With mild temperatures and the famous midnight sun, summer months in Norway can become quite crowded. For a true adventure, consider visiting between the months of October and April, when you'll meet far fewer travelers. You may even feel like you have the Sognefjord all to yourself.
If cold weather is your main concern, then keep in mind that it may not be as frigid as you fear. The warm water of the Gulf Stream tempers the lower elevation fjords, resulting in a surprisingly comfortable coastal climate. Of course, these areas also receive more rainfall in winter, so do keep that in mind when packing for and planning your trip.
Planning Your Train Route
The scenic village of Flam is home to the only train station on the Sognefjord, which has the honor of being Norway's longest fjord. You can reach it easily by connecting to the Flam Railway—named one of the world's most beautiful train journeys—via the Bergensbanen, or Bergen Line, which you can board from either Bergen or Oslo.
If you begin your train journey in Oslo, you'll need to prepare for a considerably longer ride than from Bergen to Flam. Oslo to Myrdal—where you switch trains to board the Flam Railway—will take you about 4.5 hours. Whereas, if you opt to travel straight from Bergen to Flam by rail, you can arrive at Myrdal in only about two hours. You'll also need to factor in an additional hour on both routes to allow you time to get from Myrdal to Flam.
You can also choose to travel the full route from Bergen to Oslo (or Oslo to Bergen), with a detour and overnight to Flam to enjoy the fjords.
Flam Railway in the Off-season
Passing along verdant valleys, jutting mountains, and turquoise coastlines, the Flam Railway guarantees a spectacular ride. Train travel is one of the most memorable ways to experience Norway, and the famous journey is especially enjoyable in the off-season. The rippled hills are likely to be coated in powdery snow, and you'll see stunning wintry landscapes from every train window. And with fewer passengers braving the railway, you may just have the car more-or-less to yourself.
If you’re traveling from Oslo, be sure to plant yourself on the left side of the train as you approach Finse. At just over 4,000 feet above sea level, the mountain village is the highest stop along the Oslo-Bergen line. Rail passengers will have spectacular views toward Hardangervidda National Park, the largest park in Norway and home to the world's biggest wild reindeer population.
But don't worry if you can't remember what sights you're passing: video monitors are on-hand from Myrdal to Flam with information on all of the natural landmarks en route.
In summer, crowded trains mean that it can be a challenge to capture all the jaw-dropping scenery. But offseason travel is a photographer's dream. If you're boarding the Flam Railway outside the summer months, you'll have extra space to maneuver. Feel free to grab your camera and bounce back and forth between seats as you look for the best views to snap.
You'll also want your camera ready as you near Kjosfossen, a waterfall that is only reachable by train. The train will briefly halt to allow passengers to disembark and take a few photos from the platform (here's more info about photography in Norway).
Things to Do Around Flam
It may be the only train hub in Sognefjord, but Flam village is rather quiet. It's perfect for enjoying the views over a mug of apple cider, but if you're looking to sightsee or venture deeper into the stunning scenery, you'll want to head to surrounding areas.
This small yet scenic hamlet is home to the Stegastein Viewpoint, a scenic overlook perched 100 feet over the Aurlandsfjord, considered to be the most spectacular of Norway's fjords. At an elevation of over 2,000 feet, you'll have panoramic views and plenty of photo ops. The only noises will be whipping winds and the occasional sheep bell.
You can reach the viewing platform by bus from Flam (via Aurland), but buses are less frequent during winter months. Be sure to check the schedule when planning your departure. For an even bigger adventure, and if you're willing to brave the winding roads yourself, you can even rent a two-seater electric car from Flam. But don't forget to pile on those winter layers. Electric cars don't have heaters, but the rental company will give you plenty of blankets if you choose to take this wild ride to the top.
Aurland is a spot that many people overlook in Norway, but definitely shouldn't—check out this list for a few more ideas.
Cruise to Gudvangen
While in Flam, you can hop a boat cruise to nearby Gudvangen, a picturesque old Viking village built onto the banks of one of the country's prettiest fjords: Nærøyfjord. The narrow, UNESCO World Heritage-listed fjord is surrounded by steep, snow-topped mountains, making it one of the most beloved branches of the Sognefjord.
Boat schedules are more limited in winter, but daily departures are available when the weather is permitting.
Hit the Slopes or Frolic in the Snow
While snowfall in Sognefjord is never guaranteed, you can be sure that snow during the wintertime is never too far away. If you want to increase your chances of seeing fresh powder, then head to Myrkdalen, the largest ski resort in Western Norway. At only less than an hour from Flam, the region is known for its reliable snowfall.
Anyone in the mood for a high-speed outdoor adventure can rent some skis or snowboards and hit the hills. You'll find a variety of slopes and cross-country trails for all levels. If you're looking for a lower key day out, you can simply frolic in the snow. Check this article for more info on skiing in Norway.
Travel light—or rather, while it’s still light outside. Winter months mean shorter days, so be sure to book a morning train departure to maximize the daylight hours.
Be prepared for limited timetables and erratic weather. While off-season travel means access to lower rates, fewer crowds, and endless photo ops, it also requires additional preparation. Bus, train, and boat departures may be less frequent, while hotels and restaurants may be closed or operating on limited hours.
And keep in mind that offseason weather may be unpredictable. Expect the unexpected: pack layers, call ahead, and consider consulting a travel specialist. For more about off-season travel in Norway, take a look at these guides on the Lofoten Islands and Northern Norway.