How to do Norway in a Nutshell on Your Own

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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 adventure, 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

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 “mini-pris” 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 Visit Flam 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), 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, so it’s not possible to buy tickets in advance, but 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.

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. At the time of our trip, these tickets couldn’t be bought in advance, but they’re now available online, which makes everything much easier.

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 at VisitFlam
  • 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

33 thoughts on “How to do Norway in a Nutshell on Your Own”

  1. Wow, that looks like an amazing trip. Good to know that it’s pretty easy to plan. Thank you for all the practical links.

  2. This is some great info to know about as I have some travel friends in Oslo and Bergen! I’m always on the lookout on how I can visit them without breaking the bank too much in Norway. This certainly helps. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the post. Me and the wife are heading over next month to trek Trolltunga. Can’t wait for the scenery! We opted to rent a car though as it seemed a bit cheaper than rail travel! Although Norway looks fiendishly expensive, at least it helps keep the masses away! I hope our photos are as good as yours!!

  4. Norway is high on my travel wish list. I love how you break down the costs and suggest ways to save money. The views look amazing!

  5. Thank you so much for this! I’m planning to take my toddler (he’ll be 3 yo at that time) for 1 day Norway in a Nutshell tour, but multiple vehicle changes seems impossible for him. So I plan to stay overnight at one of the stop. Do you recommend staying at Flam? Was there much to do/see there? Or do you recommend we stay in other town?

    Thanks so much 🙂

    1. Lance Longwell

      There’s really not a way to do the Norway in a Nutshell without multiple vehicle changes – the train/boat/bus combo. That said, we really enjoyed our stay in Flam. We had an afternoon there and then the evening, the next morning. Flam is a tiny town – TINY. No, there’s not a lot to do there. But it is a wonderful place to just sit and enjoy the incredible beauty of the fjords. If we were going back and doing it all over again (and knowing what we know now), we’d do it the same way – spending the night in Flam. Depending on time of year, there’s a lovely park in Flam with playground equipment for kids, which I’m sure you’re toddler will find enjoyable if given the chance. 🙂

  6. Great post!! Just wondering, when (which month) did you do the tour? We want to go the first week of november but I am a bit worried that it will rain all the time!!

    1. We were there in March. We had some overcast and some clear skies while on the Norway in a Nutshell. We’ve heard it pretty much always rains in Bergen, but we were blessed with very sunny skies.

  7. Planning to do Oslo to Bergen early next June. Is there much to see or do in Gudvangen if we decided to spend the night there? Also, are there buses the next morning on to Voss, or do you have to wait for the afternoon ones? Is there any way to do this route via car? I’ve read you can drive all of it except for going through the fjord. Can you park at Flam and do a round-trip boat ride?

    1. Hi Janice. Here are a few thoughts:

      Gudvangen. We wouldn’t recommend spending the night here. While it is pretty, Flam is much better. There’s not a ton to do in either place, it’s really about being in the place and experiencing the incredible scenery. With that said, there seems to be more to both see and do in Flam.

      Buses from Gudvangen to Voss. You’re looking for Gudvangen to Voss. On the Norwegian timetable, the word “Frå” means from, which should help. But yes, there are morning buses. Depending on day of the week and season, bus availability varies. There are significantly more buses in the afternoon, than morning. That said, as of the time of this writing, there are buses at: 9.45a, 11.40, 12.00, 13.20, 15.40, 15.43, 16.35, 17.25, and 18.05. There are even more buses on weekdays.

      Car. You can pretty much do the entire route in a car, although you’ll then miss out on fjords and much of the reason you came. There’s a tunnel between Flam and Gudvangen. You can do it, but you won’t see anything. The drive from Gudvangen to Voss and even on to Bergen is all possible with a private car. If you wanted to skip the rail section, you could drive from Bergen to Gudvangen and then on to Flam. From there you could round-trip on the ferry. There’s TONS of parking in Flam. There are two giant parking lots right at the harbor.

      The rail journey from Oslo to Myrdal was really quite beautiful in the winter. And the train from Myrdal to Flam is a wonder of engineering (and very beautiful) – one of the world’s great train trips. But if you’re heading out of Bergen, you can do the drive and the fjord sections without difficulty.

  8. Hi! We are planning to visit Flam in last week of July. Tried booking train from Oslo to Flam via NSB – its giving me a price of NK 1,212 – and thats just from Oslo to Myrdal. we still have to book our trip from Myrdal to Flam.
    have the prices gone up or is the time of the year?

  9. Hi Laura! You mentioned that the train ride from Voss to Bergen cannot be booked in advance and must be bought at station. However, I can actually select the trip on the website Am I looking at the correct route/ departure station? Thank you!

    1. Laura Longwell

      That is a new (and welcome) development. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. We’ll update the article!

  10. Hi Laura! Very informative, thanks for sharing. We plan to do this tour around 12th Oct this year? Would it be a good time given the season (fall) and short day time?

    1. That should be a good time to go. We went in March, which is the opposite side of the winter season. In October, it will be cool/cold (depending on what you are used to). You’ll have snow on the mountains, but there won’t be ice on the water. You’ll probably be too far south for Northern Lights at that time of year. We wouldn’t have concerns going at that time.

  11. Thank you for the super informative article, your trip sounds amazing!
    How did you go about travelling with luggage? We plan to start our vacation in Oslo, then DIY the Norway in a Nutshell tour, and finally fly back to the UK after a few days in Bergen. Therefore, we’ll have 6 days of luggage x 8 people. I’m worried that we’ll be over encumbered!

    1. It really depends on how heavy you pack. For us, 6 days would be 2 carry-on wheelies. For our Norway trip, we were there for two weeks and had a lot of camera gear with us, so had 2 wheeled suitcases. On the Flam Railway, we stacked the suitcases in a set of seats, along with about everyone else on the train. On the ferry portion, the suitcases go on the main deck where the cars park (one of the photos above shows everyone with their wheelies). Again, there’s tons of bags there. And on the bus, the suitcases go in the storage below the bus. We’re always proponents of packing light, however, we didn’t find the luggage situation to be particularly challenging on the Norway in a Nutshell trip.

  12. Hi Laura. I have a couple of questions:

    1. We plan to do a DIY Norway in a Nutshell as you advised this Oct 18. But the ferry from Flam to Gudvangen starts at 3pm and ends by 5pm. Will that be too late to see the beautiful scenery of the fjords considering this will be in Cotober?

    2. From Gudvangen we will take the bus to Voss. What bus do we take to get to Voss and which station in Voss do we get off? We are thinking of staying at the Fleischer in Voss which we understand is right beside the train station as we plan to also take the train from Voss back to Oslo.


    1. It looks like the sunset in Flam is supposed to be about 6:10pm on October 18, so I would think that 3-5pm would be a great time for the fjord cruise.

      You’ll take bus 950 from Gudvangen to Voss stasjon–see the photo in the article.

      Have a great time!

  13. Where did you see the northern light? I’ll be going to Oslo and Bergen from 3/25-3/31… is there a chance for me to see northern lights ina any of those cities? TIA

    1. There’s a chance, yes. But not a good chance. They are both really too far south. That said, the day before we arrived, you could see the Northern Lights in Bergen and it was supposed to be a spectacular display. That was in March. For the best chances to see the lights, you need to go north, to Alta or Tromso. We have a detailed Northern Lights in Norway post, which you can read here:

  14. Omg, amazing & detailed advice. Heading to Oslo next week, taking my son on a surprise trip & the fjords was a must. Coming across your post has been a blessing otherwise i probably would not have worked it out.

    Thank you, great post 😁😁😁

  15. Thank you very much for all the information. It is very well written and informative.
    We are planning the Nutshell tour (on our own) perhaps April 20th and hope to do bus and train (3days). Reading your blog, it appears that a car is not necessary?? Is this correct?

    1. So happy the article was helpful, Colleen. We didn’t have a car at any time during our trip to Norway, including on the Norway in a Nutshell section, so you should be just fine. Hope you have an awesome trip — Norway is spectacular!

  16. Surekha Joglekar

    Thank u Laura for informative article..
    We r planning to do Norway in Nutshell tour in month of April 2020 on our own.
    Is it ok if we start from Bergen to Oslo??

  17. Hi, what an informative article, the best I have read so far! My husband and I will be in Oslo by the end of March this year with our teen boys. I was wondering whether it is safe to drive from Oslo to Bergen and back with a stopover in Flam. We have no winter driving experience at all! Cost-wise it looks cheaper with a rental car as the tickets for all four of us seem quite high. However, wary of difficult driving conditions. Any info would be appreciated. Thanks!!

  18. Hello Laura,

    I would be travelling to do the fjords tour on 26th May and am interested in doing the one day tour from Bergen. Can you suggest how can I begin building my itinerary from Bergen to Bergen, we do not want to go till Oslo.
    I would be travelling with my husband and 2 sons.

    Thanks much,

    1. Lance Longwell

      Thee easiest option would be to take the train from Bergen to Myrdal (journey takes a little over 2 hours). And from there, just use the itinerary above. You’ll have about 5-10 minutes for the connection in Myrdal from the main train to the Flam Railway train. Then you’ll have about an hour and half in the town of Flam to look around. Then another 10 minutes for the bus connection in Gudvangen and about 45 minutes to connect from the bus to the train in Voss. It’s all very do-able as a Norway in a Nutshell day trip…but it’s a long day. We really enjoyed spending the night in Flam and would recommend trying to make two leisurely days of it if your schedule permits.

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