Norway – No. Three of “The 3 Circles”

And Being at the Whim of Winter Weather

Written by Warwick and Lyndsay

With a history of intrepid journeys behind us, we headed to Scandinavia in January 2024 for a three week stint in the northern winter.

We had our own highly anticipated “bucket lists” to fulfill.

Mine, (Warwick) was crossing the “third circle”, The Arctic. I had crossed The Antarctic and The Equator.

Lyndsay’s was to see The Northern Lights.

We both wanted to experience Reindeer sledding and ride The Flam Train, which is described as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the world.

Arriving in Oslo to a snowed-in airport and city, I described the surrounding landscape on our trip from the airport into the city as “looking like a layer cake” (of snow).

Having arrived safely at our hotel, our first endeavour was to ensure we could still “do” the famous two day Flam Train Oslo-Flam-Bergen trip we were so looking forward to. Our luggage was to be transferred ahead of us to our hotel in Bergen, leaving us with just an overnight pack to think about.

However, late in the evening, our plans were disrupted when we received a text from the porter service stating that the rail line had been closed due to heavy snowfall and the risk of avalanches. And that our luggage would not be transferred the next day. Instead, a bus ride was offered. But being hardy travellers we decided to fly, considering it the only option.

Common sense had us thinking that if the rail line is closed and there is a risk of avalanches, the roads won’t be much safer. So, along with our luggage, we arrived safely, by plane in Bergen.

The next leg of our journey was a planned cruise. As a bonus, the cruise company offered us a free day return trip on the Flam train from Bergen-Flam before embarking on the cruise. With some relief we were able to anticipate our enjoyment of this planned train trip after all.

At 8.00am the next morning we excitedly embarked on the train, settling in to enjoy the adventure. However, an hour up the track, the conductor announced the Flam Railway was closed and that passengers would need to travel to the next station, (Voss), cross to the other platform and catch a train back to Bergen. Partway down that track, (where we had come from), the line was now closed. A coach had been arranged to take passengers through the part of the journey now impassable by train. Disappointed we had missed out again, we reminded ourselves that Norway was, after all, experiencing its harshest winter in fifty years!

Fun FactIn just under an hour the Flam Rail trip takes passengers from height of 866 metres to sea level over a distance of 20.20 kilometres, along the side of mountains at a gradient of 1.18 through 21 tunnels, including a water tunnel.

Fortunately the inclement weather didn’t delay the departure of the cruise ship, although, as you’ll see, it did impact the ultimate intention of a snowmobile ride to North Cape, the northern most point in Europe, and seeing The Northern Lights.

So, all aboard the MS Trollfjord for six nights, five cities and many fjords, as the ship navigated her way amongst some of the 2000 islands in Norway.

A journey that included snow covered mountains and deep calm sheltered waters. Meeting indigenous people, (The Sami), walks, ice fishing (through a hole carved into the ice), and dog sledding in Alta, (considered the most northern city in the world).

Keen to try this adventure, we arrived at the dog “compound”. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere – surrounded by thick snow as far as the eye could see, the “compound” houses 125 dogs and puppies. Standing on top of their kennels, the dogs entertained us by howling in unison at the moon. It was a hauntingly beautiful experience. Our sled ride was exhilarating too.

While in Alta we also visited the new Northern Lights Cathedral. The modern cathedral is absolutely gorgeous, especially when lit up and sparkling with its winter lights.

Our next cruise stop was Tromso – known as the Arctic Capital. The old part of Tromso is an island, but now a modern bridge and tunnel, much the same distance as the Auckland Harbour Bridge, joins the island and the mainland.

Once docked, the captain announced that due to a forecast storm coming across the North Sea with expected heavy swells the ship would now not be sailing to North Cape but remaining in Tromso.

It was disappointing for us and, we imagine, all the other passengers too. However, we enjoyed two extra days in Tromso before disembarking to fly back to Oslo and prepare for the next leg of our trip. Estonia.

One of life’s and certainly travel’s certainties is quirky experiences. Such as bumping into with the Purser of our cruise ship at the airport.

He divulged that the forecast storm that had rendered the ship stuck in Tromso, was now due south after crossing the Arctic, and that said ship would not be travelling south as planned. All passengers had been disembarked and flown back to their departure destinations.

A saving grace and some consolation for not sailing north and missing out on seeing the Northern Lights was the delight we took in seeing the Winter Lights in Bergen and other cities. Like a Winter Wonderland, the fairy tale lights sparkled, and twinkled in the night snow. It was enchanting and something no one would see often.

Fun Fact: The lights have been renamed from Christmas Lights to Winter Lights so they can remain lit after the twelfth day of Christmas.

MTR asideTravel is often an unpredictable experience, which is part of its attraction and charm. As illustrated by the following short story, (from Warwick). “Two weeks later, my daughters arrived in Norway and were able to see the Northern Lights, experience Reindeer sledding, and visit the Arctic Circle.

Additional MTR information

Warwick and Lyndsay:

Flew Emirates Brisbane to Oslo (via Dubai)

StayedClarion Group Hotels

If you would like to find out more about travelling in Norway please contact

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