Flåm as it turns out, is a tourist trap on the typical Norway in a Nutshell route. I didn’t say it was horrible though, it’s pretty nice. Just bring a huge wallet or bring your own car.
Pronounced more like Flom with the runic Å, Flåm is a teeny tiny village at the end of Aurlandsfjorden which is flooded by thousands of people per day in summer, brought in by anything up to three enormous, fjord-polluting cruise ships.
Click here to find out just a few reasons why cruise ships are terrible.
Getting there was half the fun
Literally! Because Flåm wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be.
Note: Anyone reading just to hear about Flåm should skip ahead.
First, we waited for three hours for a ride on the highway near Gjendesheim after hiking the Bessegen Ridge. Numerous campervans, SUVs and stationwagons passed us with nothing but old couples and empty seats in them.
After we’d given up faith in all Norwegians, a lovely old Norwegian couple picked us up, went through a heap of effort to reorganise their very full car and drove us to Fagernes.
It’s always the car with no room that stops and makes the effort to pick up a hitchhiker.
We had a great chat with them the whole way. The road wound through stunning landscapes too so who could complain about having to straddle an eski for a ride. Plus they took us to this awesome little chapel which was by far the most stunning one I’d ever seen and we never would have known about it.
Then we waited a further three hours in Fagernes for a ride to Flåm, because we’d missed the only bus of the day by half an hour. In people’s defence though, several short distance commuters stopped but no one was going anywhere near Flåm. Except for this Aussie family in a campervan who were headed to Bergen, but stopping in half an hour.. and we let them go.
Boy did we kick ourselves when we realised we would find no other such ride! We could have camped beside them and continued to Flåm in the morning. We felt like complete ass-hats.
Instead of looking for a ride to Flåm, we opted to try and hitch past them and try again in the morning. A cool young Norwegian mechanic stopped and drove us through some scenery along Strondafjorden and Slidrefjorden which was so beautiful that I wanted to cry, and cry because it was golden hour and I didn’t want to be some rude demanding hitchhiker who wants to stop everywhere and take pictures like it’s his private tour.
As we talked to him more though, we learned that he probably would have been happy to stop. This guy loved where he lived and showed us all the mountains he’d hiked, where he’d bought a house sized cabin in the mountains and his favourite camping spots by the lakes. Which by the way, is where we ended up free camping in Vang to wait for the Aussies.
In the morning our plan worked perfectly. We had not been on the road more than 10 minutes when a campervan popped over the road’s crest. Was it them? Hells yes it was! They were just as happy to see us and we had heaps to talk about on the 150km drive to Flåm.
Those sorts of stories really are the best reasons to hitchhike 🙂
Where we stayed
Well the options were: the super fancy Fretheim Hotel or the YHA. Guess where we stayed. Camping at the YHA was 205NOK per night for two adults and yet you still have to pay 20NOK for a five minute shower. That’s a bit lame and there were almost no communal seating areas besides outdoor benches – so there really wasn’t anywhere warm to relax. But hey, we’re povo backpackers.
Flamsbana – The Scenic Railway
We had actually planned to take the train to Myrdal and hike back to Flåm, but the weather was terrible. It was forecast for two sunny days, but all we got was rain and fog so we skipped the expensive 400NOK train ride in fear of wasting our money.
The Flamsbana museum was interesting though, but not very big.
Instead of the Myrdal hike, we walked to the old farm village of Øtternes. It was small, but quite mysterious in the fog and it satiated our need to get out and do something despite the weather.
We also came back again on the last day in better weather and experienced a different feeling. I liked that place.
From there we hitchhiked with some Norwegian military guys. Again they made a huge effort to clear space for us, but it turned out they really needed to because they had left ammunition on the seat (just blanks though). They took us to Aurland where everything was closed, which was thoroughly boring except for the church and this one cafe.
We considered going to Stegastein, but the fog was still very very thick! The bus driver gave us a subtle shake of the head when we asked “will we even see anything?” and so we passed.
We were right to be cautious though at 275NOK for a ride. We tried it anyway on our last day in Flåm and were thoroughly disappointed.
The Stegastein viewpoint is awful. Don’t bother unless you have your own car.
It was the most underwhelming view I have ever seen. Maybe I’m just spoilt, maybe it was the weather, but there was no colour and nothing to see at all. Just an ordinary fjord which had been capitalised on by greedy tourism companies who had built a crappy lookout point on the closest rock they found next to their office chair.
If you get good weather in Flåm, I’d strongly suggest trying to see the other towns in Næroyfjord. Cruising the fjord is meant to be the way to go, but we just couldn’t with the heavy fog that sat in the valley for two days straight.
Gudvangen, Undredal and Styvi all looked nice in the photos and I would have loved to visit them if we had a car or the right weather to cruise. Just don’t be fooled by the photos of “Gudvangen” on Google image search that are actually of Reine in the Lofoten Islands. Too many of these travel or blog websites nowadays repost content from each other rather than actually going there or doing any real research which then clogs the internet with misinformation.
Scandinavian stuff to buy
They are everywhere and Dale of Norway still makes them with real Scandinavian quality in Norway. That’s why they cost hundreds of Euros… but seriously they are really good and outrageously warm!
Pies and crumble in particular (or maybe you wouldn’t call crumble a pie) is everywhere and it’s freaking delicious. Hazelnut and almond seem to be the serial offenders in terms of ingredients and you won’t hear me complaining about that.
So we could have just taken a bus to our next destination, but where’s the fun in that? Especially when you’re camped next to the biggest fjord on the planet! So we took a fast ferry out towards the ocean and saw a whole heap of Sognefjorden along the way.