These seven railway rides offer far more than just transportation.
Norways longest railway line, The Nordland Railway, has been named one of the world's 18 best train journeys by The Guardian.
“It is always exiting when travel experiences in Norway receives international attention. That our wonderful railways receives praise like this is both pleasing and well deserved”, says head of press at Norwegian State Railways (NSB), Åge-Christoffer Lundeby.
Riding trains in Norway is equally about the unique, beautiful and calming experiences you can have along the way as arriving at your final destination, he says.
“Train journeys such as The Nordland Railway offer far more than just transportation. As a passenger you become part of the landscape and the culture along the tracks in a way you never would in an airplane”, says Lundeby.
Author Jan Helge Østlund has written several books on Norwegian train journeys and railway history. For railway enthusiasts, he says, the country holds special significance on the European continent.
“Switzerland and Austria provides stiff competition, but I would still say Norway is on the upper levels of European rail-destinations. They may have faster trains further south, but we rank highly in terms of history, interesting stops and beautiful nature along the tracks”, says Østlund.
In other words, The Nordland Railway is in very good company. Here are seven Norwegian railways that offer far more than just transportation.
The 729 kilometer long route between Trondheim and Bodø is Norway’s longest of its kind, according to NSB. The passengers are taken on a journey through gorgeous and varied landscapes, from distinct northern coastal scenery to tiny inland towns and high mountain stretches.
“The Nordland Railway is 450 miles of experiences, history and spectacular nature. Many suspect it of being boring due to the eleven hour duration from start to finish, but this is in reality one of the true Norwegian railway gems”, says Jan Helge Østlund.
The Nordland Railway is the only Norwegian railway that crosses the arctic circle, and it can be enjoyed at any part of the year. The train has two daily departures from Trondheim and Bodø, and operates both day and night.
The Bergen Railway stands among the most famous and popular of the scenic Norwegian train-routes – with good reason. The journey passes through beautiful mountain scenery from Oslo to Gol and Geilo, up Hallingdal towards Finse and along the gorgeous Hardangerjøkulen, before descending steeply towards its final stop.
“Not only does The Bergen Railway connect two of our most important cities, it also passes through a stunning cross section of Norwegian landscapes along the way. Fields, fjords, forest and mountains are all part of the seven hour ride. The fact that it passes Norways highest point for a railway line is also an interesting feature”, says Østlund.
Since The Norwegian Broadcasting Cooperation (NRK) televised the entirety of the Bergen Railway, minute by minute, the journey has become especially popular among tourists. Many take the opportunity to change lines at Myrdal station to experience The Flåmsbana railway, an hour-long (plus) trip through what many deem to be one of Norway’s most breathtaking stretches.
During the seven hour ride through Gudbrandsdalen, Rondane, Jotunheimen and Dovrefjell, you are passing through some of Norway’s famous national parks. The Dovre Railway is undoubtedly the most relaxing and unforgettable way to journey from Oslo to Trondheim, says train expert Østlund.
“The Dovre Railway constitutes a fine day of travelling. On route along the Mjøsa lake and up towards Hamar and Lillehammer, there are lots of gorgeous things to see. You are also taken past Eidsvoll, birthplace of the Norwegian constitution, and although the scenery wont be quite as dramatic as on our more famous railway lines, theres still plenty to see along the way. Among other species, musk ox is a frequent sight on this journey”, Østlund says.
Frequent departures throughout the year makes a stop at the Hunderfossen Family Park, a popular and convenient choice for families.
Raumabanen is described by NSB as one of Norway’s most “beautiful and wild railway lines”, a 114 kilometer long stretch of beauty that will always have a special place in Østlunds heart.
“From Bjorli down to Åndalsnes you will experience some of the most jaw-dropping scenery this side of Switzerland. For me it might be the most beautiful stretch of land this country has to offer”, he says.
The ride lasts around one hour and 40 minutes, and includes highlights like Romsdalen, Trollveggen and the Kylling bridge. If you travel with The Dovre Railway, you will have easy access to The Rauma Railway via Dombås station. The train is especially adapted for tourism, with panoramic windows and guides in the summer.
Being one of the most popular railways in Norway, despite a brief duration of just above one hour, says a lot about the Flåmsbana railway and the experiences it offers along the way. More than half a million tourists are yearly spellbound by the steep journey from Myrdal Station, down to Flåm in the inner parts of the Aurland Fjord.
“The Flåm Railway offers gorgeous views in fair weather. With dramatic waterfalls, rivers, valleys and mountains – this stretch of scenery is for many the very definition of Norwegian nature”, says Østlund.
As a life long lover of trains, Østlund especially appreciates the technical aspects of the Flåm Railway.
“Above all, The Flåm Railway is a technical masterpiece. Due to the steep ascent from 0 to 866 meters above sea level, two locomotives are required, one in front, one behind, and every carriage is rigged with a special braking system”, he explains.
The eight hour long train journey between Oslo and Stavanger may not have the “wild” reputation of its northern equivalents, but it is still a considerably more pleasant and picturesque alternative to highway driving. Family favourites like Bø Sommarland or the Kristiansand Zoo also makes the Sørlandet Line frequently used and highly appreciated by travellers.
“Many picture a train track right along the water’s edge, but large parts of the Sørlandet Line was built inland to avoid wartime bombardment. It’s actually close to Egersund that you see the ocean, but before that you will see mostly valleys and forests. From Nelaug, a sideline heads for Arendal, with beautiful areas along the way”, Østlund says.
Even though the Sørlandet Line is not usually praised like the Bergen Railway or Flåmsbana Railway, it remains one of the countrys binding transportation lines, giving easy access from the capital to Southern Norways beautiful coastal scenery.
The Røros Railway was opened in 1877, and stands as Norways oldest binding railway line. The five hour long ride connects Hamar and Trondheim through beautiful wilderness and mysterious forests in Østerdalen, before proceeding to UNESCO-listed Røros and all the way to Støren.
“Many consider the Røros Railway to be a bit boring, but there’s actually plenty of action to witness if you take the time to look. In the vast swathes of forest – with a bit of luck – you can spot both elk, wolverine, lynx, wolf and bear”, says Østlund.
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