Vatnahalsen Hotel is a mountain lodge style hotel, located along the Flåm Railway line between Flåm and Myrdal in western Norway. In Norwegian, the hotel’s name is actually Vatnahalsen Høyfjellshotell (all though many just call it Vatnahalsen Hotell for short). The word høyfjellshotell literally translates to “high mountain hotel”, and indicates that it is a mountain lodge.
Having grown up in the Flåm area, I have visited Vatnahalsen many times, and stayed there a few. Therefore, I thought it was time to write a review, to help you decide on whether this is the hotel for you or not!
Vatnahalsen is especially popular by people hiking in the mountains, skiing in the winter (the concept of train & ski is slowly getting traction in western Norway, where you take the train up and ski down), and cycling Rallarvegen in the autumn.
Read next: My complete guide to all hotels in Flåm.
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Vatnahalsen Hotel Review
Vatnahalsen aims to be a cozy getaway in the mountains, and it feels incredibly nice to be far away from any cities (and even villages) where people gather. Up in the mountains, the only other people you will find are fellow guests of the hotel. I’ve spend evenings at Vatnahalsen drinking wine by the fire place, feeling so relaxed knowing I am so far removed from everything else.
The hotel itself is rustic and charming, with dark wood and leather details, and large fireplaces in the common areas. I’ll get into the rooms in more detail below, but as they are rather basic, you are more likely to spend your time in one of the living rooms available for guests.
On my most recent visit (end of September), they didn’t light the fireplace or any of the many candles they have in the living room, which made it a little less cozy than I have experienced before. Hopefully this is just due to the time of year, and come October I hope they will start doing this. Regardless, they have loads of board games available for guests in the evenings, as well as a pool table and small library of books.
As I am a history geek, I wanted to share a few fun facts about the history of the place. Vatnahalsen Hotel was originally built for the purpose of being a sanatorium in 1896. However, this never happened and it became a hotel instead. It was very popular, because it was located so close to the Oslo-Bergen line, meaning it was easy to reach (and thus, a perfect getaway for city-dwellers).
Read next: How to get from Bergen to Flam
Since then, Vatnahalsen has had many owners, but has stayed popular amongst active travellers, as a pit stop on their way along Rallarvegen (a cycling route) and the Flåm Valley (popular for hikers).
As mentioned, the rooms at Vatnahalsen are rather basic, and personally remind me of being at an upgraded summer camp (hopefully that makes sense to you). Still, the hotel gives you that simple-living cabin feel that so many Norwegians crave. After a long day of hiking (or perhaps you have arrived on bicycle from Finse or Haugastøl – a popular cycling route), the rooms at Vatnahalsen are exactly what Norwegians want. It is the epitome of the Scandinavian concept of hygge.
For international travellers, the rooms may come across as a little simple, especially at the price point (a double room starts at $210). Therefore, it is good to be prepared for the standard you are getting, which is why I keep referring to it as more of a mountain lodge than a hotel. This is meant to be a rest stop for hikers and cyclists as they make their way down to Flåm, or a nice getaway from the crowds for a night (I am not sure I would recommend two nights, unless you plan on spending a day hiking in the nearby mountains).
In total there are 40 rooms at Vatnahalsen.
With Vatnahalsen being so remote, you have no other options for food whilst there. This means you are at the mercy of the schedule of the chef, and options for snacks can only be purchased in the reception (of course they have Kvikk Lunsj, the Norwegian hiking chocolate). If you plan to spend the evening playing cards or relaxing in the living room, I recommend bringing some snacks with you.
During my last visit, the food was very limited, and what was served was unfortunately not great. In the past, I have been served an a la carte dinner whilst visiting, however this time there was a buffet. The “buffet” consisted of one type of pizza (homemade, with ham) and one soup (carrot soup). I have to admit it was pretty disappointing, but hope it was due to the fact that end of September is considered “low season”. I really hope visitors in the summer or busier months are treated to a better buffet (or, ideally, an a la carte menu). On their website they say they serve a 3-course meal for dinner, based on local and seasonal ingredients.
The breakfast buffet was quite simple as well, all though with more options than the dinner. They had cereal, bread (with a selection of cheese, hams and spreads) and oatmeal. The one thing I missed were eggs, though. Perhaps it is just me being silly, but I always expect eggs of some sort (scrambled, boiled, fried) at a hotel breakfast. It is such an easy thing to add to elevate the meal, but Vatnahalsen sadly did not manage this.
All in all, when it comes to the food, I would recommend that you simply lower your expectations. The hotel is remote, and mealtimes follow whenever the chef has been asked to come to work (on the day we left we missed lunch, because the chef didn’t arrive until noon and our train left at 12:26). If you are a foodie, and want to make sure you get a good meal for dinner (and not the pizza we were served), I recommend calling them up or emailing in advance to check what the plan is during your visit.
They can be reached on +47 57 63 37 22 or via email to email@example.com.
Where is Vatnahalsen Hotel (and how to get there)
Vatnahalsen can be found along the Flåm Railway, which is one of the most popular things to do in Flåm (and a bucket list attraction for many visitors). The stop called Vatnahalsen, is the second-to-last stop when traveling from Flåm towards Myrdal on the train. The train ride is about 50 minutes.
One-way tickets for the Flåm Railway can be purchased here. The train departs up to 10 times a day in the summer, and around 3-4 times a day in the winter. Travelling to Vatnahalsen by train is for sure the easiest way to get there. However, there are other ways!
As mentioned, Vatnahalsen is very popular amongst hikers and cyclists. In the months of August and September (and especially on weekends), the hotel is packed with them. So, naturally, it is possible to reach the hotel by foot and by bicycle.
If you want to take the Flåm Railway all the way up to Myrdal, Vatnahalsen is just a 30-minute walk through the upper-most part of the Flåm Valley. It is also possible to rent bicycles at Myrdal, and cycle the distance instead. This is perhaps best for those who intend to cycle the Flåm Valley back down to the fjord after checking out of the hotel.
When leaving Vatnahalsen, you can also hike back down to Flåm. The Flåm Valley (Flåmsdalen) is one of the most popular hikes in the Aurlandsfjord area.
To summarise my review of Vatnahalsen Hotel, I’d say it’s a cozy getaway and ideal if you are travelling through towards Flåm and need a place to stop and rest. I would not recommend visiting for the food, but for the charm of being in a remote mountain lodge surrounded by nature. As is made rather obvious by the photo above, visiting in the autumn is ideal, as it is such a beautiful time of year in the mountains.
After your stay at Vatnahalsen, why not jump on the Flåm Zipline and continue on towards Flåm by bicycle or foot? The zipline top station is located a short walk from the hotel, and by staying overnight at Vatnahalsen Hotel you can get an early start to your adrenaline adventure. You can head this way to read my complete guide to the Flåm Zipline!