All aboard! Let the train take you comfortably to the fjords, across mountains, to the happy south, or north of the Arctic Circle. These eight railway rides offer spectacular views along the way, and several of them are ranked among the most beautiful rail journeys in the world.
Riding trains in Norway is just as much about the unique, beautiful and calming experiences you can have along the way, as it is about arriving at your final destination. Many Norwegian railway lines are considered to be among the most beautiful train journeys in the world, according to Lonely Planet and several newspapers and travel magazines.
Train journeys such as the Nordland Line and the Bergen Line 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 a plane.
Author Jan Helge Østlund has written several books on Norwegian train journeys and railway history. “Switzerland and Austria provide stiff competition, but I would still say that Norway is an excellent European rail destination. They may have faster trains further south, but we rank highly in terms of history, interesting stops, and beautiful nature along the tracks”, Østlund says.
As a bonus, train travel is also one of the most sustainable ways to explore the country. Here are eight Norwegian rail journeys that offer far more than just transportation.
The Nordland Line is the only Norwegian railway that crosses the Arctic Circle, and you can enjoy it all year round. You can choose between two daily departures from Trondheim and Bodø, and the night train journey is named one of the world’s most beautiful by Lonely Planet. Book your trip early if you want a sleeping cabin.
The Bergen Line is perhaps the most popular of the scenic Norwegian train journeys – and with good reason. The train passes through beautiful mountain scenery from Oslo to Gol and Geilo, up through the Hallingdal valley towards Finse, and along the gorgeous Hardangerjøkulen glacier, before it descends towards the final stop.
“Not only does the Bergen Line connect two of our most important cities, Bergen and Oslo, it also travels 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 Norway’s highest point for a railway line is also interesting”, says Østlund.
The Norwegian Broadcasting Cooperation (NRK) televised the entirety of the Bergen Line minute by minute and, since then, the journey has become favoured by tourists. Many take the opportunity to transfer at Myrdal station to experience the world-famous Flåm Line, an hour-long (plus) trip through what might be one of Norway’s most breathtaking stretches.
The fact that it is one of the most famous railways in the world despite its brief duration of about one hour, says a lot about the Flåm Line and the views it offers along the way. Yearly, more than half a million travellers are spellbound by the steep journey downwards from Myrdal station to the village of Flåm, located in the innermost part of the Aurlandsfjord.
“The Flåm Line has gorgeous views in fair weather. With dramatic waterfalls, rivers, valleys and mountains, this stretch is for many the very definition of Norwegian nature”, says Østlund.
As a lifelong lover of trains, Østlund especially appreciates the technical aspects of the Flåm Line.
The Dovre Line is undoubtedly an unforgettable way to journey from Oslo to Trondheim, says train expert Østlund. During the seven-hour ride through Gudbrandsdalen, Rondane, Jotunheimen and Dovrefjell, you pass through some of Norway’s stunning national parks.
“The Dovre Line constitutes a fine day of travelling. On route along Lake Mjøsa and towards Hamar and Lillehammer, there are many gorgeous things to see. You also travel past Eidsvoll, the birthplace of the Norwegian constitution, and although the scenery won’t be quite as dramatic as on our more famous railway lines, there is still plenty to see along the way. Among other species, the musk ox is a frequent sight on this journey”, Østlund says.
If you want, you can do a stopover midway in the mountains of Dovrefjell. Here, you can go on a musk ox safari, and even get the large animal served on a plate at Kongsvold Fjeldstue, which is one of the most unique hotels and eateries in Norway and is located only a short distance from Kongsvoll station.
A desired stop if you’re travelling with kids, is the Hunderfossen Family Park in Lillehammer.
At Bjorli station, you can change for the renowned Rauma Line.
“From Bjorli and 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 about 1 hour and 40 minutes and includes highlights like the Romsdalen valley, the Trollveggen rock face, and the unique Kylling bridge. If you travel with the Dovre Line, you will have easy access to the Rauma Line via Dombås station. The train is especially adapted for tourism, with panoramic windows and guides in the summer.
From the fjord village Åndalsnes, also called “the mountaineering capital”, you can hike the infamous Romsdalseggen ridge, go ski touring, or experience the Norwegian Scenic Route Geiranger-Trollstigen.
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 driving if you are going to the “happy south”.
The train passes many family-friendly destinations, like the largest waterpark in Scandinavia, Bø Sommarland in Telemark, and Kristiansand, known as the summer capital of the south with its many great beaches and family attractions such as Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park.
“Many picture a train track right along the water’s edge, but large parts of the Sørland Line was built inland to avoid wartime bombardment. It’s actually not until you approach Egersund that you can see the ocean. Before that, there is mostly valleys and forests. From Nelaug, a sideline heads for Arendal, with beautiful areas along the way”, Østlund says.
The Røros Line opened in 1877 and is as Norway’s oldest main line. The five-hour long ride connects Hamar (one hour by train from Oslo) and Trondheim through the beautiful wilderness and mysterious forests of Østerdalen before it continues to the unique, UNESCO listed mining town Røros and all the way to Støren.
“Many consider the Røros Line 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 moose, wolverine, lynx, wolf and bear”, says Østlund.
Once called “the eighth wonder of the world”, the Ofoten Line is Norway’s northernmost train line and takes you from Narvik by the Ofotfjord on the old iron ore railway. The train glides through a historical, beautiful and wild landscape with fantastic views of the fjord, jagged mountain peaks, and cascading waterfalls. The trip to the Swedish border takes about an hour, and you can continue south through Sweden to Stockholm or other destinations in Europe.
On this journey, it’s not only the scenery that is awe-inspiring. Traces of the navvies (“rallare” in Norwegian) that built the railway in the late 1800s create a captivating backdrop for the journey. That is also true for the marks from the Second World War – a large part of the warfare during the Battle of Narvik took place close to the railway, which was the export route for Europe’s largest and most important iron ore deposits.
Hop off at Katterat station, which is surrounded by cute red-painted buildings, and hike back to Rombaksbotn by the fjord, following the beautiful old navvy road Rallarvegen. In summer, guided tours and rib transport back to Narvik are available. If you love skiing, the ski resort Narvikfjellet is open until May, and in the summer, a gondola takes you to the top of the mountain to enjoy the amazing fjord view.
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