Update: This post has been updated and refurbished for Winter 2017, and I hope it is of help! Originally published February 2016.
Flåm, Aurland, Undredal, Gudvangen. There are several places of interest along the Sognefjord for tourists wanting to see the beautiful and dramatic landscape of the fjords. Peak season for the area is in the summer months, but an increasing amount of people are booking their trips for the colder months of the year. After all, this is the land that inspired Disney’s Frozen!
On first glance you are likely to feel like there is nothing to do here in the Winter. Apart from the stunning nature, all covered in snow, the villages seem extremely quiet. To most people, though, the main upside to visiting in the Winter is exactly that – the serenity. But what exactly is there to do? First things first.
Where to stay
As mentioned above, there are several villages along the fjord. Gudvangen, at the end of the Nærøyfjord (UNESCO World Heritage Site) boasts of a ‘Fjordtell‘ by the docks. Flåm has several places to choose from, and Aurland is where you’ll find my favourite. Lots of great options, in other words!
What to do
At first glance there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do in the area in the Winter, which is why you need to get some research out of the way first! Most of the activities on and around the fjord run during the Winter too, only on a smaller scale. If you miss a departure, that’s likely to be it – so know your schedule in advance!
The famous Flåm Railway, which has been the main attraction in the area for years, has 4 daily return departures in the Winter. The train journey is one of the most beautiful in the world, and is a must for visitors to the fjords. Many people arrive to the area by train, and the Flåm Railway will then be the last leg of your journey to get here. I advise you to be aware of this before booking a return ticket on the train while you are here, it isn’t necessary to travel on the Railway more than once.
Now let’s get to the reason you are here – the fjords! The majestic fjords of Western Norway are a must for anyone’s bucket list, and there is only one way to see them properly: by boat. In the summer there are plenty of departures to choose from, but in the Winter there aren’t that many options. Once a day you can start the round trip by bus to Gudvangen, and then jump on a ferry going back to Flåm. The tour will take you through the Aurlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord, giving you great photo ops along the way. Check this website for tickets.
Update: Starting January 1st 2017 there will be 2 daily boat departures on the fjords! Don’t miss the brand new vessel ‘Vision of the Fjords’, recently awarded ‘Ship of the Year’, which glides silently past the villages along the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord. Currently, the ship is docked for some routine refurbishments, but it will hopefully be back and running in the new year. Not to be missed!
Another way to see the fjord up close is by going on a FjordSafari! These boat tours start and end in Flåm, and are very popular. Make sure you book early, and I promise you won’t forget zooming through the fjords in a RIB boat with only 11 other travellers. The driver of the boat also doubles as your guide, and you will get as close to nature as possible with this tour!
Side note: you could always consider renting a kayak too, but dress warm – check out my post about it here!
Starting February 1st there are some other fun additions to the activities in the area, that both require you to get your feet moving! The company behind the FjordSafari offer a daily Snowshoe Hike, where you will get to experience the Norwegian Winter like never before! There is also a daily Evening Walk from the local brewery, which includes a Viking-inspired menu in the brewery restaurant after. Depending on your fitness level and interests, one of these tours should be a perfect match!
Some of the local museums are open year round, however with limited hours. The Flåm Railway museum has free entry, and is open for a few hours every day. It is well worth a visit, especially after you’ve gone on the Flåm Railway itself. You’ll learn about the railway’s history, and can shop some souvenirs while you’re at it!
The Flåm Bakeri opened in the Summer of 2016 and is open every day. Here you will find hot coffee and baked goods to warm you on cold Winter days. Make sure to try the cinnamon rolls.
The public transport between the villages is limited in the Winter, but this website is where you will find travel routes and options on public transport. Don’t be surprised if you see both buses and ferries come up as options.
There are also local taxi companies available at your service. Aurland Taxi can be reached on +47 901 30 808, and Gudvangen taxi on +47 954 19 419.
You may also rent a car upon arrival in Norway. Just make sure you can handle driving on the icy, winding Norwegian roads.
Start your days early! Most tours depart before midday, which is why many tourists find themselves disappointed after sleeping in. The only tours departing in the afternoon are the walking tours (starting February) and the 15:00 fjordcruise from Flåm, while most of the others depart around 11am.
Ask the locals about the roads! Many roads, for example the one to Stegastein Viewpoint, are not the most comfortable to drive. Ask around before venturing on a road you may not be ready for. As mentioned above, it’s better to be comfortably seated on an audioguided bus tour than to brace the windy roads yourself.
Do your research! Visiting the Norwegian fjords in the Winter can be a hassle if you are expecting all activities to be available to you at all times. All tours are running on a smaller scale, but if you come prepared – you’ll find that there are plenty of options.
I shouldn’t have to say it, but dress well! It’s as cold as it looks.
My final tip is to plan for downtime. There is such a special serenity to the fjords in the Winter, and it is difficult to explain. Come here in the Winter months to relax, unwind, and just avoid the crowds. Visiting Norway in the Winter is a completely different experience to visiting in the Summer. The fjords and mountains are just as beautiful, but you avoid the struggle of thousands of tourists trying to get on the same boat, no one will be in the way of your photos, and the locals are probably a little nicer. In the Winter we are reminded of how much we miss the tourists, so take advantage of that!
If you’re heading to Norway and want more posts like this one, check out all my articles on visiting the fjords here!
Have you visited Norway? Did you go in the Winter or the Summer?
// Post contains some Booking.com affiliate links.
Want FREE Travel Resources?
I've put together all my favourite travel planning resources to help you make the most of your next trip!