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November 24th, 2023

Riding the Rails in Norway

November 24th, 2023

Written By

Torunn Tronsvang

Founder

Why travel by train in Norway?

European train travel is on an Upswing right now, and Norway is very much a part of that. Across the continent, new investments in high-speed railway lines and the renaissance of the luxury rail journey are igniting a feverish interest among travellers.

Norway‘s impressive network of domestic airports, and its 18 Scenic Routes, were set up with a deliberate policy of making rural and remote parts of the country just as accessible as the urban ones. However, emissions from train travel are ten to thirty times lower than from flying. That alone is a great reason to choose rail for your Up Norway journey.

Below is our insider guide for rail enthusiasts and trainspotters – anyone who's fed up with airport stress, or who wants to reduce their carbon footprint and add some dreamy contemplation to their journey time. Go slow: you won’t regret it.

What are the best train routes for scenic travel in Norway? Discover Norway's Breathtaking Scenic Railways: The Flåm Railway, The Rauma Railway, and Ofotbanen

No point saving the best until last. Norway proudly possesses three railway routes that are essential additions to every traveller's bucket list.


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1. The Flåm Railway

The Flåm Railway is often called ‘the world's most beautiful train journey’. The 20 km dreamline connects the high-altitude Myrdal station on the Bergen railway, with the village of Flåm, located by Aurlandsfjord which connects to the UNESCO heritage site Nærøyfjord. This unforgettable ride passes by steep mountainsides, flourishing valleys and cascading waterfalls. Engineering marvels like tunnels, bridges and dramatic hairpin bends offer panoramic views at every turn.

For the best Flåm Railway experience, with fewer crowds and a less crowded Flåm village, we recommend travelling between September to May. For more adventurous travellers, it is worth noting that the trip can be enhanced with a bike ride from Finse station to Flåm on ‘Rallarvegen’, the old railway construction road; and/or an exhilarating zipline experience from Vatnahalsen station.

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2. The Rauma Railway - The Golden Train

Venturing northwest from Dombås on the Dovre line, you encounter the Rauma Railway (recently referred to as The Golden Train), a captivating 114 km stretch connecting the mountaineering town of Åndalsnes to Dombås. This railway rolls you right into the heart of the Romsdalen valley, coasting alongside the emerald waters of the Rauma River encircled by striking peaks like the iconic Troll Wall (Trollveggen), and across the extraordinary cantilevered Kylling Bridge.

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The Rauma Railway is our favourite gateway to some of Norway's most incredible hiking trails and outdoor adventures, as well as a selection of the land’s best boutique hotels in the Møre fjord and alpine region.


Insider Tips: Check out the Norwegian film from 2022, The Gold Run (Gulltransporten), based on the true story of Fredrik Haslund. He was handed the enormous responsibility of transporting the entire Norwegian gold reserve away from the Germans during the invasion of Norway in 1940. Parts of this movie are filmed on the Rauma Railway.

Good to know as of November 2023: There is a temporary bus for train transfer between Lillehammer and Dombås due to a flood damage on a bridge on the Dovreline.

3. The Ofoten Line - The Arctic Train

Looking north, the Ofotenbanen (sometimes called the Arctic Railway) is an extraordinary route connecting the Norwegian town of Narvik to the Swedish iron ore mines of Kiruna. The iron road takes you through stark Arctic wilderness, where snow-capped peaks and crystal-clear lakes create an otherworldly atmosphere. At the same time, it’s a revealing journey through Second World War history.

During the winter months, the northern lights often grace the skies, providing an ethereal backdrop to this already breathtaking journey. The Ofotbanen is a photographer’s paradise, offering countless opportunities to capture exquisite images of nature's most incredible revelations.

Insider Tips: Read about our extended Arctic Circle Express Journey in Travel + Leisure

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Travel Norway by Train

If you want to experience the ultimate train experience through Norway, including all three scenic railways, then hop on the Arctic Circle Express. For a closer exploration of the the Møre fjord and alpine region, you might like our Give me Møre!-itinerary.

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Does Norway really have luxury trains?

It’s one of our most frequently asked questions. You might need to look elsewhere for a full Belmond-style Orient Express experience, however, if you like the sound of the luxurious sensation of travelling slowly, sustainably and stress-free through breathtaking landscapes in a modern, comfortable carriage, then the answer is definitely: yes!

On Norway’s trains, at least, the journey is just as pleasurable as the destination. Porter service can be arranged on selected stretches, and Premium tickets include hot drinks and light refreshments. Longer itineraries feature trains with cafe service with everything from Norwegian chocolate and freshly baked goods to traditional Norwegian 'kjøttkaker' (meatballs) and local beer.

Train travel in Norway: Good to know

  1. Norway’s railways are serviced by three operators: Vy (rebranded from Norwegian State Railways in 2019), SJ (a Norwegian subsidiary of Swedish Railways) and Go-Ahead Nordic.
  2. Railways run from the south as far as Bodø in the north, and west from Narvik towards Sweden. A new report (September 2023) on a much discussed Northern Norway railway line has come up with a price tag of NOK 200 billion to see this railway line through, with a clear recommendation - it’s “too expensive” to build.
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  1. What does it cost? Ticket prices in Norway can seem illogical: travel within Oslo and the Oslo region can be included in #Ruter daypasses along with free use of the T-bane (subway), tram (trikk), buses and even local passenger ferries. While some parts of the railway network have fixed rates, other prices on popular stretches such as the Bergen railway fluctuate from as low as NOK 199 to NOK 1099. Our recommendation is to (let us help you) book early with a flex ticket and choose the ‘Plus’ option (more space and comfort, coffee and tea included). Reserve your seat to make sure you’re facing in the direction you want (we can advise you in the optimum position to enjoy the most scenic details!). If you’re travelling as a family (Up to six), book a private compartment (Kupé).
  1. Are there night trains in Norway? You can take a sleeper train between several destinations including Oslo – Bergen, Oslo – Trondheim and Trondheim – Bodø. However, unfortunately, the current standard of these night trains is fairly low and the journeys can be more bumpy and uncomfortable than we’d like. So we don’t generally recommend them.
  2. How do I book train tickets in Norway? Tickets for routes in Norway (and Scandinavia) can be purchased from Vy, as well as Flytoget for the airport train. When you travel on an Up Norway journey, tickets are included in the price of your journey. The tickets themselves can be found in your digital itinerary.
  3. Fun fact: If you order food in the train’s cafeteria and choose to eat in the dining compartment, you will be charged 25% VAT. But if you take it back to your seat, your VAT is reduced by 15% as your meal is now classed as take away:-)
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Two top attractions that you can only reach by train

High life in Finse

1222 metres above sea level, Finse is the highest point on the Oslo-Bergen railway. Literally, the only way to get there is by train. Finse represents a small piece of Norwegian history. Thanks to the stable snow and ice, legends such as figure skater Sonia Henie and polar explorers Fritjof Nansen and Ernest Shackleton have travelled here for training purposes. The battles on the planet Hoth in the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back were shot here.

We love Finse for its explorer-chic hotel and trekking cabin which serve as starting points for astonishing hikes; the Rallarvegen bike ride to Flåm; and ski trips from mountain to fjord. It is home to the Rallar Museum, located in a locomotive shed with exhibits showing the construction of the Bergen Railway from 1894 to 1909. The stories about battling with the snow and elements to keep the railway open are as relevant today as they were more than a century ago.

Finse is included on our New Views of the Old Country itinerary

Crossing the Line – by Rail Across the Arctic Circle

‘Vy’ is a Scandinavian word meaning outlook or vision. And gaining new viewpoint and perspectives is what travelling is all about, which is one reason why ‘Vy’ became the new name for the Norwegian State Railway during a rebranding in 2019.

The three-hour train journey from Bodø to the village of Mo i Rana perfectly justifies the name change. From your seat you’ll be introduced to a world of contrasts as the train thunders across Saltfjellet – Svartisen National Park (which means ‘Salt Mountain – Black Ice’). Steep mountains plunge into fjords and onwards to flowing rivers and lush valleys clad with mountain birch. The Svartisen ice cap covers about a fifth of the park, and the area’s chalky bedrock is home to rich flora which in turn supports a wealth of animal life. Watch out for the symbolic monument which marks your crossing of the Arctic Circle.

Our Myths and Marvels itinerary takes your through the Artic Circle Region.

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Now approaching platform: Luxury in 2025

We may not have luxury trains like the Orient Express, but a Norwegian equivalent, the Norient Express, is set to debut in early 2025. Founded by Up Norway friend Øivind Lindbøe, this innovative concept promises to whisk travellers on a 6-day journey from Bergen to Trondheim, on electric trains boasting a high-end interior, gym, observation deck, and a focus on sustainable and comfortable travel.

The trains will be designed using natural, Norwegian materials, providing passengers with an authentic and eco-friendly experience. As of October 2023, Norient Express is awaiting approval from the Norwegian Railway Authority. But there’s a real head of steam building up around this exciting project which is set to revolutionise Norwegian luxury train travel.

Are there high-speed trains in Norway? Train travel between Norway and Europe

The only true high-speed train within Norway is the airport train (Flytoget), which shuttles between Oslo Airport (OSL) and the city centre in just 19 minutes. A high-speed train also makes it possible to get from Stockholm to Oslo in about five hours.

While we in the Up Norway team are working to drive Up the quality of Norwegian rail travel and make train experiences a part of our journeys, other forces are working to improve the high-speed connections between Oslo and the rest of Europe. Northern Nights, founded by Up Norway friend Trygve Sunde Kolderup, is on a mission to create a seamless night travel option by train from Oslo to Copenhagen, Hamburg and Berlin.  Around 75 per cent of the tourist industry’s climate emissions are generated by transport between destinations. Northern Nights is an initiative for a comfortable, green journey linking Norway and the world.

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Insider Tips

For travellers who want to experience Norway, but also get a taste of Sweden and Denmark, start your journey in Copenhagen and make your way to Norway by train via the Swedish West Coast. This train ride takes 8-10 hours but can be broken down in two or three legs with stops at idyllic countryside, coastal or urban locations on the Swedish coast. This journey shows you how.

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