My first FAM trip was to Norway on the 20th – 22nd of October, and although this was only a quick 3-day weekend away my group did manage to fit in a lot of activities and saw some of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world. When you think of Norway one of the first things you think of are the Fjords, they are also one of the first things that you see as you fly into Bergen airport, and dotted along the steep mountain-sides are lots of family houses that all look over the water.
I flew directly from Gatwick to Bergen on Norwegian airways, which only took 2 hours, and was greeted by rain. Apparently, it rains 250 days of the year in Norway, but we soon found out that you wouldn’t catch a local allowing the weather to halt their plans!
The group was driven to the Radisson Blu in Bergen’s historic maritime city centre, a short 30-minute drive from the airport. The hotel is modern, well equipped for meetings and comprises of 342 sleek rooms and suites. This Bergen hotel serves as the perfect home base for exploring Norway's second-most-populated city, along with the convenience of on-site dining and flexible conference facilities.
We then took an evening cruise that took us just outside the City to a famous seafood restaurant where you will find one of the most exotic attractions in the whole of Western Norway’s archipelago. Cornelius is one of Norway’s culinary gems. It is situated right by the sea on a small island with spectacular views of the fjord, mountains, skerries and passing boats and ships. Inspired by the weather of the day, Cornelius serves its famous Meteorological Menu of exquisite seafood and trimmings, prepared using innovative culinary techniques and with a genuine passion for seafood.
Cornelius is open all year. On beautiful summer days, they open the sliding doors and set up tables on the pier, where they serve lighter dishes. When the weather is less favourable, they create a cosy atmosphere indoors and serve food with stronger flavours and light up the candles and the fireplace.
We checked out of the Radisson Blu after our first night in Norway and headed straight to the train station where we caught the 07:58 to Myrdal – our first stop on the way to Flaam. This train ride sticks to the coastline and follows a mountain ridge to the top, during the 2-hour journey you are able to see some of the most breath-taking views of Norway at its finest. We were very lucky to have a dry day for our excursion and took the opportunities we had to take as many photos as we could of the snow-capped mountains and fjords. When we got to Myrdal we were told that we were 1 stop away from Finse, where the Hardangerjøkulen glacier served as the filming location for Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. Scenes were filmed in sub-zero temperatures reaching lows of -30 degrees C. Instead, we went one stop in another direction and headed to our final destination taking a 1hr and 20-minute train to Flam. This train is on the steepest train tracks in the world, so steep that it has to take a 360-degree curve that spirals on the way down just to help decrease its speed.
Once in Flam, we went straight to the historical Fretheim Hotel which is centrally located in the west part of Norway. This is where the Sognefjord ends and the Flam Railway starts. The activities are “endless” in this part of Norway. Biking the Navvies road (Rallarvegen), paddle the Sognefjord, walks in the Aurland- and/or Flåm valley or a ride on a RIB boat to see the UNESCO’s world heritage area are only some of the locations highlights. The hotel's conference facilities are suitable for management and board meetings, seminars and major national and international events with a seating capacity for up to 170 participants. They can offer a total of five assembly rooms and several intimate group rooms. Most of their meeting rooms enjoy a great deal of natural daylight and views of the mountains and fjord. In addition to their restaurant, they offer dedicated function rooms where they can serve meals to smaller groups. Fretheim Hotel offers a total of 122 rooms in various categories, all with beautiful views of the fjord and/or mountains. There are also seventeen historic rooms in the oldest part of the hotel. These rooms are of different size and have various colour themes although all of them contain beautiful antique furniture and have a unique historic atmosphere. All rooms feature large king-size beds and beautiful bathrooms.
After lunch, we went to the dock in front of the Fretheim Hotel for our fjord safari! The 2 hours 15 minutes rib boat ride through the fjords is a soft adventure activity that is suitable for the whole family, after a quick team briefing you get suited up and given flotation devices ready for the tour. Each rib boat can hold 12 people plus a guide who tells you stories about the local history and about the small villages, waterfalls and wildlife that you see along the way.
The Viking village of Njardarheimr
The tour ended in the Viking village Njardarheimr where we were greeted by a very loud and frightening Scottish Viking. The village is funded by the local town and was built so that visitors could experience an authentic village showing how the Vikings lived 1000 years ago when Gudvangen got its name. The villagers all live in the authentically built Viking village, they are not in costume but living as the Vikings would have done. They know their history and have unique knowledge about the Viking life and welcome all questions from visitors. The food in the camp is prepared from old recipes with ingredients that were available at that time. Items for sale are handmade and genuine. It truly is an eye-opening place to visit, the level of detail really does hit every corner of the small village.
The white caves of Gudvangen
If you get a chance to visit the white caves in Gudvangen, roughly 10 minutes down the road from the Viking village, they are worth going to. The caves themselves are 8 degrees all year round and are lit up with the same colours found in the Northern Lights. The caves can be used for banqueting dinners, private meetings or even exclusive product launches. In the past, delegates have been flown to the caves by helicopter for their meeting and flown back into town afterwards. The caves do not have wifi or signal, which is why they are such a uniquely popular venue to use for private or VIP events.
On our last day, we were taken to the top of Mount Ulriken by cable car for a traditional local lunch. The Skeaperen restaurant has panoramic views of the city and has a private dining room on the top floor that can hold 80 people for dinner. The zip line was unfortunately closed the day we went up, but you can zip line down from the highest point of the seven mountains surrounding Bergen. We chose to hike back down the mountain and back to our hotel, the route down can also be cycled and on the weekends, is very busy with the locals trekking up for lunch with their families.
I cannot recommend Norway enough – I would definitely go back for another action-packed weekend but next time I would choose to go during the winter months so that I could try out the outdoor snow activities.