I t’s a little hard to talk about Norway, without talking about Flåm.
Nestled between steep mountains, meandering waterfalls & dotted with tiny villages, this spectacular setting is home to Aurlandsfjord. It’s also home to Flamsbana Railway, named by Lonely Planet as the “world’s most incredible train journey”. My love for Flåm is because it’s gateway to the magnificent Unesco-heritage Nærøyfjord.
There’s just one teeny tiny problem – see, the word’s out. So Flåm is notoriously PACKED with visitors from all over the world.
You’ll see tourists perching precariously, while taking photos of fire hydrants. Selfie stick knockouts are a looming hazard. You might also catch yourself in a crossfire, between people frantically waving to friends (who don’t like to be photographed) to GET IN THE PICTURE ALREADY, JEN!! In this tourist terrorism, it’s easy to lose sight of all that Mojo.
Here’s a heads up on 10 hilarious things you’ll encounter & what you can do about it.
1. On the Flamsbana Railway, You’ll See people, pour from one side of the train to the other.
The Flam Railway is incredibly popular, and if you go around 11 AM which is what we did (peak time), you’ll see papparazzi, err people, rush from one side of the train to the other, with audible gasps, oohs & aahs. Unless you’re one of them, it’s hard to see the views.
What You Can Do: Book a round-trip online! Most folks leave at Myrdal. By doing the round trip, you can see views on both sides of the train. Definitely step out to see the super cheesy “fairy” dance to Euro-pop music by the Kjosfossen waterfall. It’s so bad, it’s good!
2. On the Nærøyfjord cruise, You’ll See Tourists getting super excited about this ….
Feeding the seagulls.
I kid you not, a lot of tourists came prepared to feed seagulls, and got several nasty looks & side eyes from the other passengers. It’s annoying because in addition to blocking the views of a Unesco-heritage fjord, it conditions the seagulls to stalk people on the boat for food. I couldn’t resist getting a video of it, here is a snapshot of what I mean.
What You Can Do: Shift to the upper/lower deck or even boat interior & focus on the majesty of the fjord! No seagulls indoor 🙂
3. On the Nærøyfjord cruise, You’ll See folks break out into songs in exotic foreign languages, because they are so moved. And hear loud arguments on politics, because those folks are moved too.
I heard heated debates on Brexit & American politics. Two teenagers were playing Justin Bieber on speakers. Yes, I heard Justin Bieber’s “what do you mean”, while trying to take in the scenery & solitude. There were other tourists face-timing with relatives with, “Hi! Guess where I’m calling from?”
What you can do: Reply in the background (to the tune of Biber’s song optional): “What do you mean? I’m calling from Nærøyfjord!” and then go speechless over this view.
4. On the Nærøyfjord cruise, You’ll See angry & impatient banging on toilet doors.
I don’t have picture or video evidence, I was too busy giggling! I guess a bunch of folks had way too much Pepsi?
What you can do: Enjoy this view when you have the place to yourself. And This Fantastic Reading Material, you know in case you forget how to use a toilet.
5. On the Nærøyfjord cruise, You’ll see folks stampede out of the boat.
As the boat pulled up, there was a mad & frantic rush to the door. This was the background music playing in my mind as I witnessed this exodus.
What you can do: Get a round-trip ticket! Many only do the cruise one-way, from Flåm to Gudvangen. I strongly recommend the round-trip, the way back was super serene & I even made friends with the staff!
6. In Gudvangen, You’ll See everyone run towards the souvenir store as if the horsemen of the apocalypse are chasing them & it’s the only place left to hide.
The mad exodus of people poured into the souvenir shop, which doubles as a Viking themed Inn & Cafe. As much as they had super cool stuff, I found the shop in Flåm is bigger & better.
What you can do: Grab a snack from the Viking themed cafe & chill outside, facing the fjord shores. No creepy horsemen here, just ex-Vikings who had a killer view.
7. Biking By the Rallarvegen, there will be a ton of drivers & walkers, not heeding attention.
If you love to bike, the downhill ride from Finse to Flåm is excellent! It’s part of the Rallarvegen, a long loop that intersects with the main road. What this means is, a lot of folks won’t be looking where they’re going and you’ll have to proceed with caution.
What You Can Do: You’ll see so many elated faces & in turn, be one of them. The reality is, everyone around you is stunned at the beauty of this place. One of my favorite memories is of a stranger who was ecstatic & looked jolted with happiness. Poor fellow wasn’t looking at any of the cars when crossing the road, but seeing his happiness is what made me beam. True happiness is infectious!
8. Hiking in Peaceful Aurland, many get nervous over the hair-pin bends & peering over Stegastein Point
Many break a sweat on the beautiful hike from Flåm to Aurland or get super nervous about the drive on hair-pin bends. At Stegastein Point, everyone freaks out over the edge of a bridge, daring themselves to peer over the depths below.
What You Can Do: Totally be one of them.
9. Kayaking on Nærøyfjord, You’ll See a lot of waves from incoming boats & cruise ships.
Fjord Kayaking is super safe, the water just bobs from one corner to the other, but when a cruise ship or boat comes through, it will cause waves to head your way.
What You Can Do: Go in a 2 person kayak for greater stability (total relationship test!) or take a guided trip. 2 places I recommend are Flåm Marina or Gudvangen Fjordtell for rentals. If speed is what you crave, I recommend a Fjord Safari, aka Speedboat tours.
10. Across town, You’ll See tourists stoked over Farm visits & Brown Cheese.
Otternes Farm is a popular farm for brunch & tours. Norwegian brown cheese is heavenly – salty, caramelly perfection.
What You Can Do: Oh the hype is real. Either reserve a farm lunch & tour or head into nearby villages, like Undredal. My only regret is not carrying Nutella with me to dunk the Norwegian cheese in. Sweet heaven!
The crowds will do little to take away from the beauty of the place or your experience of Flam and its surrounding areas. When you’re surrounded by views like this, what you’ll feel is your mind go blank and heart fill with gratitude for being able to witness such scenic glory. And that my friends, is what finding Mojo is all about 🙂
How do you go about managing crowds on a trip?
Also published on Medium.