Flam, Norway

Some people seek out the perfect city. San Francisco and Melbourne. Others the perfect beach. Whitehaven, Trunk Bay, or . . . wait, maybe this one should remain a secret. But perhaps you’re craving the perfect fjord. Those who have been to Patagonia, Iceland, or New Zealand’s South Island understand the awe-inspiring power of a glacier-formed, narrow waterway wedged in between steep cliffs. And Norway’s Sognefjord is one of the longest and the deepest in the world.

Photo: Visit Flam
Photo: Visit Flam

One of the most beautiful fingers of Sognefjord is Aurlandsfjord. And getting there may even be more exciting than the dramatic fjord itself. You could drive. Yawn. You could arrive by cruise ship. Getting better. Or you could ride the steepest unassisted railway in the world. The electric train ride is only 12 miles long, from Mydral to Flam, but the journey through hand-drilled tunnels takes almost an hour. You’ll chug by roaring waterfalls, rugged mountains, serene lakes, and goat farms. Stop to take pictures of Kjosfossen. Pass through a tunnel with a hairpin 180-degree turn inside of it. No wonder the train is one of Norway’s most popular attractions.

Photo: Fretheim Hotel
Photo: Fretheim Hotel

By the time you arrive in the village of Flam, you’ll be ready for a drink. Have a beer and aquavit tasting at Aegir Brewery. Select your favorite, and then sit by the fire with beer-marinated trout. Wander through town. Breathe in the crisp, fresh air. The old church has been around since the 1660s. Saga Souvenir sells locally made knits. And trolls. Hike or bike. The crystal-clear water is surrounded by fishermen’s cottages and apple orchards. Kayak–with the seals–or take a fjord cruise. And decide to extend your visit.

The day trippers with whom you arrived have left, leaving Flam quiet at night. Many who stay end up at the Fretheim Hotel, the social center of town. Not quite as old as the town’s church, the Fretheim was only built in the late 1800s. But it’s been modernized with heated bathroom floors and bath tubs for soaking after a full day. Their restaurant serves salmon and reindeer. And the bar has live music and panoramic views of the now moonlit fjord. One nightcap just turned into two.

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