Working on a cruise ship has its advantages, including the chance to visit ports of call in many of the world’s most beautiful destinations. Even so, guest contributor Maxine Steinmetz was unprepared for just how special Norway's Flamsbana rail journey would be...
It was never on my bucket list; it was purely the luck of the draw.
My job on a cruise ship took me to many beautiful parts of the world, but today would be the day I would put a train journey to the idyllic village of Flaam in Norway at the top of my list of the world’s must-see destinations. If you are lucky enough to be visiting the region, here are some tips for taking Norway’s Flamsbana railway.
It is early morning and I stumble out onto the deck of the ship to join a guest shore excursion. Sky-scraping cliffs surround the vessel. They are so high that clouds cover their peaks. A thin waterfall trickles down to the village of Flaam. I am told around 350 people live here. This is where we will start our tour to Voss, then on to Myrdal, where we will board the Flamsbana train back to Flaam.
We make our way by bus through the beautiful fjords. Our guide tells us that they were formed after the last ice age. They were created when water from glaciers and rivers carved through the solid mountain rock. Once the ice receded, the land was transformed.
Our first stop is the Tvinde Waterfall. There’s only enough time for a quick snap and a taste of the fresh running water. Yum! So pure and refreshing. We are quickly swept on to more refreshments at the Stalheim Hotel. The journey to the hotel is up Norway’s steepest road, which includes 13 hairpin bends surrounded by gushing waterfalls. I don’t envy the bus driver! The view from the hotel’s garden is absolutely magical to say the least.
It’s now midday and we have made our way to Voss where we have some free time. I would recommend a stroll around Lake Vangsvatnet and a visit to Voss Church — a stone church built in 1277. Both are within walking distance.
Travel tip: Not all locals in the smaller villages of Norway can speak English well, as I learnt on this tour. I visited a convenience store and asked for milk, only to later discover I was sold thick cream in a milk-like carton. Unfortunately cereal was off the menu the next morning!
Late afternoon comes and we arrive in Myrdal via the Bergen Railway. The brisk air is welcome on my face, but I zip up my heavy coat and cover my head with the hood. We cross to another platform and admire the vintage British-green carriages of the famous Flamsbana. My admiration is quickly re-focused as the group rushes to the opening doors. Everyone wants the best seats in the house! Luckily I get on mid-group to find they are all two seaters. Phew!
And so we begin the one-hour journey through the magnificent fjords of Norway. We pass by steep cliffs, sparkling waterfalls, icy mountains and fog dancing on the rivers below. We are 3000 feet above sea level here. Am I in heaven?
The train stops at Kjosfossen Waterfall. I hop off onto a wooden platform and am immediately sprayed in mist – the water is literally gushing under the platform. All of a sudden a lady dressed in red appears next to the water and begins to sing a harrowing sort of melody. How dangerously beautiful! Later I would learn that she was singing a tale from Norse mythology.
With everyone back on board, the train continues its journey down the spectacular valley towards Flaam. This is a day I will never forget. The Flamsbana Norway is one of the most breathtaking rail trips in the world — and one that must be experienced to be believed!
Do you have any tips for taking Norway’s Flamsbana railway? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Maxine Steinmetz was born and raised on the Gold Coast and now works as a radio journalist for Southern Cross Austereo on the Goldie. Maxine previously worked for Princess Cruise Lines, which took her far and wide — across Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. A true adventurer who loves to get off the beaten track, Maxine has also backpacked through Western Europe, and at the age of just 13, took the opportunity to study French as an exchange student in Tahiti. Wanderlust runs deep in her veins!