Almost at the roof of the world, an extraordinary blend of outstanding natural beauty, a Viking heritage of exploration and wartime courage coupled with sophisticated cities full of Scandinavian style
Selected departures May to September 2017
Fly to Oslo and transfer to the modern four-star Scandic Byporten Hotel with breakfast, ideally located right in the centre of the city. The spacious, smart reception is welcoming and bright and there is a lobby bar where you can relax with a well-earned drink after a hard day’s sightseeing and enjoy views of city life through the panoramic windows. The light, modern rooms are furnished in typically Scandinavian calm neutral tones and are well-appointed with all the facilities you would expect for a comfortable stay.
After breakfast we embark on a sightseeing tour of Oslo. Norway’s relatively small capital city is a beguiling mix of the old and the new, featuring world-class museums, cutting-edge contemporary architecture and beautiful open spaces. We’ll see the National Gallery which houses the original of Edward Munch’s ‘The Scream’, undoubtedly Norway’s most extraordinary artist, the imposing Royal Palace, the nearby Ibsen Museum and the famed Vigeland sculpture park. We then reach the peninsula of Bygdøy and Oslo’s most popular attraction – the Viking Ship Museum. This houses two incredible 1000-year old oak Viking longships in a remarkable state of preservation. From here you may walk to see two other fascinating museums: the unmissable Kon-Tiki Museum contains the actual reed and balsawood crafts used by Norwegian adventurer Thor Heyerdahl on his landmark expeditions to recreate ancient man’s theoretical voyages in the 1950s. Next door is the Polar exploration ship Fram, used by Roald Amundsen on his journey to Antarctica.
The rest of the day is free for you to explore this charming city with the use of the Oslo Pass, which allows free entry to the city’s main museums and galleries, plus unrestricted travel on all public transport.
Today begins with a journey west to the picturesque Telemark region made famous by the Norwegian resistance, whose heroic actions between 1942–44 helped prevent the occupying German forces from developing the ‘heavy water’ needed to further their atomic bomb-making capabilities. We visit the site of the processing plant at Rjukan that was destroyed by a team of Norwegian saboteurs in February 1943, then travel to Lake Tinnsjø. It was from here that the Germans planned to transport their remaining stocks of processed ‘heavy water’ back to Germany but the ‘Heroes of Telemark’ as they became known (you have probably seen the film of the same name) blew up and sank the steam ferry carrying the heavy water. We travel back through this stunning landscape finishing with a visit to the country’s largest ‘stave’ church at Heddal, a spectacular 13th century wooden structure that looks like something straight out of a fairytale and return to our hotel in Oslo.
After breakfast we depart from Oslo on the fabled Bergen Railway. Often cited as one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys, Oslo-Bergen is the highest line between any two cities in Europe, peaking at 1,222m. One moment you are speeding alongside lakes and forests that seem to stretch as far as the eye can see and then as the railway climbs further you are past the tree line and on to the barren Hardangervidda plateau where patches of snow linger well into July. Just over five hours later you arrive at the mountain resort of Voss, where you check into the historic four-star Fleischer’s Hotel for two nights with breakfast and dinner. This beautiful, classic hotel dates back to the 19th century and is still owned by the fourth generation Fleischer family! You will be assured a warm welcome on arrival into the reception area with its lovely wooden panelling and furnished with comfortable leather chairs and sofas in rich, relaxing colours. Dine in style in the elegant restaurant before retiring to the cosy bar for a digestif. Enjoy stunning lake and mountain views from the large terrace or take a swim in the indoor pool. The rooms are classically decorated in warm tones and offer all the facilities you would expect in a hotel of this quality.
There’s a real treat in store today – a trip on the world-famous Flåm Railway. From Voss we head to Myrdal, where we change trains for Flåm, a 20-kilometre journey that sees us descend 865m on one of the world’s steepest railway lines, deemed ‘the world’s best train ride’. You will marvel at the engineering feat of 20 tunnels carved through sheer mountainsides, you will be left speechless at the beauty of the sheer cliffs and cascading waterfalls and you will be in awe as you eventually reach the mouth of one of Norway’s most spectacular fjords, Aurlandsfjord. Your hour-long journey ends in Flåm, where you board a two-hour ferry for Gudvangen across the UNESCO-listed Naerøyfjord and its jawdropping vistas. From Gudvangen you take a coach for the return journey to Voss.
We leave Voss for the pretty village of Eidfjord, which is nestled on the banks of Hardangerfjord, Norway’s second longest fjord, known as the Queen of Fjords. Our journey takes us across Norway’s longest suspension bridge, and from Eidfjord we continue up the valley to Vøringfossen, the country’s most renowned – and arguably most spectacular waterfall. As it falls 182 metres into the sheer-sided gorge below, you may be lucky enough to see its amazing rainbow from the viewing point offering sensational views of this magnificent natural spectacle. Camera memory cards filled, we head back to the massive open waters of Hardangerfjord for a cruise along the fjord, passing by some charming tiny villages, before transferring on by coach to Bergen, where you will stay for two nights at the charming and historic Grand Hotel Terminus, a classic art deco hotel dating back to 1928. Ideally located within walking distance of the main sights of Bergen, the rooms are well appointed with all the facilities you would expect from a hotel of this standard. The atmospheric oak-panelled bar, offering speciality whiskies, is an ideal place to relax with newly made friends at the end of the day.
This evening we dine at a local restaurant serving authentic Norwegian cuisine
After breakfast we take a morning walking tour of this beautiful coastal city. Bergen has a long fishing heritage and we will walk around its famous fish market before strolling along the colourful wooden houses and warehouses that make up the UNESCO site of the Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf. Originally built in the 14th century for German merchants trading out of the city, these beautiful waterside buildings have been converted into characterful shops and restaurants that wonderfully evoke Bergen’s medieval past. The afternoon is spent at your leisure. A wealth of sightseeing opportunities include the house of Bergen’s most famous son, composer Edvard Grieg, or a ride on the Fløibanen funicular up to the summit of Fløyen for a breathtaking view of the city. If that all sounds like too much effort, simply stroll around the narrow, cobbled streets with their pretty archways before settling down in a café or restaurant to order a plate of fruits de mer or even the local speciality of herring. They are guaranteed to be as fresh as the air, water and panoramas that you have experienced over the past six days that make Norway so wonderfully invigorating and unique.
Transfer to Bergen airport for our return flight home.
Although most of us may be aware of Norway’s remarkably spectacular fjords, few appreciate that this oddly-shaped country on the edge of Europe offers so very much more. Sophisticated and cosmopolitan Oslo, is superbly located at the head of its own fjord and seems surrounded by water. From its amazing new Opera House built to resemble a glacier at the water’s edge, to its Royal Palace, art galleries and Maritime museums, this is a city which will surely surprise and delight you.
We also enjoy two of Europe’s most breath-taking rail journeys: the Oslo to Bergen plus the celebrated Flam railway – the world’s steepest, operating without cogs or cables. Who could forget the world’s most outstandingly majestic fjords!, stunning, beautiful and enchanting, we enjoy boat trips on two of the finest. And finally, typically Nordic Bergen – a member of the medieval Hanseatic League, crammed with charming cobbled streets and colourful buildings lining its delightful quayside.
The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin room. Single rooms are subject to availability at a supplement of £249 per person. The price includes flights to Oslo, returning from Bergen, airport departure taxes and transfers, seven nights accommodation with breakfast and three dinners, all tours as mentioned, tour of Oslo, visit to Viking Ship museum, 1-day Oslo Pass, full day tour to Telemark, train to Voss, train to Flam and cruise to Gudvangen, trip to Voringfoss and Hardanger fjord cruise, Bergen walking tour, and the services of a Riviera Tour Manager.