On Top of the World in Norway

Interested in seeing breathtaking views, experiencing a relaxing atmosphere, walking mountain trails through a UNESCO heritage valley and staying somewhere where an Emperor has stayed and with, shall we say, a chequered history? If so, then Stalheim hotel, in the mountains of Norway, between Gudvangen and Voss, on the West Coast, is the place for you. It certainly was a favourite spot for Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.

I arrived here on the famous Norway in the Nutshell Tour, which takes you from Oslo, by train, across the eternal snows of the Hardangervidda plateau.

view
Hardangervidda

The train then takes you as far as the mountain station of Myrdal, and from there you are required to change trains to traverse down the mountain range to the fjord below, on a spectacularly steep cog railway, (or Flambåna).

The trip doesn’t end at Flam either, for it is there that you move on to a boat for a cruise through the fjords, before finally reaching the town of small port of Gudvangen on the way to Stalheim. The cruise passes through Aurlandsfjord, Sognfjord, and into the narrowest parts of Nærøydal fjord, listed as UNESCO World Heritage areas and spectacular and unearthly scenic vistas such as this:

Cruising
Heading towards the narrow and steespest part of the Nærøyfjord

From the port of Gudvangen, you then take the public bus to the high peaks of the ‘fjeller’ – that’s Norwegian for mountains, to Stalheim where the hotel is located.

Stalheim hotel is only open in the summer months, as the mountain road leading to the hotel consists of 13 hair-raising bends, and is considered too dangerous for public transport, in winter. If your heart doesn’t falter going up, this is the reward.

My view from the Stalheim hotel

Unrivalled views can be had down the UNESCO protected Nærøydalen Valley where mountains look so like ‘trolls’ and people tinier than ants.

If you are into exploring, you can even find a Machine gun bunker underneath the terrace which dates back to the days of the Second World War.

You will want to have dinner and breakfast at Stalheim, for there is little alternative options close by, and the meals are usually included in the tariff. That leaves you with more time to savour that wonderful view. There is also a small folk museum behind the hotel to wander through.

My son in younger days, posing with a Gandalf-style ‘Lord of the Rings’ Pipe he purchased, beside an amazing view through our room’s expansive windows at the Stalheim Hotel

A Chequered History

The original hotel was built in 1750 as a postal inn, and during the late nineteenth century was modelled into a guesthouse on the road between Oslo and Bergen. It has burnt to the ground several times and been re-built each time.

In 1939, during Nazi German’s occupation of Norway, Stalheim hotel was taken over by the German Army as a site for Soldiers on R and R leave. The notorious Heinrich Himmler then concocted a plan to address the low birth rate of German citizens and produce more of his so-called Master Race, by setting up Stalheim and other places as a ‘Lebensborn’ home. This was to be a place where Norwegian woman who were already pregnant, or were willing to become pregnant, to German soldiers, could stay and give birth. There were eight Lebensborn homes in Norway – the former Stalheim hotel was one of them.

The hotel was again cursed by a fire in 1959, and sadly, 34 lives were lost. However, it was rebuilt into the current structure we see today.

PhotoCredit: Stalheim.com

Here is a video of the road down to the fjord and village of Gudvangen.

Stalheim Hotel – A fascinating place to stay with unparrellel views.

Something to Ponder About

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86 thoughts on “On Top of the World in Norway

  1. Your photos brought back some fond memories of our visit to this part of Norway. Of course it’s not such a long journey for us to get there and we took an overnight car ferry from Newcastle U.K. to Bergen and and toured the fjords from there. Such wonderful scenery.

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    • You are so very lucky to be able to overnight to Norway! I am a wee bit jealous. It takes me about 24 hours by plane with transite times. Did you go up to Stalheim, or Utne along the Sognefjord? Alesund, perhaps?

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      • Yes, we started off in Bergen, going on to Flam, Hardangerfjord, Sognefjord and as far as Nordfjord. We stayed in Alesund a few days and in each place apart from Bergen we were in well appointed log cabins as our boys were quite young. It rained constantly in Bergen but otherwise was quite good!

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      • Not so many go to Nordfjord. It is beautiful. You almost have to experience rain in Bergen! But the three times I have been there, it hasn’t rained at all! But in Alesund, yes, there was rain. It was a fantastic city. Did you like the architecture there?

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      • That would be lovely, but I don’t think that will happen. There just isn’t enough reason to travel to the UK, it takes longer and if I weigh up more time in Northern Europe or Scandinavia, it is hard to choose UK over that. You see it takes me the best part of a week to get up to the northern hemisphere and back, factoring in time lapses. When you are away for a month, that is a week out of one’s time. When I am retired, that might be the time to visit. Until then, it is cyber travel only! Lol! The low cost Norwegian airline sounds good though. Is that called Norwegian airlines or something else? I have used that one once before.

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  2. Now I remember this place! It’s a station on the bus route from Voss to Gudvangen. Looking at the Stalheim, the first thing that popped up in my mind was how people could build a hotel in such a remote place 🙂 Did you walk down to Gudvangen? I remember seeing some people do so. It’s a pretty tough hike.

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    • No I didn’t walk down, Len. I caught the bus. It would have been fine walking down, but going up those hairpin bends would have pushed the limits of the muscles! I am glad you remember it now. The station is down the bottom of the valley, isn’t it? That is where I hopped on the bus.

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  3. First thing I thought of when seeing the stunning fjord photos was Lord of the Rings. Kiwiland is lovely, but not really stern enough: Norway would’ve been perfect. But who could afford location shoots on those mountains ? – take the crew most of the day to get hight enough for a worthwhile shot.
    Lovely trip it must’ve been, Amanda.

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    • Oh yes Margaret Rose. LOTR would have been fabulous filmed there given that Norse mythology featured heavily as inspiration for Tolkien’s books. It is a trip that was very dear to my heart. I had to leave my little girl then 4 yrs at home but took my turning 12, son along as it was his dream to visit Scandinavia. It was a wonderful time for both of us and he fell in love with Norway, so much so that he went back there as an exchange student.

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      • Looking forward to more lessons, Amanda. Very tired and a little sore today but work to be done so very little sitting time. I move much slower so I have to work longer. ;( I’ll try to get a post out this week if possible. Have a good week yourself.

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      • Thanks, Marlene. Take your time in moving. The main thing is to keep doing just that – moving that is. Use it or lose it, they say. Although there is a fine balance to be had. If one overdoes it, it sends us backwards too far. I hope you are enjoying the new carport?

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    • You must add this to your wishlist, Sabine. It is definitely an eye-opening destination. The most breathtaking scenery I have ever encountered. Although there is Canada close to you. I am sure that would compare favourably with Norway. Snow, mountains, lakes. The mountains in Norway are flat topped or round, as opposed to craggy peaks I expect you find in Canada. Have you been there?

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      • I shall add it to my list! I’d love to travel through Norway, Sweden and Finland. I’ve been to Canada only once. A number of years ago we traveled to Quebec and loved it. But whenever we travel to Europe, the plane flies over the Canadian mountains of British Columbia and I think the Rockies. Hopefully we’ll make it up that way sometime!

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      • Ooh. It would be a great view of the Rockies if there was no cloud, Sabine. Reminds me of how I was glued to the window seat when flying over the snow capped alps in New Zealand. The most spectacular site was flying over a smoking volcano in Indonesia and Mt Fuji in winter. I do hope you make it to Norway. I will keep posting possible inclusions on this potential itinerary in the meantime!

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      • There are so many places on my list to visit, but I haven’t really felt like traveling internationally for the past couple of years. But who knows, the travel bug might bite me again! 😉 I look forward to more of your posts!

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      • Part of it is that I feel rather uncomfortable going through customs when returning from abroad. Even standing right next to my husband, a US citizen, of nearly 40 years, they treat me like I’m an invader or criminal. Once one of them demanded to know my husband’s middle name! Really? After all the time we’ve been together I find it offensive. They are often not friendly at all. It’s discouraging to be made to feel like you’re not welcome. I’ve been a good “citizen” all the years I’ve lived here, contributed positively to society, paid my taxes in full and on time and never asked for a handout! Just a sad! Another reason is the overcrowding of planes and all the time it takes to make it through airport security.

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  4. Lovely photos and memories, Amanda. A road trip in Norway has been a dream of mine for a long time. The only thing that prevents me from traveling there is that it’s too expensive. We end up preferring to spend the money on some tropical country where the culture and food is totally different, not to mention the warm, clear seas 🙂 So, Scotland, Norway, Iceland, Ireland all have to wait until I get a little older and prefer a more relaxed easy road trip..

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  5. Oh, I truly love Norway! Sitting here with tears of memories in my eyes… 🙂
    It is a country of fairytales. Once you have experienced it, it will always stay with you – and a part of you will never leave…
    Thank you, Amanda. 🙂

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      • Happy tears indeed, yes, dear Amanda. Mostly 😉 Because – in addition to the wonderful memories, I also have a “cold allergy”. And when we drove up the valley and into the mountains, my body reacted strongly to the sudden drop in temperature…
        But on the whole – a wonderful vacation 🙂

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  6. I just read this and your beautiful pictures kind of transported me there! What a wonderful time you must have had. I am adding Norway to my list of places I want to visit in the near future:) The views are gorgeous…I got lost just seeing the photos…can only imagine how it must have felt to be in the towering presence of those mountains. Thank you for sharing this, Amanda.

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    • Towering presence is an apt description, Moon. It makes you feel you are in the presence of giant trolls. I imagine Norwegians get a bit blaze about this unique vistas when they live there. Although the friends I have there really love hiking in the mountains. It is a common pastime in Norway, despite the weather.

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