Mountain landscapes so beautiful they border on the preposterous, mint-green streams opening up into crystalline fjords – make no mistake, Norway’s southwestern coast would be a frontrunner in any international beauty contest. Start at Unesco-protected Bergen and work your way inland via fjord ferry, mountain train and bike.
Flåm Railway, between the Myrdal mountain station to Flåm, is a
precipitously steep, winding route through deep ravines, huge waterfalls
(including one where ‘wood nymphs’ pop up to sing a siren song to passengers)
and gravity-defying mountain farms (flaamsbana.no;
An architectural masterpiece, the wooden Stegastein
viewpoint rolls out to Sognefjord and back, allowing staggering views of tiny
white ferries sailing across the midnight-blue waters. It’s one of 18
viewpoints to be found along the Aurlandsfjord route (turistveg.no/en/aurlandsfjellet/stegastein).
Norway’s not short of great hiking routes, but the journey
up the Nigardsbreen glacier stands out. Roped together with 15 others, giant
crampons on your feet, the guided path up the blue phosphorescent ice is a
chilly and unforgettable experience (jostedal.com;
Burned down by musician Varg Vikernes in 1992, the A-framed
roofs and carvings of the restored Fantoft Stave Church are stirring examples
of early Scandinavian Christian craftsmanship (fantoftstavkirke.com).
The pastel palette of Bryggen’s wooden wharf houses in
Bergen easily justifies their Unesco status. Shops, restaurants and cafés crowd
into narrow wooden streets while buildings – some dating back to the 15th
century – lean haphazardly against each other like drunks at closing time (visitbryggen.no).
Eat and drink
A Sixties-style coffee shop, Vågen Fetevare is filled with original furniture
and fittings. The coffee is artisan and excellent, and the café itself is the
most effortlessly cool hangout in Bergen’s wharf area (00 47 55 31 04 64;
coffee from £2).
Take the funicular up to the top of Mount Fløyen – here,
Fløien Folkerestaurant has fantastic views across the city to the sea. The
food’s not bad either, with fish one of its specialities (00 47 55 33 69 99; dehistoriske.com/restaurant/floien-folkerestaurant;
mains from £15).
Take a dramatic cable car ride up Mount Ulriken to find the
sky:skraper restaurant, perched 643 metres above sea level. It can get pretty
windy up there – but when you consider its excellent steaks and panoramic
views, it’s well worth the messed up hair (00 47 55 32 04 04; ulriken643.no; mains from £20).
With a prime location in the Bryggen wharf overlooking the
harbour, Enhjørningen serves wonderfully prepared locally caught fish, such as
angler or Arctic char, in an endearingly tumbledown and historic setting (enhjorningen.no; 00 47 55 30 69 55; mains
Fretheim hotel not only hires out bikes for the beautiful
downhill ride from Berekvam Station (halfway along the Flåm Railway route) to
Flåm itself, but also provides reindeer kebabs at the bottom. The restaurant
serves its own cured meats too (00 47 57 63 63 00; fretheim-hotel.no; mains from £25).
The eight rooms at the welcoming, family-run Skansen Pensjonat are light, airy
and homely. A great location next to the Bergen funicular means that most rooms
have lovely views over the city, while the breakfast platter of meats, cheese
and eggs is enough to keep you full until dinner (00 47 55 31 90 80; skansen-pensjonat.no; from £79).
Balestrand is a small town in the middle of Sognefjord,
reachable by ferry from Bergen or Flåm. Kviknes Hotel is the leading hotel in
town, dating back to 1752. The rooms are modern and the views from the
balconies in the older block are nothing short of incredible (00 47 57 69 42
00; kviknes.no; from £123).
Opened in 1928, Bergen’s central Hotel Grand Terminus retains
its period grandeur and has architectural awards. The hotel has a huge
wood-lined dining hall and exhaustively-stocked whisky bar. Rooms, although
comfortable rather than spectacular, are gradually being restored to their
former glory (00 47 55 21 25 27; ght.no; from
Arguably Norway’s most spectacularly located hotel, Stalheim
Hotel looks over a steep-sided valley near the town of Voss. The rooms are
large, and around half have glorious views – room 324, in particular (00 47 56
52 01 22; stalheim.com; May-Sep; from
Half an hour’s drive from Nigardsbreen glacier stands Tørvis
Hotel, an excellent fjord-side country house with a superb restaurant and
free-tohire sports equipment – should you fancy kayaking on the fjord or a bike
ride around the nearby mountains. It’s worth breaking the budget for (00 47 57
68 35 00; torvis.no; from £199).
Bergen is easily walkable and the funicular takes you to the top of the
mountain of Fløyen (floibanen.com;
£7). You can travel by ferry from Bergen to Balestrand (fjord1. no; £113 return). Car hire
options can be found at the airport.
When to go
May to September is the best time to make the most of its scenery. Days are
long, the weather’s generally mild – although it can be changeable – and some
of the more remote hiking roads don’t open until June.
How to go
Norwegian has frequent direct flights to Bergen from Gatwick (from £93; norwegian.com). Bmi
flies from Heathrow to Bergen direct (from £159; flybmi.com). Internal flights
within the fjord region can be booked through Widerøe (wideroe.no). From Bergen, take the train to Oslo
through the fjords (from £23; nsb.no).
The article 'Mini guide to Bergen and the Fjords, Norway' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.