Can you name the most famous train rides in the world? The reverie-inducing, slightly unattainable, bucket-list worthy type? I bet the Trans-Siberian, the Orient-Express, and the Swiss glacier come to mind.
And then, of course, the Flåm train.
I honestly didn’t know how my week in this country could possibly get any better. But again, Norway outdid itself and blew me away, by offering me the simplest of things: its scenery.
About the Flåm Train
The Flåm train isn’t just any train – oh no.
It’s one of the steepest railway lines in the entire world – mathematically, this means the ride is on a 55% gradient on over 80% of the route (not that I understand that concept – remember, my left brain is just no use to me). In other words, it’s very steep most of the time, and slightly scary on some bits – especially in the tunnels that spiral in and out of the mountains.
The train line officially opened in 1923 and was a much-appreciated addition to the grandiose Bergen-Oslo railway at the time. The odd 22,000 passengers in the first half of the 1900s quickly grew into one of Norway’s most popular tourist attractions, nowadays carrying over 600,000 passengers every year.
The Flåm Train Itinerary
While much shorter than its equally beautiful competitors, the Flåm train doesn’t fail to impress.
(I could go on and on with cheap “size isn’t everything” jokes, but I’m not sure that would go down well).
The train leaves from the Flåm railway station, the gorgeous albeit slightly tiny village nestled in the Aurlandfjord. From there, the train will travel through the dramatic high mountains and waterfalls of the Flåm valley, all the way until the Myrdal station, which is 865 meters above sea level (i.e. absolutely freezing). That’s where the Flåm Railway meets up with the Bergen-Oslo line for connecting trains to either side of the country.
The Flåm train ride is 20 kilometers long, and lasts about an hour – which, I assure you, will go by in the blink of an eye. I really felt like a kid at the amusement park who just doesn’t want to go home.
“Wait, mom! Is this it?”
Not disappointed in the activity itself – quite the opposite, really – but utterly sad that it’s over, and already longing for more. “Just one more time, mom!”
Photos of the Flåm Train
But despite its fascinating history and journey, the true interest of the Flåm train lies in its scenery. See for yourself.
In the space of a short 20 kilometers ride, the scenery is drastically transformed. The closer the train gets to its final destination, Myrdal, the more stone, the more snow there is, and also, fewer houses and signs of life. The train isn’t express – there are a few stops along the way, with the odd commuter.
And I couldn’t help but wonder – in this rugged and isolated region that is virtually empty of just about anything modern, where do they live, and what do they do? I never got the answer to that question, and it still amazes me that despite the harsh climate and lifestyle, and the rise of urban living, there are still people in the area, just like nothing had changed for the past century. Honorable, and fascinating.
Pictured below is the beautiful Kjosfossen waterfall, which is around 225 meters tall, and located just a few kilometers outside Myrdal.
Luckily for tourists like me, the train makes a quick stop there, just long enough to take a few photos but not so long that you get completely drenched by the drizzles of the strong current.
The spectacle, as you can see, is quite fascinating.
And then, on the fast train to Oslo, the landscape morphs into lunar-like, otherworldly stone formations. The weather changes almost every instant, going from powerful winds to a snowstorm to a glimpse of sunlight to threatening black clouds. All in the space of just a few minutes.
After an hour or two into the ride towards the capital, the scenery ever so slowly merges into the peaceful, grand Norwegian forests we so often picture, dotted by lakes of all sizes and, if you’re lucky, one of the most magnificent sunsets you will have ever seen.
Again, the Flåm train isn’t your average train ride. It is by no means luxurious, nor it is particularly comfortable. But it will amaze you, it will make you wish you were Norwegian, and it will undoubtedly ruin all other train rides you will ever embark on.
How is this possible?
I believe only the Flåm train has the key to this question.