A Scandinavian Sojourn – The Best Train Routes in Northern Europe

Train travel in Europe evokes a sense of timelessness that simply isn’t present with cars or planes. It’s also more environmentally friendly and offers up jaw-dropping scenery.

Journey on these scenic routes and see Scandinavia in comfort. Start in Denmark for a guided exploration of Copenhagen’s historic charm, then travel to Norway for scenic views of its spectacular landscapes.

Bergen Line

Many of the world’s most breathtaking train routes can be found in Scandinavia, where fjords, mountains, and waterfalls form a dazzling backdrop for fairytale train journeys. From Oslo to Bergen, the Bergensbanen (or Bergen Line) is a seven-hour journey that takes you past stunning scenery that you’ll never forget.

Constructed between 1875 and 1909, the line is a fascinating testament to human ambition and engineering prowess. The scenery unfolds like a kaleidoscope, shifting from blustery flower meadows to snow-capped mountain peaks. The tour also passes through forrests, lakes, and picturesque villages on the way to Norway’s loftiest railway station at Finse at 1222 meters above sea level. The journey between Oslo and Bergen is one of the most popular day tours in the region.

It runs all year round, but the scenery changes with the seasons. In spring, you’ll see the landscape bloom with vibrant hues. In autumn, the colors change to golden yellows and oranges. In winter, the fjords are blanketed with white snow and ice.

The train has a great cafe where you can purchase snacks and drinks. The menu includes sandwiches, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate as well as beer and wine. You can also bring your own food and drinks on board if you prefer.

The train stops at 21 stations along the route, including Hallingdal, which offers an array of exciting outdoor activities. You can also get off at Floyen to hike up for views over Bergen or take the funicular down instead. The train is operated by Skyss, and tickets can be purchased on the machine at the airport or in town. Just remember that you need a valid ticket to board.

Ofoten Line

One of the most epic train routes in Norway is the Ofoten Line, which takes travellers through a wild and historic landscape that is rugged and untamed. As the route is named, it connects fjord and mountain via an old iron ore railway that was constructed in the late 19th century. The line was built to ensure access to an ice-free port for exporting the abundant iron ore deposits in northern Sweden. At the time, over 5,000 itinerant workers, so-called navvies, took part in its construction. Their stories of battling the elements to construct the railway are as awe-inspiring today as they were then.

The Ofoten Line also provides stunning views of the Romsdalen Valley and Trollveggen rock face as the train glides past them. The line continues to Narvik where a private tour of a World War II museum and a ride on the Narvikfjellet Cable Car offer insight into the history that shaped this region. In addition to these highlights, the Ofoten Line is renowned for its views of a dramatic and imposing mountain landscape as well as a fjord with cascading waterfalls.

Travelers on this rail journey will enjoy a rare glimpse of dramatic west Norwegian nature with impressive waterfalls and small farms clinging to the steep mountainside. This route also features a short section on Flamsbanen, which is considered one of the steepest railway lines in Europe.

This rail adventure can be included as an extension to the 11-day itinerary offered by Up Norway. After a stay in Trondheim, a Norwegian city rich with Viking heritage and quaint narrow streets, guests will hop aboard the Nordland Line to Bodo. This coastal city rimmed with jutting peaks will provide the perfect spot to view the northern lights before guests take a ferry to Lofoten, where a curated experience at a favorite rorbu lodge will highlight this magical landscape.

Roros Line

If you’re from a country with a developed railway network, the Norwegian one can seem quite limited. But with a little planning, train travel can be a great way to experience the nation’s majestic landscapes without spending a fortune. The Bergen Line, for example, takes you from Oslo to Bergen along a route that’s nearly as picturesque as the fjords it passes through.

The Roros Line, which opened in 1877, is Norway’s oldest main line and runs between Hamar (about an hour from Oslo) to Trondheim. Its 583 kilometre journey takes you through the pristine wilderness and fairytale forests of Osterdalen before reaching the unique UNESCO World Heritage-listed mining town of Roros and continuing on to Storen.

As you’re riding through this wild, untamed territory, keep an eye out for wildlife. With a bit of luck, you may spot species such as wolverine, lynx, bear, and even moose. This green scenery is also home to many charming, old-school train stations that have been preserved.

If you want to take a break from the tracks, you can stop in Roros to explore its historic, wooden houses and visit the town’s pride, the old Roros Church. The town’s rich culture and architecture was a key reason it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List back in 1980.

The Hallingdalen Line, which traces the valley of the Halling River, is another must-see on Norway’s rails. Tracing this gorge-like region through mountains and fjords, the view is spectacular, especially as you head further north. Aside from the stunning nature, you’ll find a number of charming villages along the way. And if you’re traveling with kids, this is a great way to entertain them while you ride.

Sorland Line

Train lovers should check out the Sorland Line, a regional route that is considered one of Norway’s true railway gems. Taking you from Oslo to Stavanger, this eight-hour journey crosses vast swathes of forest and fjord coastline. The route is incredibly scenic, and there are plenty of experiences for all ages to enjoy.

The railway passes through the Hardangervidda plateau, making it one of Norway’s most spectacular rail routes. At 1,237 metres above sea level, the landscape is dramatic and ever-changing. The train also traverses the dramatic Romsdal Alps and Trollveggen cliff face.

This is a line that often gets overlooked, but it’s a great way to experience the wild and historic heritage of northern Norway. It’s also a useful means of transport if you’re planning on visiting several destinations in the region.

While the Roros Line may not have as much of a wow factor as the Bergen Line, there’s plenty to see. For instance, if you’re lucky enough to be on the train during migration season, you might be able to spot moose and other large wildlife. The vast swathes of forests are also home to lynx, wolf, and bear, so you’re likely to encounter some of the country’s wildest beasts on this train ride.

Scotland’s windswept railway lines may not have quite the same oomph as their Scandinavian counterparts, but they offer a fascinating window into this untamed and rugged country. Whether you’re travelling on the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs Line from Inverness or high up the Kyle of Lochalsh Line to Mallaig, the trains will carry you past desolate glens and snowy munros.

Flam Line

Flamsbana, as the train is known in Norwegian, offers an hour-long trip that showcases Norway’s wild fjord landscapes while you sit back and relax. It’s one of the country’s most popular day trips from Bergen, with thousands of people boarding it on summer weekends. So if you want to avoid the crowds, consider traveling during spring or autumn, or midweek in the summer.

The track winds through 20 tunnel passages on its way from Flam to Myrdal. At the Kjosfossen waterfall, the train stops to allow passengers to disembark for a photo or walk up to the wooden platform at the top. There, look out for “Huldra,” the mythical siren women from Norwegian folklore who woo men with their song by the waterfall. There’s also a chance to spot the spectacular Rjoandefossen waterfall along the way, which is a bit of a hike from the train’s final stop at Breikvam Station.

Once you’re back on the train, snag a seat on the right side for the best views out of your window as the train makes its way down the steep incline towards Myrdal. Throughout the journey, you can see waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, and picturesque villages nestled into their alpine surroundings.

You can buy tickets for the Flam Line online or at any train station in the region (paid seat reservations required). Interail and Eurail passes are valid for the Flam Railway, and purchasing them through your rail pass will get you a 30% discount on the ticket from Myrdal to Flam. Alternatively, you can purchase the ticket as part of a package tour such as Discover Scandinavia Tours’ Norway in a Nutshell or Sognefjord in a Nutshell.

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