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April 15, 2015 / Norway Attractions | Scandinavia Attractions | Uncategorized

Norway in a Nutshell:

Spending the Benjamin on Balestrand

An express boat navigating the pure waters of the incredible Sognefjord. Photo courtesy O. Heen, Visit Norway.

Imagine it: you’ve arrived in Norway’s Sognefjord region for a Norway in a Nutshell tour.

Having taken a train from Oslo to Myrdal, you embark on the world-renowned Flåmsbana—the famous Flåm Railway—on a spectacular journey descending the side of the fjord. You head onward to Flåm and board the ferry that will take you around the wide loop of the Aurlandsfjord region of the Sognefjord, and begin to sail past craggy mountains stretching away into the atmosphere.

In that moment, you realize you want to get a better glance at the Sognefjord—and you decide you might want to indulge in a relaxing hotel stay with historical Norwegian architecture, too. At this point, though, you can’t go back and re-plan your trip – you’re already on your way to Gudvangen.

Fortunately for you: you’re not actually on this trip—yet! So, let’s rewind a bit: what should you plan on with us beforehand to make your Norway fjord tour longer and more enjoyable?

Looking up at a fjord-view room (upgrade available) of the Kviknes Hotel. This section, known as the historic section of the hotel, is made entirely from wood. Photo courtesy C.H., Visit Norway.

Solution: plan to include Balestrand

Smack in the middle of snowcapped mountains on the side of the Sognefjord, right on the water, our extension to Balestrand is an hour and a half by express boat from Flåm, and you’ll bisect the Sognefjord to reach it (more time with the world’s longest open fjord = a good thing). The atmosphere of Balestrand alone is worth incorporating into your fjord trip: breathtaking views encase the quaint town, and you’ll encounter a very special stop here – the Kviknes Hotel.

The beautiful vista above (the extension to Balestrand) can be added onto your pre-existing Norway in a Nutshell for exactly one day and a little more than a ‘Benjamin’ ($100 for those of you unfamiliar with the Founding Father and his tenure on the face of the modern bill) extra. It’s well worth it. Kviknes has a very special past: it was the first Norwegian tourist fjord hotel established in the country.

Norse wood carving in the traditional dragon style found in the Kviknes Hotel’s Music Lounge, popularly known as the Høyvik Room. Ivar Høyvik (1881 – 1961), an unbelievably talented craftsman, is represented here in his life’s work. The artist, a longtime resident of Balestrand, frequently created unique pieces for other resident artists in the area—most notably Hans Dahl, the famed Norwegian landscape painter. Many of his Norse mythology pieces adorn the walls (and furniture) of this special lounge. Photo courtesy C.H., Visit Norway.

Kviknes Hotel

The Kviknes Hotel, the ‘jewel of the Sognefjord’, is a spectacular landmark founded in 1752. Now run by the Kvikne family (four generations and counting c. 1877), the hotel perches on the shores of the Sognefjord and features old architectural charm as well as a healthy variety of antiques and artwork.

A spectacular perk of visiting this area to stay in Kviknes – whether you’re here for a longer amount of time or just a day – is the view and the possibilities that come along with it. Included as an optional upgrade on most of our tours, the fjord-view room at Kviknes is just what it sounds like – and more. The fjord stretches out in front of your intricately-carved balcony, and each room has its own character with modern comforts.

The area is known for its well-marked mountain trails and offers good hiking experiences; St. Olaf’s – an 1897 English stave church – a new museum (opened in late 2014), an aquarium featuring local wildlife, and guided cultural walks can all be found within Balestrand’s town borders.

A front-row seat to the Sognefjord in winter, photo courtesy Flirting with the Globe’s Karisa Klee.

Norway in a Nutshell, standard

If you don’t have the extra day or Benjamin (or the C-note, if you prefer Roman numerals) to spend in fjord country (let’s be honest though—you’re in Norway: an extra day and $100 to see a larger portion of the world’s longest open fjord and a stay in a hotel run by the same family since its founding SHOULD be part of your Norway bucket list) or you’re traveling off-season, consider the standard Norway in a Nutshell tour—a fan favorite all year long.

Blogger Karisa Klee of Flirting with the Globe, who traveled with us this January, was mesmerized. “Breathtaking. I’m not certain why more isn’t written about the tour in winter…We’ve all seen the gorgeous pictures of the bright green fjords contrasted by speckled red farm houses. The tour is different in winter, but I would argue that it’s equally amazing.”

Waterfalls skip down the rocks of the side of the Geirangerfjord near an express boat, enjoyed on a trips like Magical Norway. Photo courtesy O. Heen, Visit Norway.

Magical Norway: an expanded tour of Norway’s fjord region

Have those extra few days (and Benjamins) to spend on making your tour of the fjords the most spectacular it can be?

One of our most popular tours, Magical Norway, takes you on an exciting journey not only through Balestrand and the Sognefjord (with a stay in Kviknes!) but also through two of Norway’s most incredible fjords: the idyllic Hardanger and the UNESCO-listed Geiranger, with stops at some of the most unique historical hotels in the country.

You’ll experience some of Norway’s most picturesque spots, cross three major fjords, see the country’s capital, Oslo, explore the ‘Gateway to the Fjords’ (Bergen) and two glaciers (including a pass underneath the largest glacier in Europe!), and take the Troll’s Path—a dramatic series of 11 hairpin turns.

What’s not to love? Join us today!


Have we captured your interest? Great!Flam

The experience above forms the basis for some of our most spectacular journeys.

Want to know more? Contact us to get started on your journey to Norway’s fjords!