride round-trip. I think you'd probably be OK booking that late, but I cannot guarantee it. How much of a wrinkle would it create in your plans if you had to wait for the next departure?

Tickets on the mainline train between Oslo and Myrdal are cheaper if purchased well in advance. Reserved seats are required, and in theory a train could sell out. I think the latter part of the trip (Voss to Bergen) doesn't have reserved seats or date-sensitive pricing. (I could be mistaken, though.)

The "Visitor Center" in Flam is not a tourist office; it is a ticket-sales agency. Not useful at all if you're looking for information on public buses (they told me there was no bus to the Borgund church) and the like, but for your purposes--on-the-spot purchase of excursion tickets--it could be very useful. Just don't expect disinterested evaluations of various offerings. Those folks are there to earn commissions. I bet they sell tickets for the bus tour to the viewpoint past Aurland (sorry I don't remember the name of it).

I didn't look for or notice signs about small boats that might be available for casual rental. They would be $$$, I imagine.

The Borgund stave church is accessible by public bus from Flam, but I think there's just one bus a day in each direction (a pretty common situation in that area). During the summer you can go right to the church without a change of bus. Off-season (which might include May) you have to transfer and walk a considerable distance (I think at least a mile; that walking time could be an issue, depending on the bus schedule). That is supposed to be one of the very best stave churches in the country, and there's a small stave-church museum in the same building as the ticket counter. The museum looked interesting, but I didn't have time to do more than walk through it because my bus arrived late.

I'm somewhat doubtful about a fjord trip out of Bergen. My fjord experience is limited to the area around Flam and the Geirangerfjord, but my observations were consistent with the advice I found in guidebooks: the narrowest fjords are the most scenic. "Naeroyfjord" means "narrow fjord". The Sognefjord opens up as you approach Bergen; that's why the word is that the express boat from Balestrand to Bergen is not all that scenic much of the way. However, I imagine the fjord trips out of Bergen may go into other fjords. I imagined there is good scenery, but to go from the Naeroyfjord between Flam and Gudvangen to another fjord trip near Bergen just one or two days later might be a bit anticlimactic. I have found that boat trips, however scenic, become less exciting to me after X hours (could be 2 hours, could be 4 hours). YMMV on that score, obviously.

Weather is most definitely a potential issue. The RIBs cost a lot of money per hour; that's something I wouldn't want to book very far ahead of time. If the Flam-Gudvangen (Naeroyfjord) ferry is part of your path from Oslo to Bergen, you may not have a practical choice about its timing, though perhaps you could make use of the Gudvangen-Flam bus to get back to Flam if you decided to do the ferry on Day 1 in the area rather than Day 2.

Norwegian food is expensive and, umm, not the most exciting.

Posted by
4244 posts

I'm accustomed to Mexico or Hawaii where it's relatively easy to walk
up to a kiosk or a pier and find somebody who will take you out on
boat ride or fishing or a bus tour that day.

Don't expect that in Norway. It is a sparsely populated area so unless there is a cruise ship stopping nearby you will not find a lot of people. But there are companies that offer fjord tours of different kinds, from canoes to large ships.

If you want to see a stave church, the easiest is probably to visit Gol stave church in Oslo. But Borgund is also pretty easy to visit by bus from Flåm as mentioned. Assuming the bus stops there in May.

I think the latter part of the trip (Voss to Bergen) doesn't have
reserved seats or date-sensitive pricing. (I could be mistaken,

More or less correct. There are frequent local trains between Voss Bergen that have a fixed price and no reserved seat. But the regular Oslo-Bergen trains also stop in Voss, and on them you can reserve seats.

"Naeroyfjord" means "narrow fjord".

No, the name comes from the god Njord.

Posted by
22998 posts

Oopsie on the name of the fjord. I read that somewhere; it was so believable, it didn't occur to me to seek verification.