Norway // Bergen and the western fjords //

The Flåm railway – the Flåmsbana

The lonely railway junction of Myrdal, just forty minutes by train from Voss, is the start of one of Europe’s most celebrated branch rail lines, the Flåmsbana, a 20km, 900m plummet down the Flåmsdal valley to Flåm – a fifty-minute train ride that should not be missed if at all possible; it is part of the “Norway in a Nutshell” route. The track, which took four years to lay in the 1920s, spirals down the mountainside, passing through hand-dug tunnels and, at one point, actually travelling through a hairpin tunnel to drop nearly 300m. The gradient of the line is one of the steepest anywhere in the world, and as the train squeals its way down the mountain, past cascading waterfalls, it’s reassuring to know that it has five separate sets of brakes, each capable of bringing it to a stop. The service runs all year round, a local lifeline during the deep winter months. There are ten departures daily from mid-June to late September, between four and eight the rest of the year; Myrdal–Flåm fares are 260kr one-way, 360kr return.

The athletic occasionally undertake the five-hour walk from the railway junction at Myrdal down the old road into the valley, instead of taking the train, but much the better option is to disembark about halfway down and walk in from there. Berekvam station, at an altitude of 345m, is the best place to alight, leaving an enthralling two- to three-hour hike through changing mountain scenery down to Flåm. Cycling down the valley road is also perfectly feasible, though it’s much too steep to be relaxing.

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