04 Sep Fjord Cruise and Hike Through the Flåm Valley
The Fjord Cruise:
Exploring the fjords is a must do when visiting Norway. Everyone should experience the fjords in one way or another; while kayaking through the fjord waters is at the top of our list for when we return to Norway, we recently decided to take a short cruise on the ferry. We desperately needed to relax at this point in our journey, and getting out on the water was a perfect way to do so.
Our journey started at the docks of Flåm, Norway. We purchased tickets at the tourist office and boarded the ferry to start our cruise along the Sognefjord.
It looked as though the ferry could accommodate cars on the bottom level and passengers were directed up to the upper levels. Passengers have the choice to sit inside a glass covered area or out along the edges of the boat to get an even better view.
The Sognefjord is quite the sight to behold–it is the largest fjord in Norway, reaching depths of 1,308 meters and stretching 205 kilometers long. Combine that with the surrounding mountains reaching heights of 2,000 meters and you are sure to witness beauty at every turn.
The ferry makes several stops at small towns along the fjord, but the typical route most passengers take is from Flåm to Gudvangen where they then board a bus to head back to Flåm or continue onto Bergen along the Norway in a Nutshell tour. Because we wanted to incorporate a little hiking into our day and we were a tad short on time, we decided to take the ferry to Aurland (the next town down the fjord from Flåm) and then hike back to our hotel. As we took the cruise on a Sunday morning, there really wasn’t anything besides the grocery store open. I would have liked to see the local handicrafts in the Aurland stores, but since the town was quiet, we decided to start our hike back to Flåm.
Note: If you do get off the boat at Aurland like we did, make sure you are ready to jump off the boat when they dock. The boat was only at the dock for 30 seconds max and they started pulling away before we even realized what had happened! I think we got the ticket operator in trouble because he didn’t realize our tickets were only taking us to the next town and they almost didn’t let us get off, but thankfully they begrudgingly turned the boat around. After thinking about it some, we should have just stayed on the boat; we would have been able to travel farther down the fjord without paying any extra!
We grabbed a hiking map from the Flåm tourist office; there is a trail that starts just outside of Aurland, and leads you up through the mountains and back into Flåm. Our plan was to hike this trail, but take note, the start of the path is not easy to find. We must have walked right past it, and due to time constraints, we decided to just keep walking along the side of the road. This 11 kilometer path is not the best for hiking–the winding mountain roads with practically no shoulder and a drop off into the fjord on the other side of the railing, don’t lend too well to hiking.
We started out hiking on the side of the road, but after a few tense situations with cars way too close for comfort, we realized that maybe walking on the other side of the railing, next to the cliff, was surprisingly a bit more comforting. After about 5k, we happened upon a scenic overlook that made a great spot for a relaxing picnic break. The stunning views panning in every direction made this experience stand out as my favorite throughout all of Norway. As I sat there soaking up the gorgeous landscapes that surrounded me, the beauty and peacefulness brought on about an immense amount of joy and relaxation. We snacked on our sandwiches and chips and all too soon it was time to start out on our hike once again.
After the harrowing hike along twisting roads and sheer drop offs, we finally made it to the paved pathway that ran along the fjord. From there on out, the hike was a piece of cake. Along the paved path, we spotted cascading waterfalls and some ancient carvings that originated from the Stone Age around 6,000 years ago. The carvings are a little hard to see, but plaques underneath show details of what the carving is thought to be, the majority of which are animals.
We had a great time during our last day in Flåm, and our plans really did end up working out perfect for us, but I would have to recommend doing a longer fjord cruise if your schedule and budget allow. While we still saw the beauty of the fjord, we really weren’t on the boat very long and it left us wanting much more. The same goes for the hike; we would have enjoyed hiking on more of the actual trails in the mountains, and would recommend taking those trails instead of hiking along the side of the road if at all possible. But, in my eyes, even seeing a little bit of this dramatic scenery is better than not seeing anything at all, so we will just have to put the additional activities on our list for the next time we visit!