We’d only been on the Flåm Railway for a few minutes, and I’d already lost count of how many waterfalls we’d passed.
That’s the thing about Norway, particularly the area around the village of Flåm which is so incredibly gorgeous it inspired the popular Disney movie Frozen. The scenery is so dramatic, so vibrant, that at some point it almost becomes overwhelming and you need to actually remind yourself to keep moving, lest you inadvertently find yourself staring in awe at the same mountain peak or lush valley for hours.
The Flåm railway, Flåmsbana
Fortunately on this day we had no choice but to keep going, as we were on what’s considered one of the world’s most spectacular train journeys: the Flam Railway. Stretching for 20 kilometres between the village and Myrdal mountain station, the Flåmsbana climbs an impressive 866 metres in just one hour, treating passengers to breathtaking views of the surrounding Aurlandsfjord, mountains and waterfalls.
The track was constructed in the 1900s as part of the Bergen Railway linking Bergen and Oslo, and includes 20 tunnels—including 18 that were painstakingly excavated by hand. In a true feat of engineering, the Flåm line was laid on steep slopes and sharp bends to navigate the inclines and avoid the risk of avalanches, meaning 80 per cent of the track has an impressive 55 per cent gradient.
Flam to Myrdal
The first leg of the journey was flat as the train pulled away from the Flam train station, and we pressed our faces against the large windows determined not to miss a single moment. We chugged past a steepled church, the Vibmesnosi Mountain, the Rjoande Waterfall with its 140 metre drop and the Berekvam Ravine where we briefly stopped to let a train heading the opposite way pass.
Passengers freely moved around the train car, jumping from side to side hoping for the best vantage point, excitedly calling out when a twisting river bend or snow-capped mountain peak was particularly scenic. Little did we know all that still couldn’t compete with what we were about to find on our first stop.
The Kjosfossen Waterfall
As we made our way through a dark tunnel, the engines suddenly slowed, and the conductor’s voice came over the loudspeaker instructing us that we could get off. As we emerged out the other side of the tunnel, we were greeted with the roar of water.
We found ourselves standing in front of the thundering Kjosfossen Waterfall which has a free fall of 93 metres from the Reining Lake, its power so great that the mist floated over us despite being set a fair way back from the track.
The whole crowd watched, spellbound, as a woman in a flowing red dress stood on a great boulder beside the falls and began to sing:
Flam to Myrdal train station
I could have stayed there for hours soaking in the enchanting scene, but as the Flamsbana train has a tight schedule to keep we were ushered back on board about 10 minutes later, wiping away the dew-like spray as we revelled in the experience. In what felt like no time at all, we suddenly found ourselves pulling into tiny Myrdal train station, which was to be our final stop of the day.
Fun things to do in Flam: Cycling along the Flåmsbana
While many guests simply do a round-trip journey or continue past Myrdal to explore areas like Voss, we had a more adventurous route planned to get back to Flåm: cycling all the way down. We’d rented bikes back in town, and they’d already been unloaded onto the platform as we stepped off the train. It slowly pulled away, leaving just us and our bicycles alone at the top of the mountain.
There was, however, a hotel just over the ridge, and I’d been tipped off that it was one of the best spots in the area to try a famous heart-shaped waffle which are a traditional treat in Scandinavia.
Never one to turn down sweets, we headed into Vatnahalsen Hoyfjellshotell and sipped tea while savouring the desserts topped with strawberry jam and dollops of sour cream—the perfect snack to fuel us up before hopping on our bikes and hitting the trail. We had no way to know what it had in store for us.
RELATED: A complete list of hotels in Flam
Arriving at the top of the trailhead known as Myrdalssvingene, I gasped as I saw what stood between us and the bottom of the hill. There were nearly two dozen hairpin turns, covered in gravel and framed by steep cliffsides, waterfalls and snow. Sure it was scenic, but it wasn’t going to be easy!
With a mix of wonder, excitement and trepidation, we firmly fastened our helmets then slowly set off down the road, hands clutching the brakes with a death-grip. It was a delicate balance of trying to enjoy the incredible, untouched scenery, while also not inadvertently tumbling off the side of the mountain. It meant going at a snail’s pace, stopping often to take photos in front of yet another waterfall, and relishing in the fact that we had the entire mountain valley to ourselves.
Simply phenomenal, and definitely one of the most memorable things to do in Flåm.
Cycling to Flam
Once we finally made it through the switchbacks, it was smooth sailing all the way down for the rest of the afternoon as we cycled back along the Flamsbana railway route. We navigated tiny bridges built over gushing rapids, inhaled the sweet smell of blooming lilacs, rode through forested laneways and heard birds harmonizing with the symphony of surrounding waterfalls. We were tracing the same path we’d taken on the train up, but this time had the luxury of stopping whenever we wanted to soak in our surroundings.
As we neared Flåm, a trip of mountain goats trotted along the road in front of us, bleating as more of the animals emerged from behind shrubs dotting the cliffside to join the herd. They paid no attention to us as we cycled between them, and eventually turned off the path and disappeared over a ridge, heading back home to their dairy farm. Just another day in the Norwegian countryside.
We pulled back into the village late that afternoon, as the sun shone over the colourful wooden buildings lining the harbour creating sparkling reflections off the emerald water. Though only a few hours had passed, it felt like we’d experienced a lifetime of adventure—and immediately wanted to do it all over again.
How to book Flam Railway tickets online
Flam train tickets can be purchased online or at the train station in Flåm. Advance reservations are recommended, as the tiny village is a popular spot for day-trippers, welcoming an estimated one million visitors per year—not bad for a town of 400 people!
The easiest way to explore is by booking the Flam railway from cruise ship excursion, if you’re visiting as part of a trip with a company like Viking Cruises or Celebrity Cruises. Otherwise, you’ll have to get to Flam yourself, or book a pricey day trip from Bergen or Oslo:
If you have a full day in Flåm, it’s possible to enjoy a fjord safari in the morning and do the railway/cycling trip in the afternoon.
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This article was originally published in August 2016 and updated in September 2020
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Globe Guide explored Flåm in collaboration with Viking Cruises and Visit Norway. As always, hosts have no editorial influence over articles.