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need help on reverse Nutshell with family of 11

Hi.
Our family of 6 adults and 5 kids ages 17-10 are traveling from Bergen to Oslo in late June. We are trying to make sense of the various ways to do the Nutshell. We have 2 nights free for that portion of the trip. We had thought of staying 2 nights in Flam but some posts have thought that was too long. We are trying to cut down on only one night stays just for convenience. Would it be better to stay in Baelstrand the two nights or suck it up and do one night there and one night Flam. Most of our group would enjoy kayaking, hiking. Also, is it worth it to arrange to do the Flamsbana downhill, as the most direct way to Oslo would be uphill. Ideas appreciated. thanks in advance.

Posted by
7440 posts

You can catch the train from Bergen back to Oslo. You'll just be missing a hydrofoil ride up the fijords and the train ride up the mountain on the Flam Railroad (my favorite part).

Contact the outfit marketing the Norway in a Nutshell and schedule the trip going east FYI: It's a full day trip.

Posted by
1717 posts

I agree with prior post to contact the NIN people to arrange - though you can do this on your own, it would likely just be simpler for you. You can book accommodations through them as well, or at least get an idea of where they suggest staying. That's a big group to get accommodations for in late June (beginning of busy season) and Flam isn't a large town - you may have the decision made for you just based on availability.

Posted by
22581 posts

You didn't mention cars, so I assume you plan to do this via public transportation. If I'm mistaken, please say so at once so folks with driving experience in that area can help you.

I will be in that area just before you are. I can't tell you what you should do, but perhaps this logistical information will be helpful. With 11 people, you may have really serious problems finding a place (or two) to stay, so I recommend looking at lodging availability before you get too mired in other aspects of your planning. It may well be that you can only find the space you need in one place, which would at least simplify your decision-making.

Fast boat Bergen to Balestrand (3 hr 55 min or 4 hr) and Flam (5 hr 40 min or 5 hr 25 min).
Departures Sun-Fri at 8 AM and 4:30 PM, Sat at 8 AM and 2:15 PM. Second departures don't go all the way to Flam, terminating at Sogndal.
I don't recommend this between Bergen and Balestrand; reports are that most of the trip is through wide-open water so not especially scenic. This is your fastest option between Balestrand and Flam (1 hr 20 min to 1 hr 45 min); buses take longer and require a connection. https://www.norled.no/globalassets/hurtigbat-priser-og-ruter/2022bergen---sogn---flam---bergen2.pdf

Note that there's just one boat a day between Flam and Balestrand in each direction.

Train Bergen to Voss (1 hr 6 min to 1 hr 20 min), Myrdal (1 hr 48 min to 2 hr 24 min) and on to Oslo.
On the random weekday I searched (Wed, June 22) there were departures at 5:30 (Voss only), 6:19, 6:55 (Voss only) 7:21, 8:15, 8:29, 9:28, 10:36, 11:30 plus seven more trains departing in the afternoon and evening.
Look up schedules here: https://www.vy.no/en

Voss and Myrdal are not that far apart. I'd think (without looking at detailed schedules) you could go from Bergen to Myrdal and do the fjord loop in the same direction as people traveling from Oslo, taking the Flamsbana downhill, meaning you'd travel Bergen-(passing thru Voss)-Myrdal-Flam-Gudvangen-Voss-Oslo. (I have no idea whether that makes a difference in the scenery.) You'd cover the Voss-Myrdal section twice. VY.no will sell you a through-ticket to Flam if you search for Bergen-to-Flam ticket; having that Flamsbana ticket ahead of time could be critical. Departures with that connection are listed at 6:19 (sold out on June 22), 8:15, 8:29, 9:28, 11:30. However, I see that there are some very, very tight connections in Myrdal when you travel in this direction.

For the standard trip Bergen-Voss-Gudvangen-Flam-Oslo, you'd be starting your final leg in Flam. VY.no will sell you a ticket from Flam to Oslo (5 hr 47 min to 7 hr 35 min), including the Flamsbana. Departures (June 22) are at 9:00 AM, 10:15 AM, 2:10 PM, 4:40 PM, 5:50 PM and 7:25 PM.

Passenger ferries Gudvangen-to-Flam take 2 hours. The Fjord1 boats run only twice a day, departing from Gudvangen at 12:00 and 5:50 PM and from Flam at 9:30 AM and 3:20 PM. The older boats (quite possibly cheaper) are operated by Lustrabatane. Its boats depart from both Gudvangen and Flam at 9:00 AM, 1:45 PM and 4 PM.
NorwaysBest sells tickets on the Fjord1 boats: https://www.norwaysbest.com/things-to-do/fjords/fjord-cruise-naeroyfjord/
Lustrabatane: https://www.lustrabaatane.no/flmgudvangen (Right-click and choose "Translate to English".)

Should you need it, there is bus service between Gudvangen and Flam. The trip takes 20 minutes. Buses depart from Gudvangen at 12:00, 1:30, 5:30 and 6:30 PM and from Flam at 11 AM, 1 PM, 5 PM and 6 PM.
https://www.norwaysbest.

Posted by
55 posts

Thanks you for those who responded. A major question is opinions as to whether it is significantly more scenic to do the Flamsbanna downhill from Myrdal? If so, we have to do some backtracking as our full trip is West from Bergen to Oslo.
Also, we are trying to decide between the regular Norway Nutshell tour which involves a bus part way from Voss to Gundvagen, or the Sognefjord Nutshell which does not involve a bus. Any opinions as to the more scenic/ enjoyable?

Posted by
22581 posts

I'm worried about your accommodations. I'd suggest both checking booking.com and going to Google Maps and zooming in on Flam and Balestrand to see what's available. Not all the places on Google Maps are listed on booking.com; for the ones that are not, you should be able to find their direct websites or a booking platform that handles them. You may need to go farther and check things like Airbnb and VRBO.

In case it's helpful, these are the places I uncovered on booking.com and Google Maps. There may be others; I'm not a high-end traveler, so I might have omitted a super-expensive place from my list; you should do your own checking to be sure I haven't overlooked something that would be good for you.

I've included some hostels. Sometimes hostels have private rooms, though they will be basic. Some of these places have some rooms that do not have private baths. Be careful as you book.

Flam:
Flam Ferdaminne
HI Hostel
Flam Camping and Hostel
Fretheim Hotel
Flam Marina and Apartments
Heimly Pensjonat
Brekke Gard Apartments and Hostel
Flamsbrygga Hotel

Balestrand:
Balestrand Hotel
Midtenes Hotel
Villa Holmen
Balestrand Fjord Apartments
Kringsja Hotell
Kviknes Hotel (this might be cheaper booked as part of a Norway-in-a-Nutshell package)

Other places that might be workable include Voss, Gudvangen and Aurland. Aurland is quite near Flam. Voss/Vossevangen is not on a fjord, but it's a popular destination for outdoor activities, and it seems to have a lot of lodging options. It may be easier to find a place to stay here than elsewhere. However, Voss is really quite close to Bergen, so I don't think you benefit greatly by spending a night or two here unless you want to take advantage of Voss-based activities--which it appears that you might.

Voss (Vossevangen):
Park Hotel Vossevangen
Scandic Voss
Fleischer's Motel
Fleischer's Hotel
Voss Hostel
Voss Apartments
Pensonjat
Voss Vandrarheim Hostel

Gudvangen:
Gudvangen Budget Hotel
Gudvangen Fjordtell

Aurland:
Vangsgaarden Gjestgiveri
Hotel Aurlandsfjord
Aurland Fjordhytter
Winjum Hytter

I apologize for any misspellings, as well as for the missing diacritical marks.

Posted by
22581 posts

I have read that the Voss-Gudvangen bus is really scenic. There are two routes. You want to take the #950, the more scenic one. I see that I left that bus schedule out of my original post; there's not room to add it, so here's the information:

The Skyss bus from Voss to Gudvangen departs at 10:10 AM, 2:30 or 2:45 PM, 3:50 PM (school days only) and 4:10 PM. The duration of the trip varies from 50 min to 1 hr. Return trips from Gudvangen depart at 7:15 AM (school days only), 11:40 AM, 2:50 PM and 5:45 PM.

Somewhere I got the impression there's also taxi service ($$$ I assume) between Voss and Gudvangen.

I haven't seen particularly positive comments about that long express-boat trip between Bergen and Balestrand. It's a lot of time on open water, from what I gather.

If you do the Sognefjord-in-a-Nutshell trip as officially laid out, with no modifications, you'll miss out on the Naeroyfjord (where Gudvangen is positioned) entirely, which sounds as if it has the best fjord scenery in the area, even better that the Aurlandsfjord where Flam is located.

It is awkward to incorporate the Flam-Gudvangen passenger ferry (half of which covers the Naeroyfjord) in your itinerary when you're staying in Balestrand. I couldn't figure out a way to do it because transportation from Balestrand to Flam is infrequent by both boat and bus. That is why I decided not to stay in Balestrand even though it sounds considerably more pleasant than Flam. With the awkwardness of the transportation to and from Balestrand (given that I didn't want to take the express boat between Balestrand and Bergen), it didn't make sense to me to go there just for one night and then move to Flam to facilitate seeing the Naeroyfjord. As I mentioned in my first post, all of the transportation links are expensive. The inconveniently-scheduled, once-a-day express boat between Balestrand and Flam costs NOK 320 one-way (about $36 US). The convoluted and slow bus routing, requiring a change at Sogndal Skysstasjon, costs NOK 193 one-way (about $22 US).

In summary, it seems to me that from a practical standpoint, if you don't have a car, you have to choose between the nicer environment of Balestrand and seeing the Naeroyfjord.

Posted by
1717 posts

I did the uphill Flamsbana train - so I can't tell you if it's more scenic going downhill, but you will pass the same scenery going up or down :) IMHO it would not be worth doing significant backtracking just to ride the train down hill but perhaps someone else will weigh in on that. The bus ride from Voss to Gudvangen was quite the experience - very steep roads and lots of narrow switchbacks - a stunning view at every turn (here's a video that captures the essence).

Posted by
22581 posts

I think you're going to need dinner reservations, too. Probably a good idea even for smaller groups.

I think working through the Norway in a Nutshell folks would be a great idea at this point. It will probably cost more, but maybe some parts of the trip will have a discount for groups of 10 or more that will defray some of NiN's fee.

Posted by
8163 posts

A major question is opinions as to whether it is significantly more scenic to do the Flamsbanna downhill from Myrdal?

No. The scenery is the same going up or down, and equally beautiful in either way. (I did both ways last August).

You do not need to arrange your trip to go both up and down. One direction is fine. And the view is beautiful from both sides of the train, whichever way you are going. At some points you will wish you were seated on the other side; and at some points you'll be pleased to be on your side.

Posted by
3999 posts

Regarding kayaking there are several companies in the area that rents out kayaks. Although you probably have to take a guided tour, most companies won't allow you out on your own unless you have a certificate (våttkort) to prove that you know what you are doing.

Posted by
55 posts

Thanks again for all the helpful responses. As several posts pointed out, good accommodations in Flam are gone, but I did manage to snag reservations at an apartment place about a half mile out of Flam. As we don’t plan on a car, the walk will be a nuisance but I decided worth it as there is more to do there than in Balestrand. Meanwhile I will watch for last minute cancellations there.
Does anyone know if there are any short haul type transportation services in Flam that could get us to the apartments? If so, there is a glamping type accommodation about 4 miles away which would be fun if we could get out there. Short of renting a car in Flam.
Also, I am trying to figure out that if we buy the NIN tickets from Fjord Tours for the Bergen Oslo route, do you have actual reservations on each leg of the journey, especially since we are stopping off for 2 nights in Flam. I heard sometimes the Flamsbanna portion sells out for a given time, so how are you assured a seat by NIN?

Posted by
22581 posts

I'm doing my own bookings, but I'd be inclined to trust the NiN package folks to tell you the truth about what parts of the transportation you have guaranteed seats on.

The Norwegian railways folks will sell a through-ticket to Flam (from Bergen or Oslo) or from Flam (to Bergen or Oslo). Seats are always required on the mainline train, as I understand it. So I assume that's what the NiN people include in their packages. That covers three segments of the trip. Now, your group is large enough that you should discuss ahead of time the possibility you'll need to split up between two carriages on the train. And be sure you don't get on one of the cars reserved for tour groups (unless the NiN people say you're entitled to do that).

You can buy tickets online for specific sailings of the passenger ferry between Gudvangen and Flam, which I assume guarantees a seat. I don't see any reason why your NiN tickets would be any different. That's the fourth segment.

The one part of the trip that doesn't come with a seat guarantee is the bus between Voss and Gudvangen or vice versa. The notes I've put together after laborious research indicate that the 950 bus is not reservable; the express bus that takes a less scenic route apparently is reservable, but you don't want that. For the 950 bus you pay the driver. Recently I read (somewhere...) a suggestion that you probably can buy a ticket for the Voss-Gudvangen bus locally, but you still wouldn't have a seat reservation, so there's really no point. It makes me a bit nervous, too, but I think a lot of the folks taking the NiN transportation are not like us--coming in from the cities. They have arrived in Flam on a big cruise ship, and a good number of them seem to just take the train up and back down again. Some of the others will not understand the critical difference between the scenic slow bus and the less scenic express bus, so they may opt for the express bus. Therefore, I'm hoping we won't have too much competition where that bus is concerned. I've read literally every post on this forum about Norway going back for many, many years (as far back as I could find posts), and I have seen not one report about not being able to get on that bus.

I don't know for sure that there is any sort of taxi service around Flam, but it seems like a great money-making opportunity. I'd try Googling. But that would not be an efficient way to move your group any distance at all, since a single taxi would need to make at least 3 trips.

Posted by
55 posts

Now I am looking at things to do in Flam for our fairly active family group. We looked at the 3 hour Kayak trip by Fjord tours. Anyone have a review of that? As our full day in Flam on June 23 looks to be very booked up, we think we should reserve some activity’s head of time. We will be there as a Nutshell tour stopover, so no need to repeat any Nutshell offerings.

Posted by
104 posts

I did buy my own tickets individually online for NIN for mid-June (for all but the bus, which as someone else mentioned can't be done in advance), rather than for the package, because we are staying overnight in Flaam. I did it in advance because I didn't want to take the chance that something might be sold out, though I expect that would be unusual if it happened, and it because it just seemed convenient to do it now (I am a planner type).

It was extremely easy to purchase the train tickets from the vy.no website and the fjord cruise tickets from the norwaysbest.com web site, and on the leg from Bergen to Voss, was even able to choose the seats.

Posted by
3999 posts

Does anyone know if there are any short haul type transportation
services in Flam that could get us to the apartments? If so, there is
a glamping type accommodation about 4 miles away which would be fun if
we could get out there.

If you tell us where the "glamping type accommodation" is, we might be able to help you. But in general, yes, there are buses in the area.

Posted by
55 posts

I can't now locate the camping in a yurt link I had found several miles from Flam, but anyway we decided to book an accommodation in Flam.