Wintertime magic exploring the fjords

Fjord Norway news


Photo: Sverre Hjørnevik /
Myrkdalen, under the snow.

Cynthia Elyce Rubin
The Norwegian American

Fjords, the soul of Norway, are certainly a magnificent attraction any time of the year, but some might argue that the most special time is winter. As days grow shorter, the unique shades of blue light seem to caress the snow-covered landscape. With mountains covered in snow, the pace slows to a peaceful stride. Begin a trip in Myrkdalen and then onto Flåm, a great hub to explore winter activities because of its unique location and travel network, allowing you to combine mountain and fjord within an hour. Many activities are available every day this winter, including Christmas and New Year’s. It may be late for 2018 but never too early for 2019.

Combine world-class skiing in Myrkdalen with activities by the fjord. Start your holiday with a few days of skiing in family-friendly Myrkdalen mountain resort, reputed to be the snowiest and largest ski resort in western Norway with 10 feet of annual snowfall. It is modern with slopes of all levels of difficulty, terrain parks, cross country slopes, and off-piste terrain. Myrkdalen is a very desirable destination for any ski enthusiast who wants to schuss without pause since more snow falls there than almost anywhere else in Europe. Stay and dine at Myrkdalen Hotel with ski-in/ski-out access. The resort is located near Voss, two hours from Bergen International Airport and 45 minutes from Flåm.

Continue to Flåm onboard the all-electric Future of The Fjords. This boat’s godmother is Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, whose emphasis on sustainable development in maritime and ocean matters works with the concept of the first fully electric carbon-fiber vessel and its powerdock that stores wastewater. The modern vessel has large panoramic windows allowing great views of the spectacular fjord landscape even when it is too cold to be outside. Spend the next days delving into the activities Flåm has to offer and be amazed by the quiet winter fjord life with its special atmosphere and snow-covered peaks.

God jul!

Photo: Håkon Nordvik
Our sentiments exactly.

From Nov. 1, the entire town of Flåm is decorated with Christmas lights that set a festive mood. From the Visitor Center, one can visit the gingerbread town or attend a Christmas event. Santa Claus may even make an appearance.

Fretheim Hotel is open year-round with a wide variety of activities available daily during the winter season. Ride the Flåm Railway, take a UNESCO Nærøyfjord Cruise, visit Stegastein Viewpoint, or tour the Viking Village in Gudvangen. After a day exploring, relax with a hot drink in front of the fire.

On New Year’s Eve, there is a spectacular midnight cruise on the fjord. What could be a better way to start the New Year than to watch fireworks from a silent boat surrounded by world heritage landscape? You can remain outside or stay inside a warm lounge. Enjoy live music, dance or sing along into the New Year, or simply sit and relax and enjoy the atmosphere with family or friends. Tickets for the cruise include a welcome drink, live music, and a New Year’s toast. For a complete package, book an overnight stay and dinner at the Fretheim Hotel. The winter season extends from Nov. 1 to April 30.

The Fretheim Hotel is the perfect setting for a winter sojourn. Originally a farm, in the mid-1800s, English lords started to arrive as tourists to the Sognefjord searching for good salmon fishing. These tourists took shelter on big farms, and in Flåm that was at the Christen Fretheim farm. There was one Lord who rented for more than 20 years, and each year his stay became longer. After salmon season, there was reindeer hunting season. One may think that Christen Fretheim was tired of having English guests living in his house for months at a time, but instead, Fretheim built a separate guest house called the English Villa. Since then, the hotel has been renovated many times. Today, the historic hotel is decorated for the season and offers traditional activities for guests every day until Christmas. Festive decorations put hotel guests in a holiday mood. Before dinner, relax in front of the fire in the garden or by the fireplace in the lobby bar just like the locals. Sample the tasty Christmas and New Year’s Eve buffet feasts with homemade dishes and mulled wine in the Restaurant Arven.

The shuttle bus between Flåm and Gudvangen allows time travel at a crossroads of ancient history, helping to explain life by the fjords in winter a thousand years ago. During the Viking Age, Gudvangen was an important trading center known as “the place of the gods.” Nærøyfjord is dedicated to Njord, god of trading and sailing. At the Viking Village Njardarheimr reconstruction, a guided tour called the Viking Experience allows participants to try their luck at axe throwing, archery, and crafts. Conversations with these modern Vikings who re-enact the past illuminate the experience and give rise to an understanding of the Viking Age.

A ski holiday, delicious eating, calm relaxation, and some Viking history—what more could you want this winter?

See also “Norway in a Nutshell off-season” by Lori Ann Reinhall, The Norwegian American, Dec. 28, 2018.

This article originally appeared in the December 14, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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Cynthia Elyce Rubin

Cynthia Elyce Rubin, PhD., is a visual culture specialist, travel writer, and author of articles and books on decorative arts, folk art, and postcard history. She collects postcards, ephemera, and early photography. See