Flåm is a small village of less than 500 people, tucked away, and indeed hemmed in on three sides by mountains, at the head of the Aurlandsfjord, which, itself, is tucked away deep in the Sognefjord, Norway.
What makes Flåm stand out and what thus attracts visitors is the stunning mountainous terrain that surrounds it. A terrain that is riddled with high snow-capped mountains, glaciers, mountain rivers and streams, thundering waterfalls, beautiful valleys and the cutest of villages you will see anywhere. This is outdoor touring country at its best.
What makes Flåm different from other villages in the area is that from here you can see all off the above with relative ease via a railway line, the Flåmsbana (Flåm Railway) an engineering wonder in its own right, via getting out on the tranquil fjord waters or by walking and or cycling. These options are supplemented by bus trips to even more wonderful sites along some of the most amazing roads in Europe and through some of the continents longest tunnels – though to be perfectly honest, Dear Reader, as I must be, you do not see a lot in the tunnels themselves.
Every year tourists from all over the world descend on Flåm in cruise ships, buses, trains and private vehicles. Many of those arriving or departing by road have the option of using the Lærdal Tunnel which, at 24.51kms long, is the longest road tunnel in the world. The downside of using the tunnel is that, unless you are heading back out in the same direction as you came in, and most people do not, you miss much of the beautiful mountainous scenery that is the drawcard of coming here in the first place.
Sadly, only a small minority of visitors stay even one night in Flåm. For most visitors Flåm is a day trip where they come and ‘do’ the Flåm Railway and ‘do’ a cruise on the fjords and then move on to ‘do’ somewhere else.
While the Flåmsbana train and a fjord cruise are the world renowned things to do in Flåm there is more to see and do and, if nothing else, it is actually nice to spend a night here and not be surrounded by the thousands of people that descend on the village daily, between around 9am and 5pm. This is the place to relax. Had it been big in the 1960s (and perhaps it was, I don’t know) people could have come here to exchange flowers and find themselves!
While you can just simply relax, the immediate area offers lots of wonderful walking opportunities ranging from relaxing strolls along the river to strenuous mountain hikes. Also on offer is cycling – particularly from Myrdal (where to Flåmsbana connects with the main Oslo – Bergen Line) down to the village. This is becoming increasingly popular as is kayaking.
You do need to dig a bit but for those who look there are a few things of historical interest, in addition to the train and the Railway Museum. Seek and ye shall find some old 17th century farm buildings and the remains of and old iron-age graveyard. And talking of graveyards, an easy 3.5 kms level walk to Old Flåm and its old church and graveyard were highlights of my visit to Flåm.
Above all else you need time to relax and enjoy a drink and dinner in the Ægir Brewery and Pub.
On the negative side, people say Flåm is very expensive. I absolutely agree that accommodation is more expensive than either Oslo or Bergen (the two other places I spent some time in in Norway) but outside that I found the cost of other things only marginally higher than Oslo or Bergen. While I am never happy paying over the odds for something, I am pleased we overnighted here giving us the best part of two days and, indeed, while I don’t severely regret not spending a further day here to do a bit more walking I sometimes wish I had.
In any event, getting to and leaving Flåm were the highlights of my trip as they are for most people. My journey, starting in Oslo and ending in Bergen, involved using three trains, a boat and a bus.
Do join me, in my upcoming reviews, on my journey from Oslo to Bergen via Myrdal and Flåm and the beautiful Aurlandsfjord and UNESCO listed Nærøyfjord and from there up through the stunning Nærøydalen to re-connect with the mainline train at Voss to complete my journey into Bergen. En-route we will spend a bit of time in, and overnight in, Flåm.
This is the first in a series of reviews on Flåm. For my next review click HERE.