This trip is the ideal introduction into the magic of Norwegian walking; it is undertaken from several centres using easy transportation on trains and boats in between. From Oslo or Bergen you travel by rail to some of the wildest, most spectacular, classic “picture postcard” settings within the realms of Norwegian mountain and fjordland. Many people enjoy taking a leisurely cruise up the coast to see the beauty of the country from below, but on this tour you can be looking down and walking amongst the highlands, a much more engaging experience. The route embraces the famous Hardangervidda area of western Norway where there is the potential for a heady mix of highland walking through the manifestations of the last Ice Age. The retreating glaciers once overwhelmed and molded this landscape; gouging out the great coastal grooves which, with post glacial rising sea levels, have become the fjords. Of these the beautiful Sognefjord is the longest and deepest in the country, extending to the town of Flamon a section called the Aurlandsfjord. There are a wide range of walks to take in the highlands, which lead you right up onto the glaciers edge; it is even possible to go out onto the ice to take an excursion. There are also the lusher walks down into the pastoral settings of the Flam and Aurland Valleys. These are furnished with forests, farmsteads, cascades and churches. All in all an unforgettable experience, especially if the Nordic Gods favor you with good weather and that you read your notes carefully.
We grade this tour as moderate (grade 3), with some challenging options; anyone used to hill walking with a daily height gain/loss of up to 3,300 feet (1000 metres) should find the tour within their capability. Most days are a lot easier than this. There are usually walking options and experienced walkers can of course extend their range if they want to. There may be a chance to do an optional glacier walk from the hotel in Finse, which will require a local payment of about 590 NOK. Although items like crampons are supplied, if you want to do this guided trip, you should at least make sure that your walking boots are stiff enough to be compatible with articulated walking crampons. This option is subject to availability and weather conditions. Day Stages: The duration of walking per day varies. You will have to attend to a morning train (or a ferry transfer) on some days to get you to the next hotel; these are normally under an hour’s journey. So you have to fit in the walking with this. However you will normally be able to spend up to 6 hours happily walking per day in most cases. This tour is not suitable for solo travellers.
Make your own way to Geilo. If you are arriving into Oslo or Bergen today, ensure that you arrive in the morning. The last train you can catch is mid afternoon.
Accommodation: This hotel is the perfect place to relax and is within walking distance from the centre. Rooms are newly renovated and there is a cozy informal atmosphere. Facilities include restaurant, indoor swimming pool, sauna, tennis court, lounge, bar and pub.
Geilo is superbly located by the Hardanger Vidda Mountain Plateau, at 800m above sea level. This venue is a good weather objective and 3 of the walking options will require a taxi at around 450 NOK at the start of the day for 3 of the options. There is a challenging walk to climb Prestholtskarvet 1859m in the Hallingskarvet, a less challenging walk up Skarvsenden or there is a nice moderate moorland walk which takes you back to Geilo. If you dont want to use a taxi There is a long moorland walk which is a to the fields of Vestreim with good views over to the Hallingskarvet. Alternatively you could take an easy Lakeside ramble which requires no transport.
Option 1: Ascent of Prestholtskarvet 1863m, 9 km / 6.2 miles, 4 to 6 hours - challenging
Option 2: Prestholtrunden Route: ascent of Skarvsenden 1705 m and descend
to Prestholtseter 6.5km / 4 miles - Challenging, 3-4 hours
Option 3: Prestholtseter- Tuftelia - Vestlia, 10.4 km / 6.4 miles - 3-4 hours, moderate. People tend to do this as an extension from Options 1&2, but can be done on its own with a taxi transfer.
Option 4: Walk around Ustedalsfjorden, 10.5 km / 6.5 miles, 2 to 3.5 hours, easy.
Option 5:Geilo - Geilohovda - Vestreim - Geilo, with optional ascent of Snøhovda 21 km/13miles. 6-7 hours, Moderat.
Morning train to Finse; a place first popularized by British aristocrats before the railways arrived. Both Scott and Shackleton trained here for Antarctica. There are three possible walks directly from the hotel depending upon the weather. In good weather, strong walkers may like to attempt the ascent of 'Sankt Pal' (1700m), a dramatic small peak and view point. Then you can undertake a walk across the moorland towards the ice of the Hardanger Glacier for a picnic. Or perhaps in poor weather, you can do a return walk along the old railway workers track that connects Finse with Myrdal.
Option 1: Trek to Sankt Pal 1694m, 13 km / 8 miles, 4-5 hours - challenging
Option 2: To the Fagernut along the Rallarvegen, 20 km / 12.5 miles, 5 hours - easy/moderate
Option 3:Trek to Blåisen 1591m and return to Finse, 11.5 km /7.1 miles, 4 hours -Moderate.
Accommodation: Stay for 2 nights at a cosy chalet styled hotel with spectacular views. The hotel is a short walk from the train station. At 1222m, the hotel started as a shelter for the occupants of snow bound trains (now an increasingly rare event). Over the years this cabin has been through many upgrades. Converting it into an extraordinary hotel with the emphasis on outdoor activities within a superb landscape. Rooms are basic but comfortable often with great views. There is a dinning hall with two sittings a night, an Edwardian era library and a coffee shop. There is a little pub in the basement that has become a bit of a museum with railway memorabilia which opens at weekends. There is also a relaxation centre with a sauna area.
On your second day in Finse, choose another walk or if the weather is good, there is the option of doing a local guided crampon walk up on to the glacier. Details on booking are provided in your route notes. Call at least a day in advance to check the status of the walk, as it does not necessarily run everyday and not in poor weather. The walk begins from the hotel / station area and the cost paid locally is: 590 NOK. Equipment is provided, but note that your boots will need to be reasonably stiff to take a crampon. Itineraries and availability will depend on the weather conditions.
This is a classic walk! Hand in your luggage at Myrdal for local train transfer down to Flam station (50 NOK per bag approx, paid locally). The walk down to Flam is beautiful, following the lush valley route, through woods and pastures, always with the sounds of rushing waters. Eventually drop down to the Aurlandsfjord, a branch off Sognefjord.
Accommodation: A cosy basic pension which is located next to the Aurlandsfjord, only 400 m from the famous Flåm railway. The pension is not too ‘flamboyant’ but has an informal atmosphere. There is a room with an open fireplace, TV-lounge and a large garden. The rooms are the most basic of the tour, but are warm and simple ensuite.
A short bus ride or ferry journey takes you to Aurland for two nights, giving you plenty of time to walk round this beautiful area or take a cruise to Gundavangen in the Nærøyfjord. There are some little circular walks you can do, or walk up the breathtaking Aurlandsdalen Valley, using a local bus at the start and end of the walk. In some ways this place is lost in time, from a hotel at Østerbø, you can only follow a mule track into the higher pastures, enjoying the sights and sounds of this landscape; looking down into the gorge, passing great waterfalls. Another walk via a spectacular waterfall takes you on a massive ascent to a mountain called Prestevarden which has a magnificent view over the bend of the Aurlandsfjord.
Options of walks over the next two days could include;
Option 1: To Skjerdal return via Bell farm, 13 km / 8 miles, 2 hours, easy/moderate
Option 2: Østerbø - Vassbygdi, 16.6 km / 10.3 miles, 6 hours, challenging
Option 3: Prest Summit (1363m) 22.5 km / 14 miles 6-8 hours challenging
Accommodation: Your hotel occupies some of the oldest buildings in Aurland, and is close to the stunning fjord. It is spacious with fine rooms, there is a bar and restaurant.
Another day to enjoy the walks of the area, otherwise we recommend the fjord cruise which can be booked on line or at Flam (about 295 NOK) to Gundavangen in the Nærøyfjord; part of the Sognefjord described as the most beautiful destination in the world by “National Geographical Magazine.” There are two boats that offer this, including a new quiet electric ship. You will need to go back to Flam to take this, although the older ferry will stop in Aurland.
Depart from Aurland to Oslo or Bergen. Bus or taxi to Flam and then catch the scenic Myrdal - Flam train, a private line claimed to be the steepest “normal gauge” railway in the World. You should get beautiful views back to Sognefjord and around. At Myrdal, join mainline trains back to Oslo or Bergen. Local train to airport for late afternoon or evening flights. We would recommend you to have an extra night in both Oslo or Bergen so that you can make the most of what these cities have to offer.
Very helpful staff when we had to delay the start of our trip. Will definately consider another Sherpa trip. High points, ascent of St. Paul, walk Myrdal - Flam, Fjord cruising, friendly Norwegians, the train journeys.
R. Ducker, Southam, UK, 15 Aug 2016
Per Person, Twin Share