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How to do Norway in a Nutshell on Your Own

The gorgeous fjords of Norway

When I first suggested that we visit Norway, Lance was a little dubious. Admittedly, it wasn’t a place that’s been on our radar for years. But, as soon as I showed him photos of the spectacular Norwegian fjords and Bergen’s picturesque old town, no more convincing was needed. We were ready to plan our Norway trip, starting with our own DIY Norway in a Nutshell tour.

Colorful houses dot the sides of a fjord in Norway

What is the Norway in a Nutshell Route?

Norway is 1100 miles long—a huge country with lots of amazing natural features and things to see, and not all of it is easy to reach. Plus, not everyone has weeks of vacation to explore the fjords, islands, villages, and cities. Thus, there is “Norway in a Nutshell”—a route that stretches from Oslo to Bergen that provides a snapshot of some of the gorgeous things Norway is known for.

Along the journey, there are raging waterfalls, colorful fishing cabins, and millennia-old gorges known as fjords that were carved when the Earth was a much younger place. This trip lets you see them all relatively quickly and easily, which is why it’s one of the most popular Norway tourist routes.

Pink houses in the Norwegian countryside

Norway in a Nutshell isn’t actually a guided tour, which is a common misconception. It’s simply a collection of tickets for public transportation that have the visitor go from point A to point B over several different segments and methods of travel. It’s super convenient, but like lots of things in Norway, it can be on the pricier side. For us, there was no reason not to handle the tickets ourselves and save a few dollars to use for our fabulous dog sledding and Northern Lights excursions later in the trip.

The typical route is from Oslo to Bergen. It begins with a train ride from Oslo to Mydral followed by an excursion on the historic Flam railway. In Flam, things get really exciting when you board the ferry for a two-hour ride through the fjords to Gudvangen. From there, a combination of a bus and train take you to Bergen, Norway’s second largest city.

When you plan the tour on your own, you can customize (to a degree) what to see and in what order. Some people do the reverse route from Bergen to Oslo while others do just part of the journey. Many people go all-in and do the full round trip.

Snowy, hilly Norwegian countryside
The route offers ample countryside views

While the itinerary is pretty flexible, it’s also long. We discovered that leaving Oslo shortly after 8am wouldn’t get us into Bergen until about 9:30 that night.

We wanted to see everything possible along the trip without being super exhausted due to jet lag. We also didn’t want to miss the beautiful scenery because the sun had already set. So, we decided to break up the trip with a stop for the night in the harbor village of Flam. If your Norway trip itinerary doesn’t allow that flexibility, you can book everything for the same day.

A boat in the harbor in Flam with a reflection of a mountain in the water
Flam harbor

How to Plan the Tour on Your Own

We started our planning by looking at the Norway in a Nutshell website to get an idea of the timing for each leg of the trip as well as beginning and ending times for the segments. Using that information, we visited the websites for the train, ferry, and bus companies to confirm the schedules and book our own tickets.

Colorful buildings along the Flam railway as seen on a DIY Norway in a Nutshell tour

Oslo to Flam trains

The easiest part to book was the train. The trip from Oslo begins at 8:25am and lasts for 6 hours with a 29-minute stop in Mydral to transfer to the Flam Railway. Seats are reserved until the Myrdal stop, and you can select a seat in advance.

From Myrdal to Flam, you will need to take any seat that’s available. If you book your train tickets particularly early, you can get cheaper “saver” advanced fare tickets. We got pdf tickets, which we printed at home for ease.

Green railway train car (Flamsbana) in the snow
The Flam Railway on a snowy day
People boarding a railway car
Boarding the railway

We found the views to be best on the left side of both trains, but I’m not sure it makes too much difference. On the Flam Railway—one of the highlights of our Norway itinerary—there are no reserved seats and people move back and forth to take photos on both sides of this old-fashioned steam train. No matter where you sit, you will have great views of some of the prettiest landscape in the world.

There are ravines dotted with houses all the colors of the rainbow, vast mountains covered in evergreens, sweeping vistas, and people doing all manner of outdoor activities. It’s an absolutely gorgeous journey as you make your way through 20 tunnels to the village of Flam.

Colorful houses along a river snaking through a valley
A charming valley near Flam
Frozen waterfall
Frozen waterfall

With only 350 residents, the village of Flam regularly fills with many more visitors than people who actually live there. Though there are cycling, hiking, and other outdoor activities when the weather is warmer, it’s a fairly quiet place in mid-winter, and that’s exactly what we were looking for.

After wandering around a bit in the afternoon and trying to take photographs of scenery our cameras couldn’t do justice to, we visited the local craft brewery and restaurant attached to our hotel, Flamsbrygga. Lance tried some of their craft beers and we indulged in food fit for Vikings, which was perfect for the cold winter evening.

Buildings and harbor flanked by a snow-covered mountain
Flam is surrounded by gorgeous mountains
Overhead view of buildings and harbor
The port of Flam

Flam to Gudvangen ferry

The afternoon we arrived in Flam, we made a quick stop at the tourist information center to buy ferry tickets for the Naeroyfjord tour the next morning to complete the next leg of our Norway in a Nutshell DIY trip. In high season, this is definitely something you’ll want to do ahead of time on the Norway’s Best website.

Water and snowy mountains of a fjord
Naeroyfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Colorful buildings along one of the fjords
The fjords are lined with colorful buildings

The Naeroyfjord tour, which goes from Flam to Gudvangen, visits one of the longest and deepest fjords in the world. It’s been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with another Norwegian fjord called Geirangerfjord.

Since we stayed the night in Flam, we got the 9:30am ferry and were able to watch as the sun crawled its way across the sky lighting up the crevices and inlets along our trip. (In the summer, there are more ferry options and the times are different.)

Buildings on a hillside near the water

The scenery along the two-hour fjord journey is the most dramatic thing we’ve ever seen. On either side of the ferry, mountains rose up nearly 5000 feet as we sliced our way across the frigid water.

Overlooking the bow of a ferry cruising through a Norway fjord
The ferry provides stunning views

Laced with snow in some places and waterfalls in others, the cliffs and craggy mountain slopes were epic.

At two points along the way, we stopped to pick up people from brightly-colored villages even smaller than Flam. The ferry expertly turned and bent to make its way to the tiny port stops, and we marveled at every moment.

As beautiful as the Flam Railway trip was the day before, nothing could hold a candle to the fjords.

People disembarking a ferry
Disembarking the ferry

Gudvangen to Voss bus

Our visit to the fjords ended in Gudvangen, and transferring onward couldn’t have been simpler. Just a few steps from the port (Gudvangen kai/ferjekai), bus 950 to Voss (Voss stasjon) was already waiting for us.

We had about 20-30 minutes to grab a snack at the combined cafeteria and gift shop at the port and easily bought our bus tickets on board. It’s a local bus and the schedule is available on the Skyss website.

We had been a little worried about whether there would be enough seats and how the transfer would work. The reality is that this route—whether or not you purchase the package through the company—is built for tourists. It’s unlikely you’ll run into a problem getting stuck on any of the legs of the trip.

For those really worried about a seat on the bus, you can buy tickets in advance from the kiosks around the area. Voss is in Zone E and Gudvangen is in Zone E1. Pick your time and pay. However, our understanding is that this doesn’t guarantee you a seat. This is still a local bus.

Bus 950 from Gudvangen to Voss
The bus to Voss

The bus ride from Gudvangen to Voss took 1 hour and 15 minutes. As with the other parts of the trip, the Norway scenery was lovely. There were houses to gawk at, waterfalls to see, and lots of picturesque countryside.

Voss to Bergen train

The bus from Gudvangen deposited us right on the doorstep of the Voss train station for the last part of the trip. It was time to head to Bergen. The train tickets from Voss to Bergen can be booked ahead online.

Row of colorful historic merchant houses
Historic Bryggen is a main attraction in Bergen

By the time the train to Bergen arrived in Voss, the sun was starting to sink lower on the horizon. For an hour and a half, we watched the landscape speed by our windows.

As with the earlier part of the trip, there was lots to see as we lost ourselves in the movement of the train and the landscape flashing by outside. Before we knew it, we arrived in Bergen, filled with anticipation for the next part of our Norway adventure.

DIY Norway in a Nutshell at a Glance

  • Oslo to Flam train — we paid 759 NOK per person – can be bought in advance at Vy
  • Flam to Gudvangen ferry — we paid 470 NOK per person – can be bought in advance here
  • Gudvangen to Voss bus — we paid 100 NOK per person – must be bought on board but schedules can be found at Skyss
  • Voss to Bergen train — we paid 204 NOK per person – can be bought in advance at Vy

We saved a total of $90 (714 NOK) for both of us booking our own tickets with very little effort rather than buying the formal package. If you’re short on time, that may not be worth it to you. For us, it helped finance a second night watching the Northern Lights, and that was priceless.

Overhead view of buildings and harbor
The harbor of beautiful Bergen

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Wednesday 16th of August 2023

Any tips for an older woman traveling alone - for example: crime or getting worse treatment (e.g. at restaurants, hotels, trains) since not a couple or family? Thanks.

Lance Longwell

Saturday 19th of August 2023

Crime? In Norway? No, you'll be absolutely fine. Everyone is nice, kind, and it is perfectly safe, even at 2am.

Vipul Jain

Tuesday 15th of August 2023

We did this trip in August 2023. We followed the advice fully and it was a great trip. If you have kids then you can save even more money as fares are even lower for kids/youth on all the trains and cruises when you book it yourself. Thanks for the wonderful notes. It seems complicated but it is easy once you make all the reservations. Having to pay by paypal was the most annoying thing. Paypal really tries to scam you by converting the amount in your own currency and then charging ridiculous conversion rate. Make sure you pay in NOK.

Laura Longwell

Tuesday 15th of August 2023

Thanks for the PayPal tip. We always advise people to pay in the local currency for any bank or credit card transaction for that reason.

Emma Thomas

Saturday 12th of August 2023

Hi everyone!

Thank you for all the great advice on this page. I'm trying to book my DIY NiN trip from Bergen to Oslo but I'm worried about timings.....

10/9 Bergen-Voss Vy train 10.30-11.48 (earlier trains are replaced by buses that day. Voss-Gudvangen bus 13.15-14.10 (there don't seem to be any buses beetween 11.48 & 13.15?) Gudvangen-Flam ferry 14.05-16.05 (could get the 17.30-19.30 if necessary) O/n in Flam

11/9 Flam-Oslo 12.00-19.05

As you can see the bus arrives in Gudvangen at 14.10 but the ferry leaves at 14.05! Am I getting this wrong somewhere or will these actually meet up? Don't really want to be getting into Flam too late as travelling with kids.

Thank you for any advice!


Tuesday 11th of July 2023

WOW. This is so incredibly helpful! We're headed out this August - 2023. Thanks for all your updates!!


Monday 10th of July 2023

This is great info, but I still have questions concerning our Nutshell trip in September. We plan to take the early train from Oslo-Myrdal, then the 11:56 train to Flam. The only boats available from the two companies are at 15:00 (Fjord) and 16:00 (Lustrabaatane). We wanted to take the latter, but it's arrival in Gudvangen seems to be too late for the bus connection to Voss (@ 17:25). I heard there were some other buses that take less scenic routes to Voss but I can't find any detail. We really need to get to Voss that night so as to stay there and depart early the next morning to go back to Oslo. We have no time to spare. I guess we could take the earlier boat which is more expensive and more crowded from what I hear; or we could pay through the nose for an expensive taxi to Voss, but I'm disappointed that no buses meet the last ferry at 18:00; it must be a political thing...Anyway, if anyone can tell me if you would do what I'm suggesting in the same situation, it would be greatly appreciated!

Lance Longwell

Monday 17th of July 2023

If it were me, I'd try for the earlier ferry. Best to have a guaranteed connection. For us, it is always worth the extra expense to have a easier trip.

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