If you are visiting Flåm and the Aurlandsfjord area, you might be a little unsure of which village to visit, or how to get there. Since I have grown up in Aurland, and spent my summers as a teenager and young adult working in Flåm, I know the fjord like the back of my hand. So, there’s no one better to write this: a complete travel guide to the villages and activities around the Flam fjord, also known as the Aurlandsfjord!
I have lived in the Aurlandsfjord area for most of my life, and worked in the local travel industry for several years. By now, whenever a new activity or tour opens in the Flåm area, I’m one of the first to hear of it! So, I figured I would start off by writing this Aurlandsfjord guide as a bit of a directory, so that you have a good foundation for planning your trip to the area. I’ve included which villages are found along the fjord, the main differences between them, and some of the major activities to be found there. Each village has its own charm – and hopefully this local’s guide will give you the tools you need to plan your trip to the fjords!
Let’s start with some basics.
The Aurlandsfjord is a fjord arm of the Sognefjord, which is the world’s largest and longest fjord! A fjord arm is basically just one of the “ends” of a fjord, that sticks out in a different direction from where the main fjord is headed. That definition is in my own words, as it is a little tricky to find an official one. However, I am sure you already know that a fjord is basically a narrow (and often long) formation in the mountains stretching into the land, where the ocean has been able to come and fill it. Fjords are usually created by glaciers, and they often have several “arms” sticking out of them, creating smaller fjords.
This is why the Aurlandsfjord is considered a fjord arm of the Sognefjord, and why the names can be (and sometimes are) used interchangeably. Another fjord arm worth noting is the Nærøyfjord; which is a fjord arm of the Aurlandsfjord (confused yet?). Both the Aurlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord are located in the area where you will find Flåm, and included in my guide.
Table of Contents
Where is the Flam fjord / Aurlandsfjord
The Aurlandsfjord and the villages surrounding it are located in Western Norway, at the end of the Sognefjord, as mentioned above. The area is a 3-hour drive from Bergen, and around 5 hours from Oslo. Those are the two major international airports, and usually where people travel into when visiting Norway.
Driving distance from Norway’s major cities:
- Oslo: 5 hours (here’s how to get between Oslo and Flåm)
- Bergen: 3 hours (here’s how to get between Bergen and Flåm)
- Stavanger: 6 hours
- Ålesund: 6 hours
- Trondheim: 10 hours
- Tromsø: 26 hours
- Kristiansand: 8 hours
From Bergen and Oslo, it is possible to visit Flam and the fjord by car, bus and train. Both the bus and train journey there is quite beautiful, and I highly recommend utilising Norway’s public transportation when you are visiting. I have even created several itineraries for visiting the fjords via public transportation, all of which you can find here.
Why visit the area?
I’m sure you aren’t reading a blog called Flam Travel Guide without knowing why you want to visit the fjord and villages surrounding it. But, just to be on the safe side, I thought I would include this regardless.
I mean I have had tourists ask me where the fjord is, when standing on the dock in Flåm! This really made me wonder why they had come to the fjords, and whether they even knew what a fjord was..
In short, people visit the Aurlandsfjord area for the breathtaking nature of the fjords. Both the Aurlandsfjord and the Nærøyfjord are unique wonders of nature, and worth seeing with your own eyes. In addition to this, the Flåm Railway has become a bucket list activity for people all around the world. So, by visiting Flåm (or any of the other villages), you will not only be able to see the UNESCO World Heritage Listed fjords, but also go on one of the world’s most scenic railways.
Read more: 8 reasons to visit Flåm and the fjords
The Villages Around the Aurlandsfjord and Nærøyfjord
There are 4 main villages/towns along the fjord, and all have their own charm and reason to visit. The villages are Aurland, Flåm, Gudvangen and Undredal. As you can see on the map above, they are all nestled along the fjord, and reachable by both car and boat. Here, I will cover each of them briefly, to give you an idea of what to expect when visiting them.
Flåm is the most popular village around the Aurlandsfjord, and one of Norway’s most popular tourist destinations. The village has had a history of tourism dating back over 100 years, to when rich, British tourists would come to the fjords to fish salmon in the rivers here. These men were nicknamed “salmon lords” by the locals, which is quite a fun term, in my opinion!
Eventually, the Flåm Railway was built in Flam, which connected the fjord to the Oslo-Bergen railway. This was initially only supposed to be a mode of transportation for travellers to the area, but eventually the Flåm Railway became a tourist attraction in itself. This beautiful train journey has been named one of the world’s most scenic railways, and it is a must-see when visiting Flåm (or any of the other villages in the area).
Flåm is small, with around 400 inhabitants. However, in the high season, we sometimes have over 6000 visitors in a day! As you can tell, it can get quite busy, as Flåm is not only a popular place to stay and visit, but also the starting point for many of the tours and activities in the area.
Top 5 Things to do in Flåm
- The Flåm Railway
- Flåm Zipline
- Hiking (read my ultimate guide to the best hikes in Flåm here)
- Fjord Cruise to Gudvangen
Aurland is the largest of the villages along the fjord, with a little over 800 inhabitants. It is also the administrative center of the municipality (the municipality of these villages is actually named Aurland), and where I grew up! I dare say Aurland is a little more quiet than Flåm, but in the high season it still gets quite busy here. Aurland is located just a 10-minute drive from Flåm.
Tip! As Aurland is slightly larger than Flåm, you will find a bigger grocery store here (worth knowing for those who are staying in a self-serviced apartment, or simply if you want to get some snacks for a fjord hike). The grocery store in Aurland is also *slightly* cheaper than the small one in Flåm.
Aurland is also home to the famous Aurland Shoe, also known as the original pennyloafer! The Aurland Shoe Factory is the last remaining shoe factory in Norway, and is worth visiting when you are in the area.
Gudvangen, located a 20-minute drive or bus ride from Flåm (or a 2-hour fjord cruise), should be on your list for one big reason. The village is nestled at the end of the Nærøyfjord, which is one of two Norwegian fjords listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List (the other being the Geirangerfjord). The Nærøyfjord, along with the Flåm Railway, is one of the number one sights in the area, and probably on your Norway bucket list if you are heading this way.
Gudvangen is one of the smallest villages, with around 100 inhabitants. What’s quite fun is that a small portion of the inhabitants in Gudvangen actually live in the Viking Village Njardarheimr as freemen (reenactors)! Njardarheimr is another reason Gudvangen is worth visiting, as it is a fun attraction for people of all ages. There, you can learn about the history of the Norwegian vikings and their culture, as well as walk around and get the feel of what it was like to live during the Viking age.
Gudvangen is also a ferry port, and you can take the car ferry across the Sognefjord to Kaupanger from here.
Top 5 things to do in Gudvangen
- Fjord Cruise through the Nærøyfjord
- Hike Rimstigen
- Stalheimskleiva viewpoint
- The blue caves
Undredal is the smallest of the four villages, but what they lack in inhabitants (around 80) they make up for in goats (several hundreds)! Undredal is famous across Norway (and the world) for their goat’s cheese, and Undredal Stølsysteri/farm has won several awards for their white and brown goat’s cheese. The cheese itself is honestly worth visiting this village, but in addition to that, Undredal is extremely picturesque.
Fun fact: when Undredal is seen from the fjord, you’ll notice that the shape of the valley and mountains and the location of the village looks a lot like Arendelle in Frozen! The area was part of Disney’s inspiration when making the movie.
Top 5 things to do in Undredal
- Goat’s cheese tasting
- The world’s smallest stave church
- Fjordsafari with cheese tasting
- Dock dance (annual event)
- Hike to Hovdungo
Where to stay in Flåm, Aurland, Undredal and Gudvangen
Now that you have the low-down on the villages along the fjord, it’s time to find out where to stay! There are several options for accommodation in the area, so you are bound to find something that fits your budget. The only thing I want to stress before you read my list of recommended hotels and accommodation below, is that you have to book early.
As you now know, these villages are small – and so the accommodation options are limited. In addition to this, some of the places on the list only have a few rooms available. So book your hotel or hostel (or camping) as soon as you know your travel dates.
As you will see from the lists of hotels and places to stay below, you’ll find the most options when opting to stay in Flåm or Aurland. Gudvangen has few options, whilst Undredal only has the one.
Accommodation in Flåm
- Fretheim Hotel
- Flåmsbrygga Hotel
- Flåm Ferdaminne
- Flåm Marina
- Flåm Hostel
- Flåm Camping & Cabins
- Brekke Apartments
- Brekke Gard Hostel
- Heimly Pensjonat (open in the summer only)
- Vatnahalsen Hotel (read my review here)
Accommodation in Aurland
- Vangsgaarden Hotel (read my review here!)
- Hotel Aurlandsfjord
- Lunde Camping
- Skahjem Gard
- Vinjum Apartments
- Vinjum Cabins
- 292 Aurland
Accommodation in Gudvangen
Accommodation in Undredal
When to visit Flåm and the Aurlandsfjord
In my opinion, there is no best time of year to visit the fjords, and the region is working hard to become a year-round destination. However, the main season (and the most popular) is from May to August. This is when most attractions and things to do will be open and available, and also when the weather is best.
My personal favourite month to visit Flam and the surrounding fjords is September. The reason for this is that the crowds are starting to slow down (all though it is still busy), and all activities are still running as usual. However, as mentioned; it is possible to visit the fjords all year round.
The best time to visit
If you visit in the summer, you will find that the weather is better and that most opening hours are extended. The only downside here is that the crowds are busier and things book out earlier.
The autumn/fall is a beautiful time to visit Flåm, as the foliage around the fjord is absolutely breathtaking. The weather can be a little rougher at this time of year, and if you visit in the late autumn, hiking can prove to be a little difficult. However, we do have a saying in Norway that goes “there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. So if you dress well and come prepared, visiting Flåm in September-November can be just perfect.
In the winter, you’ll find that the villages are very quiet, with fewer things staying open. This is mainly due to the lack of visitors in the colder months. However, many activities are now year-round! For example, the fjord cruise, Stegastein viewpoint tour and the Flåm Railway. These are all available 12 months of the year. Additionally, there are tours and activities that are only available in the winter (such as snow shoe hiking). Bear in mind that there are limited hours of daylight in the winter.
If you want to visit the Aurlandsfjord in the spring-time, you’ll be treated to increasingly better weather. The days also get slowly longer as we move towards summer, and so the late spring is the perfect time to go hiking. By visiting early enough, you can also catch the last of the ski season! Myrkdalen, a popular ski resort, is just an hour away.
In short, you can’t go wrong regardless of what time of year you want to visit, however there are some factors to keep in mind. To sum up:
- Hours of daylight: the days are longer in the summer half of the year.
- Hiking conditions: some hikes cannot be done in the winter months, either due to snow or mud. However, in the winter you can try snow show hiking – which is great fun!
- Opening hours and availability: some service providers and hotels are closed in the winter months.
Visiting Flåm on a tour
Are you planning a trip to Norway, and have a limited amount of time to see the fjords? You are not alone! In fact, one of the main questions I get as a Flåm local is from travellers asking how they can visit Flåm and the Aurlandsfjord in just a day or two. Therefore, I have created several itineraries for travellers wanting to see the fjord, available for immediate download. Find them all here (I am always adding new ones).
You might also consider joining a tour to the fjords, if you only have a day. Find one here:
You can travel to the area by car, bus, boat or train from most major cities in Norway. There are buses going directly to Gudvangen, Flåm and Aurland from both Oslo and Bergen. In addition, the Oslo-Bergen Railway connects with the Flåm Railway at Myrdal, which takes you to Flåm. You can also travel by express boat from Bergen to Undredal, Aurland and Flåm.
The nearest airport is Sogndal Lufthavn Haukåsen Sogndal (SOG).
Read more: How to get from Bergen to Flåm, Norway
Around 1800 people live in the Aurland Municipality, which consists of the villages of Aurland, Flåm, Gudvangen and Undredal.
Aurlandsfjord is pronounced ah-ooh-r-land-s-fj-oar-d.
Each of the villages around the Aurlandsfjord have their own charm and reason to visit. If you want to be right in the middle of things, Flåm is the best one to stay in, whilst Undredal has that sleepy village charm for those who want to escape from life for a little. Aurland has more of a local feel to it, whilst Gudvangen is the perfect place for viking enthusiasts. In short, all the villages along the Aurlandsfjord are worth visiting on your trip!