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4th October 2017
It highlights signature attractions which most people want to be able to see during a first time trip to Norway and which many people also want to re-visit after they have explored further afield.
Norway's vibrant and modern capital city, Oslo; the great journey by train on the Bergen Railway across the mountain plateau from east to west; the famous Flåm Mountain Railway with its numerous twists and turns as it descends the mountain to the fjord; the magnificent and mighty Sognefjord - breathtaking in her beauty and Norway's longest and deepest fjord; and Bergen, Norway's second city with a beautiful Hanseatic harbour which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As we have said, whilst this holiday is perfect for first time visitors, the destinations with all their sights, sounds and tastes are what keep visitors coming back year after year. So this holiday could also be called 'Norway for Veterans' too!
Day 1 - Arrive Norway and Oslo
Arrive at Oslo Airport by air from the UK. Independent transfer to Oslo city centre.
2 nights OSLO - Comfort Hotel Børsparken *** or Hotel Bristol **** (B)
Day 2 - Explore Oslo
A full day to explore Norway's fabulous capital city. Highlights of the city include the Edvard Munch Museum (come face to face with 'The Scream'!), the stunning view of the Oslofjord from the Opera House, The Viking Ships Museum, The Vigeland Sculpture Park and Aker Brygge, Oslo's picturesque harbour area full of cafes, restaurants and shops.
Day 3 - Bergen Line train, the Flåm Mountain Railway and a Fjord Cruise
Early departure by rail for the wonderful journey across the mountain plateau from Oslo to Myrdal (5 hours). In Myrdal you change to the World-famous Flåm Mountain Railway for the magnificent descent to Flåm overlooking the Aurlandsfjord. Your journey continues by boat for a fjord-cruise to what we consider to be one of Norway's most perfectly located and picturesque fjord villages, Balestrand – overlooking the mighty Sognefjord in all her splendour.
You will be met at the quay in Balestrand and transferred to your accommodation. Time for a pre-dinner drink or short walk in Balestrand before dinner.
**Please see our blog to read about our trip to Balestrand. You'll quickly understand why we love it so much!**
3 nights BALESTRAND - Midtnes Hotel *** or Kvikne's Hotel **** (B,D)
Day 4 - Explore by car or by Fjærlands fjord cruise
Balestrand is an idyllic village with a magnificent mountain backdrop and the Sognefjord directly in front – the perfect location for stretching your legs on one of the marked walking trails or exploring the region's numerous opportunities for activities plus cultural, art and food experiences. Those who have chosen the car hire option will be able to explore at leisure, perhaps taking the Gaularfjell road into the mountains for spectacular vistas. Those without car hire have an included Fjærland boat trip excursion departing directly from the harbour in Balestrand. Dinner at your hotel.
Day 5 - Explore or relax
A free day to explore the area at your own leisure. Those with a hire car may choose to drive to Utsikten, the viewing point on the Gaularfjell mountain road which affords fabulous panoramic views of the fjord, and those on foot may choose to take the local bus along the northern shore of the Sognefjord to Sogndal, the regions main town. Please ask for details.
Day 6 - Coastline cruise to Bergen
Early morning transfer to the quay for departure by express boat along the Sognefjord out to where it meets the sea before heading southwards along the coastline to Bergen.
2 nights BERGEN – Augustin Hotel *** or Clarion Admiral Hotel **** (B)
Day 7 - Explore Bergen
A full day to explore Norway's second largest city with its charming and colourful Hanseatic harbour (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), funicular railway to the viewing point at the top of Mount Fløien and the numerous shops, cafes and restaurants clustered within easy walking distance of one another.
Day 8 - Homeward bound
Transfer from Bergen centre by airport bus to Bergen Airport for your return flight home.
Departure Days: Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Departure Dates: 2 May to 26 Sep 2018
Duration: 7 nights
Prices: (prices are per person based on two people travelling together and sharing a double/twin room with shower and WC).
Price per person
Børsparken, Midtnes & Augustin
1 May – 15 Jun
17 Jun – 18 Aug
19 Aug – 26 Sep
Bristol, Kvikne’s & Admiral
1 May – 15 Jun
17 Jun – 18 Aug
19 Aug – 23 Sep
Kviknes Hotel, Balestrand ****
We have featured the Kviknes Hotel, and enjoyed a close co-operation with the Kvikne Family, since our beginnings - but not since theirs! At Kvikne's their beginnings go right back to 1752 and the best traditions of inn-keeping. The Kvikne family, who still own the hotel, started their reign in 1877, a little before our time, and today it is Sigurd Kvikne (4th generation) who heads up the hotel, with his sister Kari managing their reservations and Front Office.
Although the hotel originally started with only two rooms (yes, just two!), today the hotel has 200 guest rooms and is one of the largest tourist hotels in Norway. Graced with an extensive collection of artworks and antiques, the hotel also has a list of prominent guests; Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was a frequent guest, along with royalty, emperors, presidents, prime ministers, film stars and artists from many countries.
The hotel was originally built in the ‘Swiss’ style and this section is now referred to as the 'Old Wing' or 'Historical Swiss Style Building'; however much new building, reconstruction and extension has taken place since, not least the addition of the 'New Wing' in the 1960s (see below). The Old Wing directly overlooks the Sognefjord and this is where you will find the beautiful dragon-style restaurant and lounge areas with a small number of guest rooms. In the public rooms you will find a fine collection of paintings from the numerous artists who stayed at the hotel (occasionally using their paintings as a way to pay for their stay!) and antique furniture in keeping with the antique, dragon-style wooden interior.
There are a number of different room categories available at the hotel. Our clients are accommodated in rooms on a high floor in the New Wing of the hotel with a view of the gardens and fjord. These rooms have twin beds, a seating area, desk, TV, telephone and bathroom with bath/shower and WC. A small number of twin rooms are also available in the Old Wing of the hotel which are simply and traditionally furnished in keeping with the old style of the hotel and have a view of the fjord. These rooms are available at a supplement. The Old Wing also has a small number of Junior Suites which have a separated seating area and bedroom and a view of the fjord. Please ask our reservations staff for applicable supplements.
The hotel serves a wonderful, traditional Scandinavian buffet for dinner with a broad selection of cold meats, fish and salad along with a good selection of hot dishes featuring meat, fish and vegetarian options. A large buffet breakfast is also served.
The New Wing – Beauty or the Beast?
It was during the 1960s, when Sigurd and Kari’s father, Per Kvikne, was running the hotel that he faced an increased demand for more rooms and plans for a new, modern building were drawn up. At the time Per came under considerable pressure to demolish the old, wooden hotel entirely and completely re-build a modern hotel in its place; however, he couldn’t bear to do this (he had an emotional attachment to the hotel and the memories and history it held) and he decided to have two contrasting buildings instead, retaining the old but building a new, and for them to sit alongside one another, both a testament to their place in history and both examples of fine architecture. This decision proved to be very controversial but it is one that we love and applaud! The New Wing is now seamlessly attached to its older sibling so that internally you pass from one to the other without even knowing you have done so, however, externally the two remain very distinct from one another and still cause something of a visual stir when approaching the hotel from the fjord.
Like it or loathe it, the New Wing is a beautiful example of post-modern 60s architecture and, without it, there simply wouldn’t be a historical, wooden building at all!
Midtnes Hotel, Balestrand ***
The Midtnes Hotel (formerly the Midtnes Penjsonat) is one of the most popular quality small hotels in Western Norway, and rightly so. It is owned and managed by Jon Gjeraker, who is a wonderful host and a mine of local information. All rooms are accessible via a lift and have shower and WC with a number also having a private balcony. We always reserve rooms for Taber clients with a balcony when available. The hotel has a selection of nice, intimate lounge areas, one with an open fireplace, so there is plenty of space to relax with a glass of wine/beer or cup of tea/coffee. The hotel also has a lovely sun terrace with a fabulous panorama view of the Sognefjord. In addition to this the hotel also has its own pier, a bathing place and rowing boat. Water comes straight from a mountain lake and is drinkable from the tap! The day starts with a buffet breakfast and dinner is a 3-course set menu. Jon will be able to tell you at the start of the day what is for dinner in the evening so if it is something you do not like he can make an alternative.
Hotel Bristol ****
Hotel Bristol is a very traditional, historical hotel. As soon as you enter the main lobby area you experience the unique style that characterizes the hotel and an air of elegance which has been maintained since the hotel welcomed their first guests in 1920. Perfectly located just off Karl Johan’s Gate, the citys main street, with the Royal Palace at one end and Storting (Parliament) at the other. The hotel has 251 rooms (10 of which are suites) all equipped with TV, mini-bar, hairdryer, trouser press and telephone. The hotel has a spa and gym, bar, conference centre, garage, room service and wireless internet access. The hotel also has two restaurants; Bristol Grill, focusing on international and Norwegian dishes using local produce and Hambro’s Cafe, a popular Italian bistro.
Comfort Hotel Børsparken - Oslo ***
Located in the heart of the capital, Comfort Hotel Børsparken is surrounded by beautiful neo rennaissance and art nouveau architecture. This hotel provies perfect location for exploring the wonderful city of Oslo. Only two blocks from the popular shopping street Karl Johan and within walking distance from the central train station and airport shuttle. Rooms are spacious and can be accessed via an elevator, they are also equipped with cable television, wifi and ensuite bathroom.
Augustin Hotel, Bergen ***
The Augustin Hotel has an extremely handy location, centrally located but in a quieter street just set back from the main harbour area. It is a short walk to most of the city's main attractions including Bryggen (the old Hanseatic harbour), the main shopping streets, the Aquarium, the express boat terminal and the funicular railway. It is actually Bergen's oldest family-run hotel now managed by the fourth generation of the Smørås family; the oldest part of the hotel was built in Art Nouveau style in 1909, however, since then the hotel has expanded, incorporating old neighbouring houses and building new wings. The hotel has a popular intimate dinner restaurant (closed Sundays) where their excellent buffet breakfast is also served, and a lovely 400-year-old cellar bar, Altona. During the summer months (June - August) you will find free waffles served between 1600 and 1800 in the lounge area next to Reception. Free tea and coffee is also available here all year round, 24 hours per day. All bedrooms are equipped with TV, phone, hair-dryer, mini-bar and trouser press. Lift to all floors.
If you are on a fly-drive holiday with Scandinavia Only, and spending a night in Bergen with your car, we will pre-book and include car parking as part of your stay. The car park is just across the road from the hotel and is outdoor.
CLARION HOTEL ADMIRAL (4 star) - Bergen
Clarion Hotel Admiral is the only true waterside hotel in Bergen with the best view of Bryggen (the Hanseatic harbour) , Vågen and Fløyen. The hotel was completely renovated in 2014 and is now an extremely stylish yet supremely comfortable and easy-going hotel. Centrally located in the heart of Bergen and within a couple of minutes walk of the fish harbour and main shopping street, the hotel is actually an old storehouse which dates back to 1904. The hotel has a lovely restaurant called Kitchen and Table and an area called the Living Room both of which are, as the names suggest, places to relax with good food, either a glass of wine, a cup of tea or just with other people or perhaps a good book - the whole point is that you should feel at home! All bedrooms included in our tours are with harbour view and are equipped with satellite TV, telephone, trouser press, mini-bar and hairdryer and free WiFi. These rooms also have a small balconette directly overlooking the water. Lift to all floors.
Please note, rooms at the Admiral have twin beds which are pushed together, each with their own set of bedlinen, but which cannot be separated.
Norway for Beginners
If you're staying at Kvikne's Hotel why not indulge with one of their lovely picnic lunches? Inside your basket you will find locally produced smoked salmon, cured ham, fried chicken, boiled eggs, home-baked bread plus seasonal vegetables and fresh fruit. All accompanied by a bottle of Balholm Apple Juice - grown, pressed and lovingly bottled by Ciderhuset . A real lunchtime treat and taste of the region. Price: £22 per person.
Balestrand Nature Trail is a marked walking route providing information about the plants and animals in the area and offering magnificent views over the village and the fjord. The route is marked with yellow signs and two options are offered, taking between 2 and 4 hours to complete- depending upon how much you want to stretch your legs and how many times you may want to stop and simply enjoy the view. If you're a keen artist (or a budding one), why not take your artist's kit with you and follow in the footsteps of many of the village's famous visiting artists?
OSLO HIGHLIGHTS TOUR from Oslo
Description: Get to know Oslo with this wonderful tour which includes a good selection of the city's highlights: the charming city centre, the surreal Holmenkollen ski jump, the impressive Vigeland Sculpture Park and a visit to the either the Fram Museum or the Kon-Tiki Museum. The trip includes the return trip from Bygdøy Peninsula to the city centre by short boat ride (duration 15 minutes).
Operates: Daily, all year (please note, in winter you return to the city centre by bus instead of boat).
Duration: 4 hours, departs 1030. Meeting point is in the city centre.
Price: £45 per person
Includes: Transportation by coach, guide throughout, entrance to either the Fram Museum or the Kon-Tiki Museum, ferry journey from Bygdøy Peninsula to the city centre
RIB BOAT FJORD SIGHTSEEING from Balestrand
Description: A wonderful way to explore the fjord and really appreciate the nature of this region. Our first stop on this trip is Esebottn, one of the most painted areas and views in Europe...need we say more! Our journey then continues towards the mighty Kvinafossen, a waterfall that falls 120 metres straight down into the fjord. Here we stop and take time to enjoy the sights and to take photographs. We then continue to Vangsnes, with a great view of the Fridtjov statue, and onward to the island of Kvamsøy. This is a small island in a shallow bay, and is the smallest island in the world with its own church, built in the 13th century. During the return to Balestrand we see the Dragon and Swiss style villas from the seaside before ending our trip in Balestrand harbour.
Operates: May to September
Duration: Approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes
Price: £65 per adult, £33 per child (under 17)
Price includes: RIB boat safari as detailed plus survival flotation suit
NB: Click here for important information regarding RIB Boat Safaris
We know you will have questions about this holiday and we hope we have managed to answer a few of them with the following information. But if we haven't please just let us know - we'll find the answer for you and then add it to our list.
Who is this holiday suitable for?
That's easy! Everyone. Clearly the name of this holiday suggests that it is for those people who have never been to Norway before and the reasoning behind this was that so many times we have people who phone us an say 'I've never been to Norway before and...'. When we ask them what prompted them to choose Norway it invariably is because of at least one, but often several, of the attractions featured in this holiday. But those who have been to Norway many times will also like this holiday - not least because it reminds them of what made them choose Norway in the first place!
How long is the train journey from Oslo, across the mountains, to Myrdal?
The train departs at 0825 in the morning from Oslo Sentralstation (Central Station) and arrives into Myrdal at 1259. You will have seats reserved in Comfort Class; this is a separate compartment on the train with large windows, comfortable seats, WiFi, unlimited tea/coffee and free newspapers (though in Norwegian only!). It is not the same as First Class in the UK as they do not have First Class rail in Norway, but it is the biggest upgrade they have and extremely comfortable. The train will have a snack bar/shop where you can purchase drinks and light snacks. If you would like to have lunch included on the train just let us know and we can pre-book it for you. You then just go to the snack bar to collect it, however a pre-booked meal is more substantial than anything you can purchase on the train locally.
I have a special diet, can this be catered for?
Absolutely! Just let us know at the time of booking so that we can ensure you are served delicious alternatives throughout. Breakfast in Norwegian hotels is invariably a help-yourself buffet and there is plenty to choose from. For those with very specific diets such as gluten free, vegan etc the hotels will have been notified and will have prepared suitable alternatives though these may be more limited. In the cities you will make your own arrangements for dining out in the evening and both Oslo and Bergen have a wide variety of choices available.
What sort of clothing will I need?
The first thing to say is that there is no specific dress code in Norway. You will find most people dressed quite casually and, as in the UK, jeans are predominant! In Norway they will dress jeans up with 'proper' shoes and perhaps a shirt as opposed to a T-shirt but overall it is very similar to the UK. The point we are making is that you are not going to be refused entry to a restaurant because you are not wearing a cocktail dress or a shirt and tie. However, it has to be said that Norwegians do not dine out in the same way that we do in the UK; in many cases they will only dine out when it is a special occasion such as an anniversary, a birthday or a 'night out get-together', and they will use this as an excuse to dress up as they are not required to do so on a day to day basis! This does not mean that you have to but we know that the British often like to 'follow suit' therefore we suggest you pack something accordingly.
When it comes to being in the great outdoors you should take exactly the same type of clothing you would in the UK, that is, be prepared for the sun, be prepared for the rain. As they say in Norway 'There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing'.
What is it like to drive in Norway?
If you have chosen the car hire option during your stay in Balestrand then you will want to know a little bit more about driving on the 'wrong side' of the road! It's easy so don't worry. Driving in any unknown city in the world is nerve-racking but that's only because you lack familairity with the route; for this holiday your car is picked up from the Kvikne's Hotel in Balestrand (a tiny fjordside village) and dropped off there at the end, in between you have country roads all the time. If you choose to drive along the northern shore of the Sognefjord to Sogndal (you absolutely should!) then you will need to be familiar with passing places. This is a narrow shelf-road where two cars can only pass one another at certain points - but this is all part of the excitement of the trip and there are plenty of places to pull over and admire the glorious view of the fjord.
I can't decide between the Kvikne's Hotel or the Midtnes Hotel - help!
Ha, you're on your own here! Both the Kvikne's Hotel and the Midtnes Hotel are family owned and managed and both offer quality accommodation with genuinely attentive service and CARE. At the Kvikne's Hotel you will have their wonderful buffet dinner in the evening whereas at the Midtnes Hotel you will be served a 3-course set dinner (though preferences will be catered for). The Kvikne's Hotel has a secluded outdoor area where you can swim in the fjord, Balholm Bar with drinks and a bistro menu and a souvenir shop. It is located directly alongside the fjord with gardens that run straight down to the water's edge whereas the Midtnes Hotel is set back slightly, with wonderful views of the fjord, and provides an intimate, more 'homely' hotel experience, not least due to the attentive care and company provided by Jon Gjeraker, the owner. Clearly one hotel is larger than the other and Kviknes Hotel is of serious historical significance (Kaiser Wilhelm was a guest for goodness sake!) but if you were to ask us which one we would want to stay at we would all unequivocally say both. Sorry, can't help you here!
FOREIGN OFFICE & COMMONWEALTH OFFICE ADVICE
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